Today’s News & Commentary — May 14, 2018
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival launches today, as thousands of people will rally and engage in direct action at the US Capitol and state capitals across the country. Inspired by Martin Luther King’s 1967-1968 campaign, the Poor People’s Campaign is a national, grassroots, multiracial movement seeking to combat poverty and promote economic, racial, and gender justice. A range of unions (including SEIU, UNITE HERE, CWA, AFT, AFSCME, AFGE, UFW, UFCW, and USW), faith-based organizations, and community groups are supporting the Poor People’s Campaign. The movement is calling for, among other demands, “the immediate implementation of federal and state living wage laws that are commensurate for the 21st century economy, guaranteed annual incomes, full employment and the right for all workers to form and join unions,” as well as equal pay for equal work and an end to anti-union state legislation. In this first phase of their campaign, Poor People’s Campaign organizers are planning forty days of protests and direct actions. To learn more about this campaign, you can read this interview with co-chair Reverend William J. Barber II in the Los Angeles Times or this interview with co-chair Reverend Liz Theoharis in the Nation. The Poor People’s Campaign has also teamed up with the Institute for Policy Studies to produce a report entitled “The Souls of Poor Folk” which provides “an assessment of the conditions and trends of poverty today and of the past fifty years in the United States.”
On Friday, postdoctoral researchers at the University of Washington voted overwhelmingly (89%) in favor of unionization. As a result of the election, 1,100 UW postdocs will join 4,500 Academic Student Employees — graduate students who work as researchers, teachers, or tutors — as members of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 4121. The university had previously attempted to exclude about 40% of the postdocs from the potential bargaining unit. In response, postdocs took over part of a university building in March, leading the University to announce that it would not challenge the unionization vote.
Following the historic teachers’ strike in West Virginia, almost 90% of the 115 candidates endorsed by the West Virginia Education Association — the state teachers’ union — won their primaries last week. Voters ousted a number of anti-union incumbents, including State Senator Robert Karnes, who had predicted that the strike would not have much of an impact on elections in the state.
The Trump administration is considering freezing the salaries of federal government workers, cutting $143.5 billion in federal retirement benefits, and overhauling civil service laws. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) called the proposed cuts to public employees’ pay and retirement benefits “shameful.” In an interview with NPR, Jessica Klement, the vice president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said that rather than enacting cuts, the federal government should provide employees with paid parental and other benefits that many private sector employers provide.