Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Video: WIN director discusses living wage repeal on Fox 13

Workers Interfaith Network talks on Fox 13 about the state legislature's attempt to repeal your local living wage laws.

Ready to take action? Sign the petition to the House State and Local Government Committee, urging members to vote no on the living wage repeal.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Your Workers' Center stops wage theft by working with workers, not for them

Your partnership with workers seeking justice: an insider's peek into WIN's Workers' Center

Delmar Vasquez appreciated that through the Workers' Center, "I got to be part of solving my problem."

     As WIN's Workers' Center takes on wage theft cases, we have two equally important goals: recovering wages, and building workers' power.

     In 2008, Delmar Vasquez contacted WIN's Workers' Center after a cleaning company refused to pay him for a month's worth of work. He soon learned that the Workers' Center would use labor laws to support his wage theft case. However, he would be much more involved in resolving his case than he would have been if he'd just contacted a lawyer.

    That's because one of the ideas that guides your Workers' Center is this: we're here to partner with workers in resolving their cases, not to do things for them.
    This means that when public actions such as vigils or pickets are planned, workers like Vasquez are expected to participate in them. While this new experience can be intimidating at first, workers often leave with a greater sense of the power they have to challenge injustice.

    Vasquez took part in a delegation to one of the businesses that he had cleaned while working for the cleaning contractor that owed him money. He also talked about his case at public forums on the crisis of wage theft. Now, he's become a member of the Steering Committee for WIN's Workers' Center. He frequently talks with other workers who face the same injustices he did, and he encourages them to speak out.

    Vasquez recovered the full $1,437 he was owed for his work. One of the things he appreciates most about his involvement in the Workers' Center goes beyond the wages he recovered. "I got to learn the facts more about my rights and how we can organize. I was not depending on someone else to solve my problem. At the Center, you get to be part of solving your problem," Vasquez says.

Friday, February 10, 2012

March 7th Lobby Day: Your Chance to Defend Workers' Rights

Legislators' decisions in Nashville will have major impact on workers throughout state

"There's just an energy in the air," Renee Dillard says of her experience at Lobby Day last year.

State Decisions, Local Impact
     What happens in Nashville does not stay in Nashville. Decisions made by state legislators can change the lives of workers in Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin, and all across the state.

    Just ask public school teachers who lost their right to collective bargaining last year. Or ask a low-wage worker at the University of Memphis who finally got her first pay raise in four years.

    That's why Workers Interfaith Network and the United Campus Workers union invite you to join forces in a statewide Lobby Day at the legislature on Wednesday, March 7th.

Your Chance to Be Courageous
     Before participating in Lobby Day last year, Rev. Renee Dillard says she hadn't been to the state capitol since a 7th grade field trip. "Lobbying was a little intimidating to think about," she says. "But the training I got ahead of time helped me know what to expect and how to talk about the issues. On Lobby Day, I met new people, and the exchanges we had with legislators were more positive than I thought they would be. It felt good to know I was doing my part to make a difference with workers."

What We're Asking Legislators to Do
      On Lobby Day, we'll be pressing our legislators on two main issues. The first is rejecting a dangerous and misguided bill that bans living wage ordinances in our state. If passed, Sen. Kelsey and Rep. Casada's bill will repeal large portions of the living wage laws that the City of Memphis and Shelby County passed years ago. The bills are just one example of conversative lawmakers who say they believe in local government control for one moment, then turn around and interfere in local affairs when they don't like something a city governmet does.

      The second focus of Lobby Day will be pressing legislators to pass a fair pay raise for employees at public colleges and universities across Tennessee. In his State of the State address, Gov. Haslam proposed a 2.5 percent pay raise for state workers. While this proposal is a good start, a percentage raise won't do much for workers who are paid poverty wages. For example, a typical custodian at the University of Memphis would get a $425 annual raise under the Governor's proposal, while the University President would get a $7,600 raise.

    At Lobby Day, you'll be pushing for a much more fair solution: a $1 per hour pay increase for all higher education employees. While top administrators don't need a huge bump in pay, ordinary workers will use this pay raise to meet urgent, basic needs for their families.

    During Lobby Day, we'll also rally on the capitol steps for good jobs and living wages at noon.

Sign up for March 7th Lobby Day
    Register for Lobby Day online or call Zach Ferguson at 901-332-3570 for more information. Once you have registered, we'll schedule lobbying appointments for you and arrange for your transportation. At this point, we know for sure we will have buses leaving from Memphis and Knoxville, and there will probably be caravans forming in other cities.

Schedule for Lobby Day
The Memphis bus will leave at 5:30 a.m. Central time and the Knoxville bus will leave at 7:00 a.m. Eastern time.

9:00 - 10:30   Training for lobbying teams

10:30 - noon   Visits to legislators in teams

Noon - 1:00    Rally on the capitol steps

1:00 - 3:00     Visits to legislators and/or lunch break

3:00                Return to home cities