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Issue No. 334 24 November 2006  
E D I T O R I A L

It’s Who The Economy Works For, Stupid
As the movement prepares for the National Day of Action on November 30, we embark on the third, final and, perhaps most difficult phase of the Rights at Work campaign.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Common Ground
Nature Conservation Council director Cate Faehrmann on the fight against global warming and how unions and greens can learn from each other.

Industrial: A Low Act
The Low Paid. The Fair Pay Commission knows who pays them. We can do something about it as they will not.

Unions: The Number of the Least
Forget 666 - 457 is looming as the scariest number for Aussie workers and their families, Jim Marr writes.

Politics: The Smoking Gun
Hayek's henchman, Raplph Harris, goes to free market heaven, writes Evan Jones

Economics: Microcredit, Compulsory Superannuation and Inequality
They are supposed to ensure the wealth of well-being of individuals. Whats wrong with that? asks Neale Towart

Environment: Low Voltage
Nuclear Power and Prime Ministerial pronouncements are seriously short of a few volts, wrties Neal Towart

History: The Art of Social Justice
Tom Martin was a terrific cartoonist and part of a great tradition in labour movement history and culture, swrties Neale Towart.

Review: Work’s Unhealthy Appetite
It pays the bills – usually – but going to work should come with a warning, wrties Jackie Woods.

Culture: A Forgotten Poet
There is little information on the public record about the radical working class poet Ernest Antony, writes Rowan Cahill.

N E W S

 OWS: Cash for Query Scam

 Watchdog Bites Own Pups

 Silver Lining to Qantas Storm

 Wages Heading South Under WorkChoices

 Hardies Finally Coughs Up

 Face Up to Save Harbour

 STOP PRESS: Workers Docked for Meeting Pollies

 Telstra Redundancies ‘Inhumane’

 AWAs Carpeted

 Contracts Shut Down

 ILO Gets Tough on Forced Labour

 Houston Win Sparks Hope for New Era

 Full List of November 30 Venues

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Robbo Goes Green
John Robertson's speech to the Walk Against Warming

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Ian West takes a look at a former public institution and its contribution to NSW.

L E T T E R S
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News

Houston Win Sparks Hope for New Era


On the heels of a string of victories in Miami, Los Angeles and Boston that have resulted in dramatic gains for families, more than 5,300 cleaners in Houston have won higher wages, more hours, and health insurance in their first city-wide union contract.

The contract will lift hundreds of cleaners out of poverty, more than doubling their income within 24 months and guaranteeing secure affordable health care.

Houston is the second major victory for cleaners in less than a year, and is being seen as a major breakthrough in the South and for low-wage workers around the country.

Workers, community, elected and religious leaders will join SEIU to hold a "Convention for the Future" to map out a plan to unite the approximately 1,700 workers who are not included in the recognition agreement and to build an anti-poverty campaign to take on low-wage jobs in early December.

The convention will draw upon the strong coalition of faith, political and community leaders that stood with thje Houston cleaners during the strike.

"This is an incredible victory for our families and for all families," said Ercilia Sandoval.

"When I go back to work, I will go back proud of what we have accomplished, not just for us and our families, but for all of the workers in this city who work very hard but are paid very little.

" We showed what can be done, what must be done to make America a better place,"

The agreement provides Houston cleaners with victories on four key fronts:

Higher Wages. Janitors will see their wages rise by 126 percent over the course of the contract-with an immediate 21% increase on January 1. Janitors pay will increase to $6.25 an hour on January 1, 2007, $7.25 an hour on January 1, 2008, and $7.75 by January 1, 2009.

More Hours. The new contract will increase work hours for janitors currently provided with only 4 hours of work a night to six hours a shift in two years. The additional hours and the wage increase mean that janitors who make $5.15 an hour will see their income more than double by the end of 2008.

Quality, Affordable Health Insurance. At a time when many employers are shifting health care costs on to workers, Houston janitors won individual health insurance at a cost of only $20 per month. Family insurance will also be available for a cost of $175 a month. The health insurance will become available starting January 1, 2009.

Paid Holidays and Vacation Time. The contract will allow workers-many for the first time in their lives-paid time off from work. Janitors will receive six paid holidays per year and be able to accrue paid vacation time beginning the first year of the contract.

The increase in wages and health insurance will dramatically improve the lives of 5,300 of Houston's janitors, most of whom had been earning as little as $20 a day without benefits.

The increase in wages and hours will lift many families out of poverty, and provide janitors and their families with a steppingstone into the middle class while the health insurance will ensure workers have access to affordable health care.

"Houston janitors have shown that organized labor still has the power to inspire and improve the lives of workers. When ably led workers unite, they can win major improvements," said Julius Getman, a professor at the University of Texas Law School.

"If low-wage janitors in Houston can win a victory of this magnitude, the message to workers throughout the South should be clear-in solidarity lies strength."

In the last month alone, more than 10,000 workers of all races in every corner of the country-including the South-have risked their jobs to win a voice at work by voting to form a union. And tens of millions are demanding a change in direction by voting to realign the country politically.

-5,000 security officers in Los Angeles--70% of whom are African Americans-made a major breakthrough Wednesday, securing their civil right to freely form a union with SEIU;

- 250 security officers who protect the Harvard campus won their right Wednesday to have a voice at work by organizing a union with SEIU;

- Nearly 500 Cuban and Haitian janitors at two South Florida universities, Nova Southeastern and Florida International, won a voice on the job last month;

- Nearly 4,000 nurses, technicians, professionals, and other hospital workers of all different ethnicities at six Florida hospitals voted to form a union with SEIU just since October 10.


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