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Labor by the Bay #4
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Labor by the Bay...
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Labor by the Bay:
Social Security cuts, Fast food strikes, Lettuce Wars, Safeway…

Beyond Chron
April 9, 2013

Copyright © 2013 Marc Norton

On the cutting edge…

President Barack Obama has once again signaled that he wants to cut Social Security benefits by reducing cost-of-living adjustments, as reported Monday in the lead story in Beyond Chron, but buried in verbiage in most of the mainstream media.

Obama’s cuts would cost each and every retired worker thousands of dollars, in what used to be called our “golden years.” We earned our Social Security, and the CEO of the USA now wants to steal some of it back. This stinks.

A lot of “progressives” are up in arms. For example, here is Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee: “You can't call yourself a Democrat and support Social Security benefit cuts.”

I don’t know much about the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, but Taylor is dead wrong. There are plenty of Democrats who support Social Security cuts. Even our very own Congresswoman
Nancy Pelosi testily told reporters last December that cutting cost-of-living adjustments is not a “cut.”


“I consider it a strengthening of Social Security.”

Double huh.

If Social Security cuts come to pass, Obama and the Democrats will own them, not the troglodyte Republicans…

I’m waiting to hear lots of screaming from the rooftop of the House of Labor about this. I hope we don’t have to wait too long. We don’t pay our union dues just for representation on the job, not when millions of our dollars got spent on Obama’s re-election…

A side of justice with your burger…

Hundreds of workers in New York’s fast food joints went on strike last Thursday,
April 4. The strike was aimed at chains like McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's,
Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut and Domino’s Pizza. The workers have two simple demands: a minimum wage of $15 an hour, and the right to organize without intimidation from the bosses.

Over two hundred New York fast food workers went on strike last November, in their first organized action. Last week there were double the number of strikers, at many more restaurants.

“We have the right to do this,” Naquasia Legrand, a 21-year-old KFC worker in Brooklyn, told the Guardian newspaper. While some workers experienced retaliation after the November strike, this has just fanned the flames. “If anything happens we will retaliate back,” declared Legrand, and that is exactly what fast food workers did last week. This movement is clearly building momentum.

There are millions of fast food workers around the country, and around the world. Labor leaders and activists constantly decrying the sorry state of the unions should take note. New York workers are creating a new model for organizing, based on the power of solidarity and persistence. Maybe we should spend some of those millions we threw at Obama on this kind of organizing…

The New York strikers chose April 4 as the date of their action, marking the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

King was in Memphis, Tennessee on that date, famously fighting for the rights of sanitation workers, and less-famously leading the Poor People’s Campaign
a campaign for economic justice aimed at occupying Washington DC in the face of unresponsive and hypocritical Washington politicians...

Can you imagine what King, one of the original Occupiers, would have said about Obama’s Social Security cuts?

Lettuce Wars…

I just started reading Lettuce Wars, a new book by Bruce Neuburger, subtitled “Ten Years of Work and Struggle in the Fields of California.”

I got hooked when I read the introduction. Neuburger, working as a taxi driver, is hustling up fares from the St. Francis Hotel back in 1984. He gets an airport run for a lawyer who is in town to meet with Salinas growers “looking to get out from under their union contracts.” Neuburger, who spent several years working in the lettuce fields, asks if companies can dump their union contracts by “going out of business, and then returning to operation under a different name.”  The shark tells Neuburger that he should have been a lawyer.

The conversation continues. The lawyer talks about “bored lawyers scratching notes on legal pads and well-dressed growers’ representatives discussing legal strategies.”

Neuburger is thinking about “farm labor buses, their sides freshly repainted, and lettuce workers with knives sticking out their back pockets standing in the chill of a morning street trying to catch a job, with the trepidations of soldiers defeated in battle, hoping for lenient treatment from their captors…”

I jumped next to the end of the book, to see where this is going. It doesn’t have a happy ending...

Neuburger asks, “Isn’t there something seriously wrong with a society that treats the people who produce our food as inferior?”  That is a fitting comment both for agricultural workers and fast food workers. I expect I will be writing more about this book...

And in another part of the food supply chain…

The audit committee of the Safeway board of directors says that CEO Steven Burd was not paid as well as other CEOs last year, even though he took home over $11.3 million. The Associated Press says he got a “slight” pay cut from the previous year, when he earned about $150,000 more. Slight, indeed.

Burd is retiring in May. I wonder if he will be collecting his Social Security. I’m sure he won’t worry about cost-of-living adjustments.

The last time I was in Safeway the checkers were complaining about staffing cuts. I guess we all need to tighten our belts, forget super-sizing our meals, and save a little more for our “golden years…”