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Today marked three years since the minimum wage was increased to $7.25 per hour. Low-wage workers representing the fast food industry and employees of companies owned by Bain Capital came together in droves; joining hundreds of local janitors in downtown Houston marching in the heart of the financial districts during rush hour.
The day begin with uplifting chants as the crowd magnified by hundreds. Low wage workers told their stories of injustice, economic inequality and downright unfair treatment on the job. Each story was told with passion and emotion followed by loud cheer and praise from the crowd. Afterwards, the crowd of over 700 marched through the streets, passing buildings owned by corporations that barely pay their janitors and restaurants that charge nearly $8 for combo meals but pay their workers less than that per hour.
We pounded the pavement toting huge banners advocating for a minimum wage. Our goal was to call on wealthy corporations and elected officials to stop blocking legislation that will raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour. Congressman George Miller plans to introduce legislation to raise the federal minimum wage later this summer. We have plenty of support from Texas Congressional Delegation members like Al Green (TX-09) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30). Not to mention the support of 73 other members of Congress.
By 6:15pm we reached the Houston Pavilion where local protesters were arrested for civil disobedience after blocking an intersection downtown. As our advocates were being hauled off by Houston Police, our allies announced the next phase of our low-wage fight; an amplified version of what happened today. We will not stop until everyone receives a livable wage. and six where arrested for civil disobedience. The crowd demanded Houston Police Department free the activist but they were unwilling. Now it’s more important than every to fight for a fair economy.
The current rate is decades out of date and its purchasing power has diminished over time by 30% for low-wage workers. However, wealthy corporations continue to produce millions in profits. The National Employment Law Project released a great report on low-wage workers and the villainous large corporations that employ them. It puts our fight into perspective.
Check out our photos on our Facebook Page.
You helped us all last week as we fought to support Local 1 obtain better wages.
We need your help in painting an accurate picture of what is really happening in Houston. For the richest 1%, Houston is booming. Soaring energy sector profits have made Houston a prime destination for millionaires and some of the world’s largest corporations—but most working families are not sharing in this apparent bounty.
Houston janitors who clean the offices of some of the world’s most profitable corporations live in abject poverty on less than $9,000 a year. Right now, janitors are calling on Houston’s corporate elite to create good jobs that will revitalize our communities.
The Houston Chronicle reported on their efforts in today’s paper, but instead of highlighting the devastating effects of poverty jobs in our neighborhoods, the paper allowed an outside anti-worker “legal expert” to smear these hard working Houstonians.
Please read the article and comment on what’s really going on. We want a fair economy and people need to know what goes on in the real Houston.
At first, El Paso scheduled their shareholders’ meeting for Tuesday, March 6. Then they got the word that there were going to be protesters there, so in a surprise move unprecedented in corporate American culture they got scared and moved their shareholders’ meeting to Friday, March 9.
But they didn’t deter the protesters from rallying 100 strong outside. And they certainly didn’t expect the protesters to also be shareholders on the inside.
We had roving “mic checks” with groups of 4 apiece, talking about a different issue relating to El Paso’s greed. One mic check referred to the proposed Kinder Morgan acquisition that we wrote about here. One mic check talked about El Paso’s tax dodging habits, netting them a $41 million federal income tax refund on $4.1 billion in profits since 2008. Another mic check mentioned that the $41 million El Paso got back in refunds could offset HISD’s expected budget cut of $41 million for the following year. Our people on the inside made up over half of the total crowd at the shareholders’ meeting.
There were over 100 people rallying outside of El Paso’s HQ, who had marched that morning from City Hall. There was plenty of visual spectacle– pig suits, Doug Foshee puppets, drumming, and plenty of great chants like:
WE’RE NOT BROKE / THAT’S A FACT / FUND OUR SCHOOLS / WITH CORPORATE TAX
HOW TO END THE DEFICIT / TAX EL PASO AND THE RICH
EL PASO’S TAX RATE IS A JOKE / PAY YOUR TAXES, WE’RE NOT BROKE
41 MILLION DOLLARS / TAX REFUNDS THAT MAKE ME HOLLER
YOUR TAX REFUND IS TOO BIG / TAX THE GREEDY CORPORATE PIGS
HEY EL PASO, READ OUR SIGNS / SCHOOLS AND JOBS ARE ON THE LINE
TAX DODGING IS THE WORST / FUNDING SCHOOLS / SHOULD COME FIRST
It was a great end to a week full of action against corporate tax dodgers, particularly against El Paso. Check out the pictures below, and be on the lookout for video of the inside coming soon! We even got mentioned nationally in Reuters, and locally in the Houston Business Journal!
CERA Week 2012, at the Hilton of the Americas in downtown Houston, is a gathering of executives from big oil and gas giants– many of them Houston-based. Some of these same executives are paid more than their own company pays the federal government in taxes.
General Electric, for example, paid a -45% federal income tax rate on their profits since 2008. ExxonMobil paid a o.4% federal income tax rate on $9.9 billion in profits over the last two years. I’m sure company executives would counter that they pay all federal taxes required by law. That’s easy to say, since GE alone spent $84 million on Washington lobbyists in the last 3 years. El Paso Energy, headquartered in Houston, spent almost $3 million on lobbyists while paying a -1% federal tax rate. Centerpoint, another Houston-based utility company, paid an effective federal tax rate of -14.7% on $1.9 billion in profits since 2008. While Centerpoint got $284 million back from the government instead of paying taxes, they paid their lobbyists $2.7 million.
While these huge corporations are posting record profits and making off like bandits, we the taxpayers are rapidly losing the public services we pay for and depend upon. One good example is HISD’s expected budget cut of $41 million next year. $41 million is also the exact am0unt of El Paso’s federal income tax refund since 2008. While we’re all seeing jobs evaporate and infrastructure crumble, the world’s largest and richest corporations have never fared better. Today, approximately 200 Houstonians decided to speak out against that.
It started with a rolling out of the red carpet just outside of the conference room, and a crowd of about 30 chanting “PAY YOUR TAXES!” The police quickly escorted us out, and told us we’d be arrested if we tried to go back inside. We regrouped at Discovery Green just outside the hotel, and marched on the conference, rallying outside of the Hilton 200 strong. There were members of Occupy Houston, Mi Familia Vota, Texas Organizing Project, Hope, Local 1, and Good Jobs=Great Houston all marching together. We even brought Miss Mae, our corporate pig, and some of her friends clad in pink corporate pig suits. While we were eventually chased off of the property, we chanted “WE’LL BE BACK!” as we marched away. Check out the pictures, and check out our press coverage!
As the story goes, when Marie Antoinette was told the peasants had no bread, she responded with, “let them eat cake.”
On average, there are at least 4 unemployed people applying for every existing job opening. And according to last month’s jobs report, Texas lost more jobs than any other state in the union. In an economy like this, reactionary politicians telling economic protesters to “get a job” is the new “let them eat cake.”
Congressman Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) has not only failed to support numerous job creation bills, but he’s voted against extending benefits for the long-term unemployed TEN TIMES since his election. He’s simultaneously supported budget-busting tax breaks for corporations and the super-rich. When unemployment benefits are due to expire at the end of February, Kevin Brady may once again side with the 1% against the interests of the 99%
We want Brady to know that “Let them eat cake” is not a solution to our jobs crisis. So Marie Antoinette joined Good Jobs=Great Houston and brought a cake to Brady’s Conroe office. Check out the video!
And help us keep up the fight in Brady’s district- sign this petition to Kevin Brady to demand he extend benefits for the long-term unemployed, then share it with your friends online! All it takes is a click.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-1%) voted down creating over 100,000 jobs for her constituents, because it would’ve meant a half-percentage point tax increase for millionaires. Good Jobs=Great Houston brought a few hundred angry Texans to her office at the Mickey Leland Federal Building to let her know we weren’t too happy about that. 8 of us conducted a sit-in and were voluntarily arrested.