Organizers Oust Amazon HQ2 from New York

Negin Owliaei Co-editor, Inequality.org

Amazon offered New Yorkers the best possible Valentine’s Day gift — a breakup. The union-busting, deportation-aiding company announced it wouldn’t go forward with plans to build a new headquarters in Queens, financed in part by tax breaks and capital grants, thanks to the sustained organizing efforts from New York grassroots groups.

The announcement was welcome news to the coalition of organizers who demanded the city invest in its communities instead of trying to woo the richest man in the world. The coalition was made up of local community organizations, including groups like New York Communities for Change and Queens Neighborhoods United, tenants unions, immigrant groups like Desis Rising Up and Moving and Make the Road NY, and more.

They sprang into action soon after Amazon announced it would build two new home bases in New York and Virginia. “We won by standing firm with our stance on no concessions and united with other organizations and groups across the city with this message,” Shrima Pandey, an organizer with Queens Neighborhoods United, told Inequality.org in an email. “We made sure that our electeds knew we were not looking to make deals because we know you can’t make a deal with the devil.”

“We also won by rallying our people, by making sure everyone was informed of the disastrous impacts that HQ2 could have had in our borough and our city,” Pandey said. “We won by being committed to this campaign – we took early morning calls, and day-long meetings, and hit the streets in the bitter cold even though QNU is an all-volunteer group and our members bear many other responsibilities.”

The reaction to the Amazon deal was immediate as questions popped up over the incentives package proposed by New York officials. Why offer hefty tax subsidies when the city is failing to address record-high homelessness? Why offer to “assist in securing access to a helipad” (a real thing promised by the city to Amazon) while the public transit system was melting down? And why offer all these perks and incentives under a shroud of secrecy, without community input?

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

More ...

A Friendly Reminder

A Friendly Reminder