Category Archives: D.C. Labor

DC Mayor Vetoes Living-Wage Bill, Endorses Walmart Poverty Wages

walmsrt2Walmart won another battle in its war on workers this morning as Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the Large Retailer Accountability Act. With Walmart planning its entry into the DC market, the legislation would require the company and other big-box retailers to pay a minimum of $12.50 an hour in wages and benefits.

The Washington Post reports:

The debate over the bill, the Large Retailer Accountability Act, has polarized local leaders while garnering national attention and putting focus on the low wages many retail chains pay their workers.

But Gray made no secret in recent months that, for him, jobs and retail took priority.

Wal-Mart’s entry into the city was an early political coup for Gray, and he personally lobbied — some say threatened — top company executives to commit to a store at the Skyland Town Center development not far from Gray’s home in Ward 7.

The Skyland store is among those Wal-Mart has threatened to abandon should the living-wage bill become law.

Gray – who has previously received widespread support from the local labor movement – has been happy to promote Walmart’s narrative of jobs versus living wages. Before the city council surprised everyone by voting in favor of the bill earlier this summer, Walmart tried to blackmail the city by threatening to cancel building three of the six new stores planned for DC.

Sure enough, in announcing his veto Gray pretended to be a supporter of living wages in general while calling the LRAA a “job-killer.”

So much for standing up to Walmart’s bullying. And so much for bucking the national trend in which the only significant job growth is happening in low-wage industries. Read the rest of this entry

The One Percent Targets D.C. Schools

March 29, 2012

Students and Parents Protest the Demolition of Bruce Monroe Elementary
(Grassroots Media Project, Empower DC)

Published at Socialist Worker.

In 2010, Washington D.C. residents ousted the much-maligned former Mayor Adrian Fenty, in what was largely considered to be a referendum against his notorious union-busting Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Fenty’s replacement, Vincent Gray, opposed Rhee’s reforms while Gray served on the City Council.

But as mayor, Gray has done little to reverse the damage that Rhee inflicted on D.C. schools. In fact, the mayor – along with Deputy Mayor for Education De’Shawn Wright and the current Chancellor Kaya Henderson – has mostly continued Rhee’s policies and is now poised to make things much worse. Read the rest of this entry

Occupying Picket Lines as the Shock Doctrine Goes Postal

November 24, 2011

Published at Socialist Worker.

On Saturday the Maryland and DC AFL-CIO Biennial Convention voted on a resolution in support of Occupy encampments in Washington, DC and Baltimore, pledging to donate $3,000 to each occupation and declaring that the local labor movement considers Occupy Wall Street a picket line not to be crossed by affiliate unions.

Two days later, Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), did just that. Walking passed a noisy picket formed by dozens of Occupy DC protesters and postal workers, Rolando entered the National Press Club building where Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe delivered an austerity rationalization speech on cuts to the U.S. Postal Service. Read the rest of this entry

Amid Possible Strike, D.C. Labor and Occupy Movements March Together

October 14, 2011

Published at Common Dreams and Socialist Worker.                  (Update: 32BJ Contract Settlement)

If Wall Street has become the symbolic nerve center for greed and inequality, its political traffic merges onto K Street, Washington DC’s Broadway for deep-pocketed corporate lobbyists.

Photo by Chris Garlock, Union City

But like Wall Street, K Street is now also home to activists who are fed up with a system that rewards the wealthy while delivering nothing but cuts to the rest of us. Part of the general Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread around the country, “Occupy DC” activists are camped out in MacPherson Square where they are working to replicate the kind of occupation that has rocked the streets of New York’s financial district for the last month.

This week, K Street was also part of a march route for building cleaners fighting for a fair contract. The workers – who are preparing for a possible strike in the coming days – marched shoulder to shoulder with Occupy DC protesters. Read the rest of this entry

From Landlines to Picket Lines: Verizon Workers Strike

August 11, 2011

Published at Counterpunch.
Modified version published at and cross-posted at ZNet.

The first mass labor strike in the age of austerity has hit the United States.  

When the clock struck 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, 45,000 Verizon landline workers from Massachusetts to Virginia struck the nation’s largest wireless carrier, beginning the biggest worker strike in several years.

Since contract negotiations began on June 22, Verizon has been demanding up to 100 concessions from thousands of technicians and customer support employees in its wire lines division. The workers – who are represented by Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) – voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike in the event that a settlement was not reached by Saturday night when the previous contract expired.

Workers geared up for the possible strike a week before with a 20,000-strong rally in Manhattan outside of Verizon’s corporate headquarters. As soon as the midnight deadline passed on Saturday night, the picket lines were set into motion and workers were mobilized to stop the company from rolling back decades of collective bargaining gains. Read the rest of this entry

The War on D.C. Taxi Drivers

July 3, 2011

Washington Post Op-Ed

The D.C. Taxicab Commission recently expanded its war on D.C. taxicab drivers by going after after the journalists. After two independent journalists were arrested by U.S. Park Police officers at a June 22 public hearing held by the commission two weeks ago, dozens of angry drivers walked out in protest.

One might ask what sort of behavior would provoke the arrests of journalists covering a public meeting. In this case, the two journalists — Pete Tucker of TheFightBack.Org and Jim Epstein of Reason TV — were recording the meeting, and when Tucker took a picture, he was told by a commission inspector to stop.

Shortly after Tucker took another picture, Park Police arrived and asked him to leave. Tucker remained seated and reminded the officers that he was a journalist and that this was a public meeting. At that point, he was cuffed and detained on charges of disorderly conduct. Epstein captured Tucker’s arrest on his cellphone camera before he, too, was arrested as he tried to leave. The video has since gone viral, to the embarrassment of the Taxicab Commission and the Park Police. Read the rest of this entry