US Representatives Zoe Lofgren, Ro Khanna Hold Town Hall with Fast-Food, Childcare, Security, Home Health Care Workers Calling for More Union Jobs, Higher Wages to Make California Stronger
Over 300 fast-food, childcare, public sector, security and health care workers met with US Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Ro Khanna, California Assemblymember Ash Kalra, and local elected officials and candidates Saturday afternoon. The town hall, held at SEIU Local 521, highlighted the need to make it easier for working people to join toge
ther in unions in California in order to raise wages and create thriving communities.
“We need to look at wages and the power to organize. The minimum wage is important but we’ve got to stand with organized labor to make sure people in this community earn enough to live,” said US Representative Zoe Lofgren.
Working people who are healthcare and childcare providers, public-sector workers, security officers, cashiers, and cooks discussed why putting more people in unions is the best way to confront inequality and lift the 64 million Americans paid less than $15/hour out of poverty.
“For years, providers like me have been fighting for the right to a union contract that other family child care providershave in many other states, but not California,” said Nancy Harvey, a Family Child Care Provider and SEIU 521 member from Oakland. “It is shameful that we ar not covered by basic things like the minimum wage and workplace safety rules. We do not receive any health benefits, and do not have access to workplace retirement programs. That is why family child care providers are fighting for the right to negotiate a union contract.”
“It’s sad that even with benefits; I can’t use them all because of an employer who won’t give its workers basic needs to ensure we takecare of ourselves,”said Julio Diaz, who works at Burger King and a second job at a hotel where he is represented by a union and receives benefits.
Workers who already belong to a union explained how having a voice on the job has empowered them to win higher pay and better benefits to support themselves and their families.
“The Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case put a name and a face to the wealthy special interests that want to silence and divide workers. They know that a strong union of dedicated working people is the only thing that stands in their way from rigging the economy in favor of the few. And we are not about to give them their way,” said Anna Griffin, a public-sector worker from Santa Clara County and SEIU 521 member for the past 23 years. “We are here today because we know that America needs unions. We know that workers’ rights are human rights. The only way to truly honor the people that came before us is to foster our connections, to organize our fellow workers, and to stand together for a better future.”
This was one of two dozen America Needs Unions town halls that have occurred or will take place around the country. These town halls come at a pivotal moment for unions, after the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, and as workers around California prepare to fight even harder to ensure union rights for everyone. Now, more than ever, elected officials have the responsibility to ensure that the economy is working for everyone.
“It was an honor to join with SEIU, Congress Members Lofgren and Khanna, and hundreds of local residents who care about the future of this nation and are willing to fight to save our Democracy. Unions are the one force that have proven to be able to beat back the wealthy class and provide a voice for hard-working Americans finding it harder to survive here in Silicon Valley and throughout the nation,” said Assemblymember Ash Kalra. “As attacks on unions reach aggressively new heights, from the White House to the Supreme Court, it is more important than ever that Americans stand up for unions and help them grow throughout our communities so working families can amplify their voice to ensure our nation can continue to strive to become a more perfect union that represents ‘We the People’ rather than they the billionaires.”
The roundtable was organized by SEIU Local 521, Fight for $15, SEIU-UHW, SEIU-USWW, SEIU 2015, the South Bay Central Labor Council, and Silicon Valley Rising.