06 October 2010

Grantee Groups Join to Fight for Workers' Rights

A remarkable group of Ms. Foundation grantees has come together to fight for the rights of excluded workers -- and strengthen the US labor movement in the process.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance, the National Day Laborers’ Organizing Network and Jobs with Justice -- all Ms. Foundation grantees -- together with the Alliance of Guestworkers for Dignity, are uniting to "dramatically expand workers' rights to organize" across the US. Last week in Washington D.C., they brought together representatives from nine different employment sectors to outline plans for collaboration, form alliances and identify concrete measures to improve the ability of workers to unionize in all 50 states.

The National Labor Relations Act -- which explicitly excludes domestic and farm workers -- and minimum wage laws currently leave millions of workers without the ability to organize for better pay and benefits. And in 22 states, mostly in the south and west of the country, "right-to-work" laws that weaken unions and work against collective bargaining remain in effect. As Denise Diaz of Central Florida Jobs with Justice explained on the JwJ Blog, “Workers in Florida do not have the right to organize. We are a right-to-work-for-less state."

This new alliance is trying to change all that. The convening in Washington drew together taxi workers, restaurant workers, welfare/workfare workers, formerly incarcerated workers, day laborers, domestic workers, workers from right-to-work-for-less states, guest workers and farm workers to plan for the future. "It’s important to come together] to identify strategies that will help us roll back the backwards policies that prevent southern workers from having the right to organize a union,” Diaz said.

Among other topics, participants discussed the feasibility of creating an inter-agency task force on excluded worker issues at the Department of Labor, and highlighted the importance of passing the POWER Act, which would "protect guest workers from employer retaliation if they file a labor complaint."

The partnership --an outgrowth of the Excluded Workers Congress at the US Social Forum this past June -- is one that holds enormous potential to change the face of labor relations for generations to come. We couldn't be prouder of our grantees' efforts!

Ms. Foundation grantee Domestic Workers United recently notched a big win for domestic workers in New York State. Learn more about how the new Domestic Workers Bill of Rights is challenging old labor laws and awarding new protections to excluded workers.

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