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Working People at AT&T End Three-Day Strike

Mon, 2017-05-22 15:31
Working People at AT&T End Three-Day Strike

On Friday, 40,000 AT&T workers, members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), walked off the job on a three-day strike to protest the company's failure to invest in good jobs with a future at AT&T wireless, wireline and DIRECTV. The groups striking represent working people in 36 states and the District of Columbia. This is the first time AT&T wireless employees have gone on strike.

Dennis Trainor, vice president of CWA District 1, explained the situation:

We will no longer stand by as AT&T hems and haws at the bargaining table, keeping its own workers from achieving the American Dream they once promised. Despite being the largest telecom company in the country with nearly $1 billion a month in profits and the CEO earning $28 million, AT&T continues to pinch its workers’ basic needs and stand in the way of high-quality service its customers pay good money for. This is a warning to AT&T: There’s only one way out of this now—a fair contract—and we’ll settle for nothing less.

Here are some key tweets about the strike from @UnityAtMobility:

Not to be sappy but my 1st picket line changed my life.

Find one & show your support: https://t.co/xQDUiXjBeu #LifeAtATT ❤️

Shuler Joins Graduate Teachers Seeking Recognition of Their Union at Yale's Commencement

Mon, 2017-05-22 13:41
Shuler Joins Graduate Teachers Seeking Recognition of Their Union at Yale's Commencement Liz ShulerLiz Shuler joins graduate teachers who voted for a union with UNITE HERE Local 33 at Yale's commencement.

Thousands of supporters rallied today at Yale University's commencement in solidarity with the graduate teachers who formed a union with UNITE HERE Local 33. The university has refused to recognize the union and come to the negotiating table. 

Eight union members who were on a hunger strike broke their fast today. 

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler joined the graduate professionals and delivered remarks from the rally

Let me read you a bit of Yale’s mission statement.

Yale is committed to improving the world today and for future generations....We carry out this mission through the free exchange of ideas in an ethical, interdependent, and diverse community of faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

So my question is this: How are you improving the world by denying student-workers a voice on the job?

How are you fostering a free exchange of ideas by refusing to bargain?

Do you really want Yale to be the Walmart of the Ivy League?

Do you really want Yale to be the Walmart of the Ivy League?

Liz Shuler

Shuler reminded the university that under the law, graduate teachers are employees. Some have speculated that Yale's stalling tactics are because it hopes a newly engineered National Labor Relations Board put in place by the Trump administration could roll back gains won by graduate teachers. 

Shuler said:

Yale teaching assistants meet the common law definition of employees. They also meet the common sense definition.

They work. For pay. And they voted democratically to form a union.

It is time for Yale to acknowledge what is right in front of them.

Brave, proud union members who decided to make this campus their home.

When these student-workers look at that Yale degree on the office wall of whatever amazing job they do next, will they remember a university that did right by them? Or will they remember just another employer that made their lives harder for power and greed?

Yale, you can fix this today.

If you need someone to beat, stick to Harvard.

Jackie Tortora Mon, 05/22/2017 - 13:41

Tags: graduate

Trumpcare in Trump Country: The Working People Weekly List

Sun, 2017-05-21 07:07
Trumpcare in Trump Country: The Working People Weekly List

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s this week’s Working People Weekly List.

Trumpcare Is Already Hurting Trump Country: "The mere threat that Obamacare will be dismantled or radically changed—either by Congress or by President Trump himself—has persuaded several big insurance companies to stop selling policies or significantly raise premiums."

More Protests, Tough Questions at Shareholder Meeting of Oreo-Maker Mondelez: "It was deja vu all over again at the annual shareholder meeting Wednesday for Mondelēz International, a global snack food company known for brands like Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers."

Why I’m Fasting with Other Graduate Students at Yale: "Our intention is not to starve Yale out or close down discussion by inflicting violence upon ourselves. Quite the contrary: We are fasting to draw attention to Yale’s continued refusal to sit down and have a conversation with us about our union, our issues, and our contracts. This is why I joined the fast."

Offshoring of Oreo-Maker Jobs Dominates Mondelēz Shareholder Meeting: "Mondelēz International’s offshoring of jobs and the company’s relentless cost-cutting came under repeated criticism at the Mondelēz annual shareholder meeting on May 17 in Lincolnshire, Ill. Outside the shareholder meeting, members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and other unions protested the company’s 2016 decision to move 600 Nabisco factory workers’ jobs from the Southside of Chicago to Salinas, Mexico."

Yale: Negotiate with Your Graduate Teachers: "In February, the graduate teachers voted to be represented by UNITE HERE. But Yale University has refused to negotiate with them. If they stall long enough, more appointees by President Donald Trump will be seated at the National Labor Relations Board. How quickly do you think those appointees would vote to roll back the rights of graduate workers?"

Celebrating AAPI Resistance in the Labor Movement: "As we look back at the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance’s first action at the founding convention to march for justice after the beating of Rodney King 25 years ago, we’re proud of our deep roots of solidarity and resistance. Today, with millions of people mobilizing in marches and protests across the nation, from the Women’s March to the People’s Climate March, we are living in a time where we cannot stand silent when Muslim, immigrant, refugee, women and LGBTQ communities are constantly under attack. As a refugee from Ethiopia and an immigrant from the Philippines—and both as parents—we take these attacks personal and are concerned about the type of world our own children are growing up in."

Fellow Workers: "John Sayles—who will appear at the May 16 DC LaborFest screening of "Matewan"—is an American independent film director, screenwriter, editor, actor and novelist. He has twice been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for "Passion Fish" and "Lone Star." The screening is Tuesday, May 16, 7 p.m. at AFI Silver Theatre; tickets here. Sayles will receive the LaborFest’s Tony Mazzocchi Labor Arts Award and do a Q&A after the film."

Kenneth Quinnell Sun, 05/21/2017 - 07:07

Stand with Striking AT&T Workers This Weekend

Fri, 2017-05-19 15:40
Stand with Striking AT&T Workers This Weekend CWA

This afternoon, 40,000 working people at AT&T announced they were going on strike. After months at the bargaining table, the employees haven't been able to win a fair union contract. AT&T's leaders seem dead set on lining their own pockets at the expense of workers making them billions.

The strike includes 21,000 retail and call center workers employed by AT&T Wireless across the country (in 36 states and Washington, D.C.), and 19,000 AT&T West and DIRECTV employees in California, Nevada and Connecticut. This is the first time AT&T wireless workers have gone on strike, which could result in closed retail stores this weekend, and may be the largest strike of retail workers at a national company is U.S. history. The workers plan to return to work on Monday.

Show your support for the striking workers at an AT&T retail store this weekend. Find a location near you and RSVP. If you can't join a picket line, send an email to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson saying you stand with working people fighting for good jobs.

Follow the striking workers on Twitter @UnityAtMobility or Facebook.

 

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/19/2017 - 15:40

Trumka Delivers Petitions to Angela Merkel on Behalf of Working People at T-Mobile and Volkswagen

Fri, 2017-05-19 14:54
Trumka Delivers Petitions to Angela Merkel on Behalf of Working People at T-Mobile and Volkswagen AFL-CIO

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka attended the Labour 20 conference last week in Germany, where he hand-delivered petition signatures to Chancellor Angela Merkel on behalf of workers at T-Mobile and Volkswagen, seeking justice for the working people employed by the German companies in the United States. Skilled trades workers at Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant voted in 2015 to join a union, but the company refuses to negotiate with them. Among other complaints, T-Mobile was ordered last month by a federal administrative judge to shut down an illegal union set up by management.

The Labour 20 brought together unions from G-20 countries to working to advocate pro-worker positions to their labor ministers. The assembled countries made commitments to clean up global supply chains, provide decent work, ensure living wages, and integrate migrants, women, refugees and young people into their workplaces.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/19/2017 - 14:54

Offshoring of Oreo-Maker Jobs Dominates Mondelēz Shareholder Meeting

Thu, 2017-05-18 13:30
Offshoring of Oreo-Maker Jobs Dominates Mondelēz Shareholder Meeting BCTGM

Mondelēz International’s offshoring of jobs and the company’s relentless cost-cutting came under repeated criticism at the Mondelēz annual shareholder meeting on May 17 in Lincolnshire, Ill. Outside the shareholder meeting, members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and other unions protested the company’s 2016 decision to move 600 Nabisco factory workers’ jobs from the Southside of Chicago to Salinas, Mexico.

Inside the meeting, BCTGM Vice President Jethro Head introduced an AFL-CIO shareholder proposal that urges the company to form a labor-management committee to seek alternatives to plant closings. Head highlighted the impact of recent plant closings, explaining that "these communities are the poster child for economic insecurity that is plaguing so many American cities and towns."

UFCW Vice President Mark Lauritsen spoke in favor of the shareholder proposal on behalf of the International Union of Food Workers (IUF), a world-wide federation of trade unions: "Mondelēz workers around the world are demoralized and worried about the future direction of the company," he said, adding that "Mondelēz should be investing for the future rather than endlessly cutting costs."

BCTGM Secretary-Treasurer Steve Bertelli questioned Mondelēz CEO Irene Rosenfeld’s $16.7 million total compensation package that she received in 2016. He contrasted her lavish pay to the company’s low manufacturing worker wages in Salinas and asked, "Shouldn’t our company’s CEO pay be reasonable relative to all company employees?"

Anthony Jackson, a former Mondelēz employee whose job was offshored from Chicago to Mexico, challenged Rosenfeld’s business plan for the company: "Rather than improve revenue growth, the company has cut costs to increase its profits," Jackson said. "Why not treat your workers fairly and improve the company’s reputation in the communities it operates?"

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/18/2017 - 13:30

Yale: Negotiate with Your Graduate Teachers

Mon, 2017-05-15 15:24
Yale: Negotiate with Your Graduate Teachers UNITE HERE Local 33

In February, the graduate teachers voted to be represented by UNITE HERE. But Yale University has refused to negotiate with them. If they stall long enough, more appointees by President Donald Trump will be seated at the National Labor Relations Board. How quickly do you think those appointees would vote to roll back the rights of graduate workers?

Graduate teachers are teachers. Once they walk into the classroom, their job becomes indistinguishable from that of a tenured faculty member. When they counsel students outside of class, they aren't giving them only part-time counseling. When they spend endless hours grading papers and tests, their work benefits the university and helps create the environment that attracts students and investors in the school.

Eight UNITE HERE Local 33 members are fasting to protest the university's refusal to bargain with graduate teachers. The teachers also have marched, picketed and committed acts of civil disobedience. They've done all this because they want a seat at the table, something they have earned with their hard work:

We’ve done all this for a simple reason. We want a voice and a seat at the table. Our members, like many young workers in this economy, have to deal with intense economic insecurity. We face punishing competition in a declining career track. Women experience an epidemic of sexual harassment in academia. People of color are systemically marginalized. We want change, and we’ve been told to wait for too long.

Take action today, and send a message to Yale demanding it negotiate with its graduate teachers.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/15/2017 - 15:24

Celebrating AAPI Resistance in the Labor Movement

Mon, 2017-05-15 14:18
Celebrating AAPI Resistance in the Labor Movement AFL-CIO

As we look back at the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance’s first action at the founding convention to march for justice after the beating of Rodney King 25 years ago, we’re proud of our deep roots of solidarity and resistance. Today, with millions of people mobilizing in marches and protests across the nation, from the Women’s March to the People’s Climate March, we are living in a time where we cannot stand silent when Muslim, immigrant, refugee, women and LGBTQ communities are constantly under attack. As a refugee from Ethiopia and an immigrant from the Philippines — and both as parents — we take these attacks personal and are concerned about the type of world our own children are growing up in.

As unfortunate as it is to say, the Asian American and Pacific Islander community is no stranger to oppression. We have seen firsthand how xenophobia allowed the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act and the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. We have felt the pain of families torn apart with the increased deportations and criminalization of Southeast Asian brothers and sisters. We have witnessed hate violence against Muslim or perceived-to-be Muslim friends and family members at the hands of white supremacists.

For us in the labor movement, we know what’s at stake. With national "right to work" impending, access to affordable health care on the line, threats to safety for workers living and working in their communities, we cannot let these hateful attacks define the norm for generations to come.

That’s why during this year’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we center organizing, resistance and fighting back as a key to the fabric of our diverse AAPI history and heritage. Together with our allies in the labor movement, we’re declaring #NoMuslimBanEver during this National Week of Resistance and broader Month of Action.

As many of our Muslim comrades come from African and Asian countries, we stand up with black and brown immigrants who deserve to live and work with dignity, without fear of deportation, hate or criminalization. From Know Your Rights trainings and in-language materials to the recent release of the Racial and Economic Justice Toolkit from the Race Commission, we are committed to shifting the ugly narrative surrounding Muslim and immigrant communities within our own unions and communities.

As organizers and leaders in the labor movement, we value that the labor movement welcomes all working people, regardless of race, faith or other perceived identity. Today’s fight transcends any major political party. It is a test of what our country has grown to be, a test of morality, of humanity, of the common decency and respect for who we are as people. We strive to elevate the struggles that millions of our Muslim, immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters face, and to ensure our communities find safety instead of harassment, refuge instead of deportation, access to health care instead of illness.

Only by organizing at the intersections of who we are can we realize the shared struggles, the potential and drive forward. This is no time to remain silent, to stay neutral or to sit on the sidelines. This is the time to organize, resist and fight back and show our true colors and strength. This is the type of world we are proud to raise our children in — a world where we stand up for what’s right, not what’s easy.

Resistance is powerful, but collective resistance is unstoppable. Will you join us in resistance this APAHM and throughout the coming months as we lead up to our biennial convention, 25 Years of Resistance: Organize & Fight?

@Tefere_Gebre is the executive vice president of the AFL-CIO. Johanna Hester is the national president of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance. To learn more about APALA and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, click here. This post originally appeared at Medium.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/15/2017 - 14:18

Tags: APALA

Fellow Workers

Mon, 2017-05-15 12:18
Fellow Workers

John Sayles—who will appear at the May 16 DC LaborFest screening of "Matewan"—is an American independent film director, screenwriter, editor, actor and novelist. He has twice been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for "Passion Fish" and "Lone Star." The screening is Tuesday, May 16, 7 p.m. at AFI Silver Theatre; tickets here. Sayles will receive the LaborFest’s Tony Mazzocchi Labor Arts Award and do a Q&A after the film.

"OK, fellow workers, we’re moving on!"

The late Haskell Wexler, who served as cinematographer on four feature films with me, would often call out that phrase when it was time to end one sequence or location and start on the next, and it occasionally got a laugh from the more seasoned grips and gaffers. There is an "above the line"/"below the line" divide that operates on Hollywood film sets, and cinematographers, with their unique expertise and generally higher salaries, can be considered close to royalty behind the camera. But in fact, to make a movie production function with any sort of efficiency, the participants do have to treat each other as "fellow workers," with even the biggest stars having to defer to or depend on somebody far down the pay scale from time to time.

Our movie "Matewan," set during a West Virginia coal miners’ strike in 1920, was inspired partly by Ronald Reagan’s first symbolic act upon becoming presidentbusting the air traffic controllers’ union. This was only one front in a decades-long war that has left the majority of America's workers unrepresented. Between the courts, Congress and the constant barrage of Charles and David Koch, and Walmart-financed anti-union propaganda, we are heading back to the every-man-for-himself labor battleground that "Matewan" depicts. One bad argument often used against union standards (or even a decent minimum wage) is their devastating effect on small and marginal businesses. Of course, the elimination of child labor and the 12-hour day was equally devastating, which is just tough beans. If safety, environmental or labor standards make it too expensive to harvest any sort of mineral wealth, then leave it in the ground ‘til its value goes up. What anything "costs," whether it is a war or a mining or manufacturing process, can’t be measured in dollars alone.

The mainstream movie business is a mix of both unions and guilds (I’m in four guilds—directors’, writers’, actors’ and editors’) with a few of the union specialties or locals actually harder to get into than the guilds. These organizations engage in collective bargaining for us and monitor residuals, should that happy situation occur. I’ve been through two prolonged strikes with the Writers Guild of America, East, (WGAE) (my last two novels were written during these) where little ground was gained but punishing rollbacks were averted. Making a movie or television show with union employees can be more expensive ("reality TV" being popular with networks because you hire neither SAG-AFTRA actors nor WGAE writers), but it is also safer, more efficient and often of a higher quality (especially in "production value") than the alternative. There has been a good deal of production flight from areas where these unions and guilds are strong to either foreign countries or "right to work" states, where some of the jobs can be low-balled. I’m one of the writers on a TV miniseries currently shooting in Budapest for 1890s New York Citya decision that will save the production company a certain amount of money and make the production designer’s life a nightmare.

The price of coal did go up after the Mine Workers (UMWA) union was able to organize most of the mines (with some heroic negotiation between then-union President John L. Lewis and former President Franklin Roosevelt). But I would be very surprised if the owners’ profit margin went down, and that profit margin is nowhere mentioned in the Bible or protected by the Bill of Rights. And though the Taft-Hartley Act forbids the WGAE, SAG-AFTRA or the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) from striking in sympathy with each other, the existence of those unions and guilds provides a service that has little to do with what union scale they can negotiatethe recognition in an otherwise extremely hierarchical business that we are, in fact, "fellow workers."

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/15/2017 - 12:18

Executive Paywatch: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 2017-05-12 14:30
Executive Paywatch: The Working People Weekly List

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s this week’s Working People Weekly List.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Unveils Paywatch: "Workers ought to get a bigger share of the wealth that they produce. They haven't gotten a raise—our wages have been stagnant for nearly 50 years while CEO pay climbs every single year without exception."

Manufacturing Talks with Trump 'Not Very Satisfying,' AFL-CIO Leader Says: "The head of the country's largest organization of labor unions Saturday described recent talks with President Trump about manufacturing in the United States as 'not very satisfying.' 'He only talked about eliminating regulations,' AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told the Tribune-Review during a stop in Southwestern Pennsylvania."

I Was Arrested for Protesting Against Sexual Harassment at Yale. I Won’t Stop: "In February, we voted to unionize in elections held in eight departments. Since then, Yale has ignored its obligation to bargain with us in a bid to buy time until President Trump can seat new appointees to the National Labor Relations Board to void our votes."

The Higher-Education Crisis Is a Labor Crisis: "A unionization drive at Vanderbilt University shows how austerity in higher education is hurting educators and students."

Haitian Workers Call for Renewal of Temporary Protected Status: "This May Day, members of UNITE HERE rallied around the country for justice for all races, all religions and all immigrants. In Florida, their actions brought special attention to the plight of Haitian workers and urged the Trump administration to prevent the expiration of Temporary Protected Status for more than 50,000 Haitian nationals living and working in the United States."

We Will Defend and Resist: Prepare for Workplace Raids and Audits: "During the 2016 election, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump made it clear that his administration would be more aggressive in pursuing immigration enforcement. This likely means more aggressive workplace actions, including raids that result in the immediate arrest of working people. Our new We Will Defend and Resist toolkit explains the processes and players involved in worksite enforcement and provides resources and guidance on how to prepare for and respond to a raid or audit."

A Winning Week for Corporations and Wall Street—Paid for by Your Health and Retirement: "Corporations and Wall Street won big last week, and working people will pay a high price for it. Here are three things Congress did for Big Business that will harm working people’s health care and retirement:"

Texas AFL-CIO: Immigrant Working People Will Suffer Under S.B. 4, but So Will State as a Whole: "On May 7, from the privacy of his office, and broadcast over Facebook Live, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed S.B. 4, the harshest bill in the nation that aims to punish so-called sanctuary cities."

More Fake Facts About CEO Pay from the American Enterprise Institute: "The right-wingers at the American Enterprise Institute just can’t seem to accept the fact that runaway CEO pay is increasing inequality. Their latest solution to the growing gap between CEO and worker pay: abolish the weekend! According to AEI, if everybody worked a 60-hour workweek, then the CEO-to-worker pay ratio would be only 132:1 instead of 347:1."

Would You Be as Brave as This Man?: "Moises Sanchez handles irrigation pipes at a melon farm in Honduras for an Irish multinational fruit company called Fyffes. He has been threatened for his union activism, and his brother was chopped on the face with a machete."

5 Things You Need to Know from the AFL-CIO's New Executive Paywatch Report: "Today, the AFL-CIO released the 2017 edition of its Executive Paywatch report. The Executive Paywatch website, the most comprehensive, searchable online database tracking CEO pay, showed that in 2016, the average production and nonsupervisory worker earned some $37,600 per year. When adjusted for inflation, the average wage has remained stagnant for 50 years."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/12/2017 - 14:30

In Grim Times, Brazil's Young Workers Take Charge of Future

Fri, 2017-05-12 12:52
In Grim Times, Brazil's Young Workers Take Charge of Future Courtney Jenkins

Among the millions of Brazilians who waged a recent 24-hour general strike to protest proposed legislation that would weaken labor regulations, many were young workers, some newly mobilized by the government’s attempts to impose drastic cuts on pensions, salaries and social security and dismantle labor rights, including provisions on vacations, overtime and working hours.

"The labor law reform bill being debated in the National Congress penalizes mainly young people and specifically young black workers, as young workers are primarily employed in precarious jobs and are the majority of the unemployed," said Julia Reis Nogueira, national secretary of Racial Equality in Brazil’s Central Workers’ Union (CUT), a Solidarity Center partner. "When you put together the generational and racial question, this group will be the main victims of this disastrous reform."

"Any of these ‘reforms’ will make it hard for young people to retire with dignity," said Al Vega, director of policy and programs at MASSCOSH, where he focuses on strategies for bringing young adults into the U.S. labor movement. "The economic climate has really mobilized young people. They do feel like it is an all-out attack on the working class."

Vega, 35, was among four U.S. participants in a recent youth and race exchange delegation sponsored by CUT and the AFL-CIO. Over five days, they learned about Brazil’s current political, economic and social environment and heard firsthand about the challenges facing young workers, especially those of Afro-Brazilian descent, in seeking good job and an end to rampant discrimination.

"Institutional racism is keeping them from jobs," Vega said.

Afro-Brazilian Youth Face Rampant Discrimination, Violence

Although Afro-Brazilians make up 53% of Brazil’s population—more than 100 million people—their unemployment rates are typically 35% higher than those of white workers and their income is some 50% less than that received by white Brazilians. Afro-Brazilians are more than twice as likely to experience poverty than white Brazilians.

Rampant discrimination is behind much of this disparity. It is still common for firms to require pictures on résumés, and to make skin color a preference for selection processes. Workers’ educational levels make little difference: Afro-Brazilian men with a college education were paid only 70% of the wages made by white Brazilians. Afro-Brazilian women with a college degree receive only 41% of salaries paid to white Brazilians.

The economic struggles of Afro-Brazilians are framed within the country’s long legacy of slavery, which manifests in continuing brutality: One Afro-Brazilian youth is killed every 23 minutes in what some have called an "undeclared civil war," according to a 2016 report by a Brazilian Senate committee. The committee issued the report in response to "a culture of violence based on racism and prejudice." A Human Rights Watch report found that police in the state of Rio de Janeiro killed more than 8,000 people between 2006 and 2016, including at least 645 people in 2015—and three-quarters of those killed by police were black men.

Young Afro-Brazilians seeking jobs are doubly disadvantaged, with unemployment for all young adults (ages 15-24) nearing 25% in 2016. When young workers do find jobs, half are in the informal economy, where wages are low, work often dangerous and job stability non-existent.

The crisis for young workers is a crisis for Brazil: Nearly one-quarter of the country’s working population was between ages 15 and 24 in 2012.

Young Workers Standing up for Their Future

Young people know "there’s no hope for them if they don’t change the system," Vega said. "They want to figure out how to get more and more young people involved. This is not the time to be on the sidelines. This is the time to get involved."

In Brazil, a deep economic recession brought on by plummeting export commodities prices and increased inflation are manifesting in increasing unemployment, now at a record high of 13.7%—more than 14.2 million Brazilians were without a job in March. With young workers and workers of color especially hard hit by rising unemployment and proposed legislation that would undermine fundamental worker rights, they are standing up for their future by mobilizing in the streets and through unions and other associations.

Vega, a member of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9358 and young worker representative on the Massachusetts AFL-CIO Executive Board, was energized to hear from Brazilian delegates representing the Chemical Workers, Bank Workers, Teachers, and Retail and Commercial Workers Union Confederations who shared organizing strategies to reach youth of color in Brazil.

The unions are all members of CUT, Brazil’s largest labor federation, which was founded by rural and urban workers in 1983 as part of the ongoing struggle against the military dictatorship, which took power in 1964. In 2009, CUT created a National Secretariat for Youth and a National Secretariat of Racial Equality. Both secretariats functional locally in all 27 Brazilian states. This structure "has enabled a permanent dialogue between national and state-level youth leaders, in order to collectively construct policies and actions to promote the working youth in the country and to combat racism," Reis Nogueira said.

"I was getting inspired to see these young people have representatives across Brazil," Vega said. "That’s one of the key things I heard—because they have those formal positions, they can make sure their issues are being connected."

Cross-Movement Building Connects Workers in Similar Struggles

CUT also is expanding on cross-movement building in Brazil to connect with human rights organizations on organizational strategies and joint struggles for human rights and democracy. Delegates met with representatives of some of those organizations, including the youth wing of the Workers' Party; Fora do Eixo, a progressive independent media collective; and representatives of the students' movement.

The delegation, which traveled to Brazil at CUT’s invitation, is part of the federation’s outreach strategy.

Other U.S. participants included Rachel Bryan, an Electrical Workers union member engaged in criminal justice reform work; Sheva Diagne from the AFL-CIO; and Courtney Jenkins, a member of the American Postal Workers Union who is president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists’s Baltimore chapter and coordinator of the young worker program in his union.

Vega said: "The overall experience was very eye-opening, inspirational, to see what a labor move can look like when there is a true belief in what they want to achieve."

This post originally appeared at the Solidarity Center.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/12/2017 - 12:52

Haitian Workers Call for Renewal of Temporary Protected Status

Thu, 2017-05-11 16:46
Haitian Workers Call for Renewal of Temporary Protected Status UNITE HERE

This May Day, members of UNITE HERE rallied around the country for justice for all races, all religions and all immigrants. In Florida, their actions brought special attention to the plight of Haitian workers and urged the Trump administration to prevent the expiration of Temporary Protected Status for more than 50,000 Haitian nationals living and working in the United States.

"I have been in the U.S. for eight and a half years. TPS has allowed me to work legally and support my five children, two of whom are still back home in Haiti. Immigrant workers like me are the engine of the hospitality industry in south Florida," said Gerdine Verssagne, housekeeper at the Fontainebleau Resort on Miami Beach.

"Failure to renew TPS would not only break apart families and further devastate a country still recovering from natural disasters, but it would also negatively affect the hospitality industry in south Florida, which depends on the labor of many Haitian workers currently on TPS," said Rose Metellus-Denis, president of UNITE HERE Local 355. "We are calling on south Florida employers to urge President Trump to renew TPS."

Not far away in Orlando, several Disney labor unions echoed the call to re-designate TPS for Haitian workers, as well as for Hondurans and Salvadorans.

"Haitians with TPS are hardworking people who live and work in this country, have children born and raised here and own homes in our communities. They are a crucial part of central Florida’s economy and community," said UNITE HERE Local 737 President Jeremy Cruz-Haicken. "At Walt Disney World, nearly 500 Haitians work under TPS. These Disney cast members clean rooms, cook and serve food, and keep the parks clean. They are the face of Florida’s multibillion tourist economy. They deserve the chance to renew work permits to sustain their families in the United States, as well as remit funds to their families in need back in Haiti."

Join the effort to block the cruel deportation of Haitian community and union members by contacting your elected representatives today. Tell them to pressure the Department of Homeland Security to protect working families by renewing the TPS designation for Haiti immediately.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/11/2017 - 16:46

We Will Defend and Resist: Prepare for Workplace Raids and Audits

Thu, 2017-05-11 13:52
We Will Defend and Resist: Prepare for Workplace Raids and Audits AFL-CIO

During the 2016 election, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump made it clear that his administration would be more aggressive in pursuing immigration enforcement. This likely means more aggressive workplace actions, including raids that result in the immediate arrest of working people. Our new We Will Defend and Resist toolkit explains the processes and players involved in worksite enforcement and provides resources and guidance on how to prepare for and respond to a raid or audit.

Check out the toolkit and be prepared.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/11/2017 - 13:52

A Winning Week for Corporations and Wall Street—Paid for by Your Health and Retirement

Thu, 2017-05-11 11:56
A Winning Week for Corporations and Wall Street—Paid for by Your Health and Retirement

Corporations and Wall Street won big last week, and working people will pay a high price for it. Here are three things Congress did for Big Business that will harm working people’s health care and retirement:

1. 7 million fewer people will get workplace health benefits. Last Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the so-called American Health Care Act by a vote of 217-213. This is the bill that President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) are using to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act and that will cut health coverage for some 24 million people. The U.S. Senate now has to vote.

Professional lobbying groups that represent employers, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are behind this bill because it guts the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that large and mid-size employers offer their full-time employees adequate, affordable health benefits or risk paying a penalty. According to Congress’s budget experts, within 10 years, this bill will result in 7 million fewer Americans getting employer-provided health insurance. Corporate interests also like the huge tax cuts in the House bill, especially the $28 billion for prescription drug corporations and $145 billion for insurance companies.

Big company CEOs—the people who now earn 347 times more what front-line workers earn—are probably salivating over the huge personal tax cuts they will get from the Republican bill. One estimate is that those with million-dollar incomes will receive an average yearly tax cut of more than $50,000. The 400 highest-income households in the United States get an average tax cut of $7 million.

2. As many as 38 million workers will be blocked from saving for retirement at work. The Senate voted 50-49 last Wednesday to stop states from creating retirement savings programs for the 38 million working people whose employers do not offer any kind of retirement plan. The House already had voted to do this, and Trump is expected to sign off on it.

In the absence of meaningful action by the federal government, states have stepped in to address the growing retirement security crisis. But groups that carry water for Wall Street companies, like the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, have been actively lobbying Congress and Trump to stop states from helping these workers.

3. More than 100 million retirement investors may lose protections against conflicted investment advice. The House Financial Services Committee approved the so-called Financial CHOICE Act on a party-line vote last Thursday. It now goes to the full House of Representatives, and then to the Senate. In addition to gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that protects working people from abusive banking practices and ripping out many of the other financial reforms adopted after the 2008 financial crisis, this bill overturns key investor protections for people who have IRAs and 401(k)s. A massive coalition of Wall Street firms and their lobbying groups has been fighting to undo these retirement protections by any means possible.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/11/2017 - 11:56

Texas AFL-CIO: Immigrant Working People Will Suffer Under S.B. 4, but So Will State as a Whole

Wed, 2017-05-10 15:55
Texas AFL-CIO: Immigrant Working People Will Suffer Under S.B. 4, but So Will State as a Whole AFL-CIO

On May 7, from the privacy of his office, and broadcast over Facebook Live, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed S.B. 4, the harshest bill in the nation that aims to punish so-called sanctuary cities. Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick issued the following statement in response:

S.B. 4 is a direct attack on Texas values and hardworking Texas families. Approval of this harsh, "show me your papers"-style bill that drafts local criminal justice officials into becoming an arm of the federal immigration system marks one of the saddest days I have ever spent around the Texas Legislature.

This bill will harm all working people. Immigrants do some of the hardest jobs in our state and are net contributors not just to our economy, but to our future. S.B. 4 will not only make it easier for unscrupulous employers to deny important workplace rights to immigrants, but will also undermine important labor standards for all workers.

S.B. 4 is also bad for our brothers and sisters in law enforcement who depend on the trust of those who live in the communities they police. That trust could become all but unobtainable under S.B. 4.

Worst of all, S.B. 4 will discriminate broadly against minorities in Texas, regardless of immigration status. It will increase the number of times American citizens are asked about their immigration status because of their appearance or language. By making mere detention, rather than arrest, the threshold for questioning immigration status, the law will ensnare people who are not even suspected of committing a crime.

By forcing law officers in our communities toward becoming an arm of the federal immigration apparatus, S.B. 4 will harm our economy, cost good jobs, create fear, attack constitutional rights and lead to racial profiling.

Gov. Abbott’s signing of S.B. 4 sent a larger message that Texas is OK with discrimination against immigrant families on the streets across our state. That message is dangerous and is drawing national attention. S.B. 4 is bad for working people, bad for business and bad for Texas.

We believe there is broad consensus that the U.S. immigration system is broken. But S.B. 4 will simply increase discrimination and hardship rather than point toward comprehensive immigration reform.

The Texas AFL-CIO is a state labor federation consisting of 237,000-affiliated union members who advocate for working families in Texas.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/10/2017 - 15:55

More Fake Facts About CEO Pay from the American Enterprise Institute

Wed, 2017-05-10 13:28
More Fake Facts About CEO Pay from the American Enterprise Institute AFL-CIO

The right-wingers at the American Enterprise Institute just can’t seem to accept the fact that runaway CEO pay is increasing inequality. Their latest solution to the growing gap between CEO and worker pay: abolish the weekend! According to AEI, if everybody worked a 60-hour workweek, then the CEO-to-worker pay ratio would be only 132:1 instead of 347:1.

But don’t American CEOs work long hours? I am sure many of them do. But what about Bear Stearns’ CEO, who famously played cards during the Wall Street financial crisis? Or CEOs such as Elon Musk and Steve Jobs who simultaneously serve as CEO of two companies? Perhaps these superhuman CEOs work 120-hour workweeks, 17 hours a day, seven days a week?

AEI complains that the AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch pay data for rank-and-file employees doesn’t include fringe benefits. Alas, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics pay data that Paywatch cites does not include the value of perks such as personal use of the corporate jet or country club memberships that many CEOs enjoy. This “all other” category of CEO pay totaled, on average, $484,586 for Standard & Poor’s 500 companies in 2016.

But what about pension benefits and health care? While this may shock the well-paid lobbyists at AEI, fewer than half of all nonunion workers participate in a retirement plan. And CEO pay disclosures do not include the value of health insurance (except for the cost of the so-called “executive physical” perk that is completely unnecessary, according to medical professionals).

The AFL-CIO calculates the CEO-to-worker pay ratio by dividing the total compensation of S&P 500 CEOs by the Bureau of Labor Statistics pay data for production and nonsupervisory workers. This is the same methodology used by Businessweek for its long-standing annual survey of CEO pay. Back in 1980, Businessweek estimated that the CEO-to-worker pay ratio was just 42:1.

This isn’t the first time AEI has produced fake facts to try and hide runaway CEO pay. Last year, AEI claimed that the average pay for chief executives was a mere $220,700 in 2015. To support this outlandish claim, AEI cited pay data of the most senior executive of every workplace in America. In other words, the “CEOs” of retail stores, fast-food restaurants and every other place people work.

Nice try, AEI. Fake facts can’t cover up the reality that CEOs are paid far more than working people.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/10/2017 - 13:28

Would You Be as Brave as This Man?

Tue, 2017-05-09 14:32
Would You Be as Brave as This Man? AFL-CIO

Two brothers, Moises and Misael Sanchez, were bicycling home on April 13 toward the suburb of Santa Ana de Yusguare after a successful organizing meeting of an agricultural union near Choluteca in Honduras. The route took them along a winding road, up through small residential developments amid the canyons and steep hills.

The campaign is a pivotal one. It’s in a key region in southern Honduras, where intimidation and violence have plagued every effort to improve the lives of poor and working people. The plantation in this case is a major source of melons and fruit in Europe and the United States. The fruit company is Irish multinational firm Fyffes, so the possibility of attracting international attention to abuses seems realistic. It would be the first successful union drive in the region. If it succeeds, others will surely follow.

It has not been easy. Organizers have been tailed and harassed, and early leaders were held captive and forced to sign anti-union papers.

The scare tactics incite a particular chill in organizers because union leaders get murdered in Honduras on a regular basis. Two men were killed last summer, and the deaths usually follow a pattern. One of the organizers on the Fyffes campaign recently got a death threat.

That’s one reason why Moises and Misael traveled together. The union activists have had safety training, but protection from the law is virtually nonexistent. It mostly comes down to folks protecting themselves and each other.

Two hooded men stepped onto the road in front of Moises and Misael. One of the men held a kind of homemade pistol, called a chimba. The other had a machete. It was early evening, about 6:30 p.m. No one else was on the road.

The man with the machete suddenly attacked Misael, hacking him on the face and nearly severing his left jaw. Misael, bleeding and reeling from the blow, stumbled away from his bicycle and into the canyon. The man with the machete ran after him.

As the hooded man with the machete chased after his younger brother, Moises stood on the road looking into the blackness of the barrel of the chimba and realized that both he and his brother were about to be killed, he said later.

Then, two more hooded men emerged a short distance away, stationing themselves at a curve in the road. The man with the chimba robbed Moises of his cell phone and began to look through his contacts to find the names and numbers of co-workers who had signed up to join the International Union of Food Workers.

After half an hour, the man with the machete returned. Gesturing toward Moises, he said to the man with the chimba, “Let’s kill him.”

But the man with the homemade gun replied that there was no need. He already had the list of union members, he said. The two warned Moises that if he continued to lead the effort to grow the union, they’d murder him for sure.

Moises walked the rest of the way home. The men had taken the bicycles and his cell phone. At Santa Ana de Yusguare, Moises found his brother, still bleeding heavily. He took him to the public hospital in Choluteca. A few days later, Misael was released. He has been recovering, but the ugly wound on his face remained bandaged two weeks later.

Here’s the thing. Moises has always known how dangerous it is to be a union leader at Fyffes. But this was different. He had come too close to death, and he had brought his brother too close to the same end.

Moises is married and has a four-year-old daughter. He has four grown children, too. Moises and his brother also financially support their parents, who are too old to work. Moises supervises the laying of perforated irrigation pipe on a 500-acre farm. He and his co-workers want a union, so they can bargain for better pay. Also, the chemicals used on the crops sometimes make the workers sick.

But Moises is done. He’s stepping to the side. “I can’t continue to lead right now,” he said. “I know if I quit, the union will continue, but if I’m dead, I’m dead,” he said.

Still, Moises felt compelled to file a police report, which itself takes a special act of courage. Asked if it was dangerous to do so, Moises replied, “Yes, it’s dangerous, but it’s also necessary.”

It’s necessary, say union leaders in Honduras, because the country must be ruled by laws. Even if some of the business leaders, police and politicians don’t respect the rule of law, the union activists will.

Labor and human rights groups, and workers on the ground like Moises, are preparing a petition to ask the government for protection so no more people get hurt. You can help by joining the effort for Freedom and Fairness for Fyffes Workers.

“We’ve already had this experience. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else, union or nonunion,” Moises said.

This post originally appeared at Medium.

AFL-CIO

Photo caption: Moisés Sánchez está a cargo del sistema de riego en una finca en Honduras que produce melones para una compañía irlandesa multinacional llamada Fyffes. Ha sido amenazado por su activismo sindical, mientras que su hermano recibió un machetazo en la cara.

¿Tiene la valentía de este hombre?

Fue el 13 de abril cuando dos hermanos, Moisés y Misael Sánchez, se dirigían en sus bicicletas a su casa localizada en el suburbio de Santa Ana de Yusguare. Acababan de salir de una exitosa reunión para organizar un sindicato agrario cerca de Choluteca en Honduras. Su ruta los llevaba por un camino con curvas, por medio de pequeños complejos residenciales que se encuentran entre cañones y lomas empinadas.

Esta es una campaña clave. Se está desarrollando en una importante región en el sur de Honduras en donde la intimidación y la violencia han arruinado cada esfuerzo realizado para mejorar las vidas de los pobres y la gente trabajadora de esta nación centroamericana. Esta hacienda es una de las mayores fuentes de melones y fruta que se consume en Europa y Estados Unidos. La compañía proveedora de la fruta es una corporación multinacional llamada Fyffes, por lo que es realística la posibilidad de que estos abusos acaparen la atención internacional. Esta sería la primera campaña de sindicalización exitosa en la región. De cumplirse, otras seguirían de seguro.

No ha sido fácil. Los organizadores han sido perseguidos y acosados, mientras que los primeros líderes estuvieron cautivos y fueron forzados a firmar documentos en contra del sindicato.

Estas tácticas de intimidación incitan un miedo particular en los organizadores porque los líderes sindicales en Honduras son asesinados con regularidad. Dos hombres fueron asesinados el verano pasado y sus muertes usualmente siguen un patrón. Uno de los organizadores en la campaña de Fyffes recientemente recibió una amenaza de muerte.

Esa es una de las razones por las que Moisés y Misael viajaban juntos. Los activistas del sindicato han tenido entrenamientos de seguridad, pero la protección de las autoridades prácticamente no existe. Al final de cuentas la seguridad consiste en que la gente se proteja entre ellas.

Dos hombres encapuchados aparecieron en el camino de Moisés y Misael. Uno de ellos tenía una “chimba” – el nombre que se le da en Honduras a un arma de fabricación casera. El otro tenía un machete. Estaba comenzando a oscurecer, era alrededor de las 18:30. No había nadie más en el camino.

De repente, el hombre con el machete atacó a Misael, magullando su rostro al punto de casi saturar toda la parte izquierda de su mandíbula. Sangrando y aturdido por el golpe, se apartó de su bicicleta y partió hacía el cañón. El hombre con el machete salió tras de él.

En eso, Moisés se encontraba parado en el camino sus ojos fijados en la oscuridad del cañón de la chimba. Recuenta que pensó que su hermano y él estaban a punto de ser asesinados.

Fue entonces cuando aparecieron otros dos hombres encapuchados, y se pararon en la curva que se encontraba adelante. El hombre que tenía la chimba le arrebató el teléfono celular a Moisés y comenzó a ver los contactos que tenía grabados buscando los nombres y números telefónicos de sus compañeros de trabajo que acababan de unirse al sindicato Federación de Sindicatos de Trabajadores de la Agroindustria (FESTAGRO).

Después de media hora regresó el hombre que tenía el machete. Haciendo un gesto hacia Moisés, le dijo al hombre con la chimba “matémoslo.”

Pero el hombre con el arma contestó que no era necesario puesto que, continúo, ya tenía la lista de los miembros del sindicato. Los dos advirtieron a Moisés que si continuaba liderando el esfuerzo para crecer el sindicato, de seguro que lo matarían.

Moisés caminó el resto del camino a su casa. Los hombres se llevaron las bicicletas y su teléfono celular. Encontró a su hermano al llegar a Santa Ana de Yusguare. La sangre le brotaba en abundancia. Se lo llevó al hospital público de Choluteca. Después de unos días le dieron de alta a Misael. Ahora se encuentra recuperándose, pero dos semanas más tardes todavía lleva puesta una gasa que le cubre la herida que le quedó después del ataque.

AFL-CIO

Esto es lo que pasa. Moisés siempre ha sabido que es peligroso ser un líder sindical en Fyffes. Pero esto fue diferente. Estuvo demasiado cerca de la muerte y llevó a su hermano a que corriera el mismo riesgo.

Moisés está casado y tiene una hija de cuatro años. Tiene otros cuatro hijos que ya son mayores de edad. Junto con su hermano tiene que apoyar financieramente a sus padres, que son ancianos y no pueden trabajar. Moisés supervisa el entubado para la irrigación de una hacienda de 200 hectáreas. Con sus compañeros quieren un sindicato para poder negociar por una mejor paga. También, los químicos utilizados en los cultivos afectan a la salud de los trabajadores.

Pero Moisés ya tuvo suficiente. Se va a separar. “No puedo seguir liderando ahora”, señaló. “Sé que si me salgo, el sindicato continuará, pero si estoy muerto, estoy muerto.”

De todas maneras, Moisés se sintió obligado a denunciar el ataque con la policía –algo que aquí requiere valentía. Cuando se le preguntó si era muy peligroso hacer esto, Moisés respondió que “sí, es peligroso, pero también necesario.”

AFL-CIO

Es necesario, dijeron líderes sindicales en Honduras, porque el país debe ser regido por las leyes. Aunque algunos líderes empresariales, políticos y policías no respetan las leyes, los activistas sindicales si lo hacen.

Los grupos de derechos humanos y laborales, como también los trabajadores que se encuentran en esta localidad como es el caso de Moisés, están preparando una petición para pedirle al gobierno que los proteja y que pare la violencia. Usted puede ayudar y unirse a la campaña ¡Libertad sindical y justicia para las/los trabajadores de Fyffes!

“Ya tuvimos que pasar esta experiencia. No quiero que le pase a nadie más, no importa si está o no está en un sindicato,” concluyó Moisés.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 05/09/2017 - 14:32

5 Things You Need to Know from the AFL-CIO's New Executive Paywatch Report

Tue, 2017-05-09 11:23
5 Things You Need to Know from the AFL-CIO's New Executive Paywatch Report AFL-CIO

Today, the AFL-CIO released the 2017 edition of its Executive Paywatch report. The Executive Paywatch website, the most comprehensive, searchable online database tracking CEO pay, showed that in 2016, the average production and nonsupervisory worker earned some $37,600 per year. When adjusted for inflation, the average wage has remained stagnant for 50 years.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka explained the importance of these details:


This year’s report provides further proof that the greed of corporate CEOs is driving America’s income inequality crisis. Big corporations continually find ways to rig the economy in their favor and line their CEOs’ pockets at the expense of the workers who make their businesses run. Too often, corporations see workers as costs to be cut, rather than assets to be invested in. It’s shameful that CEOs can make tens of millions of dollars and still destroy the livelihoods of the hardworking people who make their companies profitable.

Here are five key things you should know from this year's Executive Paywatch report:

1. The average compensation for an S&P 500 CEO last year was $13.1 million. In contrast, production and nonsupervisory workers earned only $37,632, on average, in 2016. The average S&P 500 CEO makes 347 times what an average U.S. rank-and-file worker makes.

2. Last year, S&P 500 CEOs got a 5.9% raise while working people struggled to make ends meet.

3. Many U.S. corporations aren't paying taxes on their offshore profits, shifting the burden to working people. The worst of the tax avoiders, 18 Fortune 500 companies, paid $0 in federal taxes between 2008 and 2015.

4. Fortune 500 corporations are avoiding up to $767 billion in U.S. federal income taxes by holding $2.6 trillion of "permanently reinvested" profits offshore. This offshoring isn't an accident, it's a choice, and it has an impact on the lives of Americans. For example, last year, Mondelēz International chose to offshore some 600 jobs from its Chicago Nabisco bakery. In the same year, its CEO, Irene Rosenfeld, made $16.7 million.

5. Seven years ago, Congress passed a law that included a rule requiring all publicly traded companies to disclose their CEO-to-worker pay ratio. But Wall Street and big corporations have lobbied hard to stop the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission from enforcing this rule. Take action now to change that.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 05/09/2017 - 11:23

Where Are We Going Politically?

Mon, 2017-05-08 15:38
Where Are We Going Politically?

President Donald Trump’s first few disorienting months leave many people wondering what governing looks like anymore. It’s time to look away from the political spectacle and take a deep breath.

Consider two opposing value statements.

'We All Do Better' Value Statement

  • The purpose of our economy is to raise our standard of living. Here, “standard” applies to our community and our country.
  • We value opportunity and fairness, stronger communities, shared prosperity and investment in the future.
  • All work has dignity.
  • We are each other’s co-workers, neighbors, friends, relatives and customers. We all do better when we all do better. My well-being depends on your well-being.

Under "we all do better" values, government plays a legitimate role – building social cohesion and promoting public interest.

Markets are powerful and efficient, but markets fail. Climate change and inequality are the two defining challenges of our time, and arguably the two biggest market failures in human history. Appropriate public policies prevent or correct market failures. We should manage national policies and globalization to strengthen Democracy and well-being at home and abroad.

'Greed Is Good' Value Statement

  • Investor/shareholder interests come first; public interests second. Money and influence capture gains from productivity and globalization for those at the top.
  • Self-interest is more important than common interest. Power and leverage are used to gain advantage for "us" over "them."
  • Greed is good.
  • I can succeed at your expense. "Others" are a threat to my well-being. I can demonize or vanquish others to get a bigger piece of a smaller pie.

Under "greed is good" values, power and influence distort public policies in favor of those who already have plenty of both. These values weaken social cohesion and discredit institutions of civil society. We manage national policies and globalization to prioritize investor interests over public interests. Workers need to sacrifice our living standards "to compete in the global economy."

Lessons from History

"Greed is good" values dominated America in the gilded age and the laissez-faire period leading to the Great Depression and political instability.

The New Deal period, from the 1930s through the mid-1970s, reflected "we all do better" values. Congress passed Social Security and Medicare; funded public investments in rural electrification, the interstate highway system and basic research; set strong labor and environmental standards; and supported higher education. Wages rose proportionately with productivity.

The New Deal era ended in the mid-1970s, when we shifted back to "greed is good" values. In the 1990s, congressional hardliners delegitimized Democracy, shut down the government, took pride in disruption and dysfunction, and polarized our political system. Confidence in Congress dropped from 40% at the end of the New Deal era to 9% now. Donald Trump is the end-point of that transformation in values.

Harvard economist Dani Rodrik points out that other countries have done well, maintaining a strong sense of shared national interest–China, Japan and South Korea, for example. Europe has a stronger tradition of social dialogue and more social cohesion than we do. Canada is closer to the European model. That said, social cohesion is unraveling generally. People everywhere see themselves being left behind.

What Works?

Decades of narrow and divisive values have eroded trust, deindustrialized our economy and seriously wounded the middle class. This is not stable, politically or economically.

Of course, it’s working brilliantly for the 1%.

One message of the 2016 presidential campaign is that workers and communities mistrust establishment politicians. All the Republican establishment candidates were quickly swept aside. Few voters were inspired by Hillary Clinton’s economic message, which seemed to be "We’re OK. It’s not as bad as you think!"

Rodrik asks, is it too late to restore balance between those who have too much power and those with too little?

Leaders lead. Franklin Roosevelt articulated positive unifying values responding to anxieties of voters. He confronted corporate power and influence, restructured power relationships, and shared new gains with those who had been left out.

Our political situation is confusing and frustrating. Tactically, the path of least resistance is "resistance" or full battle mode. However, resistance without vision goes nowhere.

Here is a very simple positive first step. When we see others on the street, at work, in a shop or elevator, think of them as a co-worker, neighbor, friend or relative, a customer, or someone who could become your customer. That is, we can stretch our personal boundaries between "self and other." Make more people "us" and fewer people "them." Every day.

We can appreciate the value others bring. They are not a threat to our way of life. Their culture, food, music and stories enrich our lives. It’s true if we say it is true. We need to say it.

Political leaders need to say it. At a recent town hall meeting, a House member shared a profound insight with angry constituents. He has two tools-his vote and his voice. His votes were not the issue. His constituents were expecting more from his voice.

The neoliberal trickle-down approach is exhausted. Markets will not solve all our problems. Too often, what we are told is progress is really another distortion of power relationships to extract more gains from workers for the benefit of a few.

All work has dignity. "We all do better" values justify a managed approach to globalization. Focused industrial strategies can create good jobs by investing in productive capacity. New policies can strengthen the employment relationship, restoring workers’ bargaining power.

In globalization, we should prioritize labor rights, human rights and environmental protections, so workers and communities get a share of the gains they produce. Globalization could be an upward spiral instead of a race to the bottom.

The corrupting power of money in politics must be reversed. People can lead with local efforts to raise minimum wages, provide paid sick leave and rebuild social cohesion.

It’s time (again) to recognize our shared values and common interests. If people lead, eventually leaders will follow.

This guest post from Stan Sorscher, a member of SPEEA/IFPTE Local 2001, originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/08/2017 - 15:38

Tags: President Donald Trump

Senior Power: On Trumpcare II, Kentucky Activist, Breast Cancer Survivor Echoes Joe Hill: 'Don't Mourn, Organize!'

Mon, 2017-05-08 12:05
Senior Power: On Trumpcare II, Kentucky Activist, Breast Cancer Survivor Echoes Joe Hill: 'Don't Mourn, Organize!' Karla Johnston

As expected, Leslie McColgin’s Tea Party-tilting Republican congressman voted for Trumpcare II.

James Comer of Tompkinsville, Kentucky, also was all in for Trumpcare I. Both incarnations would gut the Affordable Care Act.

McColgin is a 62-year-old, never-say-die Democratic activist from rural Graves County, which is tobacco and Trump country. She didn’t vote for Comer or Donald Trump.

Since the election, she’s been bird-dogging Comer, a Tompkinsville freshman, showing up to pose questions at his town halls in the westerly reaches of the 35-county 1st Congressional District. The territory sprawls from the Mississippi River close to 300 miles eastward to south-central Kentucky, Comer’s home turf.

A speech-language pathologist, McColgin went to town halls in Paducah and Bardwell, the former in March via TV hookup from Washington, where Comer was set to vote for Trumpcare I. President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill because it lacked sufficient votes to pass.

McColgin, a volunteer in the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigns, spoke up for the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s legacy legislation.

Also in March, McColgin organized a Paducah meeting with Martie Wiles, Comer’s field representative. The resident of Graves County brought along three families who “spent over an hour in a private meeting to describe the importance of Medicaid for their children with disabilities, and they requested that Comer not support the changes to Medicaid funding that will cap federal reimbursements and reduce services.”

Afterward, McColgin contacted WPSD-TV, Paducah’s NBC affiliate, which featured her and one of the children, as well as an adult with disabilities who lives in her home under the Medicaid Adult Foster Care program.

McColgin said she wanted to “raise awareness that Medicaid is more than just a program for low-income health care; it is vital for individuals with disabilities to receive essential services.

“Comer had to respond to that news story when it aired, and since then has been emphasizing falsely that individuals with disabilities will not see any reduction in services due to this bill if it becomes law.”  

McColgin’s support for the ACA is personal as well as political. She’s a breast cancer survivor who says quality, affordable health care is a human right, not a privilege.

McColgin is sorry she can't make the next town hall, which is set for Wednesday in Benton. She’ll be in Frankfort, Kentucky’s capital. Even so, she’s busy rounding up a crowd.

“Focus on making the House Republicans feel pain for their vote every way you can,” McColgin challenged. “Keep calling them and writing and faxing letters and tweeting. Hopefully show up at the town halls if you can. This will signal the Senate they better not go down this road.

“Then get to work on the Senate side of this. But don't let up on the House!”

She's also emailing suggested questions that don’t pull punches:

You said children with disabilities would not lose services.  This bill not only will reduce Medicaid services by 25%, it takes away the ability of public schools to bill Medicaid for medically necessary services. Sure, schools will still have to provide services, but with fewer dollars. That means things like physical therapy will be cut to levels as to be inadequate (and, of course, Neal Gorsuch is fine with that). You lied.

You said Republicans needed to take their time and craft better solutions for people in the 50 to 65 age range. This bill is the same as the one you said did not do a good enough job. You lied.

You said there should not be rushed deadlines for a health care bill, yet this bill was rushed to the floor as soon as they had some fig leaf to pretend to cover pre-existing conditions without even having the [Congressional Budget Office] score it, so you have no idea of its effects or even cost.  You lied.

McColgin is undaunted by the fact that Comer represents arguably the most conservative territory in Kentucky. She’s one of a small but vocal group of liberals from westernmost Kentucky and southernmost Illinois, the latter Trump-leaning, too.

While the Land of Lincoln went for Clinton, the president collected 62.5% of Kentucky ballots and only lost two of Kentucky’s 120 counties—Jefferson (Louisville) and Fayette (Lexington). Graves gave Trump 76.4% of its vote.

Trump and Comer, who defeated an underfunded and largely unknown Democrat who nonetheless got McColgin’s vote, rolled in every 1st District county on the way to their blowout wins in the state.

McColgin, who is on the Graves County Democratic Executive Committee, has adopted labor hero and martyr Joe Hill’s immortal admonition, “Don’t mourn, organize!”

She started Four Rivers Indivisible, a western Kentucky-southern Illinois branch of the national organization. The local group is named for the Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee rivers, all of which converge within 40 miles or so from where she lives.

In an email to the group, she entreated that protesting Trumpcare II to lawmakers “calls for more than a postcard. Letters, letters to the editor, phone calls and fax, tweet @KYComer (or your rep) and then start on our senators.” She added, “I'm going to start working on learning how to make those Twitter memes.”  

The weather—cold and rainy—matched McColgin’s mood Thursday when Trumpcare II—officially the American Health Care Act—passed the GOP-majority House 217-213 on a straight-party line vote. Twenty Republicans voted no, as did 193 Democrats. No Democrat supported the measure, which Democrats say is worse than Trumpcare I.

“There is video footage running on MSNBC tonight that includes Rep. Comer with a group that went to the Rose Garden today to celebrate the passage of the AHCA through the House,” she disgustedly emailed her group Thursday night.

“Never before have members of Congress celebrated the passage of a bill through just one chamber. John Heilemann on MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell show warned that it put him in mind of [President George W.] Bush's ‘Mission Accomplished’ premature celebration.”

Even Republicans concede that Trumpcare II faces an uncertain future in the Senate, with its narrower GOP majority. Democrats hope, and Republicans fear, that the bill—whose muscular foes include the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Hospital Association and the American Association of Retired Persons—could result in big GOP losses in the 2018 midterm elections.

“So I hope Heilemann is right and they pay for this pyrrhic victory and Democrats run ads in 2018 showing [the Republicans’]...smiling and laughing faces as they celebrate ripping health care away from millions to give tax cuts to the wealthy,” added McColgin. “All I know is that looking at that video footage makes me sick to my stomach.”

Presumably Comer wants to make his Benton stop part of a district victory lap. But a number of local Democrats and union members are expected to attend and toss anything but softball questions to the congressman on his Trumpcare II vote and other issues. Comer is fiercely anti-labor.

Anyway, like a lot of politicians, Comer likes to tell the home folks he’s an independent sort who doesn’t automatically toe to the party line.

But he’s one of Trump’s most loyal lawmakers. He rode on Air Force One with the president to a Louisville rally at which he touted Trumpcare I. Comer’s website brags about the trip and has a photo of the congressman and Trump on the presidential jet.

Comer has voted the Trump way on bills 100% of the time, according to the FiveThirtyEight website “Tracking Congress in the Age of Trump: An updating tally of how often every member of the House and the Senate votes with or against the president.”

This guest post from Berry Craig originally appeared at Kentucky State AFL-CIO.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/08/2017 - 12:05

Tags: Affordable Care Act