Unionists, Allies Convert July 2 into ‘Demonstration Day’

            From coast to coast, and for causes ranging from low pay to threats to Social Security, unionists and their allies turned July 2 into a national “Demonstration Day.”
            In cities ranging from San Francisco to Washington, and involving both organized and unorganized workers, the demonstrators made their voices heard on key issues:
            • In Washington, workers at the food court at the Ronald Reagan building downtown staged their second 1-day strike against their fast food employers, who have been paying them minimum wages, denying overtime by shipping them from store to store in the same day and imposing onerous working conditions.
            Good Jobs Nation, which helped organize similar 1-day strikes by low-income fast food workers in other cities nationwide in the past several months, organized the D.C. event, with aid from the Service Employees.
            The D.C. protest drew support from several city council members.  Workers demanded the building’s landlord, the federal General Services Administration, crack down on the fast-food contractor employers who low-ball and mistreat them.  Good Jobs Nation filed a formal complaint against the contractors the week before with the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, which enforces pay laws.
            “Just because we’re from the lower class doesn’t mean we don’t have rights.  We have rights just like everybody else,” Subway sandwich shop worker Cecelia Hernandez told the crowd massed outside the District Building, D.C.’s city hall.
            • Members of the Alliance for Retired Americans formed human chains in cities from coast to coast, starting in San Francisco, to campaign against the “chained CPI.”
            The chained Consumer Price Index is an alternative way of calculating inflation that would produce lower yearly cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients.  The cumulative cost could be up to $1,000 yearly by age 85 for a recipient who now receives, on average, only around $14,000 yearly.
            In 45 events, the “Human Chain Against The Chained CPI” massed in public parks and outside lawmakers’ offices to campaign against the cuts.
            “The chained CPI is a cold, calculated benefit cut to our Social Security, and some cuts never heal!” Alliance President Barbara Easterling said.  Her group also urged seniors nationwide who could not join an actual protest to protest on-line, by letter or by phone calls to Congress. Sympathetic Democratic lawmakers joined alliance events in Providence, R.I., Indianapolis, Ind., and Albuquerque, N.M. Participants urged lawmakers to back resolutions rejecting the chained CPI benefit cut.
            • The Communications Workers/NABET took the cause of naming five permanent members to the National Labor Relations Board to the doorstep of the main roadblock to the nominations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.
It was one of 26 such events nationwide.
            Their protest featured Jimmy Suisa, a member of NABET Local 31 in D.C., illegally fired by CNN after a 20-year career there.  He’s waited a decade for justice from the board.  Thanks to Senate GOP filibusters that the Chamber and its business backers orchestrate, he must wait even longer.
            “I was on the bargaining team before” the firing “and being let go is not easy,” he told the crowd in front of the Chamber’s entrance.  “My case has been in limbo since 2003.  I’d rather keep” – actually return to – “my job there and then leave on my own terms,” Suisa said.  He now works at PBS, “but I’m at the bottom of the list there.”
            “I know what the laws are, but they can’t be enforced, because there isn’t a board,” he added.
            “CWA members were joined by Sierra Club, Blue Green Alliance, Jobs with Justice, and AFL-CIO activists,” the union reported about the nationwide events.  “At last count, 3,350 letters were delivered to Senate offices in seven states, and meetings with senators and staff were held in states including Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Wisconsin and others.”
            The big business group is responsible for the GOP filibusters and deadlock that have left the board at such a point that it could cease to function in late August, said NABET organizer Carrie Biggs-Adams.  Thanks to the chamber and its political allies, “By Labor Day, there could be no labor law in this country,” she said.
            • In Chicago, the protest from Teamsters Local 727 was a picket line of 16 funeral directors and 59 drivers.  Houston-based funeral home giant Service Corporation International had forced them to vote to strike, starting the morning of July 2.  The local also filed labor law-breaking charges of bad faith bargaining.
“In 40 years as a funeral director I’ve helped thousands of people through some of the most difficult times in their lives.  Striking is not something I ever thought I would have to do,” said John Liberatore, a director at Piser Funeral Services in Skokie, Ill., a northwestern Chicago suburb.

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