Scenes from the struggle for economic justice - Page 2

Oakland's Community Democracy Project, Bangladeshi sweatshop activists, California domestic workers, and more May Day warriors

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At an April 25 rally in SF, Bangladeshi activists fight for 112 workers who died in a fire making garments for Walmart.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY REBECCA BOWE


Making job-training programs actually work

The phrase "welfare" may conjure up the image of a couch potato catching up on daytime soaps while the checks roll in, but Karl Kramer of the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition says it's simply not the case — some people are not only working to earn those meager checks, they're faced with few options once their participation in such programs comes to an end.

In San Francisco, many recipients of public assistance are part of the local Community Jobs Program, designed to provide unemployed people with on-the-job experience to help them land on their feet after six months. In practice, however, "it's not happening," Kramer says. "They're dead-end programs. People aren't moving onto jobs, and at the end of the Community Jobs program, they're cut off completely."

Part of the problem is that few pathways exist to connect the workers with actual paid gigs once they've finished. So the Living Wage Coalition is pushing for legislation that would improve and expand upon the Community Jobs Program, by raising the wage rate from $11.03 to $12.43 per hour, giving participants the option of working 40 hours a week, extending the program from six months to one year to square with eligibility requirements for many job listings, and creating an advisory committee to facilitate entry-level job creation in city departments.

"There has not been political will to really make these programs successful," Kramer notes. And in the meantime, "people don't connect it with why there's such a growth of homeless families" in San Francisco. (Bowe)

Basic rights for domestic workers

The California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights would apply basic federal labor protections (such as a minimum wage, the right to breaks, and basic workplace safety standards) to domestic workers. If it becomes law, credit will go in part to its author, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, but also to the California Domestic Workers Coalition, which has been pushing the issue for years.

Supporters of the bill say it's unconscionable that domestic workers — the people who care for our children and grandparents and tend our homes — are one of just two occupations exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the other being farm workers (another profession with a well-documented history of labor abuses, and also one comprised largely of unpaid immigrants). "We need to have protections for the people who do really important work," Katie Joaquin, campaign coordinator for the coalition, told the Guardian.

As we reported recently ("Do We Care?," 3/26/13), Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the measure last year after it was overwhelmingly approved by the Legislature, expressing the paternalistic concern that it may reduce wages or hours of domestic workers. But its supporters have come back stronger than ever this year. Now know as Assembly Bill 241, the measure cleared the Assembly Labor Committee on a 5-2 vote on April 24 and it now awaits action by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. They say this bill, which New York approved in 2010, is a key step toward valuing caregiving and other undervalued work traditionally performed by women. (Steven T. Jones)

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