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Reports From The Front: Car Wash Workers, People's Budget Assembly, Responsible Wealth

1. From Arise Chicago:

After Receiving Only Tips for Years and Losing Thumb at Work Accident, Latino Car Wash Worker Demands Back Wages

Community supporters join with worker to demand car wash clean up labor practices

CHICAGO - Carlos Ruiz, who reports working for 11 years at Little Village Car Wash at far below minimum wage for only tips and losing his thumb in a workplace accident, will be joined by Arise Chicago and 50 community supporters on Tuesday, November 15, at 3:15 P.M., to lead a delegation from the parking lot at 2551 W. Cermak Rd. to his former employer to demand payment of the wages stolen from him. His action is part of a national week of action against the crisis of wage theft in a dozen cities across the country.

Ruiz worked at the car wash from 2000 to 2011, first operating car wash machinery for five years. He reports that he was paid a fixed weekly amount below the minimum wage and was not paid overtime. In an accident, his right thumb was chopped off. He then began washing cars by hand until 2011. During that time, he reports that he was only paid in tips, never receiving anywhere near minimum wage.

"I stayed at the car wash because I didn't have any other options," Ruiz said. "I had to support my family, and I didn't know what my rights were."

In the summer of 2011, Ruiz met organizers from Arise Chicago and the United Steelworkers, who asked him about how much he was paid at work. They were shocked to find how little he and his fellow workers were making.

"On a fundamental moral level," said Arise Chicago organizer Micah Uetricht, "failure to properly compensate people for the work they have performed is wrong."

Organizers attempted to reach out to Ruiz's former employer to resolve the matter, making multiple attempts to communicate via telephone and mail. Their calls and letters were never answered.

Though the report of conditions at Little Village Car Wash are particularly terrible for workers, organizers have heard of similarly abusive treatment of workers at car washes around the city.

"Sadly, wage theft is a well-known practice in many low-wage industries. But we've found an unparalleled level of exploitation in the car wash industry throughout Chicago," said Uetricht. "Wages far below the minimum, no payment of overtime, nonexistent health and safety precautions like personal protective equipment or training on the use of chemicals - conditions in Chicago's car washes are hyper-exploitative."

Ruiz says he wants to see other car wash workers lose their fear and demand their rights be respected.

"Car wash workers should stand up for their rights," he said. "They don't have to be abused like this. They have the same rights as workers as everyone else."

After a press conference, Ruiz and community supporters will briefly march to Ruiz's former employer, brandishing squeegees, oversized sponges with messages in Spanish and English, and signs and drums outside the car wash along Cermak Road.

ABOUT ARISE: Arise Chicago builds partnerships between faith communities and workers to fight workplace injustice through education, organizing and advocating for public policy changes. It is an affiliate of the national Interfaith Worker Justice workers center network.

2. From Stand Up! Chicago:

STOP (Southside Together Organizing for Power) and Arise Chicago are among the dozens of Stand Up! Chicago coalition groups participating in the Jobs Not Cuts March and Rally this Thursday, November 17.

In advance of that:

What: People's Budget Assembly

When: Noon, TODAY, November 15, 2011

Where: Chicago Temple at 77 W. Washington

Who: Mental Health Movement and other Chicagoans concerned about the impact of closing mental health clinics in the city.

Why: To provide an opportunity to hear directly from those who would be affected by the closures of the six of the city's twelve mental health clinics. If the Mayor's budget passes unchanged Wednesday, these mental health clinics will be shut down and all of the Neighborhood Health Centers will be privatized.

While closing the clinics is being proposed as measure to save $3.3 million, even conservative analyses have shown the likely cost of the consequences of these closures will match or exceed $3.3 million, particularly because of the high cost of hospitalizations and police response to crises.

3. From United for a Fair Economy:

Wealthy Taxpayers Say, 'Tax Us More,' in Open Letter to Super-Committee

Boston, MA - United for a Fair Economy (UFE) has published an open letter to Congress' Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or the "Super-Committee." The letter was signed by more than 100 members and supporters of UFE's Responsible Wealth project who are business owners, investors and wealthy individuals in the top 5 percent of the U.S. economy. The letter calls for the majority of deficit reduction to be achieved with higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

The twelve member Super-Committee has been tasked with negotiating a plan by November 23 that will reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion, in addition to the nearly $1 trillion in cuts made in August.

All of the signers have incomes of more than $200,000 and are willing to pay income tax at a 39.6 percent rate, as outlined in President Obama's proposal to allow the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts for upper-income households. Among the signers are 15 people with incomes in excess of $1 million who support rates of at least 45 percent on themselves. The signers hail from 23 states, including 6 of the 11 states represented by members of the Super-Committee.

Recent polls show that the majority of Americans, including wealthy people, strongly support higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

The letter includes two additional key principles:

* At least half of all spending cuts should be made by reducing unnecessary military expenditures.

* None of the spending cuts should adversely impact beneficiaries of key social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education and other programs relied upon by low- and middle-income families.

If the Super-Committee fails to negotiate a deal by November 23, $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts - half from defense, half from domestic programs (Social Security and Medicare exempted) - will take effect in January 2013. United for a Fair Economy and the signers of this letter believe that no deal is better than a bad deal. Together, they urge Super-Committee members to reject any proposal that does not meet the above principles. Read the letter at

The following individuals are available for comment regarding this letter:

Arul Menezes, Research Manager and Software Architect, Microsoft Research, WA: "As an upper-income taxpayer whose wealth was entirely earned, rather than inherited, I feel my success was in great part due to the egalitarian and meritocratic society I encountered when I came to the U.S. That society has been all but destroyed by the current tax code. Today, much of my income is from capital gains and dividends. I find it grotesque that these should be taxed lower than income from work."

Phillippe Villers, President of Grainpro Inc., Concord, MA: "I am willing to pay more taxes to save the American economy. As an investor, I make decisions based on the opportunity offered, not the tax rates for wealthy Americans. Cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will not help to revive our struggling economy. I strongly oppose any compromise in the Super-Committee that does not include new revenues from those who can afford them, like myself, for half or more of this deficit reduction plan."

Jim Wellehan, President of Lamey-Wellehan Shoes, Auburn, ME: "I find it terribly frustrating that other large national and international companies pay little to no taxes. To continue with an unfair tax code is to encourage cheating. We should tax incomes of all types at the same rates, be they from capital gains, rent, dividends, interest or work."

Lee Farris, Federal Tax Policy Coordinator, United for a Fair Economy: "Much of the federal deficit is due to the 2001 Bush tax cuts - which largely went to the wealthy - and to two expensive and unpaid-for wars. The automatic cuts, while still very harsh and unfair to low- and middle-income families, would be better than a deal in the Super-Committee that does not meet the principles outlined in our letter."

United for a Fair Economy is a national organization working to close the growing income and wealth divides in the U.S. Responsible Wealth, a project of United for a Fair Economy, is a network of 700 business leaders, high-wealth and upper-income advocates of progressive tax policies and corporate accountability.


Comments welcome.


Posted on November 15, 2011

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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