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Recent Activities: Arizona

The Arizona JLC is working the Arizona Minimum Wage Coalition, which has brought together unions, community groups and a number of small businesses. One focus is a ballot initiative, filed with the secretary of state last November – to be decided by voters November 2006. There currently is no state minimum wage in Arizona; only the Federal minimum wage of $5 .15 an hour.

The initiative specifies that employers pay workers no less than $6.75 starting Jan. 1, 2007. It also mandates that the minimum wage be annually adjusted for inflation, based on the percentage increase in the U.S. Department of Labor's consumer price index over a one-year span. Businesses with yearly gross revenue less than $500,000 would be exempt from these requirements. Their employees would keep the federal government's minimum wage.

Earlier in 2006, the Arizona Chapter focused on two major issues: The Wal-Mart Campaign and a new state-wide campaign: Raise the Minimum Wage for Working Arizonans. We were briefed by Mike Vespoli, Political Action Director in Arizona of the United Food and Commercial Workers, who outlined the difficult campaign to organize Wal-Mart workers and showed excerpts of the film, "The High Cost of Low Wages," Paul Rubin, Arizona JLC Chair and Secretary-Treasurer of UFCW Local 99, a state-wide local, who chaired the meeting and described the recently concluded strike and lockout in California.

Arizona JLC Representative Herman Brown serves as a delegate to the Maricopa Area Labor Federation from the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans; both are entities of the AFL-CIO [MALF replaced the former Phoenix Central Labor Council and the Alliance replaced the Senior Action Council.] He notes that he always introduces himself as Arizona Representative of the Jewish Labor Committee, as well as a delegate of the Arizona ARA.

And here are some activities from 2005:
In January, National JLC Representative Herman Brown, based in the Phoenix area, and previously Regional Director of the NE JLC, attended the first meeting of the Arizona Coalition to Protect Social Security, sponsored by the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans and chaired by Doug Hart, formerly of SEIU. “At Doug’s request,” reported Brother Brown, “I agreed to serve as Chair of an Outreach Committee. It is our hope,” he concluded, “to involve leaders of the Jewish community in the work of the Coalition.”

The Arizona JLC Chapter held a Labor Seder in April, cosponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Greater Phoenix Jewish Federation, and held in the Federation’s headquarters in Scottsdale. The cost of the Seder was contributed by Malka Arony, an Arizona JLC Chapter member, in memory of her late brother, Michael Arony. Representative Brown reported that among those present at the Seder were key staff of the Arizona State AFL-CIO, including its president and executive director, the president and secretary-treasurer of the statewide Local 99 UFCW, the executive director of the JCRC, a vice president of the Labor Committee for Latin American Advancement, the newly-appointed Arizona representative of the AFL-CIO, the president of the Arizona Federation of Teachers, and leading members and staff of the Arizona Education Association, the American Federation of Government Employees, and Local 135 United Union of Roofers.
Representative Brown represented the Arizona JLC at the annual convention of the Arizona Coalition to Protect Social Security, held at the Wyndham Hotel in August. He also participated in the Convention of the Arizona Alliance, in September. He was elected a Vice President of the Alliance at a September Executive Committee meeting, and represents the Alliance [as well as the JLC] at the newly-formed Maricopa Area Labor Federation, which succeeded the Phoenix Central Labor Council.
The Arizona JLC has been involved in defense of the rights of immigrant workers and their families. Earlier, we helped form an Immigration Committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix; later, we were able to help the JCRC pass a resolution on immigrant rights. Brother Brown was at the first meeting of, and the Arizona JLC subsequently joined, the newly-formed Arizona Coalition for Migrant Rights. JLC is represented on the Coalition’s Leadership Training and Capacity Building Committee.