L21 Member and Emeryville Mayor Leads on Minimum Wage Increase
City Councilwoman and Local 21 member Ruth Atkin serves as Mayor for Emeryville. Last week, she ushered in not only her latest political victory, but made a significant accomplishment for all workers by raising the common denominator in another East Bay city by raising Emeryville’s minimum wage to $12.25/hour.
Ruth Atkin, Mayor of the City of Emeryville, City Council and L21 member.
At a City Council meeting in the first week of May, the council voted unanimously to set Emeryville's wage floor to $12.25 an hour for workers at small businesses as of July 1, and also adopted a path to increase the city’s minimum wage to nearly $16 by 2019, making Emeryville’s the highest minimum wage in the nation.
“In the City of Emeryville we will have to make about $80,000 in pay adjustments as a large employer to comply with our own ordinance,” Ruth told Local 21. “We estimate there are 2227 minimum wage earners in Emeryville and about 6900 workers in Emeryville who earn less than $14.44/ hour. Our daytime work force is around 22,000 people.”
This comes after the Lift Up coalition put $12.25/hour for small businesses on last November’s Oakland ballot, and $14.44/hour for large businesses. Since January, plans have been in the works to address wage inequity and raise the minimum wage in Emeryville.
The call for more income equality accompanies the trend seen everywhere in the Bay Area: rising rents in a difficult market. Along with tenants, this trend has been driving diversity, creativity, and culture away from urban centers like Emeryville and Oakland to the outskirts.
“As elsewhere in the Bay Area, we have had housing displacement as rents have skyrocketed,” Ruth said. “Our poet laureate had to move to Pt. Richmond because of a 38% rent increase.”
Ruth is not only a long-time political activist and Local 21 leader, she also identifies as lesbian. Income inequality’s evil twin, the renters’ market, continues to make the Bay Area less hospitable to the groups it once gave refuge to from intolerance in other places.
Women, particularly LGBT women, disproportionately feel the impact of the growing wage gap, according to a number of women’s and LGBT organizations. From an analysis conducted by the National Women’s Law Center based on 2014 U.S. Census data, women who work full time, year round are on average paid only 78 cents to every dollar earned by their male counterparts. This earnings gap equals $10,876 less per year in median earnings.
The law center also found that lesbians continue to earn less than men, LGBT or otherwise. In addition to being on the lower rung of the income pyramid as women, lesbians in particular are more likely than gay men to support children. 49 percent of lesbian and bisexual women report having a child compared to 19 percent of gay and bisexual men, the NWLC reported.
Ruth Atkins speaks at the #Fightfor15 Rally, where dozens of L21 members turned out.
Hayward Member's Son Wins Public Sector Scholarship
Winston Ji, the son of Hayward Fire Protection Engineer and Local 21 member Flora Chen, has just been awarded the 2015 Dominick D. Critelli Scholarship Award for IFPTE’s Public sector. The scholarship award honors Dominick D. Critelli, Jr., longtime IFPTE Local 195 President and IFPTE International Executive Vice-President, who passed away unexpectedly in 2006 at age 66.
IFPTE has established the Dominick D. Critelli, Jr. scholarship program for students who have demonstrated skills through academic achievement and service to their school and community. Four $2,500 scholarships are awarded annually in Dominick's honor, each representing IFPTE’s Federal, Public, and Private sectors, and IFPTE’s Canadian Area. We hope to have more information about Winston and his family in the next issue.
Student Debt and Loan Forgiveness
Am I eligible for Loan Forgiveness?
If you work in public service, a little-known government program called “Public Service Loan Forgiveness” could allow you to have all of your direct federal student loans forgiven, tax-free. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) isn’t a payment plan; it’s a separate program that incentivizes a career in the public service.
To qualify for the program, you need to make 10 years of qualifying on-time payments (120 in total) toward your federal student debt. You must be working in public service at least 30 hours a week (you can combine multiple part-time jobs to meet this requirement) beginning after October 1, 2007. After you make your 120th on-time payment, the U.S. Department of Education forgives your remaining federal student loan debt.
The Student Loan Debt Crisis
U.S. Americans currently owe over $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. 40 million people now find themselves burdened by astronomical personal debt, and the number is growing, impacting the consumer market as it becomes harder for young families to make substantial investments or to purchase cars, as this crisis spins out of control. College costs have increased 1,000 percent since the 1970s as public universities have become increasingly privatized. Now, students graduate with an average of more than $25,000 in debt.
Some graduates have over $100,000 in debt. The Institute for College Access & Success found that seven in 10 seniors (69%) who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2013 had student loan debt, with an average of $28,400 per borrower. For more information, read the Local 21 Student Loan Resource Guide.
Delegate Assembly Run-Down
The Delegate Assembly will take place on Saturday, May 16 at Hotel Whitcomb in San Francisco (1231 Market Street). There will be a continental breakfast available at 8:30 a.m. and the assembly will begin at 9:00 a.m.; it will adjourn mid-day.
This is going to be a great program which will include regular business, budget report, new building financial plan, a report-back from the Young Workers Staff Committee, Nor Cal Young Workers, Tenants Rights Training, and informational sessions on affordable housing and student loan repayment and forgiveness programs. Labor leader Maria Elena Durazo, Vice President for Immigration, Civil Rights and Diversity with UNITE HERE, will be our special guest speaker.
Read here for more details on the upcoming Delegate Assembly.
Housing Rights and Union Fights
How to Keep our Members in their Homes When: Saturday, May 30 at 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Where: UNITE HERE Local 2
209 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco (by Civic Ctr BART)
Rally to Extend Medicare Coverage When: July 30 at 11 a.m. Where: Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland
Stay tuned for more information about upcoming events.