So, yesterday was a day of labor rights and minimum wage discussions that took my attention. I was downtown listening to Jack Young and Rawlings-Blake shouting out for a Federal minimum wage increase to $10.50. This is a good thing and I was there to support it. I was interviewed by WBAL TV and gave a nice interview on progressive wage issues and as always.....none of it made the news. I highlighted the fact that although this is a good FIRST step, it was the US Health and Human Services in 2011 that calculated the 'Living Wage' to be $14....this is the real poverty line. The Federal government always uses statistics to give a far lower calculation that moves the poor ever deeper into poverty. This is what was notable:
Rawlings-Blake made sure to say that the $10.50 would bring the wage up to date with no mention of pushing higher for a living wage. As I said in the interview, NO ONE CAN LIVE ON $10.50 an hour. This is exactly why we have to subsidize people's living with social services. Rather than pay people what they need to live with dignity, they continue to leave people pressing for public benefits. WE WILL CONTINUE TO MAKE THE MINIMUM WAGE AN ISSUE BEYOND THIS INCREASE!
The failure of these two city politicians, Jack Young and Rawlings-Blake to enforce city minimum wage laws makes this current support more political spin. We have shared the fact that Worker's United are shouting publically about abuse of wage and worker's rights in the 'Enterprise Zones', receiving checks that are far from the current city minimum wage. We also know that subcontracting in almost all city contracts circumvent the current city minimum wage laws. Lastly, Mikulski shelved the National Labor Board's ruling on raising the Green Card worker's wages, and the Health Care Workers wage bill that moves home care staff from indentured servants to double-poverty is stalled in the legislature. So, the failure to shout loudly and strongly about all that is place to prevent the current minimum wage of $7.50 an hour being paid really calls to question the level of support for a Federal minimum wage increase. If these politicians are not shouting....we will not get this legislation. DO YOU HEAR HOW LOUD O'MALLEY IS FIGHTING FOR HIS FUTURE CAMPAIGN DONOR MGM AND GAMBLING? THAT IS A POLITICIAN WORKING FOR AN ISSUE....ANYTHING ON MINIMUM WAGE OR HEALTH CARE FRAUD LAWS.......YOU BET NOT!
THE OTHER EVENT YESTERDAY AND ONE THAT I ENCOURAGE EVERYONE TO ATTEND TODAY IS THE UNION ORGANIZING OF THE HYATT REGENCY WORKERS. BALTIMORE HAS THE DISTINCTION OF HAVING THE LOWEST WAGES FOR THESE HOSPITALITY WORKERS AS WELL. The activism in the city is growing so that two very important events had people shouting loudly and strongly.
SEE PROGRESSIVE ACTIONS FOR DETAILS OF TODAY'S EVENT!!!
We have heard that the fraud of these two decades has moved 3 decades of wealth from the lower/middle-class to the top earners. Poverty is as high as the 1960s when the war on poverty started. The middle-class has collapsed and now public sector wages and benefits are under attack. When a politician says they are for the middle-class and they are forcing public unions to cut wages and benefits....you know these people are not REAL progressives. The public sector unions drove the rise of the middle-class in the 1060s and 1970s as the private sector had to raise wages and offer benefits to compete for the best workers. DO NOT LET THESE POLITICIANS TELL YOU THAT THESE PUBLIC WAGES ARE TOO EXPENSIVE! THEY ARE ONLY TOO EXPENSIVE BECAUSE OF THE DROP IN CORPORATE TAX REVENUE AND MUNICIPAL FRAUD.
STAND WITH THE PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS ON THIS ISSUE!!!!
Below you see the news story about City and State legislators coming out to shout out for the people. Note that it is ten years after development started and I was told that EBDI was finished with its involvement in the project.....another development company is coming in to do further work. So, these politicians are getting publicity for 'working for their constituents' even as the EBDI is finished. Do you hear them calling out the new developer? THIS IS TRULY UNDERHANDED POLITICS!
VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT OF OFFICE!!!!
East Baltimore delegation calls for stop to EBDI project State and city officials say minority hiring falls short of goals
By Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun 9:42 p.m. EDT, May 30, 2012
Elected officials from East Baltimore want to block the $1.8 billion urban renewal project in Middle East until more neighborhood residents and minority contractors are hired and displaced residents can benefit from the revitalization.
Members of the Eastside Leadership Team criticized the 88-acre project for what they said was slow progress and a poor record of minority hiring during a news conference Wednesday outside the offices of East Baltimore Development Inc, the nonprofit leading the large-scale redevelopment just north of Johns Hopkins Hospital.
The group of state senators, delegates, City Council members and former officials said they intend to halt agreements and block legislation, permits and zoning changes needed to advance the plans. They also intend to sign on as plaintiffs in an existing lawsuit against state agencies to stop a $99 million state health laboratory that's under construction on the site.
"We're giving EBDI a vote of no confidence," and calling for a stop to new construction, contracts or hiring, "until our goals are met," state Sen. Nathaniel McFadden said.
The project displaced 800 families from what was a blighted neighborhood. Some moved to newly rehabbed rowhouses nearby.
Hundreds of houses were razed to make way for 1,500 to 2,000 new and renovated residential units and up to 1.7 million square feet of commercial space. One office building and several apartment buildings have been completed.
An additional $300 million worth of projects are under construction or nearing completion, including the state health laboratory, a 351-unit graduate student housing tower and a garage with a Walgreens drugstore. Plans also call for a state-of-the-art elementary school, a grocery store and restaurants, additional office buildings, a park lined with loft-style apartments and a hotel.
But over 10 years the work, for which EBDI has partnered with Johns Hopkins and master developer Forest City East Baltimore Partnership, has yet to deliver promised new housing and jobs, critics said.
Chris Shea, president and chief executive of EBDI, stood along with spectators during the event. Afterward, he said that the organization has listened to community concerns and has worked to improve its hiring practices.
"Their frustration is genuine. It's real," Shea acknowledged. "EBDI understands and supports the elected officials."
On Wednesday, the Eastside Leadership Team joined the chorus of criticism for the project.
"We're going to slow this train down," state Del. Talmadge Branch said. "There are too many contractors bringing in employees from other parts of Maryland."
Branch likened the project to "having an event in your backyard, but you can't come to the event. You can't come to the party. You can't work and businesses here can't get a contract. … It's not right and it's not fair."
He cited an analysis of hiring for the state's lab project that showed that of the $57.5 million in contracts awarded so far, only $13.4 million went to businesses in Baltimore and only $4.4 million to local minority-owned businesses. To reach the original inclusion goals laid out for the overall redevelopment project, an additional $28 million of contracts would need to be awarded to minority businesses, Branch said.
Shea called the goals "aspirational," saying in an email that the agreement was laid out before the EBDI was even formed and a developer chosen.
"The elected officials and EBDI mutually agreed last fall that it was obsolete and needed to be revised and brought into alignment with the actual development," Shea wrote.
He said EBDI has been working with elected officials to draft a revision.
With the millions of dollars flowing into the neighborhood, City Councilman Warren Branch said, "there should be no one in East Baltimore looking for employment. I'm tired of seeing … outside contractors and outside workers flourishing while the community suffers, overlooked as if they don't exist. We want our fair share of construction contracts."
Councilman Carl Stokes noted that more than 80 percent of the workers who built the soon-to-open graduate student apartment tower lived outside the city, with less than 8 percent from East Baltimore.
"We are standing in solidarity that the project cannot go any further," said Council PresidentBernard C. "Jack" Young. "We want jobs, and meaningful jobs."
They had better claw-back those hundreds of millions in business tax breaks due to failure to meet contract agreeements!
WITH BUSINESS TAX CREDITS IN HAND, THIS DEVELOPER OF THE SUPERBLOCK PROJECT IS REQUIRED TO HIRE THE PEOPLE FROM THE COMMUNITY AT THE PREVAILING WAGE......SO WHY DO PEOPLE STAND IN PROTEST LINES TO WATCH OUT-OF- STATE WORKERS GET THOSE JOBS? MAYOR RAWLINGS-BLAKE IS COMMITTED TO SUBCONTRACTING BALTIMORE JOBS OUT AND TURNING HER HEAD TO REQUIREMENTS FOR BUSINESS TAX CREDITS.
Protesters seek Superblock jobs promise Posted: 7:06 pm Wed, June 27, 2012
By Melody Simmons
Daily Record Business Writer
A group of about 100 protestors gathered at the offices of the Baltimore Development Corp. at Charles Center Wednesday to demand local hiring in the promised 600 new jobs at the $150 million Superblock development downtown. Chanting “We want jobs” and “Our community, our jobs,” the protestors demanded to be included in the planning for the ...
JACK YOUNG TOLD ME THAT THE CITY CAN'T TELL THESE DEVELOPERS WHO TO HIRE. THE CITY OF BALTIMORE IS HANDING ITS SOVEREIGNTY OVER TO THESE PEOPLE. IF A CORPORATION IS NOT WILLING TO OBEY LOCAL LAWS, YOU AWARD THE BID TO SOMEONE WHO WILL OBEY LOCAL LAWS. IF YOU DON'T HAVE THE FINANCING TO BUILD LUXURY DEVELOPMENTS, YOU BUILD MODERATE DEVELOPMENTS WITH SMALL AND REGIONAL BUSINESSES------WHICH IS THE POINT OF ENTERPRISE ZONES!!!
THIS IS A LABOR RULE THAT HAS BEEN IN THE MAKING FOR TWENTY YEARS AND WE ARE HEARING THAT IT MAY BE LEFT BEHIND YET AGAIN. THE 'NEW ECONOMY' SEES GREEN CARD WORKER'S IN THESE POSITIONS SO YOU CAN BET THAT THIRD WAY DEMOCRATS WILL NOT LET THIS RULE HAPPEN. AS YOU SEE, THIS WAGE IS SO LOW AS TO BE SERVILE AND IT BRINGS ALL WAGES DOWN AS A RESULT. ANY POLITICIAN SHOUTING FOR A HIGHER MINIMUM WAGE WOULD BE SHOUTING FOR THIS!!
Home-Care Workers Aren’t Just ‘Companions’
By EILEEN BORIS and JENNIFER KLEIN Published: July 1, 2012 New York Times
NOT long after announcing his candidacy in 2007, Barack Obama spent a day working alongside Pauline Beck, a home health care aide in Oakland, Calif. Together, they cooked breakfast and lunch, cleaned house and did the laundry. Last December, the president mentioned his day with Ms. Beck when he proposed placing most home-care employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act, from which many of them have long been excluded.
Mr. Obama proposed revising a Labor Department rule so that it would give home attendants and aides the protections, like overtime pay, that most American workers take for granted. The department opened an extended comment period and received some 26,000 statements, two-thirds of them positive. It is now deliberating on a final rule.
With a work force of about 2.5 million, two-thirds of whom would be affected by the proposed rule, home health and personal care is the second-fastest-growing job category in the country, projected to double by 2018. As women, immigrants and service workers have become the new face of labor, what happens to home care matters for the shape of our economy, the fate of unionism and the establishment of a decent standard of living for all.
Mr. Obama’s proposal has come up against Republican opposition. On June 7, a dozen Senate Republicans, led by Mike Johanns of Nebraska, sought to pre-empt Mr. Obama’s initiative and consign home-care workers to perpetual second-class status. Senator Johanns introduced the Companionship Exemption Protection Act, which would permanently codify their exclusion by defining “companionship services” to include “meal preparation, bed making, washing of clothes, errands” and “assistance with incontinence and grooming.” In assuming that adequate care can come only from suppressing wages, these Republicans seek to pit the interests of care receivers and givers against one another.
To understand this talk about “companionship exemptions,” we have to go back to the 1970s, when domestic servants received the F.L.S.A. protections denied to them under the original law in 1938. During a debate in 1971 about extending the act, Senator Harrison A. Williams Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, compared home health care aides to baby sitters: “ ‘companion,’ as we mean it, is in the same role — to be there and to watch an older person.”
When Congress actually granted domestic workers the right to a minimum wage and overtime pay three years later, this analogy formed the basis for excluding home aides and attendants. Implementing the new amendments in 1975, the Labor Department redefined home-care workers as “elder companions,” which also had the perverse effect of removing from the law employees of nonprofit social welfare agencies and for-profit manpower firms who previously had F.L.S.A. coverage.
The existing exemption mainly serves home-care franchises, an $84 billion industry that is one of the most profitable in the United States. Congressional Republicans and industry representatives like the National Association for Home Care and Hospice invoke the debates of the 1970s to defend a rule that allows the industry to squeeze additional hours of unpaid labor from “companions.”
They offer a false history of “companionship.” From the 1930s until the 1970s, no such job as “companion” existed, though there were community volunteers who would check in with a “shut-in” or other homebound individual. New Dealers named the job “visiting housekeeper,” financing a work relief program that sent unemployed domestic servants into the homes of chronically ill or elderly adults. After World War II, family welfare agencies renamed the position “homemaker”; hospitals defined it as health aide. Aiming to develop “manpower” for the booming service sector, President Johnson’s War on Poverty trained home aides. Once Medicaid funds became available after 1965, states embraced the term “home attendant.”
The title may have changed, but the work has remained the same: a combination of basic bodily care and housekeeping. That care workers substituted for the unpaid labor of wives and mothers further confused their status. So did the home location. As one 64-year-old worker told Congress in 2007, “I would get time and a half pay for my overtime hours for performing the same tasks for Mrs. G. if she were in a nursing home facility. But because my work helps her to stay in her home, I am deprived of overtime pay.”
The “elder companion exemption” has allowed staffing agencies to avoid paying overtime. It treated women who labored to support their families as if they were teenagers picking up some spending money. Conveniently, this exemption came just as home care became a growth industry, aided by changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs. Beginning with the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, these programs funneled more public money to for-profit firms, generating a vast home health industry — with a tenfold increase in for-profit agencies during the first half of the 1980s alone. By the 1990s, home care was the fourth largest occupation.
This labor market growth made a mockery of the companionship classification. Bill Clinton’s administration recognized this and proposed ending the companionship exception, but delayed action until January 2001. George W. Bush’s Labor Department withdrew the Clinton proposal. Legal advocates for home-care workers subsequently went to court, but in 2007 the Supreme Court upheld the exemption by ratifying the role of executive agencies, like the Labor Department, in making such determinations.
Using the model of the temp agency, the ambiguous legal status of the home as a workplace and the distrust of care labor as “real work,” home agencies have tenaciously held onto the companionship exemption. They do so while getting plenty of public dollars. With Medicaid directing at least $15 billion annually to their provision of personal care, agencies are clearly happy to have government money; indeed, they have depended on it to fuel an impressive 9 percent average yearly leap in revenue between 2001 and 2009. Government becomes harmful, it seems, only when setting a floor under workers’ wages.
In today’s fiscal climate, the slipperiness of the companionship terminology becomes the perfect cover for states to constrict public spending and for home-care companies to protect profits. States are reducing the hours an aide can spend with a client and targeting housekeeping for elimination. They are able to do so because there is a long history of dismissing housekeeping and personal care as not real work and because both providers and consumers of home care are stigmatized as clients of the welfare state.
Mr. Obama’s proposal explicitly recognizes that housekeeping is bound up with caregiving in the home. Companionship emerges as a benefit from the human relationships essential to the job, but it isn’t the major task, as the current rule implies. Establishing the legitimacy of care as productive, necessary labor — a real job — would recognize the realities of both our aging society and our service economy. It would also begin the long-overdue work of updating labor standards for the workplaces of a new century.
Mr. Johanns and his co-sponsors probably don’t have the votes to bring their bill to the floor. But if the Labor Department delays issuing a final rule, home-care workers could remain unprotected in the shadows of the low-wage economy.
This fight isn’t simply about the ability to earn the minimum wage or slightly more for working even longer hours; that would still keep home-care workers poor. Its deeper possibility is the potential to re-establish some notion of labor standards, rights and security after decades of gutting them.
AS YOU SEE TIME AND AGAIN, BUSINESSES ARE EMBOLDENED TO ABUSE EXISTING LAW AS THE CITY TURNS ITS HEAD TO THE ABOVE LABOR ISSUES. SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT OF LAWS DEGRADE RULE OF LAW.
Baltimore Brew Stirring up News and Views in Baltimore Maryland
Workers say Hyatt management is punishing them for talking to union Police called to eject workers, clergy and two city council members.
Fern Shen July 25, 2012 at 6:22 am
Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke led a group of Hyatt workers delivering workplace complaints to management, which eventually called police and had them escorted out.
Workers who clean the toilets, change the beds, bus the tables and haul the trash at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore marched into the hotel’s executive office suite yesterday to confront their bosses with a stern message:
Management, they charged, is harassing employees for talking to union organizers about pay, working conditions and the outsourcing of jobs at the Inner Harbor hotel. Workers who have formed a committee to talk about possibly unionizing are, they say, being written up and punished for minor infractions.
“May I give you this?” asked Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, attempting to hand over a copy of the unfair labor practices charge the workers have filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
No, send it by mail, said Aaron McDougle, rooms executive for the Hyatt Baltimore, rebuffing Clarke and the group of 25 people she joined for a surprise visit to the Hyatt.
(Among them were Hyatt employees, faith leaders, students, City Councilman Bill Henry, local NAACP president Tessa Hill-Alston and members of the national hospitality industry union Unite Here.)
“Fine,” Clarke said coolly. “The NAACP and I, we’ll find Ms. Penny Pritzker and deliver it to her.”
It was one of several tense moments during the group’s encounter with management in a small Hyatt conference room, with hotel security director Andre Street at several points ordering participants and a reporter to stop taking pictures and videoing – or he would call police and have them arrested. (Two city police officers did ultimately show up.)
Clarke’s mention of Pritzker was a reference to the Chicago heiress and 2008 Obama supporter whose family owns the Hyatt hotel chain. (Pritzker is being sidelined by the president’s re-election campaign these days, The New York Times recently reported, possibly because of the Hyatt chain’s frequent clashes with another source of Obama’s support, labor unions.)
Long-running Labor Dispute Escalates
Yesterday’s action in Baltimore was part of a week of activities planned across the country by Unite Here, which is calling for a world-wide boycott of the Chicago-based hotel chain. Unite Here represents housekeepers, bell staff, restaurant workers and others.
“It is unacceptable in 2012 that women endure debilitating injuries as a result of the work they do cleaning rooms,” Unite Here president John Wilhelm said Monday.
Faith leaders escort Hyatt workers to their surprise meeting with management. (Photo by Fern Shen)
He was part of a Washington, D.C., news conference the group held that included leaders from the AFL-CIO, the National Organization of Women, the NFL Players Association, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and others.
Unite Here said it plans a week of demonstrations at Hyatt hotels in 20 cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Francisco and Boston.
The union is not, at this point, calling for a boycott of the Hyatt in Baltimore, but asking rather for the management to remain “neutral” and allow employees to talk to Unite Here about their options, said organizer Tracy Lingo.
Unite Here organizers Monday made mud stencils with the Hyatt logo on downtown streets. (Photo by Fern Shen)
“But the company has brought people in for questioning, posted security guards next to people having discussions” about working conditions and “written people up for minor infractions,” Lingo said.
Hyatt Hotels Corp. has responded to the union’s national campaign with a full-page ad in The Washington Post and press statements saying the company “maintains an outstanding safety record, provides industry-leading wage and benefits packages and is a recognized leader in promoting a diverse workforce.” They accuse Unite Here of launching the labor dispute as “an attempt to boost membership.”
Asked by a Brew reporter to comment on the Baltimore employees’ charges – including the harassment allegations in its NLRB complaint – the local Hyatt management responded over the phone that they would. So far, they have not called back.
In an emailed statement received today from Gail Smith-Howard, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Baltimore, the company addressed the issue of temp workers:
“On an as needed basis, and like virtually all hotel management companies, Hyatt uses staffing companies to perform certain functions so we can respond effectively to fluctuations in business levels and operate efficiently,” the statement said. “In all cases, we take any decision to engage staffing companies very seriously.” Read the full statement here.
Increasing Use of Temps
Hyatt workers, however, many of them still wearing their employee name tags, were eager to tell their stories. They said the hotel has been steadily slashing the size of the full-time staff and replacing them with temp agency employees who are poorly-paid and do have not good benefits packages.
Workers are being asked to cover for each other and multi-task, making for stressful and dangerous working conditions, several said.
“You’ve got one person doing three people’s jobs,” said Michael Jones who, as a steward, washes dishes and dumps trash in the restaurant and the kitchen. He said in the ten years he has worked there, his department has gone from 32 full timers to just six or seven.
Hyatt employees, with union organizer Tracy Lingo, shortly before airing their complaints to management.
A.C. Castro described four recent injuries in the restaurant including his own tendonitis and the severe facial burns a cook received when someone put fry oil in a pot usually used to steam vegetables and the hot oil exploded.
“I’m one of the people in the [NLRB] complaint,” said Castro, a $6.55-per-hour restaurant room service worker who said he was “written up because I didn’t put my name on a money drop box.”
Castro, who has worked at the hotel for a little over a year, said that as temp hiring has risen at the Hyatt, the number of full-time employees has gone from 400 to 130, with the in-house housekeeping staff dropping from 50 to 9.
“It’s not healthy for us and it’s not healthy for the city for them to make one person do three jobs,” said Regena Davis, 22, an on-call banquet server who makes $4.50-per-hour plus tips. (She also works a full-time job as a dietary aide at Kennedy Kreiger.) “You see all the boarded-up houses on the street all the people out of work. Those could be job opportunities for people.”
Clarke: Hyatt Reneged on a Promise
Charlotte Knox, a $13.20-per-hour housekeeping staffer who has worked at the Hyatt since 1984, said she participated in the action to be an example to others: “don’t let them do you like they did me.”
The 62-year-old Knox, who is going to have hip replacement surgery soon, said paying $72 for health insurance every two weeks leaves her “lucky to take home $200 every two weeks.”
“I don’t have enough money to take care of myself.”
Charlotte Knox, a Hyatt housekeeping worker since 1984, said she watched working conditions deteriorate. (Photo by Fern Shen)
Clarke told a story too. She recalled that the Hyatt, which opened in 1981, received a $10 million federal UDAG grant.
The local AFL-CIO chief at the time, Tom Bradley, “met with Hyatt officials and got an agreement that there would be no interference, there would be fair and just circumstances to allow elections whether to unionize or not,” Clarke recalled.
“He made that promise to his workers all across the metropolitan area. And we all supported that hotel,” she said. “And then the Hyatt did not maintain its neutrality. . . This organization, the Hyatt, reneged.”