In D.C., a Call for Just Hours

This week, employees of companies like Marshalls, McDonald’s and Macy’s told nearly 100 Washington, D.C. residents gathered at Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church how unstable hours and so-called “just-in-time” scheduling practices take a toll on their families and their ability to make ends meet. The community hearing kicked off the launch of the DC Just Hours campaign, and gave the men and women who work in D.C.’s service industry a chance to talk about their experiences, and for them, along with representatives from community organizations and elected offices to present policy solutions for a problem ripe to be solved. Those who spoke at the hearing, hosted by the DC Jobs With Justice Workers’ Rights Board, included not only employees, but also education advocates, faith leaders and elected officials. In a report on D.C. employer scheduling practices released last month by DC Jobs With Justice along with Jobs With Justice Education Fund, DC Fiscal Policy Institute and Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, a survey of 436 respondents in the retail and restaurant/food service industries found that D.C. employees are granted too few hours on too short notice, challenging their ability to lead a good life. At the hearing, testimony given from people who work for fast food and retail companies confirmed the report’s findings. RasImani Diggs, a clerk at Marshalls described her experience asking her supervisor for additional hours: “We ask for more hours, but it’s always the same song. They say, ‘We don’t have enough,’ but then hire 15 more people.” “Just-in-time” scheduling practices, where employees are asked to come and go depending on how...

Finding My Voice: Yanely Perez on a Summer with DC Jobs with Justice

Reposted from Georgetown Kalmanovitz Initiative Blog My time with the Kalmanovitz Initiative Summer Organizing internship not only let me grow as a person but also use that growth to make deeper connections with DC workers and organizers. I am humbled to have worked with so many passionate people that really care about other people and their struggle. I was placed with DC Jobs with Justice, “a dynamic coalition of labor organizations, community groups, faith-based organizations, and student groups dedicated to protecting the rights of working people and supporting community struggles to build a more just society.” At least that’s how I have learned to describe it to other people, but to me, DC JWJ became a wake up call. I worked on DC JWJ’s anti-wage theft campaign. DC previously passed legislation to increase the minimum wage and extend paid sick days, which were huge victories for DC workers. During my time at DC JWJ, the DC City Council also passed the strongest anti-wage theft law in the country. I sat in the Wilson building for six hours just to hear them pass the bill. Though I have never been so incredibly bored in my entire life, it was a moment of clarity and it is something that I have recently reflected on. I was there to support these workers whom I had started building a relationship with, but I see now that my presence was small. The workers and the organizers had devoted so much of their time, and they had built a unique relationship in solidarity with each other. They had spent hours upon hours not just sitting...

Working Full-Time But Left Behind in DC’s Prosperity

Melinda Gaino has a full-time job in DC, but she struggles to make it. She earns $9.90 an hour as a cashier at Walmart on H Street, NW, bringing home about $20,000 a year. That is too little to support the 45-year old mother and her four children in their SE apartment. Melinda is an example of the many workers who have been left behind in DC’s growing economy, according to a recent report from DCFPI. She is a victim of an economy that is failing to create shared prosperity, to ensure that everyone who works hard can get by. Melinda’s life as a low-wage worker is not unique. There are thousands who work in DC every day but barely stay afloat: the lot attendants who park our cars ($9.72 average wage), the cashiers who check us out ($11.03 average wage), the people who make our sandwich for lunch ($11.43 average pay for food prep workers). These workers have not fared well, according to DCFPI’s report. Hourly earnings for DC’s lowest paid workers grew just 7 percent over 35 years, adjusting for inflation – about 2 cents per year – while the highest paid workers saw paychecks grow by 55 percent. The pay gap between the people who earn the least and those who earn the most in DC is at a record high. Melinda typifies the challenge to stay ahead in other ways. She worked at Blue Cross/Blue Shield for three years earning $15.60 an hour, but then got laid off. She searched for employment for 6 months before starting at Walmart at a much lower salary. Her...

Another Wings Enterprises Worker Goes on Strike

Yesterday, another worker at Wings Enterprises went on strike to demand an end to racist discrimination and harassment, inadequate training, and unsafe working conditions. Why is a company with Wings’s long track record of wage theft, discrimination, and safety failures still getting work in our city? Yesterday’s action was at 660 North Capitol St, where Wings is helping build …take a guess….luxury...

Fired Workers at Tito Contractors Vindicated at the NLRB

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Less than a week after winning their case at the NLRB, Tito workers won their election to bring a union to Tito Contractors after more than a year of organizing. A group of men and women in Washington, D.C., who have been organizing to expose abuse and form a union just won their case before a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge. As a result, many employees who were illegally fired and retaliated against by Tito Contractors will get their jobs back. The judge’s ruling will help prevent employees at Tito Contractors from further retaliation and marks another milestone for these brave immigrants in their campaign to stand up for better jobs. A number of immigrants employed at Tito Contractors were interested in the idea of forming a union to help change the culture of exploitation at their company. In 2013 Tito’s employees began meeting with their local painters union, IUPAT District Council 51. The workers reported to IUPAT organizers that they were cheated out of overtime and routinely intimidated. IUPAT began an organizing drive, but shortly thereafter Tito’s management started to retaliate. According to Tito’s workers’ testimony presented under oath at the NLRB hearing, supervisors threatened that they would report them to immigration officials, withheld necessary equipment and even terminated several employees. In the face of this retaliation, IUPAT organizers witnessed a palpable wave of panic among the men and women of Tito who feared they could lose their jobs or be deported and torn from their families if they continued to organize. The story of too many organizing drives stops here. But IUPAT organizers...

In Less Than a Year, DC’s First Walmart Is Already Threatening Local Businesses

Less than one year after its opening, small business owners within the immediate vicinity of a new Walmart Supercenter in the nation’s capital say their establishments are already in danger of closing, according to a new report released by Respect DC and Ward 4 Thrives. The report cites several local business owners who claim the District has granted preferential treatment to the giant retailer by removing parking spaces in front of their stores and relocating a bus stop to directly in front of the Walmart. One owner claimed her local medical supply store has suffered an estimated 25 percent loss of revenue since parking changes were made to accommodate Walmart. Jose Chavez, owner of nearby Usulután Grocery, said his store has lost 85 percent of its revenuesince the supercenter opened. “The day Walmart opened was the last day I had good sales here,” he said in a press release published with the report. As Ari Schwartz, an organizer with DC Jobs With Justice and editor of the report, explained to DCist: “When you’re shopping locally, that business owner is more often than a big box store banking locally, buying inventory locally, paying local taxes, sending their kids to a local school, all of which puts money back into communities. Walmart and giant corporate chains return their profits to their corporate headquarters and shareholders rather than D.C.” The report authors led efforts last year to prevent Walmart from opening stores in Washington without first coming to a written community benefits agreement with the surrounding neighborhoods. When the company failed to do so, the coalitionsuccessfully passed the Large Retailer Accountability Act through the city...