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Awake The State Miami

On March 4th, community members and leaders went to Commissioner Erik Fresen’s office to take a stand! We stood united against extremism and stood for a state that works for everyone, where everyone pays their fair share, and we all play on a level playing field. Gov. Scott and extremists in Tallahassee have created an economy that works for the wealthy and cuts away at the middle class. #AwakeFL

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Florida immigrant to ride bike to D.C. in name of immigration reform

 

Francisco-Bike-Profile

Francisco Diaz, an out-of-work carpenter who lives in Homestead, says he wants to give a pen to President Obama to sign an executive order stopping deportations, and then urge Congress to pass legislation… Read more here.

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Infographic: Rick Scott’s Silence on Healthcare Is Deadly

RickScottsFLinfographic

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University of Miami Cafeteria Workers Win Long, Hard Fight to Join 32BJ SEIU

“This opportunity to negotiate for better pay, meaningful benefits and for respect and a voice in the workplace was the reason why we fought to organize a union,” said Nicole Berry.

MIAMI, FL—A majority of food service workers at the University of Miami have voted to join 32BJ SEIU and authorize the union to represent them when they begin negotiating a first contract with Chartwells Dining Services, UM’s food service contractor.

Nicole Berry, 34, who has worked at UM for over four years, said she was happy.

“This opportunity to negotiate for better pay, meaningful benefits and for respect and a voice in the workplace was the reason why we fought to organize a union,” she said.

Arbitrator Robert Hoffman certified the card check result bringing the 321 workers at cafeterias and dining halls around the university into the union early Friday evening.

32BJ SEIU Organizing Director Rob Hill hailed the workers’ struggle and congratulated on a hard-fought victory.

“This is truly a great victory for the UM workers, new members of 32BJ who are set to bargain their first contract,” Hill said. “By organizing a union, they chose to bargain poverty jobs into good jobs.”

The workers, mostly African Americans who make as little as $9.31 an hour or about $10,000 a year, wanted a simple, fair process to begin bargaining for the opportunity to earn a living wage, more meaningful benefits, and dignity and respect in the workplace. Workers often have to rely on public subsidies for food, health care, housing and cash support in order to live on what they make working at the University of Miami.

Last week, they won that right when Chartwells agreed to a card check process to certify that they wanted 32BJ SEIU as their union. After a long contentious campaign to win their union, The workers were supported by prominent community leaders and clergy who joined with students and faculty to demand that University president Donna Shalala stop the contractor’s attempts to stop the union drive.

“Victory!” said an overjoyed Giovanna Pompele, a UM professor who helped collect over 300 faculty signatures on a petition to Shalala, asking her to intervene on behalf of the workers. “We know now our food workers will have the opportunity to bargain for better pay and have a shot at decent working conditions.”

With more than 125,000 members, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service union in the country.

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“Let us stand with a greater determination…we CANE do better!”

UM hand signFor four consecutive years, the University of Miami has been named one of America’s top 50 colleges and number one in Florida by U.S.News & World Report. With over 180 majors and programs, it has a nine decade history of excellence.

But behind the scenes, the treatment of its food service workers does not match that high standard. They are at-will employees who can be fired by their firm Chartwells with no notice for any reason or no reason at all.

Chartwells is contracted to provide food service work for more than 200 US colleges. Its revenues exceeded $24 billion dollars in 2011. Nevertheless, the company chooses not to offer any job security or protections to the cooks, cashiers and other workers who fuel college kids across the country.

On April 4th 2013, supporters of the food service work will join forces on the UM campus in Coral Gables to demand an end to poverty jobs at the university and commemorate the death of Martin Luther King’s. They will mark the significance of his legacy regarding workers like dining hall worker Ms. Betty Asbury and dishwasher Alfredo Suarez.

In a speech supporting striking sanitation workers the day before his assassination, Dr. King recognized the importance of maintaining unity. He referred to the parable of the Good Samaritan. Although it takes courage and deep empathy to risk your own comfort and help a stranger but it’s undeniably the right thing to do. And as we all struggle through tough economic times, none of us are strangers to job insecurity.

“Let us stand with a greater determination,” he said. “And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.”

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GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT’S STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS

In a world where we are bombarded by news 24/7, a State of the State Address is a Governor’s one big chance of the year to put his points across rick-scottin a confident, reassuring manner, boosting local morale and offering solutions to pressing problems. Unfortunately, Florida has a political honcho with an all-time low approval rating who hasn’t inspired much confidence since he took office in 2011.

After year of opposing President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the flip-flopping Scott now supports Medicaid Expansion. That’s great news for potential and existing Medicaid recipients bordering the poverty line, but it doesn’t instill much faith in Scott’s reliability.

Scott will deliver his address on the 2013 legislative session’s opening day, March 5th, in the House chambers. He will talk about removing sales tax on manufacturing equipment, raising pay for teachers by $2,500 and creating more jobs in an improving economy.

We’re betting that he won’t mention that Florida’s economic recovery from the latest Recession has been slower than the national average, or that the state has one of the country’s worst foreclosure rates.

According to a 2012 report from FIU’s Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy (RISEP), only 96,600 of the 715,200 jobs lost statewide in the Great Recession have been recovered. Nor will the Governor address the problems that Floridians face such as rising rent costs, benefit cuts, or the lack of rights and wages for immigrants and low-paid workers.

We hope that Scott succeeds in boosting the state’s optimism in these uncertain times. But it will be an empty success if he ignores the everyday problems that we encounter.

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1MIAMI; CATALYST RAISE MEDICAID QUESTIONS AT WLRN’S TOWN HALL DEBATE

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1Miami members joined staff and supporters of Catalyst Miami on a bus ride to WLRN’s Town Hall Session last week. It was held at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale and according to hosts WLRN and The Miami Herald, was attended by 600 Floridians eager to know more about state legislators’ stance on health, voting reform, education and other matters affecting all residents.

Host Phil Latzman of WLRN Radio’s Florida Roundup introduced two state senators: Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale), Senate Democratic leader and Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee. They were joined by Mary Ellen Klas, The Miami Herald’s Tallahassee bureau chief. Along with panel discussions there were questions from the audience plus comments and queries from Twitter users and other online sources.

On the way to the event, WLRN asked the Catalyst and 1Miami members what they’d like to ask the panelists. Medicaid Expansion was the hottest topic and in a section on health, three guests from the bus got their chance to raise an important issue. They were different ages and came from varying backgrounds but they were equally concerned about their eligibility for help with health costs and whether their basic health care needs would be met.

Latvala replied, ‘I was probably the first Republican member of the Senate who was quoted in the paper… and I support the Governor’s plan.’

Florida Governor Rick Scott has recently had a change of heart about Medicaid Expansion. Now he supports the state’s participation in Affordable Care, saying that Florida will take part in the program.

The Town Hall Session, recorded for WLRN Radio and streamed on their website wlrn.org, also covered property insurance, political ethics and the Stand Your Ground law on the eve of the anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death.

But the expansion of Medicaid benefits for Florida’s uninsured was an important element of the session, with Catalyst and 1Miami asking questions and holding up signage for WLRN’s camera.

The well-attended town hall session is a strong reminder that it is possible to talk to our legislators, challenge them when necessary and educate ourselves on essential policies that make a difference to our daily lives.

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What is the Fiscal Cliff?

Does anyone really understand the whole concept of this Fiscal Cliff? The way the media is constantly warning us about it you’d think there is a cliff that the nation is literally going off of come January 1st. But alas, no, it will just be a complicated mess of tax increases and spending cuts that our politicians can save us from if they just do their jobs. (more…)

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Strikes and Protests On Wal-Mart’s “Black Friday”

Black Friday came early this year, on Thanksgiving night instead of the traditional early morning Friday. For many workers this meant leaving their families early and spending it working on our holiday of thanks. For Wal-Mart employees, frustration had been mounting after multiple attempts to silence workers. With Wal-Mart refusing to address concerns affecting its 1.4 million associates, workers planned 1,000 protests across the country during the Black Friday shopping craze. (more…)

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1Miami Asks Sen. Diaz de la Portilla to Restore our Early Voting Days

On Thursday, November 15, 2012 just over a week after the election, 1Miami went to Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla’s office to ask him to give us our early voting days back. After the debacle that happened at some of the polling places on Election Day, with voters standing in line until 1:00 a.m. and the enormous lines that we saw during early voting, we know that it is imperative we get 14 days to early vote. (more…)

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