News

A Message from Jeff Furman on Making Our Community Stronger

From Jeff Furman, longtime Ithaca resident and longtime activist on the issue of a Living Wage for all:

“The Tompkins County Workers’ Center is a nationally recognized leader in advancing the rights and dignity of working people. Many area workers earn a living wage due to its efforts, making our community stronger. Now the center is looking to establish that wage for all workers in Tompkins County, a bold idea that is springing up across the country.

Jeff Furman is the Board Chair of the Ben and Jerry's Homemade, Inc. and has long and successfully striven to ensure that Ben and Jerry's be a Living Wage Employer.

Jeff Furman is the Board Chair of the Ben and Jerry’s Homemade, Inc. and has long and successfully striven to ensure that Ben and Jerry’s be a Living Wage Employer.

As an area resident I am proud to be a long-time supporter of the Center. As it enters the final days of its annual fundraising campaign I hope you will join with me and many others in making a contribution to the Tompkins County Workers’ Center so it may continue its vital work.”

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Make the Minimum Wage a Living Wage in Tompkins County!

Winning a living wage for Milton Webb and the other Recycling Center workers is a great victory. But what about the thousands of other retail, food service, health care, education, hotel, manufacturing and agricultural workers that are still paid poverty wages?

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Tompkins is really two counties. While a portion of the population thrives, many more face low wages, growing inequality, erosion of middle-class jobs, housing costs through the roof and the institutionalization of a low-wage service economy.

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Our Workers’ Center has struggled with these problems for years. There is only one sustainable and sure solution and that is raising the minimum wage to a living wage. Too many workers in our community cannot get by nor can they support their families adequately on wages that are in many cases as much as one-third less than a living wage.

We are talking about raising the minimum wage to a living wage in Tompkins County for all workers employed in Tompkins County. If you are now paid $8.75 or $9.50 or $12.00, imagine how much another $2,000 to $8,000 a year would mean to your or your family? That’s the additional amount you would get if you actually received a living wage.

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Tompkins County Workers’ Center Certifies Three New Employers as Living Wage Bringing Total Up to 99

(Ithaca) The Tompkins County Workers’ Center is pleased to announce that we now have certified 99 employers as being Living Wage Employers, having just recently added the latest three such employers:

The Tompkins County Public Library; Ironwood Builders of Ithaca, LLC; and McBooks Press, Inc, employ a total of 53 workers; this brings the total of workers, countywide and regionally, who are working for Living Wage Employers up to over 3,041 people.

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The Workers’ Center initiated the Living Wage Employer Certification Program in 2006 to publicly recognize and reward those employers who pay a living wage. Any employer in the private, public, and non-profit sectors is eligible to apply. With your help, we can provide incentives for other employers in our community! Please go to http://www.tcworkerscenter.org/community/certified-employers/ to find out which employers are Living Wage-Certified, as well as to download criteria and an application form.

Ithaca College Adjuncts Win Union Election: 172-53!!! Story from the Ithaca Voice

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center played an important and supportive role in the larger Tompkins County community in support of the the Ithaca College Adjunct Professor’s campaign. Below is a story from an excellent online news source in Tompkins County, the Ithaca Voice.

After campaign, Ithaca College’s part-time faculty vote to form union

ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca College’s part-time faculty has voted to form a union, according to Sarah Grunberg, who teaches in IC’s Department of Sociology.

“It’s a huge thing for Ithaca College and for the whole community,” said Grunberg, who has been involved in the push to form a union. “We’re incredibly happy, excited and proud.”

Grunberg is in Buffalo with other part-time Ithaca College faculty, who learned on Thursday about the results of the vote. The final vote was 172 in favor of unionization and 53 opposed, according to Grunberg.

Related: Why Ithaca College’s part-time faculty say they need a union

The vote follows several months of advocacy and planning from organizers. Those leading the unionization push have said part-time IC faculty face low pay, long hours and poor healthcare benefits that a union would help correct.

The IC part-time faculty will be joining the national union SEIU, according to Grunberg.

“We’re taking this route to create better standards for all part-timers,” Grunberg said.

As previously reported by the Ithaca Voice: Ithaca College is hardly alone in facing criticism for the level of pay for its adjuncts. Last year, Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Sydni Dunn highlighted a 36-page report from Congress noting the “alarming” state of adjunct labor.

“Contingent faculty often earn low salaries with few or no benefits, are forced to maintain difficult schedules to make ends meet, face unclear paths for career development, and enjoy little to no job security,” the report stated.

The school’s administration has said that it “supports its employees exercising their rights under the National Labor Relations Act to vote on whether or not they wish to be represented by a labor organization.”

Thursday, May 28th @ 4:30: Know Your Rights Training on Finding and Keeping Employment After a Criminal Conviction

Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc., and the Tompkins County Workers’ Center, are co-facilitating a presentation and discussion focusing on ways to reduce barriers to employment for those who were formerly incarcerated. Please join us at the Tompkins County Library’s Borg Warner Room on May 28th from 4:30pm-6pm. All are welcome.

In most cases it is illegal to discriminate against employees and/or job applicants based on prior criminal conviction, and we hope that in sharing our knowledge we can help support successful reentry efforts in our community.

  • 80% of employers now run criminal background checks before hiring job applicants
  • Excluding people with criminal convictions from employment and fair pay segregates and marginalizes our communities
  • In New York, people with criminal convictions are protected by law from employment discrimination, including: blanket policies against hiring people with felony or theft convictions

Tompkins Workers’ Center Takes Stand in Support of Ithaca College Adjunct Professor Unionization Drive

(ITHACA) We at the Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) support the effort of part-time faculty at Ithaca College to gain a meaningful voice at work. The growing corporatization of academia in America is making education more and more into a commodity and imposing an employment model on faculty that is more akin to big business than a university.

One effect of this corporate model is that the number of part-time faculty positions has grown astronomically while working conditions – including inadequate pay, non-existent benefits, no job security, a fear of dismissal diminishing academic freedom, and a lack of meaningful input into key decisions – impose heavy burdens on the part-timers.

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These undesirable working conditions affect part-time faculty at Ithaca College as elsewhere. Having a part-time faculty union at Ithaca College would be an important step in democratizing the College and improving working conditions. It would also show part-time faculty at other colleges, and even full-time faculty, that meaningful change is possible.

We were shocked recently to learn from a University of California study that because they are not paid a living wage as many as one-quarter of all part-time faculty nationally depend on some form of public assistance. Other studies indicate that despite ever-rising tuition, nearly a third of part-time faculty earn less than a living wage.

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Tompkins Workers’ Center Members Travel to Chicago for OSH Training

Three members of the Tompkins County Workers’ Center (Ed and Antonio Triana and Joe Lawrence) traveled to Chicago on April 24th to attend an Interfaith Worker Justice training on Occupational Safety and Health (a Train-the-Trainer). The Tompkins County Workers’ Center trains a total of 180 workers a year.  To learn more about the Workers’ Center’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) programs and/or to get trained in your OSH rights, please click here.

Class photo from Interfaith Worker Justice OSHA training held in Chicago. Worker centers from across the country were on hand, including Tompkins County’s, represented here by Ed Triana, Antonio Triana and Joe Lawrence. Participants will be training workers how to identify and correct workplace hazards.

Ed Triana, on the left; Maria Gutierrez (IWJ OSH Coordinator); and Antonio Triana in Chicago after successfully completing their Train-the-Trainer training.

Ed Triana (r) and his son Antonio of the Tompkins County Worker Center photographed here accepting their certificates from Maria Gutierrez of the Interfaith Worker Center. Gutierrez led the OSHA funded workplace safety training, held April 24 in Chicago.

“No-Gossip” Policy at Ithaca Hampton Inn Rescinded After Federal Charge

The anti-worker “No Gossip” policy established by the Ithaca Hampton Inn in 2014 has been voluntarily rescinded following an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge filed in late March by the Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) with the National Labor Relations Board.

The TCWC filed the ULP charge after hearing about the policy from employees.  Hampton’s “No Gossip” policy forbade employees from talking among themselves “about things … they can do nothing about.”  The TCWC agreed with employees that this policy had a chilling effect on employees’ willingness to talk among themselves about work-related issues, including pay, safety, hours of work and others. Forbidding such talk among employees is an illegal and Unfair Labor Practice under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) as it restricts the possibilityof employees engaging in concerted action with respect to their working conditions, including but not limited to unionization.  Such concerted action is a protected worker right under the NLRA.

The Albany office of the National Labor Relations Board handled the case.  Following notification of the charges, Hampton Inn management voluntarily agreed to rescind the policy and to notify all employees of this fact. With this assurance the TCWC agreed to drop the charge.

Ithaca Health Alliance Workers Organize a Union!!

[Editors Note: This article appeared in the most recent edition of the TCWC Newsletter, The Workers Edge. To support the Ithaca Health Alliance in their spring fundraising drive through their Union, please go to http://ihaunion.peaksmaker.com]

By Valarie FitzRandolph in behalf of the Ithaca Health Alliance Workers’ Union: Rob Brown, Andrea Levine, Linda Knewstub and Abby Gilbert.

On a day in late November of 2014 the hourly paid staff of the Ithaca Health Alliance (IHA) voted unanimously to form a union. With the help of the Tompkins County Workers Center (TCWC) Workers Rights Hotline, we joined the Rochester Regional Joint Board, Worker’s United, SEIU. In early December of 2014 the Ithaca Health Alliance board of directors voluntarily recognized the union.

The hourly staff of the IHA decided to form a union because we believe this is the only way to gain a voice with the IHA board. The board has become increasingly isolated and closed to input from the community. We care deeply about the mission of the IHA, its special historical role as a truly democratic organization, and the people we serve and work with.

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The union at IHA wants to ensure a voice for all stakeholders in the IHA including staff, volunteers, patients, donors and the community at large. It is our desire to have an open, inclusive agency that is responsive and responsible to stakeholders, where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Our goal is to better serve our community.

Additionally the staff wants to address fundamental issues of fair treatment in the workplace including but not limited to job duties, job security, wages and benefits.

As a union we have a voice in the IHA and how it affects our lives, families and community. We want to offer resources and support the struggles of those impacted by systemic inequalities in health care, an economic injustice inseparable from the other struggles of workers. We seek to unite with and support other workers in Ithaca and Tompkins County.

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Workers’ Center Certifies Three New Employers as Living Wage

(Ithaca) The Tompkins County Workers’ Center is pleased to announce that we now have certified 96 employers as being Living Wage Employers, having just recently added the latest three such employers:

The Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes; Cinemapolis Theater; and Tompkins County Recycling, LLC, employ a total of 31 workers; this brings the total of workers, countywide and regionally, who are working for Living Wage Employers up to over 2,988 people.  LWE

Says Brett Bossard, Executive Director of Cinemapolis: “As a community institution, the board and I agreed that it was important that Cinemapolis’ values of equality and access to the arts for all be reflected in the way we treated our employees. The staff at the cinema provides a much needed and valued community service, and they should be compensated fairly for their labor.”

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