Statewide $15/hr. and Supreme Court update from SEIU Local 721 President Bob Schoonover

Sisters and Brothers of SEIU Local 721,

This week began with SEIU representatives joining our elected officials in Sacramento to announce California’s plan for a higher wage. The Fight For $15 that Local 721 has led is set to change the lives of millions in the Golden State and across the country. The earth shattering news continued yesterday when the Supreme Court split on Friedrichs v. CTA, the case designed to silence our unified voice by overturning 40 years of precedent.

Now more than ever, all eyes are upon you. Click here to make sure you’re there on April 14.

We now have a tentative deal to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr. across the state by 2022 that we will push to have the legislature vote on, and Governor Brown sign, and make law this week. In fact, as I write this, we are filling buses with members, fast food workers, and Fight For $15 coalition partners. These buses are leaving SEIU 721’s offices tonight. Tomorrow morning, lawmakers will see the faces, hear the voices, and know the names of their constituents, not the lobbyists of the anti-worker, hyper-wealthy special interests.

We hope and expect others to follow, but it is important to note that California will be the first state in the nation to increase the minimum wage to $15/hr. statewide. In other words, the work you led over the last three years is making history, and transforming the lives of 6.5 million workers–43% of California’s workforce–who earn less than $15/hr. and are now guaranteed a raise. Because of your effectiveness as organizers and advocates, millions more, who make $15/hr. or just above that amount, will see better pay as well.

Governor Brown called this “economic justice.” Adding, “you can’t expect someone to work if the wages for that work can’t support a family.” These words came out of his mouth, but they’re not his words. They’re yours. They are the exact words you and the partners you brought into this movement have been saying throughout the Fight For $15 campaign; the ones you used when you bargained your L.A. City and L.A. County contracts.  These are the words that then-contingent faculty at USC used when voting to organize and join our unified voice. SEIU 721 members are winning!

The members of this Local were bold and brave enough to stand with fast food and other low wage workers fighting for universal access to $15/hr. and union rights, and launched a movement that changed the conversation.

As USA Today put it, “This minimum wage plan follows a series of one day strikes over the past 3 1/2 years by SEIU. The crusade was written off as quixotic when it began, but officials credit it with prodding lawmakers, as well as companies to set $15/hr. as base pay.  A $15 wage has even become a centerpiece of the presidential campaign.”

Be proud of the work you have done.

Celebrate, but do not relent.

You won a battle. Yet you cannot declare victory until all workers win a livable wage and a voice on the job, benefits and a seat at the bargaining table. As I said, now more than ever, all eyes are upon you, the members of Local 721, and all of the partners you’ve engaged. The movement you launched can’t stop; won’t stop. You must turnout as never before on April 14 to deliver an unmistakable message:

The promise of a $15/hr. minimum wage, six years from now, is not the same as $15/hr. and a union today!

The Supreme Court’s split 4 to 4 decision on Friedrichs v. CTA, has the members of this Local breathing a sigh of relief. But make no mistake; the wealthy special interests are still gunning for you. Their ultimate objective remains the complete undermining of your unified voice, because you are their only counterweight. They will continue to employ divide and conquer tactics whenever and wherever they can, in order to silence you.

They are scared of you, because you don’t just play defense. You put points on the board.

You beat back Prop 75 in 2005. You then elected and reelected your choice for Governor. You beat back Prop 32 in 2012. You then passed Prop 30, restored funding at all levels, fought wage theft, introduced sick days, expanded Medical, protected pensions, organized workers, raised wages, and more.

The anti-worker, hyper-wealthy special interests are fuming right now. They expected the same Supreme Court that decided Harris v. Quinn, to overturn Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. By doing away with 40 years of legal precedent, they hoped to undermine, and ultimately silence your unified voice.  But because the Supreme Court lost a member, the court split 4 to 4, the lower court ruling favoring workers will continue to stand as law.

You know that the anti-worker, hyper-wealthy special interests won’t take this lying down.  They will come for you with everything they’ve got in order to stop President Obama, and/or the presidential candidate this Local’s COPE members support in the General Election, from naming a Justice to replace Antonin Scalia.  They’ve got cases waiting in the wings they feel are stronger than Friedrichs v CTA. And they believe that if they win in November, they’ll get to decide who gets to be the Supreme Court’s swing vote.

They’re wrong.

Your unified voice cannot be undone by one court case, election, budget, bill, or ballot initiative. The movement you’ve ignited is growing stronger: fighting back against anti-worker, hyper-wealthy special interests, and succeeding at lifting working families up in contract negotiations and new laws. Your unified voice will not be silenced so long as you always speak out, stand up, and chip in.

From the worksite to the bargaining table, from the ballot box to the streets, you have the power to fix what’s broken and build a better future. You just need to keep on keepin’ on.

See you on April 14.

In Unity,

Bob Schoonover
President SEIU Local 721