St. Paul, MN - More than 50 hours after first arriving at the Capitol Saturday afternoon, Sumer Spika joined a tired, but elated group of home care workers and recipients in celebration.
"This is incredible," said Spika, a home care worker from St. Paul. "Home care workers deserve the same right as other workers to form a union and now, because of this bill, we will soon have that right to choose for ourselves if we want a union."
State to enact budget that makes the rich pay their fair share and invests in working families
After months of hard work, Minnesota working families scored a huge victory today as the state is poised to enact a budget that makes the rich pay their fair share in taxes and invests in education and other services for working families. This comes at a time when too many other states are stuck on a dead-end path of austerity.
The Minnesota House this weekend passed (Senate is expected to pass and Gov. Dayton is expected to sign today) a biennial budget that raises $2 billion in new revenue to close a $674 million budget shortfall and reverse years of disinvestment in schools and other critical services. The measure would increase income tax rates by 2 percent on the richest 2 percent, close corporate tax loopholes, and provide significant property tax relief to homeowners.
During a Senate HELP Committee hearing on nominations to the National Labor Relations Board (NLBR) yesterday, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) shared the story of Susie Stetler, a former SEIU member.
Watch Senator Franken tell Susie's story:
More on Susie's story:
Susie Stetler is waiting on $40,000 in back pay that was withheld by her employer when she was illegally fired.
Susie was a bus driver for special needs students for Visions of Elk River, a company that transports children to the Elk River School in Minnesota. The company employs bus drivers, van drivers, and aides that accompany special needs children in the buses and vans. In August of 2009, the company fired five employees (two drivers and three aides) who were active, vocal supporters of SEIU and had previously participated in campaigns to organize the bus and van drivers. Susie was one of those workers fired.
The firings were motivated by the workers' involvement in past union activity and the employer's express desire to "get rid of" union people. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found in September 2012 that the employer had violated the law by terminating the employees and ordered full back pay and reinstatement to their former positions.
The employer appealed the case to the D.C. Circuit. However, on February 7, 2013, the D.C. Circuit placed the case in abeyance following the decision in Noel Canning, further and indefinitely delaying enforcement of the NLRB decision as the drivers and aides approach their four year anniversary of being terminated.
After she was fired, it was hard or Susie to find another job. She decided to go back to school and has since moved to Wisconsin to care for her mother. Susie and her fellow co-workers who were fired are left in limbo, wondering if they will ever receive the back pay that is due to them.
The only way that Susie and her co-workers can find justice is for the Senate to confirm all five nominees to the NLRB.
We are so honored that Senator Franken shared Susie's story at the NLRB confirmation hearing. Because of him, the public was able to hear Susie's story as an example for why the NLRB nominees must be confirmed. We are extremely grateful to Senator Franken for agreeing to share Susie's story.
Today, hundreds of protesters are gathering in San Diego to protest on behalf of 550 janitors who stand to lose their jobs due to a Department of Homeland Security I-9 audit. This comes just days after a rally at the Federal Building with the same plea.
The protesters' ask is simple: Stop persecuting these families until Congress gets it's job done in fixing our broken immigration system that will put these hardworking immigrants on the road to citizenship.
In the midst of the nation's debate on immigration reform, and strong bipartisan leadership to pass an immigration reform bill, the targeting and persecution of these workers is in absolute antithesis to the direction our country is headed.
That's the central question posed by a Washington Post four-part video series on immigration reform. The series examines immigration policy over the past four decades and prominently features SEIU International Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina as a leader in the fight. The first part of the series - aptly entitled "It didn't work" - looks at the first bill signed by President Reagan, with commentary discussing why offering amnesty for people who came to the country was not enough, especially since the bill didn't address the future flow of immigrants.
In his commentary, Medina notes that because of poverty and turmoil in some Latin American countries at the time, the flow of immigrants was sure to increase. He also offered that the reason immigration is now at the forefront of the national agenda is because the Latino community made its voice heard at the ballot box.
The law is working. But Republican extremists in Congress continue their political games with our healthcare--just this week they're scheduling their 37th vote to repeal the lifesaving law. As a nurse I know politics don't belong in our hospitals and I know that Obamacare has already delivered benefits to 100 million Americans by:
Providing preventive health services like well child visits, cancer screenings and annual checkups at no additional cost;
Allowing young adults to stay on a parent's health insurance plan if they're under 26;
Saving seniors on prescription medicines if they participate in Medicare;
Providing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions; and
Ending the worst insurance company abuses like charging women more than men for the same coverage and putting arbitrary dollar limits on care.
Yesterday was an intense day for immigration reform in our country, representing the continued tension felt in the immigration debate.
As the Senate moved closer to reaching an immigration solution that honors workers and paves a roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans, a handful of conservative Members of Congress continued their defiant opposition to what has been a bipartisan effort.
First, the second day of markups began on the Senate immigration bill, and much positive progress was made. Many amendments were adopted which would strengthen protections for current and future working families and cultivate immigration from underrepresented countries. Two visa programs - the H-1B and STEM visa program - were strengthened which will attract highly-skilled workers to American businesses.
Currently, undocumented workers contribute about $15 billion a year to Social Security but they don't receive benefits when they reach retirement age due to their undocumented status or, in some cases, migration from the United States.
When Congress found their flights home delayed because of federal budget cuts, they quickly took action to end furloughs at the Federal Aviation Administration and got flights back on schedule.
But Head Start teachers and parents who rely on the program weren't so lucky.
According to the New York Times, Congress is voting for "special-interest demands for exceptions."1 But most of the sequester cuts hit programs that serve workers and low-income communities. Our needs are going unheard.