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Living Wage Progress Report from North Bay Jobs with Justice

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Living Wage Progress Report
from North Bay Jobs with Justice

By Marty Bennett, Co-Chair
Luis Santoyo-Mejia, Lead Organizer
North Bay Jobs with Justice

In 2014 the Living Wage Coalition completed our transition to become a Jobs with Justice (JwJ) chapter and to affiliate with the national Jobs with Justice network. Nationally, JwJ has more than 40 affiliated coalitions in 25 states. The mission of JwJ is “a long term strategic alliance of labor, faith, student, immigrant and civil rights organizations to build a strong progressive movement for social and economic justice” at the national and local levels.

Looking back on this past year, we can celebrate many accomplishments – yet we must look forward to new challenges as we seek to develop a regional movement for economic and social justice in the North Bay.

What were the achievements of North Bay Jobs with Justice in 2014?

1) We established the second Jobs with Justice chapter in the Bay Area (San Francisco is the first). We hired a full-time organizer, developed a new web site and a face book page, and established committees, including Action and Mobilization, Fund Raising, Living Wage, Wal-Mart Organizing, and a Workers’ Rights Board.

2) We continued our five-year campaign against a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter in Rohnert Park.  A successful lawsuit by members of our anti-supercenter coalition stopped the project in 2011. Wal-Mart attempted to obtain approval for a revised Environmental Impact Report (EIR) a year ago, but our procedural challenges prevented Wal-Mart from moving forward with the expansion of the existing discount store to become a supercenter. The revised EIR for the proposed supercenter will be considered by the Rohnert Park city council on Tuesday, January 13th and please turn out to demonstrate your opposition (consult our web site below for more information and to download a flyer).

3) We initiated a campaign to win approval for a Living Wage Ordinance for the County of Sonoma. We organized a coalition that includes North Bay Jobs with Justice, North Bay Labor Council, North Bay Organizing Project, SEIU 1021, SEIU UHW, Sonoma County Conservation Action, and the Sierra Club. We convened five planning meetings of unions and community organizations over the past year to develop a vision and strategy for the campaign; 50-60 people representing two-dozen labor, faith, environmental, and community organizations attended each meeting.  We publically launched our campaign in September 2014 and unveiled the draft ordinance and a fiscal impact report by University of Massachusetts economists. The coalition is now engaged in an ongoing process of public education, base building, mass actions, signature gathering, and lobbying the Board of Supervisors.

4) We provided ongoing support for the campaign by UNITE HERE Local 2850 to organize 1000 workers at the Graton Casino in Rohnert Park.  These activities included: educating the public about the organizing drive; outreach to friends and family of our affiliates about applying for jobs at the casino; and engaging community leaders to support the workers and to ensure compliance with ‘card check/neutrality’ provisions in the compact and lease agreements.  Six hundred workers signed cards at the casino to indicate their desire for union representation, and an arbitrator certified the card check in June.  The union is now engaged in a campaign to organize the 12 restaurants, and 400 more workers will soon have the opportunity to sign cards and to join the union this fall.

5) We established phone and email trees to mobilize members of affiliated organizations and helped to organize numerous mass actions over the last year. These included: the May 1st Immigrant Rights/Labor Rights march; a demonstration to support the contract campaign of SEIU 1021 members at the City of Rohnert Park; actions at the Santa Rosa Apple store to support a union-organizing campaign by security guards at Apple and Google in Silicon Valley; and a very successful ‘Black Friday’ action at the Rohnert Park Wal-Mart attended by 100 people this past November.

6) We sponsored our first Workers’ Rights Board hearing for the Petaluma Federation of Teachers in December.  More than 75 people attended the event, and teachers, students, and parents provided testimony to community leaders about the refusal of the Petaluma City School District and its Superintendent to negotiate a fair contract. The Workers’ Rights Board made recommendations about ways to expedite meaningful contract negotiations and to restore a collaborative relationship between teachers and the administration. The Board will follow up with a meeting with the Superintendent.

Find more information about our campaigns, meeting dates, and upcoming actions at www.northbayjobswithjustice.org and Facebook.com/pages/North-Bay-Jobs-With-Justice.