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How Can the Federal Government Help Workers: Get Out of the Way

At the behest of big corporations, the federal government has all but taken away the freedom of workers to organize in order to get their fair share.  When workers lack the freedom to organize, wages stagnate, the middle class shrinks and inequality soars.  Contrary to Republican dogma, it is workers and not businesses who are over-regulated.  American workers are crying out, not only for a social safety net, not only for good jobs, but for control over their future.

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The Coming Attack on Labor and its Allies

This year organized labor dodged a bullet when Justice Antonin Scalia’s death left the Supreme Court tied in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.  If Scalia had lived, the Court would have decided in Friedrichs that public sector workers cannot be required to pay for the services they receive from the union that represents the employees at their workplace. The decision to authorize workers to stop paying for services from which they benefit, like contract negotiations, and force unions to provide those services for free would have created a massive free rider problem for unions.

Unfortunately, for organized labor, Friedrichs is coming back under a different name:  Janus v. AFSCME.  In both cases, workers argued that requiring them to pay for union services violated their First Amendment right to free speech.  The Supreme Court will almost certainly hear the case and could decide it as soon as 2018.  President Trump will fill Scalia’s seat on the Court with a like-minded conservative, and that will mean organized labor will lose Janus.

A loss in Janus could cause a massive drop in union membership with dramatic collateral damage to progressive institutions and the democratic process itself.  Many progressive leaders are elected on the strength of union grassroots organizing and money.  Janus could decimate that source of progressive support.  Labor and its allies had better be ready.


Annual Labor Movement Holiday Party Brings Cheer to Thousands of Santa Clara County Families

For more than 30 years the Labor Movement Holiday Party has brought holiday cheer and visits from Santa to thousands of Santa Clara County children and their families.  This year’s celebration was no exception. The Labor Movement Holiday Party provided gifts, pictures with Santa, lunch, face painting, tokens to play games and live music to hard working families with limited resources.  The event, which took place at Pavilion Hall at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, was made possible by the South Bay Labor Council, Working Partnerships USA, local residents and businesses and Toys for Tots.

At a time when many Silicon Valley families are struggling to meet their most basic needs, the Labor Movement Holiday Party was an opportunity for local unions to bring together thousands of County residents and spread Holiday joy.


Policy Watch: Week of 12/19

City of Gilroy

Declaring vacancy on City Council to be filled by Council appointment

Council will be declaring a vacancy on City Council as a result of former Council member Roland Velasco’s election to Mayor, and directing staff to post a notice of intention to advertise and fill the vacancy. Former Council member Velasco’s term was set to expire in November 2018. If Council does not appoint a new member to Council within 30 days after the vacancy is declared, a special election will be held to fill this vacancy.

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Yet Another Recount in District 8 Race

Jimmy Nguyen, candidate for San Jose City Council’s District 8 seat, has requested a manual recount of all the votes cast in the race. In a letter  sent to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, Nguyen also asks for the opportunity to see “all rejected vote-by-mail and provisional ballot envelopes, all defective or ‘spoiled’ ballots which were remade by Registrar staff…and all tally sheets and other documentation from the automatic manual recount.”

Earlier this month, the Register of Voters certified the District 8 election results and, according to their website, Sylvia Arenas bested Nguyen by 97 votes.

Nguyen, who submitted his request just in time for today’s deadline, will have to pay for this recount himself. Owing to Nguyen’s wide ranging recount request, the Registrar estimates that it will cost nearly $77,000. The District 8 winner, Sylvia Arenas, has asserted her right to a recount in response to Nguyen’s filing.


WHOPPER: Johnny Khamis and the Case of the Fact-Free Zone


If you heeded the warnings that San Jose City Councilmember Johnny Khamis and the California Restaurant Association (CRA) offered at the Council meeting last Tuesday, you probably rushed out in the last couple of days to buy as much steak as you can before the city’s new minimum wage sends restaurant prices through the roof.  That is, unless you’re a restaurant worker, in which case you’re saving every penny up before you get laid off when that same minimum wage increase disappears your job.

According to these prognosticators, the Council’s vote to raise San Jose’s minimum wage to $15 by 2019 will kill jobs and drive prices out of reach for average consumers.  Hmmm, where have we heard that before?

Not in the UC Berkeley study released on the same day about the effects of San Jose’s minimum wage hike in 2013. That study showed that the minimum wage hike currently in effect in San Jose resulted in zero job losses and an average 1.5% increase in restaurant prices – or about 15 cents on your $10 lunch.

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Campbell Votes to Increase Minimum Wage to $15 by 2019

By a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, the Campbell City Council chose to raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2019.  The decision to increase the minimum wage sooner than mandated by the State of California was, in large part, led by Councilmember Jason Baker. Joining him in support of $15 by 2019 were Vice Mayor Liz Gibbons and Councilmember Michael Kotowski. Councilmembers Jeffrey Cristina and Paul Resnikoff opposed the increase. Campbell is the latest to join six other Santa Clara County cities in the regional effort to raise the wage.


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