Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Labor Day Workers Rights Board Hearing, March, and Rally

Workers’ Rights Board Hearing on the Impact of Low-Wage Work
Labor Day Weekend
Dallas, August 31, 2013

On Saturday, August 31, Jobs with Justice and the Worker Rights Board hosted a Labor Day action: “Can’t Survive on $7.25!” which included the first Annual Dallas Labor Day March and Rally since the 1940s. The purpose of the actions, which included a discussion panel involving state and
national representatives as well as representatives from the AFL-CIO and OUR Walmart, was to bring to attention the plight of workers with minimum wage jobs. As the title suggests, $7.25 an hour pay is not nearly enough to cover the basic necessities for one person, let alone a family. The members of the panel Congressman Mark Veasey, Texas House Representative Roberto Alonzo, the AFL-CIO’s Education Director Rick Leavey, and OUR Wal-Mart organizer Colby Harris, along with the moderator, Professor Dr. Joerg Rieger, discussed this issue and offered some insights.
First to speak was Congressman Veasey, who represents District 33 (Oak Cliff). Not earning enough is not a question of laziness, he explained, as even if a person worked full time a minimum wage job would only earn them $15,000 a year. Veseay says he will continue to fight for a higher minimum wage, mentioning that he is the co-sponsor of the Minimum Wage Act that is currently going through Congress. This bill, HR 1010, will raise the minimum wage to $8.50/hour in three months, and from there to $10.10/hour over the next two years to keep pace with inflation.
Next was Texas House Representative Roberto Alonzo, who talked about economic justice, immigration reform, and creating awareness about economic issues. He told the audience that the best way to move economic justice issues such as equal pay forward is to be supportive and persistent.
Afterwards the AFL-CIO’s Education Director Rick Levy spoke about the decisive role unions played in the past to get such staples such as weekends and a 40-hour workweek. He emphasized that we cannot be “armchair activists” but need to get out and close loopholes, invest in public education, reform immigration policy, and work on economic equality together in order to move things forward.
Lastly, Colby Harris, an organizer for OUR Walmart and part of the new Peer Chaplain program spoke about his experience as a Walmart worker and emphasized that we need to work together as a group, for if one person is left behind all are left behind. He concluded by mentioning some ways in which one can help out: by coming to actions, signing petitions, leafleting, and even wearing an OUR Walmart shirt while shopping at Walmart.

Annika Rieger

First Annual Labor Day March and Rally
-“Can’t Survive on $7.25!” –
August 31, 2013

This past Labor Day weekend North Texas Jobs with Justice and OUR Walmart led more than 200 people on a historic march down Jefferson Boulevard in Oak Cliff. This was the first march commemorating workers and the contribution of Labor since the 1940’s. Triple digit temperatures did not deter the marchers representing various area unions, churches, and community groups as well as fired Walmart workers from showing support for low-wage workers.

The Labor Day events started at the Texas Theatre with a Workers’ Rights Board hearing and discussion on the impact of low-wage work on the community. Congressman Marc Veasey, State Representative Roberto Alonzo, AFL-CIO leader Rick Levy, and Colby Harris, a Walmart worker and OUR Walmart member, shared their insights.

Immediately following the hearing marchers with banners and signs followed in one of three contingents: Expand Democracy, Defend Human Rights, Good Jobs and Wages. The march ended at the nearby Oak Cliff United Methodist Church with a free picnic and cold drinks. Speakers such as Mark York, head of the Dallas AFL-CIO, George Rangel of Alliance AFT (American Federation of Teachers), Juanita Wallace, President of the Dallas NAACP, Pastor Edgar Bazan, and the Reverend Dr. Freddie Haynes all emphasized the importance of workers having a sustainable wage. Everyone agreed that justice for workers is a struggle that needs to be put in the forefront. One of the popular chants of the march summed it up perfectly: “Worker rights are under attack! What do we do? – Stand up, fight back!”

R. Rieger

Friday, August 2, 2013

First Annual Dallas Labor Day March and Rally

Dear Workers' Rights Board Members and Friends,

We are excited about our annual Labor Day Hearing and invite you to attend.
We have expanded our August hearing to include a march and rally with food.
Please join us and spread the word. Bring your friends and family! 

Labor Day: Learn, take action, march, eat!

Join North Texas Jobs with Justice, United Food and Commercial Workers
(UFCW) International, OUR Walmart, UFCW Local 540at the Texas Theatre, 
231 W Jefferson Blvd, Oak Cliff, Dallas on Saturday, August 31, starting at 
10 AM for "Can't survive on $7.25!" investigating the effects of low wages on 
area workers and our Community Workers' Rights Board Hearing with Congressman 
Marc Veasey and other panelists including testimony by a Walmart worker.

As it becomes harder to support a family, we need jobs with wages that keep people 
out of poverty. The largest population of minimum wage workers in the US lives in 
Texas. Worker rights are a community concern!

Immediately following the hearing we can take action by joining the First Annual 
Dallas Labor Day March and Rally- in solidarity with Low-Wage Workers demanding change-

We will march from the Texas Theatre (231 W Jefferson Blvd, Oak Cliff,
Dallas) at noon down Jefferson Street to Oak Cliff United Methodist Church 
(547 EJefferson Blvd, oak Cliff, Dallas) where we will gather for free hot dogs
and drinks will be offered from 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM. Additional speakers
will offer their insights on low-wage jobs and their impacts.

For more information contact North Texas Jobs with Justice at 214-632-5695
or e-mail

Let's be there for each other! Let's be there in solidarity!


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

WRB Letter to Congressmen Harkin and Alexander

May 17, 2013

As Jobs with Justice/American Rights at Work has written: "We have long been
witnessing growing inequality and a decline in job standards due to both the
steady weakening of U.S. labor laws, ever increasing corporate influence on
our democracy, and a weakened political will to modernize labor laws to
accommodate significant shifts in the workplace. This country is
fundamentally in need of better labor laws and a stronger NLRB ­ but the
NLRB is still where workers turn to when they are fired unfairly, their free
speech is threatened, or their working conditions are unsafe.

Recently, a combination of Senate obstructionism and judicial overreach has
put the NLRB on ice, further stripping workers of basic protections for
their right to organize and bargain collectively."

For this reason North Texas Jobs with Justice's Workers' Rights Board (WRB)
took the recent call to action to demand a functional National Labor
Relations Board (NLRB) seriously. A letter drafted by national Jobs with
Justice was signed by many of our WRB members and sent to Congressmen
Harkin, Alexander, Cornyn, and Cruz.

The Honorable Tom Harkin


Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
428 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Lamar Alexander

Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
428 Dirksen Senate Office Building 

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Alexander:
As leaders representing faith, civil rights, social justice, human rights, and academic communities in North Texas, we believe the strength of our democracy is tied to our nation's ability to uphold and uplift workers' rights. We have witnessed the decline of job standards and shared prosperity due to ever- increasing corporate influence on our democracy, the steady weakening of U.S. labor laws, and the lack of political will to modernize these laws to accommodate significant shifts in the nature of work.
This country is fundamentally in need of better labor laws and a stronger National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In the absence of such reforms, it is imperative that America's workers still have government protection in their attempt to secure basic rights and respect from their employers. We are therefore writing to urge swift confirmation of the fulI package of nominees submitted by President Obama for the NLRB.
In January 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the Obama administration's January 2012 recess appointments to the NLRB were unconstitutional - a ruling at odds with other circuit court decisions, but one that put the status of the current NLRB recess appointees, and the full operations of the agency, in legal doubt.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) provided for bedrock rights for workers to join together to improve their standard of living and conditions at work. This protected right to collective action and collective bargaining is as critical to our economy and democracy today as it was in 1935 when the NLRA became law. The NLRB is still where workers turn to when they are fired unfairly, their free speech is threatened, or their working conditions are unsafe. Recent Unfair Labor Practice strikes by Walmart workers and fast food workers across the county show that workers continue to seek collective action to better their jobs and lives.
In order for our labor laws to work effectively and for workers to have the ability to seek redress for workplace injustice, it is essential that the agency responsible for enforcing these laws be operational. Current and future vacancies on the NLRB, together with the uncertainty created by the D.C. Circuit's recent Noel Canning decision, make it imperative that the Senate move quickly to consider the full slate of nominees.
America's workers deserve much more than the status quo to fully protect their rights on the job. Yet they do not deserve to have their basic workplace rights invalidated due to Congressional inaction. Please act on the opportunity to approve the nominations and ensure the NLRB will be able to operate, protecting the vital rights of employees to collectively improve their job standards.
Rosemarie Rieger, North Texas Jobs with Justice
The Rev. Isabel Docampo
 North Texas Workers' Rights Board
Thomas Berry
 Retired, United Transportation Union, Dallas, TX
Stacey Cottongame, Leader, Our Walmart, Ennis, TX
Rev. Irene Jackson, 
Senior Pastor, Southwood United Methodist Church, Irving, TX
Kit Jones, 
Fort Worth, TX
Evelyn Kelly, Forney, TX
Dr. Gene Lantz, President, Texas Alliance for Retired Americans, Dallas, TX
Philip Lynch, Denton, TX
Tim McAninley TWU
, Hurst, TX
A. Patterson, 
Texas State Employees Union Dallas, TX
Danna Pyke, Dallas, TX
Dr. Joerg Rieger
, SMU, American Association of University Professors Dallas, TX
Katie Simpson, Richardson, TX
John Stephenson II, Bedford, TX
Rebecca Tankersley, 
Student, Perkins School of Theology Dallas, TX
Bradley Walker, Arlington, TX
Dr. Ronald Wilhelm, Dallas, TX
Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.

The Honorable John Cornyn, Senator from Texas
The Honorable Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas

Information about Workers' Rights Boards:
At a time when the rights of workers are increasingly under attack, North Texas Jobs with Justice has formed a Workers' Rights Board. About a dozen of these boards already exist in other cities across the U.S. Their goal is to bring together community leaders from all sectors who understand that workers' rights are an important pillar of the community.
Members of Workers' Rights Boards include state representatives, religious leaders, organizers and activists, educators and academics, lawyers, journalists, and many others. The work of a Workers' Rights Board includes hearings where workers can present their struggles, addressing the violations of workers' rights through writing letters to employers demanding fair treatment, delegation visits to management or public officials, speaking out through the media when necessary, and demonstrating solidarity with workers in various other ways. The Dallas Workers' Rights Board works closely with North Texas Jobs with Justice in order to identify worthy campaigns and issues. For more information see:
Jobs with Justice has a long history of bringing together a broad range of community leaders, including faith communities and other organizations who care about the common good. For further information about Workers' Rights Board please check the following link:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Walmart Workers Protest on Black Friday

This event was supported by members of the Dallas Workers Rights Board and is connected to the last WRB hearing on Wage theft and Wage Depression.  Thanks to all who participated for making a difference.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Workers' Rights Board Hearing Sept.1, 2012

On September 1, 2012, the North Texas Jobs with Justice’s Workers’ Rights Board (WRB) convened a hearing entitled, “Wage Theft and Wage Depression: The Jobs Crisis Continues.” The hearing began with an introduction by Dr. Joerg Rieger who talked about the basic values and aims of this group. He reminded the group that these issues are rampant in Dallas, and that as one member of our community suffers, everyone suffers. While Wage Theft is morally wrong and has no official support, Wage Depression is often defended by employers and workers alike as a necessary evil. Yet both Wage Theft and Wage Depression are connected because they show that we fail to appreciate the value of work and the accomplishments of workers, while employers take credit and gain. As the following testimonies show, both problems are rampant.

photo by Helen Rieger
Rosemarie Rieger then offered a “state of the community” report. Since last year unemployment has declined minimally, though other factors indicate substantial problems remain. The panel consisted of Allison Prochnow, who works for the Workers’ Defense Project, Scott Gleeson with the Los Manos Negras project, Roberto Corona from Pueblo Sin Fronteras program, Stacy Cottongane and John Burnane from OURWalmart (Organization United for Respect for Respect at Walmart), and Ryan Haney with the Iron Workers Union. Gene Lantz, who is President of the Alliance of Retired Americans and a long-time organizer of Jobs with Justice, and Isabel Docampo, Workers’ Rights Board member also spoke to the group.

Prochnow initiated the Wage Theft portion of the hearing, discussing the launch of the new Workers’ Defense Project (WDP) in Dallas. WDP has fought wage theft in Austin for 10 years with great success, enabling some 1100 workers to recover over $900,000 in wages. WDP’s primary goals, however, involve training workers about their rights and advocating for legal change. They have effectively promoted policies at local and state levels using direct action of visits and protests as well as looking to developers for accountability and responsibility. Prochnow noted that in Dallas, ¼ of all workers have experienced wage theft. They anticipate more resistance in Dallas, with the city council not as willing to work with WDP and workers, but they will work tirelessly to educate workers and live the reality that “in unity there is strength.”

Gleeson followed with a description of his project, which received funding from the prestigious 2012 Idea Fund Andy Warhol Foundation Grant. As a visual artist and art historian specializing in public art projects directed toward marginalized constituencies, Gleeson developed Los Manos Negras, “the black or dirty hands,” to highlight workplace injustice among migrant day laborers in East Dallas. Gleeson’s project advocates for and communicates with migrant workers, trying to be a vehicle for worker expression as opposed to representation of them. In addition to harnessing the long history of revolutionary iconography and the tradition of Chicano art, he also distributes information about how to get in contact with groups that can help with recovery of wages and offers training in remittance letter writing. He offered one story of an undocumented worker who runs a successful lawncare business. The worker was stabbed while he was working, but was afraid to go to authorities. He discovered he might be eligible for a visa as the victim of violent crime, and Gleesons’s group connected him with Catholic Charities, who successfully followed up. Don’t miss the full-scale exhibition of his work at Eastfield College, running Oct 8-Nov 2!

Next, Corona spoke about the work of Pueblo Sin Fronteras. PSF, an entirely volunteer organization with many student workers, also helps workers learn rights, educates the community about their rights, and helps workers stand up for themselves individually and communally. The also educate the broader public about migration and the reasons persons leave their countries of origin. The group meets every Thursday morning at 9am and the 1st Sunday of every month.

Cottongane and Burnane shifted the hearing’s attention to the issue of Wage Depression. Cottongane, who has worked at the Ennis Walmart for 12 years, testified to the store cutting hours or asking workers to work extra hours while being cut hours at the end of the week in order to pad profits. Walmart also requires employees to cut an hour out of every shift on days during a holiday week to make up for holiday pay on Labor Day. She also pointed out that Walmart will lower wages when accidents are reported—even ones not requiring medical attention—creating an incentive for employees to withhold accident reports. Cottongane reported that $30,000 gets knocked off bonuses immediately. She asked supporters to come to the Rally on Sept. 22 in Dallas. Burnane spoke more broadly about the OUR Walmart mission, which is about education, laws and rights, as well as policies of the company (which are often shrouded and inaccessible). For instance, in January Walmart changed its policy so that new hires do not receive bonus pay for work on Sundays. Managers began immediately primarily scheduling new hires to work on Sundays. Corporate executives for Walmart also changed its policy so that full-time employees have to work a full year before becoming eligible for benefits. Managers, consequently, have been waiting until just before that year arrives and then cutting hours, rendering employees ineligible for benefits. This group in Dallas has support from many organizations and will be ramping up efforts to make these injustices visible to the broader community so that Walmart will be pressured into creating more humane policies and practices.

photo by Helen Rieger
Finally, Haney reported on his research with the Iron Workers Union. These workers reinforce concrete shells of buildings, bridges, and facilities. Reinforcing iron is skilled work, requiring years of training. It is also dangerous, hard work, creating back issues, fall dangers, and heat exhaustion. In Dallas, water is not regularly supplied by employers like Great Western Erectors, who are also not required to provide rest breaks and who often deny legally-mandated safety training and equipment. The Iron Workers Union is working hard to organize in Dallas where there are currently no unionized reinforcing iron contractors.

Gene Lantz followed Haney with a call to celebrate the recent decision by the federal government to turn back Texas’ re-districting of voters as well as the proposed voter id law. He also expressed hope in the presence and active involvement of so many young people in the various efforts represented at the hearing.

Docampo closed the hearing by opening up the floor for audience feedback and by reminding attendees of the role of WRB in uniting groups with overlapping interests and commitments. We hope to consolidate our efforts to strategically work for change, advocacy, and solidarity. We would love to see even greater cooperation and alliances.

The hearing hosted a number of groups and community members, including WRB, WDP, Occupy Dallas, Environmental Groups, Jobs with Justice, Alliance for Retired Americans, SMU faculty and students, Iron Workers Union, OUR Walmart, Pueblo Sin Fronteras, Los Manos Negras, various clergy, and workers.

It was a day to expose problems, share resistance struggles, support one another, and celebrate these many efforts demanding justice living in oppressive systems that negatively impact each and every one of us in different ways. The Worker’s Rights Board and North Texas Jobs with Justice are dedicated to supporting workers and their struggles and to connect them with the community.

Report by Julie Mavity Maddalena