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Black History Month Profiles: Corean Holloway

Tue, 2021-02-16 10:32
Black History Month Profiles: Corean Holloway

This year, for Black History Month, we're taking a look at a group of leaders who are currently active making Black history across the labor movement. Check back daily for a new profile and meet some of the people working to improve not only their community, but also to improve conditions for working people across the country. Today's profile is Corean Holloway.

A longtime union leader, Corean Holloway works as a laundry attendant at the Warwick Hotel Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. She canvassed her city full time to get out the vote for Biden-Harris during the general election for president. "I was born and raised in South Carolina, and my siblings and I were the ones to desegregate our elementary school, so we know a little bit about standing up to take what's ours," she said.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 02/16/2021 - 09:32

Tags: Black History Month

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Major Labor and Environmental Initiative Announced in Rhode Island

Tue, 2021-02-16 09:30
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Major Labor and Environmental Initiative Announced in Rhode Island

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

Rhode Island AFL-CIO President George Nee (OPEIU) announced a new state federation initiative called Climate Jobs Rhode Island. The initiative’s coalition will be chaired by Priscilla De La Cruz, the Rhode Island director of Green Energy Consumers Alliance, and Patrick Crowley (NEA-RI), secretary-treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, and is committed to working to make Rhode Island a national leader in a 21st century economy grounded in the principles of economic, environmental, racial and social justice.

“The Rhode Island AFL-CIO is proud to stand with our friends and allies in the Rhode Island building trades and the environmental movement as we work together to build a green economy in Rhode Island,” Nee said. “The labor movement believes working people don’t just need a seat at the table, but many seats, speaking for all of those fighting for a more just Rhode Island. The fight against exploitation, injustice and racism can only be won when workers have more power. We are proud to add the voices of our 80,000 members in Rhode Island to this effort.”

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 02/16/2021 - 08:30

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

Black History Month Profiles: Robert K. Cook

Mon, 2021-02-15 09:50
Black History Month Profiles: Robert K. Cook

This year, for Black History Month, we're taking a look at a group of leaders who are currently active making Black history across the labor movement. Check back daily for a new profile and meet some of the people working to improve not only the conditions for working people in our community, but also across the country. Today's profile is Robert K. Cook.

A ship captain, marine pilot, historian and mentor, Capt. Robert K. Cook is a founding member and president of the Organization of Black Maritime Graduates (OBMG). OBMG was formed in 1994 by six graduates of the SUNY Maritime College who wanted to help improve the education possibilities for young African American and minority students. OBMG's goal is to provide assistance and encouragement to Black and other minority undergraduates who are full-time students and pursuing a career in the maritime profession.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 02/15/2021 - 08:50

Tags: Black History Month

Black History Month Profiles: Sandra Parker Murray

Sun, 2021-02-14 10:40
Black History Month Profiles: Sandra Parker Murray

This year, for Black History Month, we're taking a look at a group of leaders who are currently active making Black history across the labor movement. Check back daily for a new profile and meet some of the people working to improve not only the conditions for working people in our community, but also across the country. Today's profile is Sandra Parker Murray.

Sandra Parker Murray is an executive board member for Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 7777 in Denver and a telecommunications worker with more than 20 years of experience at AT&T, Lucent Technologies and Avaya. Parker Murray is a political activist and fierce advocate for the rights of working people. Whether it is testifying in front of lawmakers, fighting to win job protections, advocating for her community or organizing at her local, Parker Murray has been at the forefront always making her voice heard and inspiring others to do the same. 

Kenneth Quinnell Sun, 02/14/2021 - 09:40

Tags: Black History Month

Black History Month Profiles: Sherese Williams

Sat, 2021-02-13 10:32
Black History Month Profiles: Sherese Williams

This year, for Black History Month, we're taking a look at a group of leaders who are currently active making Black history across the labor movement. Check back daily for a new profile and meet some of the people working to improve not only the conditions for working people in our community, but also across the country. Today's profile is Sherese Williams.

A second-generation bus driver and union member, Sherese Williams has a good job and a livable work schedule, for which she credits her union. Her love for the work she does, combined with a talent for connecting people, led to her volunteering for increasing levels of responsibility at the Portland Community College Federation of Classified Employees (PCCFCE), American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 3922. Williams serves as vice president of organizing for PCCFCE. She launched the Member Organizer Institute in 2018.

Kenneth Quinnell Sat, 02/13/2021 - 09:32

Tags: Black History Month

A Big Deal: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 2021-02-12 14:30
A Big Deal: 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 the latest edition of the Working People Weekly List.

The Amazon Warehouse Union Vote in Alabama Is a Big Deal: "Amazon responded quickly to the pandemic spike in online shopping. It added 400,000 employees in the first nine months of last year. It added new facilities and new airplanes to deliver goods. And across the company’s fulfillment centers, the pressure on Amazon workers to get orders out fast, to 'make rate,' became more intense than ever. That dogged pursuit of efficiency has pushed some workers to a breaking point. This week, employees at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, are voting on whether to unionize. On Thursday’s episode of What Next, I talked to Washington Post reporter Jay Greene about what the workers want, how management is fighting back, and what this action—the first of its kind at Amazon in seven years—could mean for future unionization efforts at the company. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity."

Hollywood Unions Join AFL-CIO Push for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Public Policy Agenda: "Hollywood’s major unions have signed on with the AFL-CIO’s push to advance public policy initiatives involving diversity, equity and inclusion issues. The broad goal is to strengthen collective bargaining and copyright protections on the state and federal level. On Thursday, a clutch of entertainment industry union representatives gathered for a virtual news conference to detail the policy proposals and underscore the urgency for the need for action to better protect middle-class and low-rung workers. 'We stand solidly behind the missions and goals. We believe very strongly in copyright protections. It’s how our members receive appropriate remuneration for their work,' said David White, national executive director of SAG-AFTRA. 'And we feel very strongly about the importance of showcasing the full variety of the American scene' in entertainment content."

These House Bills Could Make Life Better for Millions of U.S. Workers: "'Increasing the minimum wage makes economic sense, it makes political sense and it makes moral sense. When working people take home our fair share, we spend more, boost demand and create jobs. This is a no-brainer,' John Weber, a spokesman for AFL-CIO, said in an email."

As Amazon Union Vote Starts, AFL-CIO's Tech Think Tank Considers Future of Labor: "On Monday in Alabama, more than 5,800 of them will be able to vote on whether to become the first Amazon warehouse in the United States to unionize. 'Now it's our turn to be a disruptor,' said Elizabeth Shuler, secretary-treasurer and second highest-ranking officer of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States. It's a big day for the AFL-CIO. Not only is it providing guidance to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is organizing the Amazon warehouse workers. It also recently launched a think tank, the Technology Institute, partly meant to help workers at tech behemoths like Amazon organize."

AFL-CIO Leader: Clinton, Obama Let Down Unions: "'Joe Biden has surrounded himself with people that are worker-friendly, so that in the multitude of decisions that are made every day without the president being involved, they're going to think about the impact it has on workers,' Trumka said. 'That's a significant difference and a beneficial one for workers in this country,' Trumka added. 'And it's one of our reasons for optimism and hope.' Barack Obama and Bill Clinton—the last two Democratic presidents—'didn't understand the importance of labor and the importance of collective bargaining,' he said."

The Economist Placing Value on Black Women’s Overlooked Work: "Every year women do trillions of dollars’ worth of unpaid household work. In the United States alone, that total amounted to roughly $1.2 trillion in 2019, a figure nearly the size of the New York State economy. In Britain, the statistics agency has a calculator that lets you learn the value of chores like doing laundry, child care and taking others where they need to go. Thirty-five hours of child care and five hours of cooking is valued at about 570 pounds ($779) a week."

Beltrami to Retire from AFL-CIO After 15 Years: "The Alaska AFL-CIO announced today that President Vince Beltrami is retiring after 15 years as the head of the state’s largest labor organization. According to an announcement from the organization describing the change as 'a bittersweet leadership change,' AFL-CIO’s Director of Operations Joelle Hall has been selected by the group’s leadership to serve the remainder of Beltrami’s term. 'Vince Beltrami has been an incredible force for the Alaska Labor movement. He leaves behind a legacy as he closes this chapter as President for the Alaska AFL-CIO. Since his early days as an IBEW organizer, Vince has made life better for all working people in Alaska. Through his leadership, Vince brought us into a new century. He will retire in power knowing we are all stronger and better able to do what is right for Alaska workers,' said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Jake Metcalfe in a prepared statement. 'Vince, you did a hell of a job and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.'”

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 02/12/2021 - 13:30

Take a Stand for What We Deserve: What Working People Are Doing This Week

Fri, 2021-02-12 13:01
Take a Stand for What We Deserve: What Working People Are Doing This Week

Welcome to our regular feature, a look at what the various AFL-CIO unions and other working family organizations are doing across the country and beyond. The labor movement is big and active—here's a look at the broad range of activities we're engaged in this week.

Actors' Equity:

In December of 1939, Butterfly McQueen became the first Black lifetime member of Equity. This rare membership is assigned to members for extraordinary volunteerism and involvement in our union. #BlackHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/eAZcVXhNT6

— Actors' Equity (@ActorsEquity) February 11, 2021

AFGE:

@POTUS promised to be the most 'pro-union president', and within his first three weeks in office he has already restored many vital protections for 2.1 million federal workers across the country. #1u pic.twitter.com/yT3EqTbEbP

— AFGE (@AFGENational) February 10, 2021

AFSCME:

“You don’t get things done just by going to management or HR... We as workers need to take a stand for what we deserve.” – Jenny Suarez, a respiratory therapist at University of California, Irvine’s, Medical Center, and a member of @AFSCMELocal3299. https://t.co/cZ6e5ktC6l

— AFSCME (@AFSCME) February 10, 2021

Alliance for Retired Americans:

Only 5.4% of all COVID vaccine doses administered in U.S. went to long-term care facility residents: https://t.co/AUUWdgZQsH

— Alliance for Retired Americans (@ActiveRetirees) February 9, 2021

Amalgamated Transit Union:

An ATU hero at Local 1385-Dayton, OH. https://t.co/wHHSRcwBzg #1u #RTA #PublicTransit #Transit

— ATU, Transit Union (@ATUComm) February 11, 2021

American Federation of Musicians:

The #SuperBowl entertainment, featuring @ericchurch and @jsullivanmusic singing the #NationalAnthem and @HERMusicx singing #americathebeautiful, is covered by @afm_union contract. #PepsiHalftime with @theweeknd and backup singers is covered by @sagaftra. TY to all #unionmembers

Black History Month Profiles: Rayneese Primrose

Fri, 2021-02-12 10:32
Black History Month Profiles: Rayneese Primrose

This year, for Black History Month, we're taking a look at a group of leaders who are currently active making Black history across the labor movement. Check back daily for a new profile and meet some of the people working to improve not only the conditions for working people in our community, but also across the country. Today's profile is Rayneese Primrose.

In August 2020, artist Rayneese Primrose, a member of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 764, discovered that her Lady Liberty artwork was selected by the Rockefeller Center as part of the Flag Project, in which artists designed flags that fly high from the iconic flagpoles surrounding the Rink at Rockefeller Center. Inspired by the Statue of Liberty and influenced by Maya Angelou’s poem "Still I Rise," Primrose said she reimagined the Statue of Liberty as a symbol that truly represents everyone.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 02/12/2021 - 09:32

Tags: Black History Month

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: St. Paul Labor Federation Distributes Food to Community

Fri, 2021-02-12 09:03
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: St. Paul Labor Federation Distributes Food to Community

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

The St. Paul Building and Construction Trades Council, in partnership with the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, hosted a free-food distribution event on Feb. 3. Volunteers loaded up 30-pound boxes of food and made them available to anyone in need, free of charge. The operation, which was a contactless, drive-through operation, provided hundreds of boxes of food to people in the community of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Last week, union members volunteered to distribute 117,000 pounds of food to families in the area, with several distribution events scheduled.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 02/12/2021 - 08:03

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

Pathway to Progress: Baltimore Caulkers Take Charge of Their Own Future

Thu, 2021-02-11 13:07
Pathway to Progress: Baltimore Caulkers Take Charge of Their Own Future

History has long been portrayed as a series of "great men" taking great action to shape the world we live in. In recent decades, however, social historians have focused more on looking at history "from the bottom up," studying the vital role that working people played in our heritage. Working people built, and continue to build, the United States. In our new series, Pathway to Progress, we'll take a look at various people, places and events where working people played a key role in the progress our country has made, including those who are making history right now. Today's topic is the story of Baltimore caulkers who bought their own shipyard in the face of systemic discrimination.

Pro-slavery forces before the Civil War often used racist appeals to labor in their efforts to sway public opinion. They fear-mongered that freed Black workers would undercut White workers in the labor force and would cost jobs and drive down wages. Free Black workers, before and after the war, were often used as scabs, and they couldn't refuse the offer, as other work options were limited or non-existent. 

As a response, Black workers began forming their own labor associations. Among the first formed was by caulkers in Baltimore in the early days of the Reconstruction Era. Before the war, White caulkers used violence and intimidation to scare Black caulkers out of the trade. The violence continued after the war, and in October the White caulkers, supported by ship carpenters, went on strike to get Black workers fired as caulkers and longshoremen. The strike was successful with the support of city government and local police. More than 100 men found themselves out of work.

One of those men, Isaac Myers (pictured) proposed that they form a union and raise funds to purchase their own cooperative shipyard and railway. The campaign began and they issued stock that quickly raised $10,000 from the Black population of Baltimore and beyond. One of the first stockholders was Frederick Douglass. They secured a $30,000 loan from a ship captain and were able to buy an extensive shipyard and railway and founded the Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company in 1866.

They soon employed 300 Black workers and paid them an average wage of $3 a day. They were able to win several government contracts, and they paid off the debt from the loan early. The shipyard expanded and soon they were hiring White workers, too. The Colored Caulkers' Trade Union Society of Baltimore was a success under the leadership of Isaac Myers, who was elected president. He established relations with the White caulkers union and the two groups began to work together to address common problems. 

The model used by the caulkers worked well in the North, but raising similar funds in the South was much more difficult. But they still took inspiration from the Baltimore success and began to organize and strike, leading to some of the largest mass demonstrations in the history of the South. Some had success and a growth of Black entrepreneurship was an outgrowth of the Baltimore caulkers' efforts as was the fact that the Black working class had now joined the labor movement.

Source: "Organized Labor and the Black Worker, 1619-1981" by Philip S. Foner, 1974.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 02/11/2021 - 12:07

Tags: Organizing, Pathway to Progress

Black History Month Profiles: C. Faye Harper

Thu, 2021-02-11 10:37
Black History Month Profiles: C. Faye Harper

This year, for Black History Month, we're taking a look at a group of leaders who are currently active making Black history across the labor movement. Check back daily for a new profile and meet some of the people working to improve not only the conditions for working people in our community, but also across the country. Today's profile is C. Faye Harper.

C. Faye Harper currently serves as the 10th international vice president for the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). She also serves as a trustee and business representative for IATSE Local 834. She has been with the union for nearly 30 years. She said her activism was driven by never having seen a person of color on the IATSE General Executive Board. "As a leader, it’s necessary that someone of color see that there is representation and somebody represents who they are," Harper said. In 2016, Harper was elected to the General Executive Board, becoming the change she wanted to see in the world.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 02/11/2021 - 09:37

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: FLOC Hosts Vaccination Clinics

Thu, 2021-02-11 09:36
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: FLOC Hosts Vaccination Clinics

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) is working to ensure Black and Brown communities in Toledo, Ohio, have access to the vaccine. The union held its first vaccination clinic, where 30 members of the community who are older than 75 or have underlying health conditions received their first shot. FLOC held another vaccination event this past Friday. “We’re succeeding in getting health officials to re-think distribution to reach Latinos and Black folks who are having the highest mortality rates,” said FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez (not pictured). Throughout the pandemic, communities of color have experienced much higher rates of mortality from COVID-19.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 02/11/2021 - 08:36

Working People Call for Urgent Passage of Landmark Worker Rights Bill

Wed, 2021-02-10 12:18
Working People Call for Urgent Passage of Landmark Worker Rights Bill

"Today, working people are one step closer to freely exercising our most fundamental rights on the job," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA). "The PRO Act will strengthen workers’ ability to come together and demand a fair share of the wealth we create—boosting wages, securing better health care and rooting out discrimination."

Trumka continued:

The past year has laid bare the enormous injustices facing millions of America’s working people who keep our country afloat. We cannot allow those systemic failures to persist for another moment. Working people turned out to vote in record numbers because we urgently need structural change.

We will make our case in every state and every congressional district, to elected leaders across the political spectrum. But make no mistake, this is a test for Democrats. After decades of disappointment, it’s time for the party of FDR to finish what he started. If you stand on the side of America’s workers, you won’t just vote for the PRO Act—you’ll sponsor it, you’ll whip for it and you won’t rest until it’s signed into law.

Advocates for working people across the country also called for the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Here are their statements:

Alaska State AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami (IBEW):

As the sun sets on my career in the labor movement I can think of no better gift to the American worker than to see the PRO Act become law. Since the egregious Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, moneyed interests have continued to whittle away protections for workers in the workplace. The PRO Act provides the first real substantive means to restore the original intent of the National Labor Relations Act. Organizing and empowerment of workers will once again bring opportunity and prosperity to the forefront. With a president committed to making this the law of the land, and a Congress that can finally make this happen, we cannot relent until the PRO Act lands on President Biden’s desk and dignity and fairness is restored in workplaces across America, while eliminating Jim Crow era policies like “right-to-work” across the country in the process.

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski (IAM):

With the Introduction of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO) Act, federal lawmakers today set a course to revitalize America’s economy by reclaiming the rights of millions of workers to stand together and negotiate a fairer deal with their employers. The wealthy and powerful have controlled the economy in their favor for too long while working people have been losing ground. For decades we have had to work much harder, put in longer hours and take on more jobs just to try to keep up. At the same time, the rich and powerful got much, much richer off the fruits of our labor. This landmark bill is crucial to the future of California’s economy. When super-wealthy gig corporations spent almost a quarter-of-a-billion dollars to pass Prop 22 last year, hundreds of thousands of Californians instantly lost their hopes for a decent job. By that one act, employers like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and others crushed the right of their employees to stand together for a fair wage. The PRO Act would simply reestablish the rights of gig workers and many others to create a union for themselves in order to negotiate for decent wages and employee protections. In addition to cracking down on the misclassification of workers, which eliminates basic protections of law, the PRO Act would stop pernicious corporate tactics that crush any attempts by the workforce to organize. By creating new pathways for workers to stand together on the job, the PRO Act strikes at the heart of growing income inequality that especially threatens women, immigrants and people of color. Billionaire CEOs are already marshalling their resources to fight the PRO Act in an effort to retain the status quo that has allowed them to grossly expand their fortunes at the expense of working people. To combat their big-money campaign, working people in California and across the nation will mobilize in a big way to ensure lawmakers are hearing the voices of those whose lives would be improved by having a union on the job. We call on every member of the California Congressional delegation, Democrat and Republican to co-sponsor this historic legislation to reform outdated labor laws that work against those most vulnerable in our economy. The PRO Act charts a new course for California and America. A course that puts working people at the helm of the ship with the freedom to control their own destinies. We strongly urge Congress to pass this groundbreaking bill and for President Biden to live up to his promise to working people by signing it into law.

Colorado AFL-CIO:

The Colorado AFL-CIO, our affiliates, and our members made up of teachers, nurses, grocery workers, firefighters and more commend our new congress elected by working families for introducing the PRO Act today. Every Colorado Democrat in the House of Representatives signed on as co-sponsor. Make no mistake, every congress member who commits to passing the PRO Act has made a commitment to build back our communities and jobs better—and with a union that keeps workers returning home safely after a hard day’s work. The PRO Act will have an immediate positive effect for working people in Colorado. This important step forward ensures fairness and a voice on the job. The PRO Act puts the power back in the hands of working people by increasing access to fair union elections and by ensuring there are enforceable penalties for corporations and executives that violate workers’ rights. For too long, union busting law firms have helped corporations avoid responsibility and game the system. Workers are taking collective action and it is past time for our labor laws to catch up. The PRO Act will support the AFL-CIO’s Five Economic Essentials including expanding public investment in good jobs, ensuring workers’ access to necessary safety support to do their jobs, help address the structural racial equity issues in America, and ensure working Coloradans have the economic security they deserve. Currently, hard working Coloradans seeking to join together with coworkers can face retaliation with little recourse. 65% of American's approve of labor unions. 60 million people would vote to join a union at their workplace today if given the opportunity, according to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Connecticut AFL-CIO President Sal Luciano (AFSCME):

Our nation is in desperate need of labor law reform. Too often, the deck is stacked against working people who are trying to join together in union for safer working conditions and wages that can sustain their families. The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the vast inequalities that have always existed in our state and in our country. But we have an opportunity to improve the lives of workers across the United States. The PRO Act will be one of the most important pieces of legislation for working people in a generation. It will not only increase worker power at a time when it’s sorely needed, it will help to ensure that our economic recovery is shared by all, not just the wealthy few.

Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams (IBEW):

Last week, the PRO Act was reintroduced into the United States House of Representatives. If passed, this bill would be a step in the right direction for America’s working people and would empower workers to exercise their right to organize freely. For decades, union-busting laws have prevented working people from having a voice in the workplace. The PRO Act is the most significant piece of proworker legislation since the New Deal. It would fight back against years of increasing inequality and reform labor laws that too often favor employers over working people. According to a recent Gallup poll, support for unions is at its highest level in almost two decades. Unfortunately, workers who try to unionize are met with tactics meant to sink any chance of their formation. If enacted, the PRO Act would reform and strengthen the National Labor Relations Board, end so-called “right to work” laws, and end the process of replacing striking employees. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent economic downturn that followed, has made the importance of representation in the workplace even clearer. Unions fight for safety on the job, solidarity between employees, and higher standards of living. For too long, employers have had the power to prevent working people from joining and forming unions. The PRO Act would put the decision to unionize back in control of working people. The Florida AFL-CIO calls on our elected officials in both the United States House of Representatives and Senate to make the right choice for America’s working families. It’s time to pass the PRO Act. Mike Williams is the President of the Florida AFL-CIO which represents over one million union members, retirees and their families in the state of Florida.

Hawaii State AFL-CIO President Randy Perreira (AFSCME):

The PRO Act is more than labor law reform legislation. It is a civil rights bill package that is a crucial step towards restoring workers’ rights that have been significantly eroding for decades. This decades-long erosion of workers’ rights is evidenced by stagnant wages, unsafe workplaces, and rising inequality...issues that union membership mitigates. Economist Henry Farber said, “When unions were strong, inequality tended to be lower.” According to a 2018 study by Farber and other Princeton Economists, over the past 80 years, unions have consistently provided workers with wages 10% to 20% higher than their non-union counterparts. With the passage of the PRO Act, labor unions will have the impetus to organize workers without employers interfering and even frustrating the process. Workers will have a stronger voice and more bargaining power. Like a rising tide raises all boats, organized workforces can further expand opportunities for all workers, especially women, immigrants, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. Reach out to your U.S. Congressional Representatives and U.S. Senators to let them know that you too support the PRO Act.

Idaho AFL-CIO President Joe Maloney (IBEW):

The Idaho AFL-CIO representing teachers, postal workers, federal government employees, and more support the introduction of the PRO Act in the U.S. Senate and House. The PRO (Protecting the Right to Organize) Act is significant legislation that will make a positive impact on all American Workers from making it easier to have a voice on the job to dramatically increasing penalties for employers that violate workers’ rights. In Idaho, inequality has skyrocketed because union membership has dwindled and policymakers have failed to pass pro-worker labor laws. Now it is time to Idaho’s congress members to right that wrong by supporting the PRO Act. Idaho’s working families look forward to the passage of the PRO Act. It’s about time we stand up to the corporate bosses continuing to engage in unfair and underhanded practices that undermine workers. Workers have a historic right to organize themselves and it is our duty to protect it. Idaho’s workers deserve to earn better wages and build safer, fairer workplaces for themselves.

Illinois AFL-CIO President Tim Drea (UFCW) and Secretary-Treasurer Pat Devaney (IAFF):

Our labor laws are there to protect workers. They have become woefully outdated, weakened by corporate political influence, and so riddled with loopholes providing little protection for workers seeking to improve their lot by joining with their co-workers and speaking as one with a union. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the failings of our laws to provide workers safety and security. The best way to insure the long-term economic health of our nation, rebuild our middle class, close the income inequality gap, as well as bridge racial and gender divides on the job is to give workers power to band together concerning their livelihoods. We will engage our member households in a campaign across the state to mobilize for passage in the House and Senate and getting President Biden’s signature.

Indiana AFL-CIO:

The PRO Act is the most substantial pro-worker legislation we’ve seen in generations. It would protect and empower Hoosier workers, making it easier to organize unions and collectively bargain for better pay, benefits, and working conditions. It would also repeal right-to-work laws across the country, including right here in Indiana,” said Indiana AFL-CIO President Brett Voorhies. Nearly a year ago, the House of Representatives passed the PRO Act, but then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to bring the bill up for a vote in the Senate. With a new Democratic majority and President Biden’s promise to “be the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen,” working people expect to be a priority and will hold President Biden to his word.


Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO: 

We are proud of our United States of America. The American dream is a value we hold dear and nothing shall impede us on that journey. One of the keys to that dream is dignity in the workplace. We deserve equity, respect, a safe working environment and a fair wage for a day's work. However, our woefully outdated labor laws are no longer effective as a means for working people to counter the power of corporate America. Its long past due for labor law reform. Across the political spectrum, people are coming to the realization, if they already had not, that the tables are tilted in favor of powerful corporations. The PRO Act will change the power dynamics in America and give working people a real say in your own future. Today, the PRO Act was introduced in the United States Congress. The PRO Act is the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression because it will empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize, ensure that workers can reach a first contract, it will hold corporations accountable, and repeal Jim Crow era laws like “right to work,” which lead to lower wages, fewer benefits, and more dangerous workplaces. The PRO Act will make America’s economy work for working people. Here’s why: when union membership is greater, all of our wages are better. Between 1948 and 1973, when New Deal era laws expanded and enforced collective bargaining, hourly wages rose by more than 90%. But over the next 40 years—from 1973 to 2013—hourly wages rose by just over 9% while productivity increased 74%. As it is, workers are not getting paid a fair share of what we produce. Workers in America favor unions and tens of millions want to join one. Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows nearly 60 million people would vote to join a union today if given the opportunity. That is nearly half of nonunion workers. The PRO Act is how our laws catch up, with workers embracing collective action with a fervor not seen in generations. The PRO Act is the future, and the future is now.

Maine AFL-CIO:

"The PRO Act will empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize and bargain for a better life. It will give workers the tools to build an economy that works for all of us, not just those at the top,” said Cynthia Phinney, president of the Maine AFL-CIO. During this pandemic, as frontline workers across the country organize for better lives and safer workplaces, it is high time our labor laws encourage collective bargaining so we can build a better economic future for everyone.” “This is by far the strongest piece of labor legislation endorsed by a president in several decades. As a candidate, President Biden promised to sign the PRO Act and union members across the country intend to organize, mobilize and help him push this important bill across the finish line,” Phinney continued. “Currently, when workers want to form a union at work, they are forced to go through a complex and archaic process designed to allow employers to harass and intimidate workers who stand up for their rights at work. Most recently these unfair and egregious management practices have been on full display in the anti-union campaigns at Maine Medical Center and Portland Museum of Art." As several studies have shown, more unions means less income inequality. Between 1948 and 1973, when New Deal-era laws expanded and enforced collective bargaining, hourly wages rose by more than 90%. However, anti-union laws like the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act have made it extremely difficult to form unions, causing income inequality to skyrocket. From 1973 to 2013, hourly wages rose by just over 9% while productivity increased 74%. But in recent years, unions have become very popular with the public. Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows nearly 60 million people would vote to join today if given the opportunity. A recent Gallup survey found that union approval stands at 65%, one of the highest levels in a half-century. The PRO Act is more than labor law reform, it’s civil rights legislation. “A union contract is the single best tool we have to close racial and gender wage gaps, and to ensure dignity and due process for all workers,’ said Phinney. “Expanding collective bargaining will increase protections for women, people of color, immigrants and the LGBTQ community in areas where our laws are still falling short.” “Maine union members along with our brothers and sisters in other states organized, knocked on doors and made thousands of calls last year to elect a pro-worker trifecta in the House, Senate and White House to pass the PRO Act and other pro-worker legislation,” Phinney added. “Lawmakers gave us their word that the PRO Act would be a top priority. Now it is time for action.”

Michigan AFL-CIO:

Over the last several decades, inequality has skyrocketed as nearly every amendment to the National Labor Relations Act has made it more difficult for workers to form unions, and anti-worker judges have chipped away at what's left of our rights. "We have a generational opportunity to pass real labor law reform through this Congress that will protect the right to organize," said Ron Bieber, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO. "The House already passed the PRO Act last year, but it was blocked by the anti-worker Senate. Then working people gave us a mandate for change, with a majority in both houses of Congress and the White House. "Right now our country is at a historic inflection point. Over the last four decades, productivity has soared by 74%, but wages have increased by just 9%. Working folks are hurting from the pandemic, the recession, and historic racial and gender wage gaps, while corporations and the wealthy are doing better than ever before. It's time for our country to build back better, and that starts with protecting the right to organize." The PRO Act is the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression. It will: 1. Empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize and bargain. 2. Ensure that workers can reach a first contract quickly after a union is recognized. 3. End employers' practice of retaliating against striking workers by hiring permanent replacements. 4. Hold corporations accountable by strengthening the National Labor Relations Board and allowing it to penalize employers who retaliate against working people in support of the union or collective bargaining. 5. Repeal "right to work" laws that lead to lower wages, fewer benefits and more dangerous workplaces. 6. Create pathways for workers to form unions in newer industries like Big Tech. As a candidate, President Biden pledged to sign the PRO Act into law. Lawmakers joined him in giving working people their word that the PRO Act would be a top priority. Since then, every Democrat in Michigan's Congressional delegation has signed on as a co-sponsor of the PRO Act. Now it is time for action.

Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy (UNITE HERE):

The pandemic has made it even clearer that working people in Minnesota and across the nation need the voice, equity, and security that comes with a union contract. The PRO Act will update our nation’s woefully antiquated labor laws to finally give workers the true freedom to negotiate a fair return on their work. The PRO Act would give real teeth to our labor laws by preventing employers from engaging in anti-union activity like firing or punishing workers for union activity and stalling on negotiating a first contract. It would finally repeal “right to work – the divisive and racist laws created during the Jim Crow era and passed in our neighboring states—that lead to lower wages, fewer benefits and more dangerous workplaces. Minnesota’s Labor Movement applauds Representatives Craig, McCollum, and Omar for co-sponsoring this groundbreaking and transformative legislation. The rest of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation can show they stand with working Minnesotans by signing on as PRO Act cosponsors.

Mississippi AFL-CIO President Robert Shaffer (IBB):

The Mississippi AFL-CIO stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters across America as we call for the passage of the PRO Act by Congress. In a so-called “right to work” state, we have first-hand knowledge of the power wielded by profit mongers to keep working Mississippians from realizing the success they deserve. Our state is at the bottom of most quality of life measures, and that wasn’t achieved by accident. A century of suppressing workers’ rights and catering to corporate demands has yielded low pay and restricted benefits for workers. Our people deserve better, and we welcome the opportunity to fight for them with the power of the PRO Act supporting us. We thank President Trumka for his fight for all working people and look forward to seeing the PRO Act become a reality. It is time for American workers to reclaim their rightful place as the backbone of America.”

Missouri AFL-CIO:

The PRO Act motivated us this past election cycle to mobilize for a pro-worker trifecta in the U.S. House, Senate, and White House. Working families won a mandate and we call on Congress to pass the PRO Act to increase worker power, rebuild our economy fairly and grow Missouri’s labor movement. “Workers in America favor unions and tens of millions want to join one,” stated Missouri AFL-CIO President Jake Hummel. “Research shows that nearly 60 million people would vote to join a union today if given the opportunity. The PRO Act eliminates barriers and empowers workers to organize for a strong voice on the job in a union.” The PRO Act is the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression because it will: 1. Empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize and bargain. 2. Ensure that workers can reach a first contract quickly after a union is recognized. 3. End employers’ practice of punishing striking workers by hiring permanent replacements. Speaking up for labor rights is within every worker’s rights—and workers shouldn’t lose our jobs for it. 4. Hold corporations accountable by strengthening the National Labor Relations Board and allowing it to penalize employers who retaliate against working people in support of the union or collective bargaining. 5. Repeal “right to work” laws—divisive and racist laws created during the Jim Crow era—that lead to lower wages, fewer benefits, and more dangerous workplaces. 6. Create pathways for workers to form unions, without fear, in newer industries like Big Tech. “65% of Americans approve of labor unions, one of the highest marks in a half-century,” stated Missouri AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Merri Berry. “Inequality has skyrocketed because union membership has dwindled and policymakers have failed to pass pro-worker labor laws. The PRO Act is a once in a generation labor law bill that could change the trajectory for workers in Missouri.” The PRO Act will make America’s economy work for working people. When union membership is greater, our wages are better. Between 1948 and 1973, when New Deal-era laws expanded and enforced collective bargaining, hourly wages rose by more than 90%. But over the next 40 years—from 1973 to 2013—hourly wages rose by just over 9% while productivity increased 74%. As it is, workers are not getting paid a fair share of what we produce. “The PRO Act is more than labor law reform, it’s civil rights legislation. A union contract is the single best tool we have to close racial and gender wage gaps, and to ensure dignity and due process for workers, regardless of where we were born, who we are, or what industry we work in,” stated Missouri AFL-CIO Vice President Reginald Thomas. “Expanding collective bargaining will increase protections for women, people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community in areas where our laws are still falling short. We must pass the PRO Act.” The Missouri AFL-CIO is strongly calling on Congress to make the PRO Act a priority piece of legislation and pass it to empower Missouri’s workers.

Montana AFL-CIO:

At the Montana AFL-CIO we represent over 50,000 workers who believe all working people deserve good jobs and the power to determine their wages and working conditions. Montana’s working families know it is vital that congress pass the PRO Act—the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression. Across the country nearly 60 million people say they would join a union today if they could. However, greedy corporations are trying to block workers' efforts to organize by using woefully outdated labor laws that interfere with the collective bargaining process and tell workers what they can and can’t negotiate for, undermining workers’ fundamental rights to speak for themselves. Just take the “right to work” laws being proposed in our state legislature. These laws are being pushed by an out-of-state corporate front group attempting to enrich billionaires while depressing wages and local economic prosperity. “It is time, we as workers, take back that power and we urge our members of congress to pass the PRO Act. Montana’s working families have the right to a voice on the job and the right to negotiate for wages that keep a roof over their heads,” stated Montana AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Al Ekblad. “Not only are we going to reject the so-called “Right to Work” laws in the legislature-- we’re going to be fighting for more than the status quo because Montana’s working families deserve it.” 

Nebraska State AFL-CIO:

The AFL-CIO is the conduit that unifies the labor movement across America. No matter if you are living in a right-to-work State, have a labor friendly Governor, high union density or just the opposite, we all are unified as brothers and sisters seeking fairness and equality and we want what is the very best opportunities for working people. Never before have we seen the need in this country to tip the balance and provide workers with the means to ensure that their voice is heard and have the ability to bring fairness and equality back into the workplace. It is time to get the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act passed. For far too long, this country has been rigged against union workers and those choosing to organize. Passing this legislation will provide a clear path for workers to organize without interference or intimidation from their employer. The purpose of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is to provide a way for working people to collectively bargain with their employer, so they have a say in their working conditions, but employers have abused this act and the true intent has been whittled away with lack of enforcement and penalties for employers who try to circumvent the process. The Pro Act will strengthen the National Labor Relations Act and truly provide a path forward for those seeking to organize a union. Union support among workers is high and now is the time to pass the Pro Act to truly allow those who want a better life for themselves and their family the ability to do so. We must all work together to handle the public health crisis in a way that we protect all workers, we must all work together to prevent systemic racism and we must all work together to ensure equity and equality for all Americans. Working with the National AFL-CIO and all labor organizations throughout the United States, we will persevere in our efforts to pass the PRO Act and make this nation one that works for all working people. 

New Jersey State AFL-CIO:

With the expected re-introduction in Congress of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act on Thursday, February 4–the PRO Act–America’s workers will begin their campaign to achieve the meaningful federal labor law reforms they have been seeking for decades. The PRO Act, which was blocked by the previous anti-worker Senate, will give everyone the right to organize and bargain collectively for better wages, benefits and workplace conditions through a good union contract. Once the PRO Act is passed, key provisions of the legislation will give working men and women the ability to reach a first contract after organizing, repeal so-called “right-to-work” laws that lead to lower wages, ban the hiring of permanent replacement workers to punish striking employees, and strengthen the National Labor Relations Board, which became the lapdog of big business under the previous administration. Two-thirds of Americans favor labor unions, and half of America’s workers in every sector of labor would join a union if they could. The PRO Act will give America’s working men and women a real say in their futures. We need the PRO Act. The New Jersey State AFL-CIO urges the House and Senate to pass the PRO Act quickly in a bipartisan manner. 

North Shore Labor Council (Massachusetts):

The North Shore Labor Council stands firmly with our sisters and brothers across the country in support of the PRO ACT. Working to organize new members into the labor movement over the years, we’ve seen how employers and their hired guns can use the weakness of the current law to undermine working people’s democratic rights to form a union with their co-workers. For decades, the system designed for the bosses, by the bosses, has contributed to a society where the rich and powerful wield an inordinate amount of power. To restore the vibrancy of our democracy, the working class needs more power in the workplace, the marketplace, and at the ballot box. Passing the PRO ACT is an important step in that direction.”

New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento (CWA):

The New York State AFL-CIO stands shoulder-to-shoulder with union members across the country in support of the PRO (Protecting the Right to Organize) ACT. It is the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression because it will expand collective bargaining ensuring workers can exercise our freedom to organize. Once a union is recognized, it will ensure workers reach a first contract quickly and it will hold accountable any employer who punishes striking workers or retaliates against collective bargaining. We already know that when union membership is greater, our wages, benefits and quality of life are better. Passing the PRO ACT is exactly the legislation we need to help lift working people out of the most challenging health and economic crisis of our lifetime. We call on all members of New York’s congressional delegation to support the bill and fight for its swift passage.”

North Carolina State AFL-CIO President MaryBe McMillan (IUOE):

The PRO (Protecting the Right to Organize) Act being reintroduced in Congress today is a game-changer for workers in North Carolina. After seeing the PRO Act pass the U.S. House in 2020 only to be blocked by an anti-worker Senate, working people poured our hearts and souls into electing new leaders and won a mandate for federal action in the last election. Now with President Biden and pro-worker majorities in both houses of Congress, we have a generational opportunity to make America’s economy and democracy work for working people again. The PRO Act does that by ending misleading and racist “right to work” laws and creating meaningful consequences for employers that retaliate against workers for simply exercising their right to organize. All working people should have the freedom to join together in unions and collectively negotiate for better, safer working conditions. We strongly urge every member of our congressional delegation to sponsor the PRO Act and fight for its passage.

Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga (USW):

The introduction of the PRO Act is welcome news and a very important part of the Workers First Agenda that the labor movement is pushing for in this Congress. The PRO Act is needed because our woefully outdated labor laws are no longer effective as a means for working people to have our voices heard. By empowering workers to exercise our freedom to organize and bargain, the PRO Act will hold corporations accountable by strengthening the National Labor Relations Board and allowing it to penalize employers who retaliate against working people in support of the union or collective bargaining. Public support for unions is soaring. In a recent Gallup survey, 65% of Americans have a favorable view of labor unions and another study by MIT showed that nearly 60 million Americans would join a union in their workplace if they could. Here in Ohio, we are marking the 10-year anniversary of our effort to repeal SB5. By more than a margin of two-to-one, Ohioans rejected the attack on Ohio public employees’ right to collectively bargain in 2011. A union contract is the single best tool we have to raise wages, close racial and gender wage gaps, and to ensure safety, dignity and due process for workers, regardless of where we were born, who we are or what industry we work in. We commend Senator Brown and Representatives Beatty, Kaptur and Ryan for signing on to the bill as co-sponsors. We will be working with our entire delegation to do the same.

Oregon AFL-CIO President Graham Trainor (IBEW): 

Today’s introduction of the PRO (Protecting the Right to Organize) Act in the 117th Congress is a generational opportunity and the cornerstone of the American Labor Movement’s Workers First Agenda. Passed by the House in 2020, this critical legislation has been blocked by an anti-worker Senate majority, but working people fought tooth and nail to secure a pro-worker trifecta in the House, Senate, and the White House to ensure we can pass laws like the PRO Act that help working people. Our nation’s labor laws are woefully ineffective and no longer allow for working people to be heard. Inequality has skyrocketed because union membership has dwindled and policymakers have failed, year after year, to pass laws to fix the problem. Our economy before the COVID-19 pandemic was fractured, with all the wealth resting in the hands of the few while far too many struggled to provide for their families. Since last March, it has only gotten worse, but our resolve has never been stronger. We have to make American’s economy work for working people and greater union membership is key to solving our nation’s woes. It is time to build back better, with unions. The PRO Act’s positive economic impact cannot be overstated, as tens of millions of Americans say they would join a union if given the opportunity. The majority of Americans support unions and collective bargaining, the highest mark in nearly half a century. This is about making that opportunity easier for more workers, because we know that through a union we see a fair return on our hard work and a safe way to speak up on the job. Passing the PRO Act is not just a way to make joining a union easier, it will put our country on a path toward greater equity. A union contract is the single best tool we have to close racial and gender wage gaps, and to ensure dignity and due process for workers, regardless of where we were born, who we are or what industry we work in. Oregon’s unions applaud Senators Wyden and Merkley for their continued commitment to stand with working people in reforming our nation’s labor laws, as well as Congresswoman Bonamici, Congressmen DeFazio and Blumenauer for their support of the PRO Act last year on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Unfortunately, we continue to be disappointed by Congressman Schrader’s lack of support for the PRO Act, the only Democratic member of Oregon’s House delegation to oppose the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression when it came up for a vote in 2020. We look forward to working with Oregon’s Congressional delegation to ensure the PRO Act becomes the law of the land this year. Working Americans have been demanding help and economic relief since long before the pandemic. This bill is one of the most meaningful changes Congress can make to help our nation live up to its promise of freedom and equality. 

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale (AFSCME) and Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder (USW):

Pennsylvania workers are about to see a new day for their rights on the job. The multi-billion-dollar union-busting industry will do everything it can to continue to deprive and attack workers' rights. But the power of working people will seize this moment, and their voices will be heard. We commend our Commonwealth's bi-partisan delegation of PRO Act co-sponsors for their commitment to all working people. We urge the rest of our representatives to do sign on and support this step toward economic justice," remarked President Rick Bloomingdale. "So-called 'right to work' laws are the last actual vestige of Jim Crow legislation. Designed by an architect of hatred, these laws aimed to keep Black workers out of unions in the South. It worked so well in depriving all working people of their rights on the job that corporations and anti-union interests exported this legislation to every state they could to destroy workers' rights across the Country. The PRO Act will finally remove this discriminatory attack on economic rights in America. This is an historic act in the fight to dismantle systemic discrimination and racism," stated Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder.

Rhode Island AFL-CIO President George Nee (OPEIU) and Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Crowley (NEA):

The Rhode Island AFL-CIO stands firmly with our sisters and brothers across the country in support of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Working to organize new members into the labor movement over the years, we’ve seen how employers and their hired guns can use the weakness of the current law to undermine working people’s democratic rights to form a union with their co-workers. For decades, the system designed for the bosses, by the bosses, has contributed to a society where the rich and powerful wield an inordinate amount of power. To restore the vibrancy of our democracy, the working class needs more power in the workplace, the marketplace, and at the ballot box. Passing the PRO ACT is an important step in that direction.

Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council President Billy Dycus (USW) and Secretary-Treasurer A.J. Starling (ATU): 

Today’s introduction of the PRO (Protecting the Right to Organize) Act is a pivotal moment for working families across the country and right here in Tennessee. For too long, our antiquated labor laws have made it difficult to effectively make our voices heard and secure a seat at the table. Passing the PRO Act gives us an opportunity to change the conversation and ensure that the components of a Workers’ First Agenda are sufficiently implemented, ushering in the bold change that we deserve. In the “Right to Work” state of Tennessee, we’ve seen the negative effects of what happens when the power and influence of big business goes unchecked. From dismally-low wages that have failed to rise with the cost of living for generations, to a higher number of workers dying on the job, those who have made it their mission to keep us down must be held accountable for their actions. The PRO Act is a good first step in making sure that happens. Working families joined together and spoke up in record numbers this past November. Now, we must do the same again to ensure that this historic legislation passes both chambers of Congress, is signed by President Biden, and ultimately becomes law. By increasing worker power, we can rebuild our economy fairly and ensure that it works for all working families. We are prepared to join together in solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the country so that we begin our journey of building back better.

Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy (TSEU/CWA) and Secretary-Treasurer Montserrat Garibay (AFT):

The Texas economy benefits when working people have a fair shot at improving their lives by speaking up together on the job. By taking out decades of one-sided barriers to forming unions, the PRO Act would raise standards for all Texas working families. As the pandemic shines new light on how central workplace safety, job security and decent benefits are to working families, the popularity of labor unions has reached a generational high. But there is a gap between approval of unions (nearly two-thirds in the Gallup poll) and union membership (less than 11% nationally and less than 6% in Texas). A big part of that gap stems from major flaws in federal law that have allowed union busters to thrive. The PRO Act would restore meaning to our national goal, declared in federal law, of encouraging collective bargaining. Proposed reforms in the bill include elimination of so-called ‘right to work’ laws. The laws, which originated in Texas and stand as a relic to Jim Crow, go hand in hand with poverty wages, absence of key benefits, on-the-job discrimination, and lax worker safety. Americans voted for change on Nov. 3. It is time to give the legitimate desire of working people to join unions a fair shot. We call on Congress to pass the PRO Act so President Biden can sign it into law.

Virginia AFL-CIO:

Virginia AFL-CIO recognizes that for too long now workers have been denied the basic right to join together and now is the right time to do the right thing by passing the PRO Act because it helps us build an economy that works for all working families. America’s democracy, economy, and livelihood continues to be built on the backs of the working people. We cannot stand by and continue to allow the voices of workers to be muted while their work is capitalized upon. Simply put–the right to organize isn’t something that should be negotiated. Virginia AFL-CIO believes in restoring our middle class and to do it, we must strengthen the collective power of workers to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions–passing the PRO Act is the step needed to secure guaranteed fairness on the job through the collective power of workers.

Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO:

Last year, Washington’s Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell co-sponsored the PRO Act, and Reps. Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith and then-Rep. Denny Heck all co-sponsored and voted for it. This year, the WSLC is urging each of them—and new Rep. Marilyn Strickland—to continue supporting the PRO Act. The WSLC will also be asking Republican Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers to reconsider their past opposition. The PRO Act is comprehensive labor legislation that would strengthen workers’ right to organize a union and bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020, but was blocked by an anti-labor majority in the Senate. Last fall, this bill motivated union members across the nation to mobilize for a pro-worker trifecta in the U.S. House, Senate and White House. Working people won a mandate and now they want passage of the PRO Act. “Our labor laws are woefully outdated and no longer empower working people to have their voices heard,” said WSLC President Larry Brown. “The National Labor Relations Act was passed in 1935, but it has been chipped away ever since. Now, forming a union is unacceptably difficult, and for some, it’s impossible. Studies have shown that 60 million Americans would join a union today if they could. The PRO Act is their chance to regain their freedom to choose a union. It’s time to pass the PRO Act and build back better with unions!” “After decades of wealthy corporations undermining our labor laws and four years of the Trump Administration’s attacks on workers’ rights, the PRO Act will restore workers’ ability to join together to demand their fair share of the economic growth they drive,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “This legislation is critical to supporting workers in Washington state and across the country during this pandemic and to building back an economy that works for everyone—not just those at the very top. It’s time we pass the PRO Act and protect workers’ right to stand together and fight for better pay, quality health care, a safer workplace, and a secure retirement.” The most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression, the PRO Act will: 1. Empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize and bargain. 2. Ensure that workers can reach a first contract quickly after a union is recognized. 3. End employers’ practice of punishing striking workers by hiring permanent replacements. Speaking up for labor rights is within every worker’s rights—and workers shouldn’t lose our jobs for it. 4. Hold corporations accountable by strengthening the National Labor Relations Board and allowing it to penalize employers who retaliate against working people in support of the union or collective bargaining. 5. Repeal “right to work” laws—divisive and racist laws created during the Jim Crow era—that lead to lower wages, fewer benefits and more dangerous workplaces. 6. Create pathways for workers to form unions, without fear, in newer industries like Big Tech. “Inequality has skyrocketed because union membership has dwindled and policymakers have failed to pass pro-worker labor laws,” Brown said. ”The PRO Act is more than labor law reform, it’s civil rights legislation. A union contract is the single best tool we have to close racial and gender wage gaps, and to ensure dignity and due process for workers, regardless of where we were born, who we are or what industry we work in.”

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Stephanie Bloomingdale (AFT):

America can build back better with unions by ensuring the passage of the PRO Act. Our woefully outdated labor laws no longer serve as an effective means for working people to have our voices heard and our rights realized. As a result, income inequality has skyrocketed and too many workers lost jobs or faced unsafe working conditions during the pandemic. Workers are embracing collective action with a dedication not seen in generations. Research tells us that nearly half of all nonunion workers would join a union if given the chance. Yet the system is stacked against a worker ever signing a first union contract. Companies spend millions to break or skirt labor law and face such low consequences that illegal anti-union tactics are commonplace. A union contract is the single best tool we have to close racial and gender wage gaps, raise wages to build a strong middle class, and ensure dignity and due process for workers, regardless of where we were born, who we are or what industry we work in. The passage of the PRO Act would help bring the American Dream within reach for millions of workers and spur economic growth for all. The PRO Act is the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression. We thank Senator Tammy Baldwin, Representative Gwen Moore, Representative Mark Pocan, and Representative Ron Kind for co-sponsoring the PRO Act and call on the entire Wisconsin congressional delegation to support this vital legislation. It’s time for bold action for America’s working people. It’s time for the PRO Act.

Wyoming State AFL-CIO: 

The Wyoming AFL-CIO representing working families joins in the national call for Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act being introduced today. Across Wyoming in 2020, American heroes in grocery stores, the U.S. Postal Service, hospitals and more became known as “essential workers,” and many of them had to risk their lives by going to work in unsafe conditions. Later we came to find out, in 2020, Wyoming once again led the nation in on-the-job deaths per capita. As the coronavirus crisis continues into 2021 and deadly workplace risks remain, there has never been a more important time to give workers more voice and power. “For Wyoming’s workers coming home from work is a roll of dice. The PRO Act is the first step in protecting families from the heartache of missing someone around the dinner table because they didn’t have a voice on the job. We urge every Wyoming congress member to support the PRO Act, stand with workers, and keep returning home. The PRO Act would hold employers accountable and institute civil penalties for violations of the law, our state desperately needs this legislation,” stated Wyoming AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Tammy Johnson.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 02/10/2021 - 11:18

Tags: PRO Act

Black History Month Profiles: Sheila E.

Wed, 2021-02-10 09:24
Black History Month Profiles: Sheila E.

This year, for Black History Month, we're taking a look at a group of leaders who are currently active making Black history across the labor movement. Check back daily for a new profile and meet some of the people working to improve not only the conditions for working people in our community, but also across the country. Today's profile is Sheila E.

One of life’s constants for Sheila E. comes down to a simple phrase: follow the beat. And her impeccable inner rhythm is the pulse behind a trailblazing career that still knows no bounds. She is a world-class drummer and percussionist whose credits read like chapters in a music history book: Ringo Starr. Marvin Gaye, Prince, Beyoncé, Herbie Hancock, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan and George Duke. Sheila is also a Grammy and Emmy Award-nominated singer/songwriter behind the seminal hits “The Glamorous Life” and “A Love Bizarre.” She is a fearless multi-instrumentalist equally proficient on guitar and bass. Actress. Mentor. Philanthropist.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 02/10/2021 - 08:24

Philip J. Jennings: My Words in Tribute to John Sweeney

Tue, 2021-02-09 13:13
Philip J. Jennings: My Words in Tribute to John Sweeney

How sad we are to receive the news that our union brother, John Sweeney, has been taken from us. I first met John over 30 years ago. He had an immense impact on life and on a generation of emerging leaders who mourn together at this sad loss. I send my sad condolences to Maureen, Tricia and John Junior.

He was elected president of SEIU in 1980, having spent 20 years as first a contract negotiator and then president of the legendary SEIU 32b local in New York. The local was a union power in New York and counted over 40,000 janitor members. A militant local that had negotiated a collective agreement that provided janitors with a decent life and dignity on the job.

I had joined the FIET secretariat in 1980 and in those years, as workplaces evolved and white-collar unions grew their base into the wider services sector, new horizons for union activity opened.

Relationships were established with John and his SEIU team and those new organizing horizons opened for FIET. We committed to the idea that our global union work should embrace janitors, cleaners and security guards. It was John and his lively and ambitious team that became a key force for FIET to develop and grow the sector. A FIET World Congress resolution in 1987 and the FIET Property Services sector were founded in 1988. He had set the wheels in motion to grow at home and grow union strength abroad.

John, a New Yorker, made his home in Bethesda, Maryland. In the Bible, Bethesda possessed a pool where miracles of healing occurred.

Under John's leadership, the membership of SEIU doubled. It was considered a union miracle at a time of slipping union membership.

This organizing success was no miracle. His cure was to invest in organizing, increase the financial resources available, to trust and build a strategy and compose a brilliant, creative and committed team to deliver on the promise. A legacy that produced a further doubling of SEIU's membership the following decade with Andy Stern at the helm.

John had the appearance of an old-school labor man from a bygone era but how those appearances deceived. He was soft spoken, until he made one of his speeches and then no microphones were required, he employed words that conveyed confidence and hope. He challenged and encouraged you to see the possibilities of international union work in a new light.

In the words of Seamus Heaney, "Believe that further shore is reachable from here."

From a low membership base, the FIET Property Services sector rapidly grew, and today at UNI Global Union, the sector has well over 1 million members and a presence in each continent. They have become a global union power.

John insisted that organizing had to be front and center of our international work. With the increasing global reach of multinational companies, he wanted those organizing campaigns to go global and they did. Today Uni Global Union has several global agreements with the major property services companies.

That seemed a long way off when we began our work in property services. He encouraged us to take international solidarity campaigns beyond supportive messages to coordinated action across borders. John recognized the importance of working with and developing confidence with unions that had long-standing relations in those companies where the head office was based.

To bridge mutual understanding, he encouraged international union delegations to visit with American workers employed in the same multinational. It was always an eye-opener as another hitherto hidden side to corporate behavior was revealed. From anti-union busting campaigns, victimization and intimidation of employees, to third-class wages and unsafe conditions. He felt that if those delegations could walk in the shoes of his members, if even for a day, those human exchanges would build comprehension, sympathy and support.

John and his team introduced us to another style of campaigning, in the words of the late congressman and civil rights legend John Lewis to make 'good trouble.' A whole new playbook emerged from street theater, encounters with CEOs on golf courses and sometimes at church, to shareholder leverage campaigns. This included deep financial analysis, looking at who owned the properties, who invested in them and, of course, who the tenants were. During financial roadshows, CEOs were often surprised to field questions about why they treated their janitors, cleaners and security guards, many of whom immigrants were, so badly.

The aim was to make these invisible workers—who usually toiled through the night—more visible.

Always eager to take the concerns of these invisible workers to the public street demonstrations became a regular occurrence. I recall the SEIU Justice for Janitors campaign in Century City, Los Angeles, on June 15, 1990, when the SEIU called a demonstration to highlight the plight of the janitors. The march was met with a violent reaction from the notorious Los Angeles police. It became worldwide news.

The new economic reality was present: changing ownership structures, soulless portfolio entries in financial institutions' balance sheets, demanding above market rates of return, slipping union contract coverage, new and international service providers. In this case, the Danish ISS was resisting the local organizing drive. The celebrated film "Bread and Roses" is based on the plight of these mainly immigrant workers. Today, UNI Global Union celebrates Justice for Janitors Day on June 15 each year. I know John was thrilled to know the day had gone global. We won local recognition and negotiated a global agreement with ISS.

On the opening day of the 1991 FIET congress in San Francisco, John and American union leaders led the 2000 delegates in a demonstration against the unfair labor practices of Apple computer against its own janitors. The march turned into an act of solidarity with the Russian people, as a coup occurred there during that weekend.

John dared us to act, pushed us beyond the customs of the day and it transformed organizations and lives and it was always conducted with a personal modesty and a warm human touch.

He wanted to know you and about you. He would pull my leg about my Welsh roots and say "How could Wales inflict me on the world?" I would say, "You live in Bethesda, that’s also a Welsh town." I idly said to John, "You should visit Wales. We can do it in a day." He accepted. My bluff was not to be called. He and Maureen took the dawn train from London to Cardiff. With my mother in tow and much talk of the Oscar winning movie "How Green was my Valley," a tale of life in a Welsh mining village, off we went to the valleys of the Welsh Rhondda. They were immersed in the miners' struggles, the mining towns, learned the history of the red flag at Cyfartha Castle, saw the site of the Aberfan tragedy and at lunch consumed the very Welsh lava bread (a Welsh delicacy made from seaweed). Our day concluding with an interview next to the Cardiff city center statue of Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the National Health Service born in those same Welsh mining valleys. They were both in London in time for dinner. He always asked how my mother and family was.

He took his ideas to the AFL-CIO and, as president, transformed it into an important political force. He built new alliances, he championed union organizing, migrant workers, the invisible workers, equality, the fight against racism and discrimination and for unions to be inclusive.

He brought a new focus and intensity to international trade union work and stressed the need for new economic alternatives to the neoliberal thinking of the day. He sought a more robust International Labor Organization, wanting them to take a bigger stick to breaches of freedom of association. He argued for a stronger social dimension to trade deals and sought for the World Trade Organization demonstrations in Seattle to be a wakeup call to policymakers. He worked in close cooperation with the global union movement to tackle the 2008 financial crisis including exchanges with President Barack Obama.

In 2007, he hosted a major global union organizing event in Washington, D.C., with 200 people present. Ideas were shared about union growth, global campaigning and the struggle against anti-union laws. The ideas exchanged had a strong impact on me and those reflections resulted in a new strategic direction for Uni Global Union and the 'Breaking Through' plan as our organizing plan was and continues to be known. He took us to the Capitol to lobby political leaders for labor law reform and for the Employee Free Choice Act. We all hope that the Joe Biden labor reform promises will be delivered and when they are, we will remember John.

John had an immense impact on my life. He gave you confidence to keep improving and striving and never to forget why you were doing this work, whether it was in the streets with workers or at the G20 and Davos corridors of power, to "believe that further shore is reachable from here."

Philip J. Jennings served as general secretary of UNI Global Union from 2000-2018 and general secretary of the International Federation of Commercial, Clerical, Professional and Technical Employees (FIET) from 1989-1999.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 02/09/2021 - 12:13

Black History Month Profiles: John Clayton

Tue, 2021-02-09 10:27
Black History Month Profiles: John Clayton

This year, for Black History Month, we're taking a look at a group of leaders who are currently active making Black history across the labor movement. Check back daily for a new profile and meet some of the people working to improve not only the conditions for working people in our community, but also across the country. Today's profile is John Clayton.

John Clayton is a natural born multitasker. The multiple roles in which he excels—composer, arranger, conductor, producer, educator, mentor and bassist extraordinaire—garner him a number of challenging assignments and commissions. His accomplishments include a Grammy Award and eight additional nominations. He has worked with artists, including Diana Krall, Paul McCartney, Regina Carter, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gladys Knight and Queen Latifah. He is a co-founder of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and the Clayton Brothers Quintet.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 02/09/2021 - 09:27

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Houston AFM Members Perform Concerts for COVID Patients

Tue, 2021-02-09 09:30
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Houston AFM Members Perform Concerts for COVID Patients

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

Last April, the Houston Methodist Center for Performing Arts Medicine launched Musicare, a pilot program with the Houston Professional Musicians' Association, an affiliate of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). Since then, AFM members have performed more than 400 concerts for ICU patients at Houston Methodist. In the early days of the program, the shows were performed for the hospital surgical ward, but in recent times the shows have been overwhelmingly for COVID-19 patients. And the program is seeing positive results. Houston Symphony cellist Brinton Smith spoke about the experience: “Sometimes you think people aren’t really all there, and then you see that they’re crying, or you get some kind of emotional response. The people who really love music have these powerful responses that you never forget.”

Read more about the program.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 02/09/2021 - 08:30

Tags: Community Service, COVID-19

Disregard for Health and Safety: The Working People Weekly List

Mon, 2021-02-08 13:57
Disregard for Health and Safety: 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 the latest edition of the Working People Weekly List.

 

Amazon Has ‘Disregard for Health and Safety of Its Own Employees:’ RWDSU President: "Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union president Stuart Appelbaum discuss Amazon’s upcoming vote to unionize workers in Alabama. First of all, I'd say that a majority of the workers at the plant have already signed cards saying that they want to union at that facility. I know that there are a lot of complaints about the dehumanization and the mistreatment of workers at the Amazon facility. People get their assignments from robots. They're fired by text message. And they feel that the robots are treated better than the human beings who work there. There are a lot of concerns about health and safety. Even before the pandemic, the pace at the fulfillment center was unsustainable."

Ron Bieber: Congress and Biden Should Act on an Agenda for Working People: "Now we have a unique opportunity to continue to improve the lives of working folks with a workers first agenda supported by the AFL-CIO, the country’s federation of national and international labor unions that represent millions of working men and women. First is empowering workers. Stronger unions are essential to helping our country address and move forward out of each of the crises facing us right now, so we are hopeful that the Biden administration works with Congress to enact the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act."

Column: Biden Sweeps Trump’s Rabidly Anti-Union Appointees Out of a Key Federal Labor Agency: "Continuing his considerable effort to strip the government of all vestiges of Trumpism, President Biden on Tuesday swept a clutch of union-busting officials out of a little-known but all-important federal labor relations agency. The agency is the Federal Service Impasses Panel, which rules on disputes over government union contracts when an agency and its union can’t reach agreement."

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Shuler Talks Tech and Jobs: "'We are going to insert ourselves at every table,' Shuler said. 'If we don’t get workers to the table, there’s going to be more of what Trump tapped into,' she said, in reference to angry voters who feel left behind by globalization. 'Training works better when you talk to workers. They can tell you what will and won’t work when automating. We’re not always hostile—we can be collaborators and make it go well.'"

John J. Sweeney, 1934-2021: "John Sweeney, who led an era of transformative change in America’s labor movement, passed away Feb. 1 at the age of 86. Sweeney was one of four children born to Irish immigrants in a working-class Bronx neighborhood shortly after the Great Depression."

Amazon’s Anti-Union Blitz Stalks Alabama Warehouse Workers Everywhere, Even the Bathroom: "Amazon is the great white whale, a target that labor groups have longed for years to organize, said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, which is providing personnel and strategic guidance to aid the RWDSU. 'We’ll give them whatever they need to help them win,' Trumka said. 'It’s an important, important drive.'”

Pandemic Wears on Essential Workers: ‘Everybody Forgets That You’re Still on the Front Line’: "In March, when Americans were just starting to adjust to a locked-down world and no one could have predicted how long the pandemic would last, The Wall Street Journal interviewed essential workers, from a subway operator to a home-health aide. The Journal recently talked to the same group again to see how they have fared in a crisis that has so far led to more than 440,000 U.S. deaths and a transformation of the U.S. economy that is painful for many. The workers expressed a mix of frustration, exhaustion and determination. Most still see the importance of what they do, and some have seized on the demand for services like home deliveries to boost their incomes. Others have stopped working, partly out of fear of getting infected. Others have no choice but to keep going and feel lucky they still have jobs."

Biden Moves Quickly to Show Union Workers that Democrats Care: "Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, are more optimistic about the prospects for organized labor than they’ve been in many years. 'I know what he is. Joe Biden’s a blue-collar guy,' said Trumka, who like Biden is from a working-class area in Pennsylvania and has known the president for 40 years. 'He understands working people, the importance of a paycheck, importance of health and safety on the job, importance of having a union.… He understands all of that. It’s not something he picked up in the polls. It’s what he believes.'”

Amazon’s Cynical, Anti-Union Attack on Mail Voting: "A battle over voting by mail is again being waged in an electoral contest. But now it’s Amazon that opposes a mail-ballot election in order to thwart a unionization effort at an Alabama fulfillment center. In November, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, rejected Donald Trump’s falsehoods about voter fraud, writing on Instagram just after the election, 'By voting in record numbers, the American people proved again that our democracy is strong.' Now, however, Amazon’s opposition to mail balloting threatens to undermine workplace democracy. In the era of Covid-19, it also endangers public health."

Aviation Unions Are Asking Congress for $15 Billion to Extend Furlough Protections: "A coalition of aviation unions has asked congress for a $15 billion extension for a furlough protection program, warning a lack of funding would lead to layoffs. The funding would extend the current Payroll Support Program through September 30. Otherwise, it would expire on March 31. 'Without these actions, wide-scale layoffs in the industry will begin as early as March 31st,' the unions wrote in a letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with others."

A New Day for Labor in the South?: "'The whole South has right-to-work laws, this is where they originated,' MaryBe McMillan, president of the North Carolina AFL-CIO, told Facing South. 'It would be a completely different environment here in North Carolina to be able to collect fair share fees from workers who are already represented by a union, so that it's not just union members who are paying but everybody's that's reaping the benefits of a union contract who can put in some money towards the administration and implementation of a contract and union representation.' McMillan is also encouraged by Biden's support for reforms that would allow public employees to collectively bargain, something prohibited in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, and the PRO Act's heightened penalties and enforcement measures against employers who threaten and even fire workers who attempt to unionize. 'It's really important that companies face stiff penalties when they break the law and violate workers' rights,' said McMillan. 'That's especially important here in the South, where we see a real hostile, union-busting climate.'"

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 02/08/2021 - 12:57

Black History Month Profiles: LaTanya Cline

Mon, 2021-02-08 09:37
Black History Month Profiles: LaTanya Cline

This year, for Black History Month, we're taking a look at a group of leaders who are currently active making Black history across the labor movement. Check back daily for a new profile and meet some of the people working to improve not only the conditions for working people in their community, but also across the country. Today's profile is LaTanya Cline.

LaTanya Cline is a member of United Domestic Workers of America (AFSCME Local 3930). Cline is a home care provider to many individuals, including her husband, a military veteran. She is also one of the hardest-working union organizers you'll ever meet. Whether she's dancing and welcoming people to food distributions, door-knocking to organize home care providers or talking to voters, Cline shows up time and time again for working families and her community.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 02/08/2021 - 08:37

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Alabama AFL-CIO: In the Wake of Disaster, Unions Step Up and Make the Difference

Mon, 2021-02-08 08:55
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Alabama AFL-CIO: In the Wake of Disaster, Unions Step Up and Make the Difference

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

On Monday, Jan. 25, a devastating tornado touched down in Fultondale, Alabama. Immediately, the state federation, along with allied labor organizations, jumped in to help. Unfortunately, the homes of two union siblings were damaged beyond repair. In response to the tragedy, a list of approximately 400 union volunteers who are able and willing to help clean up and rebuild has been sourced. Last weekend, union members brought equipment to help in the cleanup efforts. The disaster occurred not too far from the site of one of the most important union campaigns in the nation, the organization of the Amazon workers at the Bessemer plant. In a recent column for the Alabama Political Reporter, Alabama AFL-CIO President Bren Riley (USW) touched on both:

“We confidently believe that Fultondale will fully recover from this natural disaster. And we also have full faith in Bessemer’s courageous Amazon workers as they begin their union vote next week. Not everyone is or knows a union member, but if you do, you know the importance of our fight. That’s why when workers need our help, time and time again, we show up. And we’re not going anywhere.”

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 02/08/2021 - 07:55

Tags: Community Service, COVID-19