Archives for category: workers’ rights
woman with very short, gray hair, holding a firefighter's helmet. she is among a group of protesters holding signs that say "firefighters for labor" and "workers' rights"

Protesters in Wisconsin. Photo credit: Molly Glasgow

The protests in Madison, WI continue, and as the days go on information about the nature of Wisconsin’s budget crisis has come out:

The Badger State was actually in pretty good shape. It was supposed to end this budget cycle with about $120 million in the bank. Instead, it’s facing a deficit. Why? The governor signed two business tax breaks and a conservative health care policy that lowers overall tax revenues. The new legislation was not offset, and it turned a surplus into a deficit. Now public workers are being asked to pick up the tab.

What’s more, new information is coming out linking the infamous Koch brothers to Governor Scott Walker’s campaign:

Charles and David Koch are conservative titans of industry who have infamously used their vast wealth to undermine President Obama and fight legislation they detest, such as the cap-and-trade climate bill, the health care reform act, and the economic stimulus package. For years, the billionaires have made extensive political donations to Republican candidates across the country and have provided millions of dollars to astroturf right-wing organizations. Koch Industries’ political action committee has doled out more than $2.6 million to candidates. And one prominent beneficiary of the Koch brothers’ largess is Scott Walker. (via Forbes)

Rachel Maddow has also given a spot-on analysis of how this affects elections: the only big money in elections that leans left is union money. Bust up the unions, and all the big money in elections comes from right-leaning institutions.

But Wisconsin continues to stand up, and the spirit of camaraderie and solidarity has been nothing short of amazing. I have seen the social media feeds of my Madison, WI friends offering up couches, places to stay, their phone numbers if anyone is in need of help. A facebook group has been set up to house people coming in from out of town for the protests. People from across the country are ordering pizzas from nearby Ian’s Pizza for the protesters. A full-fledged civil service has been set up for the protests – with garbage collection, recycling, food and water delivery, and an information station.

I am so thankful for the people of Wisconsin – thank you for standing up, now and throughout history. May we all learn from you.

Hundreds of protesters in Madison, WI's capitol rotunda

Photo credit: NY Times

During the last few days, I have been riveted as the people of Wisconsin have been showing up in the thousands to protest Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal:

Behind closed doors, Scott Walker, the Republican who has been governor for about six weeks, calmly described his intent to forge ahead with the plans that had set off the uprising: He wants to require public workers to pay more for their health insurance and pensions, effectively cutting the take-home pay of many by around 7 percent.

He also wants to weaken most public-sector unions by sharply curtailing their collective bargaining rights, limiting talks to the subject of basic wages.

By taking away union workers’ collective bargaining rights, Walker is directly targeting the dignity of workers not only in Wisconsin, but the entire nation. Walker is also proposing to remove the ability to cut the budget of Medicaid – an essential health care program for low-income people – from the Legislature, putting the decision to slash the program’s budget in the hands of the governor’s Department of Health and Human Services. This measure could lead to deep cuts in the health care of some of the most vulnerable people in the state. As state budget crises need to be resolved, conservative governors from states across the country are watching to see if Walker can pull this off.

Governor Walker’s proposal has implications for all people in Wisconsin, but the hardest hit would be the most vulnerable. Labor is a reproductive justice issue: ability to negotiate for adequate wages and quality health care is essential for women and our families. Moreover, putting Medicaid in the hands of the governor essentially leaves one person deciding on the health low-income people, and this is unacceptable. At a time in which people are struggling more than ever due to an economic downturn, the last thing we should do is make it easier to cut safety-net programs.

But the people of Wisconsin are rising up to the challenge. Massive protests have hit the Capitol in Madison, with people occupying the building starting yesterday; huge numbers of teachers called in sick on Tuesday in protest, forcing schools to close; Wisconsin’s football team (and Super Bowl champions!), the Green Bay Packers, put out a statement in support of public sector workers; and today, the Democratic caucus of the Senate refused to show up for the vote – leaving Wisconsin so that the state police had no jurisdiction over them – delaying a vote on the measure, and giving the people more time to organize, due to a lack of quorum.

The energy is palpable, and as a former resident of the state I am both inspired by and proud of the people of Wisconsin this week. If you would like to support the efforts of some of the finest organizers I know, I encourage you to send a check to the Student Labor Action Coalition, who is taking part in the sit-ins and needs to raise funds for legal defense:

SLAC

c/o Eric Hoyt

140 W. Gilman St.

Madison, WI 53703

¡Si se puede!

Red umbrella (symbol of sex workers' rights) with text underneath saying "International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers"

Today is the 7th annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, and there are events around the country and the world to recognize this day.  If you are in New York City, join the Sex Workers Project and co-sponsoring organizations at a free event to hear some awesome speakers and participate in a community speak-out:

Friday, December 17 · 7:30pm – 9:30pm

Metropolitan Community Church of New York

446 West 36th Street, Second Floor Sanctuary

New York, NY

The first-ever International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was in 2003, as a response to serial killer Gary Ridgway, who claimed to have killed prostitutes because he thought no one would notice:

“I also picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.”

It’s important to remember, though, that violence against sex workers is not only perpetuated by violent clients, but also by the state through through the criminalization of sex work. Criminalization disproportionately affects women of color, immigrants, and gender non-conforming people, and is a reproductive justice issue.

I personally want to take this day to send my love to my dear friends and loved ones who are or have been sex workers – I appreciate you.  Big ups to the hos!

a woman with long, dark hair wiping her nose with a tissue

What I am up to today.

I am sick today.  It’s not so bad – just a cold, but it’s uncomfortable and shitty in addition to inopportune timing, but don’t we always get sick at the worst time?  I have been traveling a lot for my job, and because airports are disgusting cesspools of disease I actually expected to be sick around this time.  After much hand-washing, however, I escaped unscathed from the airport’s dirty little paws, only to come home to a girlfriend who would become sick a couple of days later.

By now you are wondering: when does paid sick leave come in?  If your job sends you traveling about, doesn’t it give you paid sick leave?  Why yes! Yes it does, and it is awesome.  But my girlfriend, however, does not have paid sick leave at the juice bar where she works.  The reason that she is sick now: one of her coworkers refused to go home when she was sick, infecting my girlfriend and surely anyone who came into the tiny New York City space. I am sure my girlfriend’s coworker did not refuse to go home because she is careless or malicious; being sick sucks, and working a food service job while sick is not super fun.  My guess is that, if she could have gone home without it affecting her income -if she could have taken care of herself and others around her in a way that did not negatively affect her livelihood – she probably would have gone home.  Wouldn’t you?

New York City was pretty close to requiring paid sick leave for every worker until Speaker Quinn rejected the proposal last month, citing the economy.  It’s really unfortunate, because people need paid sick leave especially when they are struggling to make ends meet; not making rent or being able to pay the bills without the money from a particular shift is great motivation to stay at work sick. For the people who have to care for sick children, who are overwhelmingly women, taking care of your sick child might mean risking eviction or getting your utilities cut off.  Paid sick a women’s rights issue, a queer liberation issue, an economic justice issue, a racial justice issue.

I am a lucky one – I have paid sick leave from my job.  But I still got sick because there’s no requirement to provide workers with paid sick leave in New York City, as I am sure every wealthy person who got raw vegan takeout from the juice bar that day did as well.  Me getting sick is certainly not the worst consequence (or even that bad of a consequence, let’s be honest, I probably was gonna get a cold sometime this season anyway) of no paid sick leave for workers, but the point I am trying to make is that for those of us who do have paid sick leave, this is more than a solidarity issue.  So, my message to wealthy New Yorkers with paid sick leave: the next time this comes around, and you or someone you know feels that this is not your issue, remember that your fancy raw vegan takeout – the one with all the right amino acids and acai berry and coconut water and shit – will sometimes come with a side of disease-ridden snot until the workers that are serving you have paid sick leave.  Gross, right?  Paid sick leave for all workers: Get on that shit.