New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg is among the plutocrats pouring money into LA's school board elections.
A group of billionaires and astroturf groups is trying to buy a Los Angeles school board election to expand the corporate education policy agenda in that city. One big goal is to defeat one-term incumbent and former teacher Steve Zimmer. The "Coalition for School Reform" has gotten $1 million from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But the group wasn't exactly broke before Bloomberg's contribution, according to the LA Times:
Education and arts philanthropist Eli Broad leads the way with a contribution of $250,000 to the coalition, which includes L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Also in for $250,000 is billionaire A. Jerrold Perenchio, who headed the Univision network for years.

Lynda Resnick, the entrepreneur behind POM Wonderful pomegranate juice and other ventures, has donated $100,000 to the coalition. Investor Marc Nathanson and his wife, Jane, have together given $100,000.

Bloomberg's former schools chancellor, Joel Klein, who now runs NewsCorp's education division, looking to turn corporate "reform" into profit for Rupert Murdoch, also chipped in $25,000, followed by another $25,000 this week. Also this week, Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst threw in $250,000.

This is the kind of money that's behind corporate education policy, with its attendant privatization, teaching to the test, and union-busting. And when you look at the players giving six and seven figures here, you realize how much more money is coming down the pike.

Keep reading for more in the War on Workers.

A fair day's wage:

  • Restaurant Opportunities Centers co-founder Saru Jayaraman, appearing this weekend on Bill Moyers:
    “If consumers asked, every time they ate out, or said to the management, ‘Love the food, love the service, I would love to see you provide paid sick days, as a consumer that’s important to me,’ or ‘I would love to see you do better on your wages, not pay $2.13,’ just before leaving, we feel like that could make a tremendous difference in moving the industry,”
  • Workers at the Castlewood country club in Pleasanton, California, were locked out for more than two and a half years before the lockout was declared illegal and workers let back on the job last October. But it's only now that they have a new contract:
    Under the new contract, workers will pay $225 per month for family health care, the same amount the union proposed before the lockout began. The workers’ payment will go down to $150 in the last year of the contract. The deal also includes raises, strong seniority rights and protections against subcontracting – which Castlewood proposed eliminating during the lockout – and a signing bonus.
  • Panera calls its bakers "artisans," but that's not how it treats them:
    VonEitzen, who has worked at her Panera franchise for two years, said she earns $10.45 per hour, or about $21,000 per year, putting her earnings at roughly 140 percent of the federal poverty line for a couple. The median pay for a baker in the U.S. is just a touch higher, at $11.27 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    But the cost of VonEitzen's employer health insurance plan for a couple would swallow nearly half her earnings, so she and her husband, who's had two heart attacks, go without it. Her paycheck brings in just enough to cover the mortgage payment and utilities, but the money is so tight that they often have to forgo her husband's costly heart medications, she said.

    Some Panera bakers are fighting to organize.
  • Hotel workers fired by the Hyatt Regency Baltimore for their union activism are back on the job after a settlement. And speaking of back on the job, workers at HealthBridge nursing homes will supposedly be back on the job on March 3 after HealthBridge dragged its heels all the way to the Supreme Court—twice!—to avoid an injunction ordering the company to reinstate the workers.
  • Curious about the real-life labor story that may have been behind the famous invocation against falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater? Corey Robin has it.
  • While CNN focused on passengers on that Carnival cruise ship, Josh Eidelson reminds us that the cruise ship's workers certainly had it far worse. In fact, their treatment on working ships is appalling:
    The international law governing cruise workers allows them to be worked up to 77 hours a week for as little as $600 a month. As Klein notes, that comes to less than $2 an hour. But in reality, he said, “a worker who’s slated as supposedly working 11 hours is very likely working 13 or 14,” and may go “10 or 12 months without a day off.”

    Isn’t that illegal? Sort of. Because Carnival and other top cruise lines operating in the U.S. fly the flags of other countries, they aren’t bound by most American labor laws (there are exceptions, including workplace injury cases). And while international convention sets bare minimums like the $600 per month wage, Klein says, “the enforcement of them depends on the country that regulates the ship.” Klein added that Carnival, the industry leader, is also “the leader in knowing how to keep your costs of worker treatment to a minimum.”

State and local legislation


  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is taking a "first step" toward possibly trying to refinance private student loans, which often have ridiculous interest rates.
  • The AFL-CIO has a new site @Work, highlighting stories of union workers and the jobs they do, like this:

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 10:55 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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