#GivingTuesday for Workers Rights & a Living Wage

For the past 18 years, the Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) has been on a move to change the way workers are treated in the workplace, advocate for increased wages, and support workers’ organizing efforts to improve workplace conditions. For the past nine months, our work has been ESPECIALLY important given the realities of the pandemic.

We’re constantly being challenged financially as a small nonprofit in a rural area. Our base of neighbors like YOU constantly remind us how awesome you are, keeping us going and showing unscrupulous employers that they CANNOT get away with whatever they want. Please stand with us as we lead in to #GivingTuesday!

If you would consider sharing on YOUR Facebook page, we’d be eternally grateful! Read on to learn more about our work in the past year:

Demanding Respect for Labor Rights ESPECIALLY as Relates to COVID-19
As one might imagine, since mid-March, the vast majority of cases we have received through our Workers’ Rights Hotline have been related to the pandemic, in one way or another. The two biggest issues being:

  • Unemployment Benefits of the NYS Department of Labor was completely overwhelmed, creating incredible DELAYS in providing payments to workers. TCWC stepped in with information about new COVID-related benefits and by intervening directly through our close relationships with NYSDOL high-level administrators, speeding up payments in many cases (sometimes upwards of $10,000);
  • Worker Safety faced new and serious challenges without adequate worker protections or enforcement in place We are assisting endangered workers practically every day. See our COVID at Work – Know Your Rights button at the top of our website to see the panoply of info.
  • Our Workers’ Rights Hotline has received and dealt with over 250 new cases from November 2019 through October of this year. Our work in the area of wage theft over the years has resulted in judgments winning over $1.4 million for workers;

Supporting Grass-Roots Worker Organizing:

  • Through years of creating the platform from which workers can organize a union in their workplaces, in this past year, we assisted workers at Sciencecenter, GreenStar, and Tompkins Community Action in their union organizing efforts;
  • Unfortunately, of course, our 36th Annual Labor Day Picnic this year needed to be held virtually. We received 3,200 views during the five-hour event (all viewable online here), and 17 workers provided reports. A special feature this year was giving the Joe Hill Award to *all* essential workers in Tompkins County while demanding that THEY BE PAID at least a Living Wage. A special kudos to Ithaca DSA for playing such a strong role in carrying off the event;
  • We are now fiscal sponsors for THREE incredibly vital projects in Tompkins County, ESPECIALLY during the times of the pandemic: the Tompkins County Immigrant Rights Coalition; Mutual Aid Tompkins; and the Ithaca Tenants Union.

Pushing for a Living Wage Standard for ALL Workers:

  • We joined with Alternatives Federal Credit Union in raising the Tompkins County Living Wage to $15.37 per hour, and continue to push to get the county to adopt this as the minimum wage for all workers here, as well as a push for an increase in the minimum wage beyond $12.50/hour, as of 12/31/20. Note that Alternatives Federal Credit Union will be updating their biennial Living Wage figures in April of 2021!;
  • New research initiated by the Tompkins County Workers’ Center, and carried out by Cornell-Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) Buffalo and Ithaca Co-Labs carried out this past summer has uncovered how deep racism in Tompkins County goes, and how important raising our minimum wage to a Living Wage really is. Almost three-quarters of all Black workers, over age 18, in the County (74%) are paid less than a Living Wage, compared to a little over a quarter of all white workers, over age 18 (28%). So Black workers are almost three times as likely to be sub-Living Wage workers than whites.
  • We certified eight new Living Wage Employers with approximately 100 employees this past year, including over 30 workers at the popular daycare center, Downtown Ithaca Children’s Center. We have now certified 127 employers, and many raised wages to meet our certification standards;
  • We are working with Oxfam and United for a Fair Economy to establish a national Living Wage Certification Program, building on our own model, which was the first in the nation.

As a 501c3 charitable organization, the TCWC wants to let you know that for the vast majority of people who do not itemize deductions, you may now take an above-the-line deduction up to $300 for charitable contributions.