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New Rule on Investment Advice Leaves Working People Vulnerable

Thu, 2018-04-19 11:59
New Rule on Investment Advice Leaves Working People Vulnerable

Workers depend on investments in the financial markets to finance our retirements and grow our other long-term savings. That means we need sound investment advice, provided by experts who are looking out for our best interests. While it seems obvious that the people whom we rely on to provide this advice should be required to act in our best interest and not line their own pockets, that is not always the case under current rules. Research shows that, as a result, many working people lose more than one-fourth of their potential retirement paychecks to corrupt financial advice.

Investor advocates have been fighting for decades to close this egregious loophole. On Wednesday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission proposed a rule called Regulation Best Interest. And while any movement in this area could be viewed as a positive sign, the proposal as is appears to be inadequate.

The devil is in the details, which will take some time to fully understand. The standard of conduct required of brokers appears to fall short of a clear and unambiguous requirement that brokers recommend the best available investment options.

Democratic SEC Commissioner Kara Stein said:

Does this proposal require financial professionals to put their customers’ interests first, and fully and fairly disclose any conflicting interests? No. Does this proposal require all financial professionals who make investment recommendations related to retail customers to do so as fiduciaries? No. Does this proposal require financial professionals to provide retail customers with the best available options? No. 

Could we have proposed a best-interest standard? Yes, we could have proposed such a standard. Unfortunately, we did not.

Commissioner Robert J. Jackson Jr., also a Democratic SEC commissioner, said:

The standard set forth in Regulation Best Interest is far too ambiguous about a question on which there should be no confusion: the duty that investors are owed by those who are entrusted with ordinary families’ economic futures. Americans deserve a clear best-interest rule that places the client’s needs ahead of the broker’s. Period.

The commissioners’ statements say it all. The SEC should have proposed a rule that would stop people who provide investment advice from skimming our savings. The proposal does not do that.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 04/19/2018 - 11:59

Ten Years Later: Worker Wins

Wed, 2018-04-18 13:38
Ten Years Later: Worker Wins OPEIU Local 459

Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with a victory 10 years in the making and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life.

OPEIU Workers Win Historic 10-Year Fight at American Red Cross: After a decade-long battle, workig people at American Red Cross in Michigan have won a new contract. They also came to resolution of an unfair labor practice charge that will repay workers more than $1.6 million in lost benefits.

A Growing Wave of Campaigns Are Organizing: In advance of the 2018 midterm elections, nine Democratic campaigns have come together in union. Additionally, Revolution Messaging, a digital communications firm, also has unionized. The newly organized campaign workers are represented by The Campaign Workers Guild, which is assisting in negotiations with dozens of other campaigns. The nine campaigns that have organized so far are: for the U.S. House of Representatives—Randy Bryce (Wis.), Brian Flynn (N.Y.), Dan Haberman (Mich.), Jess King (Pa.), Marie Newman (Ill.), Andy Thorburn (Calif.); attorney general—Renato Mariotti (Ill.); governor—Erin Murphy (Minn.); and County Council—Chris Wilhelm (Montgomery County, Md.).

Restaurant Workers Win Protection for Their Tips: Restaurant workers across the country won big with legislation that codifies protections for tipped workers against employers taking any portion of their tips. "Today represents a historic victory for restaurant workers. The National Restaurant Association wanted to steal workers’ tips, but the workers said no—and they won. The fact that hundreds of thousands of workers stood up and said no to employers taking their tips, and that congressional leadership listened and acted, is a testament to the power of workers standing up together," said Saru Jayaraman, president of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.

California Nurses Want New Safety Rules Made National: The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) pushed for and got new safety regulations, as the rate of nonfatal violence against nurses is three times higher than against other industries. Now the nurses are pushing for the same rules to be established nationally. "What works for health care facilities should be extended to all workplaces. Our patients and their families are then also at risk because violence impacts everyone in the vicinity. We know that the frequency and severity of these violent attacks can be drastically reduced through workplace violence prevention plans that are specific to the needs of each facility and unit and are created with the expertise and input of nurses and other workers," said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo.

Onion Staff Request Formal Recognition of Union: The overwhelming majority of staff at satirical website The Onion have signed cards expressing their desire to be represented by the Writers Guild of America, East, (WGAE) and asked management to voluntarily recognize the union. The unit would represent all of the creative staff at The Onion and related websites.

Aviation Workers at FAA Join PASS: Working people at the Federal Aviation Administration's Eastern, Central and Western Service Centers voted by an overwhelming majority of 89% to be represented by the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS). "This is a big win for PASS, of course," said PASS National President Mike Perrone, "but more importantly, it’s a big win for these dedicated federal employees. They will soon be able to enjoy the workplace benefits of a collective bargaining agreement."

Facebook Cafeteria Workers Win Major Improvements: Food service workers at Facebook's offices in Menlo Park, California, ratified their first union contract. "We’re glad to have negotiated this first contract; it’s a big step forward for cafeteria workers in Silicon Valley. We still have work to do, and we’re not going to stop until all the food service jobs have the job standards and security that people need to live a decent life," said Enrique Fernandez of UNITE HERE Local 19.

New Republic Employees Continue Trend of Editorial Organizing: Editorial staff at The New Republic, which has been published for more than 100 years, have joined The NewsGuild of New York, joining a growing trend of editorial organizing, which includes publications like the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and Mic.com. "We all work for TNR because we love it here, but all workers need the protection of a union. We believe that unionizing is the best way to strengthen our workplace, not just for ourselves but for future generations of journalists. By organizing, we're simply affirming our commitment to The New Republic's progressive values. We're also affirming our commitment to each other," said Sarah Jones, staff writer.

California Virtual Educators Agree to First Union Contract: Teachers who work for California Virtual Academies, one of the largest online public charter schools, reached an agreement on their first union contract. "Organizing teachers in a workplace—where we don’t see our peers and where the bargaining unit stretches across a state as large as California—isn’t easy, and it also isn’t easy establishing a precedent-setting agreement. We are so proud of the hard work and commitment our teachers made in ensuring that our core values on work status, caseloads and workload were recognized....Our schools here in California and other online schools have had very little input from the teachers on the front line. This agreement will change that and allow those who work most closely with students a greater say in shaping the curriculum and school policies."

NLRB Regional Director Certifies Green Valley Ranch Employees' Election to Join Culinary Workers: Despite a history of telling employees that it would respect the results of their union election, Station Casinos challenged the election where a super majority of 78% of Green Valley Ranch's working people voted in favor of the union. The NLRB regional director rejected the challenge and certified the election, finding no objectionable conduct by union organizers.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/18/2018 - 13:38

Ending a Rigged System: In the States Roundup

Wed, 2018-04-18 12:51
Ending a Rigged System: In the States Roundup

It's time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states. Click on any of the links to follow the state federations and central labor councils on Twitter.

Alaska AFL-CIO:

#TaxDayProtest pic.twitter.com/bDl4juYQLR

— Alaska AFL-CIO (@AKAFLCIO) April 17, 2018

Arkansas AFL-CIO:

Tough weather did not stop AFSCME Local 965! #1u #afscme #livingwage https://t.co/ZyIiiWGKRs

— Arkansas AFL-CIO (@ArkansasAFLCIO) April 9, 2018

California Labor Federation:

⚡️Women standing strong together to end a rigged system⚡️ "Uber whistleblower Susan Fowler backs California legislation to end forced arbitration" Must read from @Cookie and @jonrussell on #AB3080

JetBlue In-Flight Crew Members Overwhelmingly Vote to Join TWU

Wed, 2018-04-18 10:14
JetBlue In-Flight Crew Members Overwhelmingly Vote to Join TWU TWU

In-flight crew members at JetBlue overwhelmingly voted to join the Transport Workers (TWU). With more than 86% of eligible employees participating in the vote, more than two-thirds voted in favor of joining TWU.

TWU President John Samuelsen said:

This historic victory is yet another example of the tide turning in America as workers continue to lock arms and fight back to defend their livelihoods. The TWU intends to immediately commence contract bargaining with JetBlue. It is our sincerest wish that the company comes to the table and bargains a fair and just contract with the workers they employ....If JetBlue refuses to bargain in good faith, this union is prepared to engage in a fightback campaign that will continue until a contract is secured and the in-flight crew members are protected.

JetBlue said it respects the outcome of the election. Once the National Mediation Board authorizes TWU as the representative for the in-flight crew members, contract negotiations will begin.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka applauded the victory:

Powerful, congrats! #1u https://t.co/pKWdDrpny5

— Richard L. Trumka (@RichardTrumka) April 17, 2018

New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said:

On behalf of the 2.5 million members of the New York State AFL-CIO, I congratulate the Transport Workers Union and their president, John Samuelsen, on today’s overwhelming vote to unionize JetBlue flight attendants. We are a stronger movement today as we continue to fight back against those who seek to diminish organized labor. Working people understand that by standing shoulder to shoulder and speaking with one voice, we raise the standard of living and quality of life for all working men and women.

Larry I. Willis, president of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, said:

At a time when our economy favors the rich and powerful, today’s victory by JetBlue’s in-flight crew members to join the Transport Workers Union demonstrates the power working people have when they come together. JetBlue’s 5,000 in-flight crew members want nothing more than a share in the profits they make possible, a say in workplace policies and procedures, and a seat at the table. Having a powerful union voice evens the playing field and ensures these hardworking, dedicated employees receive the dignity and respect they deserve. I congratulate JetBlue’s in-flight crew members on their hard-earned victory and welcome them to the transportation labor family.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/18/2018 - 10:14

12 Things We've Learned About the GOP Tax Bill

Mon, 2018-04-16 10:26
12 Things We've Learned About the GOP Tax Bill

President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans rushed to pass the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017, leaving very little time for public scrutiny or debate. Here are a few things we have learned since the GOP tax bill passed.

1. It Will Encourage Outsourcing: An April 2018 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office confirms that two "provisions [of the GOP tax bill] may increase corporations’ incentive to locate tangible assets abroad."

2. It Has Not Boosted Corporate Investment: The rate of investment growth has stayed pretty much the same as before the GOP tax bill passed.

3. Few Workers Are Benefiting: Only 4.3% of workers are getting a one-time bonus or wage increase this year, according to Americans for Tax Fairness.

4. Corporations Are Keeping the Windfall: Americans for Tax Fairness calculates that corporations are receiving nine times as much in tax cuts as they are giving to workers in one-time bonuses and wage increases.

5. Corporations Are Using the Windfall to Buy Back Stocks: Corporations are spending 37 times as much on stock buybacks, which overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy, as on one-time bonuses and wage increases for workers, according to Americans for Tax Fairness.

6. Corporations Are Laying Off Workers: Americans for Tax Fairness calculates that 183 private-sector businesses have announced 94,296 layoffs since Congress passed the tax bill.

7. It Costs More Than We Thought: The GOP tax bill will eventually cost $1.9 trillion by 2028, according to an April 2018 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. And we know some Republicans will call for cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to pay for it.

8. We’ve Fallen Behind When It Comes to Corporate Tax Revenue: Thanks to the GOP tax bill, corporate tax revenue (as a share of the economy) will be lower in the United States than in any other developed country, according to an April 2018 report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

9. Extending the Individual Tax Cuts Would Benefit the Wealthy: The GOP tax bill’s temporary tax cuts for individuals expires by 2025, and some Republicans are now proposing to extend them.  An April 2018 report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows that 61% of the benefit from these extending individual tax cuts would go to the richest one-fifth of taxpayers.

10. It Is Shoddy Work: In March 2018, a leading tax expert concluded that the GOP tax bill’s new rules for pass-through businesses "achieved a rare and unenviable trifecta, by making the tax system less efficient, less fair and more complicated. It lacked any coherent (or even clearly articulated) underlying principle, was shoddily executed and ought to be promptly repealed."

11. It Is Still Unpopular: The GOP tax bill polls poorly, with a clear majority disapproving.

12. The Outsourcing Incentives Can Be Fixed: In February 2018, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) introduced the No Tax Breaks for Outsourcing Act, which would eliminate the GOP tax bill’s incentives for outsourcing by equalizing tax rates on domestic profits and foreign profits.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/16/2018 - 10:26

Make It in the USA: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 2018-04-13 13:20
Make It in the USA: The Working People Weekly List BuildBuyUSA

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

There's No Reason Not to Enter the BuildBuyUSA Video Contest: "Did you know that BuildBuyUSA is sponsoring a 'Make It in the USA' video contest? The competition offers four chances for you to win $5,000 by creating a short video about using your individual buying power to reward pro-union employers for recognizing working people's right to come together in union."

Southern Labor Leaders Unite Around a Common Strategy to Build Worker Power: "'Collective action is alive and well here in the South,' said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler to more than 300 labor leaders gathered in New Orleans this week. Southern union leaders from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia joined together to unite around a common strategy to build worker power in their states."

Texas AFL-CIO Takes Next Step to Expand Union Participation in Citizenship Drives: "In January, delegates to the Texas AFL-CIO COPE Convention unanimously approved a far-reaching resolution calling for the state federation and affiliates to conduct citizenship drives across the state, with the long-term intent of registering new voters and changing the political environment."

11 Things You Need to Know on Equal Pay Day: "Equal Pay Day calls attention to the persistent moral and economic injustice working women face. For a woman to earn as much as a man, she has to work a full year, plus more than a hundred extra days, all the way to April 10. The problem is even worse for women of color, LGBTQ women and part-time workers."

No Bargaining, No Justice: 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."

Economy Gains 103,000 Jobs in March; Unemployment Unchanged at 4.1%: "The U.S. economy gained 103,000 jobs in March, and unemployment was unchanged at 4.1%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics."

At State Labor Convention, Unions Confront Uncertain Future by Embracing Diversity, Technology: "National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, a Greene County native who worked in coal mines before rising through the labor ranks, attended to swear in new delegates and take part in a panel discussion on automation's effect on jobs. Mr. Trumka said unions on a local level could bargain over the effects of technology, requiring companies to provide training to obtain new skills or wage insurance packages to find other careers. 'We're not shying away from the advances of automation,' he said. 'But we are using our voice to make sure working people are not left behind.'"

Trump Weighs Rejoining Trans-Pacific Partnership Amid Trade Dispute with China: "'TPP was killed because it failed America’s workers and it should remain dead,' Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, wrote on Twitter. 'There is no conceivable way to revive it without totally betraying working people.'"

Equal Pay Day: How Does Your State Stack Up on Pay Equity for Women?: "Equal Pay Day arrives Tuesday, marking the day on the calendar when the average woman’s earnings finally catch up to what a male peer earned in 2017. It took three more months and 10 days. The notion of bringing home 80 cents for every dollar pocketed by a man on a national basis is unsettling enough. But it's even more startling when those lost wages are added up."

Teachers Union Threatens to Cut Ties with Wells Fargo Over NRA Support: "AFT President Randi Weingarten has been in talks with Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan about the partnerships, according to the release. The group praised other companies, including Dick’s Sporting Goods and REI, that cut ties with the NRA or changed their policies on gun sales in the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida high school in February. 'We’re issuing Wells Fargo an ultimatum—they can have a mortgage market that includes America’s teachers, or they can continue to do business with the NRA and gun manufacturers,' Weingarten said in the statement. 'They can’t do both.'"

Want to Carry on Martin Luther King Jr.’s Work? Join a Union: "Fifty years ago this week, Martin Luther King Jr. went to Memphis, Tennessee, to march with the city’s striking black sanitation workers. Wages were bad, and conditions were so unsafe that workers were seriously injured or even killed while using the trash compactors of their trucks. The city of Memphis, their employer, refused to do better; city officials refused to act to improve their wages or safety. So they took matters into their own hands and went on strike, demanding basic dignity and civil rights on the job."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 04/13/2018 - 13:20

Southern Labor Leaders Unite Around a Common Strategy to Build Worker Power

Fri, 2018-04-13 10:13
Southern Labor Leaders Unite Around a Common Strategy to Build Worker Power AFL-CIO

“Collective action is alive and well here in the South,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler to more than 300 labor leaders gathered in New Orleans this week. Southern union leaders from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia joined together to unite around a common strategy to build worker power in their states.

“Today we are going to focus on ways our unions can accelerate change, be bold, and meet the challenges of our time.” @lizshuler addresses over 300 Southern labor leaders in New Orleans #1u pic.twitter.com/neMrzVr0Ux

— AFL-CIO (@AFLCIO) April 10, 2018

Shuler acknowledged recent victories in the South and the importance of building on that momentum. Those wins include:

  • Across the South, union members mobilized to elect champions for working people, such as Ralph Northam in Virginia, Doug Jones in Alabama, Linda Belcher in Kentucky and Braxton Winston in North Carolina.
  • In New Orleans, workers at the city’s largest hotel formed a union with UNITE HERE.
  • In Tennessee, the labor movement stopped a corporate-backed effort to privatize maintenance and management at most state-run facilities.
  • In Arkansas, we saw the addition of 15,000 new union members last year, reaching the highest level of union membership in the state since 2008.
  • Teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky walked out and demanded higher salaries and more school funding.
  • Workers at Disney World rejected the company’s lowball contract offer and continue to stand together for better pay and working conditions.  

“Our test of 2018 and beyond will be to build on these successes,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a video address to attendees. Two panels dove further into the achievements and challenges we face in the states and featured state federation presidents from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas State Federation leaders talk about the opportunities to create worker power in their states #1u #organizethesouth pic.twitter.com/zGHchB1KGI

— AFL-CIO (@AFLCIO) April 10, 2018

 

State federation leaders from Louisiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Kentucky lead a discussion with over 300 Southern labor leaders to talk how they’re building power for working people in their states #1u pic.twitter.com/7jAVu38rLb

— AFL-CIO (@AFLCIO) April 10, 2018

Breakout sessions gave participants the tools they need to build a stronger labor movement in the South. Sessions focused on internal organizing, using issues to engage our members and allies, building a program to elect union members to political office, and using data and technology to break new ground in politics and organizing.

Participants left feeling energized and ready to increase worker power. Attendee Cheryl Eliano, national vice president of AFGE District 10, said, “Too often we work in silos, so I wanted to see how we can work more collaboratively as a labor movement. We need a change of course. If we leave here with a new mindset and put what we learned to action, we’ll be a stronger labor movement.”

The AFL-CIO Southern District meeting was the sixth and final district meeting of 2018.

Check out the photo album on Facebook.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 04/13/2018 - 10:13

Texas AFL-CIO Takes Next Step to Expand Union Participation in Citizenship Drives

Thu, 2018-04-12 10:45
Texas AFL-CIO Takes Next Step to Expand Union Participation in Citizenship Drives Texas AFL-CIO

In January, delegates to the Texas AFL-CIO COPE Convention unanimously approved a far-reaching resolution calling for the state federation and affiliates to conduct citizenship drives across the state, with the long-term intent of registering new voters and changing the political environment.

On April 10, in a strategy meeting attended by union affiliates from across the state, the Texas AFL-CIO took the next step to fulfill the goals of that resolution.

We were honored to welcome as a major participant Esther Lopez, international secretary-treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers, whose union has done pioneering work on citizenship drives. Lopez described the initiative as “the throwdown in Texas.”

Rather than taking a “go big or go home” approach, Lopez said, unions need to “go deep” and commit to making citizenship drives “core union work” that goes hand in hand with organizing and political education. She said UFCW has done citizenship drives in big cities, but also in places such as Marshalltown, Iowa, and Tar Heel, N.C. The union has trained 700 volunteers and helped 3,000 UFCW members become citizens, Lopez said.

Lopez said citizenship drives transform the lives of working people.

Representatives from unions, central labor councils, constituency groups and allies were warm to the idea of designating members who will take responsibility for growing the program.

Allies from the Equal Justice Center, United We Dream, Casa Marianella and the Mexican Consulate detailed citizenship drives that have been held in Austin over the last few years.

The AFL-CIO passes along a startling statistic that makes Texas prime ground for union citizenship drives: Our state has more than 1 million people who are eligible to become naturalized citizens, based on an American Community Survey by the U.S. Census.

Eligible residents don’t move through the process at a high rate of speed because of cost ($725 to apply) and complexities of the application process. A growing number of employers and lenders are helping out with the expenses, either defraying costs outright or setting up manageable payment plans. As for the complexities, that’s where citizenship drives can make a giant difference.

We are not starting from ground zero. For years now, Education Austin has worked with the Texas AFL-CIO, other unions and allies in carrying out citizenship drives. Eleven Education Austin-led drives have resulted in completed applications for approximately 1,200 people, said Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Montserrat Garibay, who took the lead in organizing citizenship drives when she worked at Education Austin.

The most recent one, which took place last week, resulted in 112 completed applications for naturalization. Applicants go to workshops ahead of the events to learn what information and documentation they need to fill out an application. On the day of the drive, they leave with a well-vetted application, down to a properly addressed envelope. The Austin events have generated hundreds of volunteers, including the officers and most of the staff of the Texas AFL-CIO. Few bouts with bureaucracy give us so much pleasure.  

Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy said the next step will be to train union representatives on developing local citizenship drives. The unions and labor organizations at the meeting committed to identifying and sending such leaders for training in June or moving quickly to obtain officer approval.

Garibay emphasized the program has to be long-term. She said the potential for citizenship drives to accelerate the change happening in Texas is not around the corner.

“You’re not going to see changes in 2020,” said Garibay, who was naturalized five years ago. “It’s going to be a long process, but we have to be committed.”

Levy said the people who become citizens after going through the union process are instantly aware of the role their new status can play in their workplaces and in society. The potential is extraordinarily high, he said. “This program is an on-ramp for over 1 million people to become participating, voting Texans.”

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 04/12/2018 - 10:45

There's No Reason Not to Enter the BuildBuyUSA Video Contest

Wed, 2018-04-11 11:34
There's No Reason Not to Enter the BuildBuyUSA Video Contest BuildBuyUSA

Did you know that BuildBuyUSA is sponsoring a "Make It in the USA" video contest? The competition offers four chances for you to win $5,000 by creating a short video about using your individual buying power to reward pro-union employers for recognizing working people's right to come together in union.

The great news is that the contest is for you. That's right, you have no reason not to enter the competition. I already can hear you coming up with reasons why you can't participate in the contest. Let me answer those concerns and then you can start on your path to the fame and fortune (well, a $5,000 fortune) you so richly deserve!

"Well, there's no way I qualify for this contest."

Sure, you do. All you have to do is be older than 18 and a U.S. resident.

"Creating original content is hard. How do I know the effort is worth it?"

The winners of the contest, and there are four of them, each get $5,000.

"Maybe I'm not in it for the money."

The winner of the best song also gets a recording session at the studios of the American Federation of Musicians in Los Angeles.

"I can't sing."

The contest has a category specifically for videos that aren't songs. And the winner of that category gets $5,000. Non-musical entries also are eligible for the union member-only category and the people's choice category. Your video can be anything; the only limit is your imagination.

"I'm not a union member."

You don't have to be a union member to enter the contest.

"But I am a union member. Does that mean I can't participate?"

You are welcome to participate, too. In fact, there is a separate category just for union members. At least one union member will win $5,000.

"How do I know that the judges are actually knowledgable about the music and the themes of the contest?"

You can check their credentials. The judges include actor/philanthropist/investor Ashton Kutcher, musician/activist Tom Morello, Demos President Heather McGhee, Emmy-nominated cinematographer Michael Goi, AFM Local 47 President John Acosta and musician/labor leader Dan Navarro!

"I don't do well with judges. I'm more of a people person."

Great, there is a people's choice category that will be publicily voted on. The top 20 entries that don't win the awards for best song, best non-song video and the union member category will be put to a public vote, with the winner getting $5,000.

"Nobody will want to listen to my original song, with people doing cover songs and such written by famous musicians."

The contest is limited to original material. There is one big exception. UNITE HERE (the modern International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union [ILGWU]) has invited participants to remake or sample their song "(Look for) the Union Label."

"I don't really have the time to make a video."

The video can't be longer than four minutes. And the submission deadline is April 25. That's two weeks away. Surely you have the time to record a four-minute video in a two-week timespan.

"I have no idea what the video should be about."

No problem. BuildBuyUSA has provided you with the themes.

"OK, well all that sounds good, but I don't know how to get more information about the contest."

BuildBuyUSA has you covered with this handy-dandy website!

So what are you waiting for? Get to work on your video today!

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/11/2018 - 11:34

11 Things You Need to Know on Equal Pay Day

Tue, 2018-04-10 11:38
11 Things You Need to Know on Equal Pay Day AFL-CIO

Equal Pay Day calls attention to the persistent moral and economic injustice working women face. For a woman to earn as much as a man, she has to work a full year, plus more than a hundred extra days, all the way to April 10. The problem is even worse for women of color, LGBTQ women and part-time workers.

Here are 11 things you need to know on Equal Pay Day:

1. Equal Pay Day for women of color is even later: For black women, Equal Pay Day comes later because they are paid, on average, even less than white women. Equal Pay Day for black women is Aug. 7. For Native American women, it's Sept. 7. For Latinas, it's Nov. 1.

2. LGBTQ women face a host of related problems: A woman in a same-sex couple makes 79% of what a straight, white man makes. Additionally, they face higher rates of unemployment, discrimination and harassment on the job.

3. It will take decades to fix the problem if we don't act now: If nothing changes, it will take until 2059 for women to reach pay equality. For black women, parity won't come until 2124 and for Latinas, 2233.

4. Fixing the wage gap will reduce poverty: The poverty rate for women would be cut in half if the wage gap were eliminated. Additionally, 25.8 million children would benefit from closing the gap.

5. Fixing the wage gap would boost the economy: Eliminating the wage gap would increase women's earnings by $512.6 billion, a 2.8% boost to the country's gross domestic product. Women are consumers and the bulk of this new income would be injected directly into the economy.

6. Women aren't paid less because they choose to work in low-paying jobs: The gender pay gap persists in nearly every occupation, regardless of race, ethnicity, education, age and location.

7. Education alone isn't the solution: Women are paid less at every level of education. Women with advanced degrees get paid less than men with bachelor's degrees.

8. The Paycheck Fairness Act would help: This bipartisan legislation would close loopholes in existing law, break harmful patterns of pay discrimination and strengthen protections for women workers.

9. Being in union makes a difference: Women who are represented by unions and negotiate together are closer to pay equality, making 94 cents per dollar that white men make.

10. Business leaders have a role in the solution: Individual business owners and leaders have the power to close the pay gap and improve people's lives. Catalyst offers five tips on what business leaders can do.

11. Many companies already are working on solutions: Learn from them.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 04/10/2018 - 11:38

No Bargaining, No Justice: What Working People Are Doing This Week

Tue, 2018-04-10 09:43
No Bargaining, No Justice: 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.

A. Philip Randolph Institute:

Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys https://t.co/QtawyIToik

— APRI National (DC) (@APRI_National) March 28, 2018

Actors' Equity:

Beyond his own gifts as an actor, Soon-Tek Oh helped to greatly expand opportunities for Asian-American actors in theatre. We mourn his loss and offer condolences to his family and friends. #RIP https://t.co/PGw14COrrd

— Actors' Equity (@ActorsEquity) April 8, 2018

AFGE:

AFGE members shouted "No bargaining, no justice!" outside of the Department of Education's headquarters last week. Here's the story → #1u #StandWithEdWorkers https://t.co/kR8lqBXmmM pic.twitter.com/9rAafODu7C

— AFGE (@AFGENational) April 5, 2018

AFSCME:

Gregory Eliopoulos, a sewage treatment plant process worker and member of CSEA Local 1000, was killed on the job last fall. Now, the City of Watertown, New York, is being cited for safety violations in the wake of his death. https://t.co/W9uRj8wRsP pic.twitter.com/H9pi2zELrI

— AFSCME (@AFSCME) April 6, 2018

AFT:

The teacher walkouts are a reminder that even professionals with master's degrees in some of the country's largest cities endure many of the same economic challenges associated with those in blue-collar jobs. https://t.co/UWiCHYVD5E

— AFT (@AFTunion) April 7, 2018

Air Line Pilots Association:

Thank you @RepPeterDeFazio and @RepRickLarsen for urging @SecElaineChao and @StateDept to insist any new U.S.-UK air services agreement protects fair competition for U.S. workers & prohibits flags of convenience by airlines flying between U.S. & UK #OpenSkies pic.twitter.com/JmYvD9GD6H

— ALPA (@WeAreALPA) April 5, 2018

Alliance for Retired Americans:

New research from @AHIPCoverage shows that patients with Medicaid have significantly better access to health care services than those without coverage: https://t.co/YlvLILIS71 #SaveMedicaid #ProtectOurCare pic.twitter.com/g21T5Adskp

— Alliance Retirees (@ActiveRetirees) April 9, 2018

Amalgamated Transit Union:

Local 282-Rochester, NY, joins with advocates to push for more funding for #publictransit https://t.co/de4dF1lHqh #p2 #transit pic.twitter.com/kI5COdW7DT

— ATU, Transit Union (@ATUComm) March 30, 2018

American Federation of Musicians:

We must change our antiquated #copyright laws. 80+ additional artists have joined our fight to pass the #CLASSICSAct, bringing the total number of artists who support the legislation to 300+ https://t.co/4ZOfN01nLe pic.twitter.com/AWL6ORkwHK

— Amer. Fed. Musicians (@The_AFM) April 5, 2018

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance:

#AAPIs can and will be the force to be reckoned in elections.

(Also, don't miss this photo of APALA Nevada members on this article, too!) https://t.co/jJ7r1X13Ne

— APALA (@APALAnational) April 7, 2018

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA:

“25 years ago, we used CHAOS to win raises of up to 60% for Flight Attendants...with power, comes respect.” -@afa_cwa’s @FlyingWithSara #afabod2018 pic.twitter.com/xxpcioktf3

— AFA-CWA (@afa_cwa) April 9, 2018

Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers:

This morning, on the 50th anniversary of #MLK’s assassination, the BCTGM was among thousands who marched through the streets of Memphis in solidarity with the thousands who marched for justice and dignity 50 years ago. #IAM2018 pic.twitter.com/j5qNGE1tm6

— BCTGM International (@BCTGM) April 4, 2018

Boilermakers:

Why union? How about higher wages. Union workers make 26% higher wages than non-union. And that's just one reason to @joinIBB #FormAUnion or check out our apprenticeship programs. pic.twitter.com/e126GAC0fv

— Boilermaker News (@boilermakernews) April 5, 2018

Bricklayers:

Congratulations to @TuftsUniversity's dining hall workers on joining @UNITEHERE26! https://t.co/pLoLSGzpnX #Solidarity #1u #ThursdayThoughts

— Bricklayers Union (@IUBAC) April 5, 2018

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists:

This is an important and alarming trend in labor relations. @BillFletcherJr @barbs73 @WSpriggs #1uMLK #1u https://t.co/XAw5ksnlRQ

— CBTU (@CBTU72) April 6, 2018

Communications Workers of America:

Local 83711 works hard to make @IUE_CWAUnion STRONG. Local activists signed up 30+ members & developed new member activists. As the union's grown stronger, previously rigid MGMT has taken a more open approach to its relationship w/the union. Great job! #1u https://t.co/RAHgQAGI8v

— CWA (@CWAUnion) April 8, 2018

Department for Professional Employees:

“Our members collaborate in their work and in their union, and we are proud that the editorial and production employees at Onion, Inc. will become part of this community of creative professionals.” - @WGAEast's @LowellPeterson. #1u #OnionIncUnion https://t.co/tEtIDG0RY1

— DPE (@DPEaflcio) April 9, 2018

Electrical Workers:

"Gov. Rauner has shown to be essentially driven by the sole goal of breaking men and women of organized labor" https://t.co/YWTH46V0Nn #1u

— IBEW (@IBEW) April 6, 2018

Farm Labor Organizing Committee:

Add your name to the petition demanding that convenience stores drop VUSE e-cigs until @RAI_News signs an agreement with @SupportFLOC giving farmworkers a voice to improve their working conditions. #BoycottVUSE https://t.co/yuFmTwvSKM

— Farm Labor Organizing Committee (@SupportFLOC) March 26, 2018

Fire Fighters:

Encourage your mayor to participate in #IAFFMayorsFireOps a pre-conference event of the 86th Annual Conference of Mayors in Boston, MA on June 8th. Sign up today! https://t.co/fSPJaneIn6 pic.twitter.com/jPghF1QiLs

— IAFF (@IAFFNewsDesk) April 9, 2018

Heat and Frost Insulators:

Are you wondering what it’s like to be an insulator? Can you picture yourself working for the Insulators Union? If you’ve thought about this as a career, reach out to us today and join others as they create a life-long career. https://t.co/9j9gPG2Jjz

— Insulators Union (@InsulatorsUnion) April 4, 2018

International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers:

Our IFPTE delegation in Memphis for #IAM2018 represents a union and a labor movement inspired by and committed to achieving Dr. King's moral vision of justice. #MLK50 #1u #canlab pic.twitter.com/WZVa9bbdzC

— IFPTE (@IFPTE) April 4, 2018

Ironworkers:

Ironworkers can earn six-figure salaries per year, as well as pensions, benefits and paid time off. It is also an alternative to college. https://t.co/CQRwmFEBn8 #MondayMotivation

— Ironworkers. (@TheIronworkers) April 9, 2018

Jobs With Justice:

New York State wants to end unpredictable scheduling practices, which wreak havoc on the life of people working in the retail and service industries. https://t.co/R5jxdDFptL #FairScheduling #JustHours

— Jobs With Justice (@jwjnational) April 9, 2018

Labor Council for Latin American Advancement:

Dr. King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Today we not only remember his powerful words but we recognize that we still live in an unjust world. We call for a just peace. #MLK50 #NoJusticeNoPeace

— LCLAA (@LCLAA) April 4, 2018

Laborers:

ATTN Drivers: Obey road crews and signs when traveling through work zones! #LIUNA Flaggers are trained & highly skilled, they know how best to move traffic safely in work zones. Warning signs are there to help you and other drivers move safely. #workzonesafety pic.twitter.com/cil9KxpGrK

— LiUNA Chicago (@LiUNAchicago) April 9, 2018

Machinists:

We build the @Boeing planes we fly on, the @LockheedMartin jets keeping us safe, the @ulalaunch rockets exploring our galaxy and the @harleydavidson bikes we ride.

We’re union and proud of it.

— Machinists Union (@MachinistsUnion) April 5, 2018

Maritime Trades Department:

MTD Joins Other Unions at I AM 2018 to Commemorate the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike of 1968 | Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO https://t.co/rNopvx4s0y

— MaritimeTrades (@Maritime_Trades) April 4, 2018

Metal Trades Department:

All of us at Metal Trades Department send our condolences to the family of Senator Daniel Akaka. Senator Akaka was a great friend to the Department. May he rest in peace. https://t.co/NrvPe6Qk3e

— Metal Trades Dept. (@metaltradesafl) April 9, 2018

Mine Workers:

The @KyLegislature has put every worker in KY at risk, especially coal miners: https://t.co/Xjuq2IGqKN #1u

— United Mine Workers (@MineWorkers) April 6, 2018

National Air Traffic Controllers Association:

Take time to unwind during Stress Awareness Month. #DYK the National Institutes of Health has a free library eBook collection? Explore topics like the benefits of chocolate, sleep medicine & mindfulness. https://t.co/wrYlhIv50x pic.twitter.com/WOWcgQ383E

— NATCA (@NATCA) April 9, 2018

National Association of Letter Carriers:

Letter carriers deserve to know the facts about the Postal Service with respect to the president’s latest tweets: https://t.co/Bx9qxn5mI2

— Letter Carriers (@NALC_National) April 4, 2018

National Day Laborer Organizing Network:

“We have not backed down. We will continue to move forward.” - Orange County’s municipal seat, City of Santa Ana, reaffirms #CAValues, rejects Trump’s attack on California. #ICEoutofOC #ICEoutofCA #DefendSanctuary #sb54 pic.twitter.com/M9SvpVE9oG

— NDLON (@NDLON) April 4, 2018

National Domestic Workers Alliance:

"Whether in the professional context or the family context, caregiving is difficult work, and the undervaluing of the role of the caregiver has meant that we too often leave their expertise and insight on the table." - @aijenpoo https://t.co/EqOGsWJsFv

— Domestic Workers (@domesticworkers) April 9, 2018

National Nurses United:

No one should have to choose between food or medical care. Our patients and our communities need #MedicareforAll! #MondayMotivation pic.twitter.com/Nw0EaxsjnD

— NationalNursesUnited (@NationalNurses) April 9, 2018

National Taxi Workers Alliance:

The real solution — the one that will require politicians to stand up to these Wall-Street-backed corporations — is to put a cap on the number of vehicles on city streets, not keep taking more money out of drivers’ pockets. @NYGovCuomo @NYCMayorsOffice https://t.co/cRv01CDI5I

— NY Taxi Workers (@NYTWA) April 6, 2018

NewsGuild-CWA, The:

What’s happened to the newspaper industry cannot simply be explained by the rise of the internet. A lack of imagination is also to blame. Most owners have embraced cost cutting to maintain profits over trying to grow the business. https://t.co/dHawBJpiUM #AldenExposed

— NewsGuild (@news_guild) April 9, 2018

NFL Players Association:

"Every employee deserves to be treated with respect...There is absolutely no justification for paying [cheerleaders] less than a fair wage and for making them endure discrimination in the workplace." - @DeSmithNFLPA

Economy Gains 103,000 Jobs in March; Unemployment Unchanged at 4.1%

Fri, 2018-04-06 14:44
Economy Gains 103,000 Jobs in March; Unemployment Unchanged at 4.1%

The U.S. economy gained 103,000 jobs in March, and unemployment was unchanged at 4.1%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This continues the recovery of the labor market at a tempered pace, which means the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee should continue to let the economy grow and not raise interest rates. 

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka testified before Congress on a key solution that would boost jobs growth and provide other benefits to working people across the country:

One trillion dollars in new infrastructure investment would make a big difference to working Americans and put our nation on the path to sustainable prosperity. How we invest matters; it must be real investment and create good jobs.

Let me be clear: If we want good jobs, we must have high labor standards and protections for the people who build, maintain and operate our infrastructure. That’s not all. We need to make sure public money is used to support American jobs, American resources and American products.

In response to the March jobs numbers, AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs said:

With the adjustments made to lower the job growth numbers reported in January, the first quarter finished with job growth lower than last year's, which was lower than the previous year's.

He also tweeted:

Payroll rose 108,000 in March, slower growth than in February. With wages only up 2.7% over the year. Further Fed hikes are unwarranted with this moderation. @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) April 6, 2018

 

March report from @BLS_gov adjust preliminary figures for January down and February up for a net of 50,000 lower than previously reported. This makes the first quarter modest growth a sign the Fed needs to rethink further rate hikes. @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) April 6, 2018

Last month's biggest job gains were in professional and business services (33,000), health care (22,000), manufacturing (9,000) and mining (9,000), while retail (-4,000) and construction (-15,000) saw losses. Employment in other major industries, including wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, leisure and hospitality and government, showed little or no change over the month.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for teenagers (13.5%), blacks (6.9%), Hispanics (5.1%), adult women (3.7%), adult men (3.7%), whites (3.6%), and Asians (3.1%) showed little or no change in March.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed in March and accounted for 20.3% of the unemployed.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 04/06/2018 - 14:44

We’re Reaching for that Mountaintop: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 2018-04-06 11:27
We’re Reaching for that Mountaintop: The Working People Weekly List

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

Honoring the Life and Preserving the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.: “By recognizing social and economic justice as one and the same, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood the immense power working people have when they come together. He saw union representation as the clearest path out of poverty and into the middle class, and fought for the rights of all people to have good jobs and a voice at work.”

Trumka in Memphis: We’re Reaching for that Mountaintop: “At the 1961 AFL-CIO Convention, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature. He spews racism from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other.”

Kings Agenda for Working People Resonates 50 Years Later: “Fifty years ago this week, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his final speech in Memphis, Tennessee. In the decades since his assassination, much of the focus on King’s life has centered on his civil rights legacy. But his final days in Memphis are a reminder that he was also a relentless champion for the dignity of work.”

FLOC Calls for Convenience Stores to Stop Selling VUSE E-Cigarettes: “On April 9, 2007, Santiago Rafael Cruz was assassinated in the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) office in Mexico. The organizer gave his life in service of trying to improve the lives and workplaces of farm laborers. In his honor, FLOC will picket nationally outside 7-Eleven, Circle K, Kangaroo Express and Wawa convenience stores, calling on the corporations that run these stores to stop selling VUSE e-cigarettes.”

Caution: Your Right to a Timely Vote May Be at Risk: “Three years ago, the National Labor Relations Board took modest steps to streamline, modernize and improve the process by which workers petition for an election to vote on forming a union at work. The rules reduced unnecessary delay caused by management lawyers litigating issues in order to slow down elections and deprive workers of their right to vote.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Championed Civil Rights and Unions: “Kentuckians, including many union members, will march Wednesday in Frankfort in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was murdered April 4, 1968, in Memphis.”

It Is Always About the People: In the States Roundup: “It’s time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states. Click on any of the links to follow the state federations and central labor councils on Twitter.”

Organizing Leads to Prosperity: 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.”

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 04/06/2018 - 11:27

NAFTA Should Work for Everyone—Not Just Investors

Fri, 2018-04-06 11:14
NAFTA Should Work for Everyone—Not Just Investors The Stand

In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump all recognized that workers and communities have lost trust in the North American Free Trade Agreement’s approach to globalization. They all said we should manage globalization differently.

Over the last few months, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. have had seven meetings to renegotiate NAFTA. To understand the renegotiations, we should know what was wrong with the original NAFTA and what we want in a new one.

I’m 100% in favor of trade. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone opposed to trade. We take pride when we export software, airplanes, apples and wheat. That’s never been the issue.

The central question is, “Who gets the gains from globalization?” The purpose of an economy is to raise living standards. Trade, more than most public policies, creates winners and losers.

The winners under NAFTA—global companies and investors who can move production to low-wage countries—have done very well. But when workers, communities and the environment are squeezed into decline, we are probably going in the wrong direction.

Consider four quick stories:

First story: During the original NAFTA negotiations, a labor advocate told an industry lobbyist that she agreed that manufacturing companies had a legitimate interest in protecting their investments from seizure or expropriation by foreign governments. That’s consistent with our legal tradition and should be part of NAFTA.

She asked the industry lobbyist if his business clients acknowledged that civil society also had a legitimate interest in protections in NAFTA for labor rights, human rights and other public interests.

“No. Not really,” he said. His role was to get the maximum possible leverage for his clients in the new global system. That meant global businesses could move work anywhere, take advantage of cheap labor, escape environmental and public health regulations, and otherwise get the best deal possible for their investors. This leverage would be even greater if NAFTA weakened bargaining power away from workers and communities.

Second story: An executive from UPS took a very different perspective at a trade conference in Seattle. She said labor rights and human rights were core values at UPS. She and UPS ran their global operations to respect workers and communities. Good for her and UPS!

Third story: The Trans-Pacific Partnership would have been our biggest trade agreement since NAFTA. It failed in Congress. At a conference in Boston, a lobbyist for a very large manufacturing association said TPP would have been great for the global companies in her organization. For them, TPP’s defeat was tragic.

After she spoke, I told her my first story—some time ago, an industry lobbyist said his goal was to maximize leverage, getting as much as possible for global investors, while keeping other stakeholders as weak as possible.

The industry lobbyist in Boston got very defensive, saying that was not at all the way her industry association saw things. I said, “Great!” Then her industry group should clearly state that they want our negotiators to get strong, enforceable protections for labor and environment, which reflect our values and legal traditions as a nation, in all future trade agreements.

Her business allies would get low tariffs and access to foreign markets, and TPP could protect their property from expropriation. We also would support high global standards to fight child labor, forced labor, human trafficking and slave labor—issues we thought we had settled 50 or 100 years ago. We could address climate change—arguably the defining problem of our time. TPP could sail through the Senate by a vote of 85-15.

The lobbyist in Boston had been defensive before. Now she was smokin’ mad at me. Maybe she thought I was patronizing her.

But my question really sits at the heart of the problems with our failed approach to globalization. Whose interests really matter to our negotiators? According to our own State Department rankings, five of the 12 TPP countries failed to meet global standards on human trafficking. A sixth TPP country was among the worst in the world on forced labor, child labor and slave labor. Just sayin’.

Fourth story: Members of the Coalition for a Prosperous America are manufacturers, family farm organizations and labor—all committed to producing in the U.S. CPA is very creative on specific policy options designed to rebuild our industrial base, help family farmers and share the gains from trade with all stakeholders. They are doing exactly what I suggested to the industry lobbyist in Boston. Everyone in CPA wants a prosperous America. To them, working together and sharing gains is eminently sensible.

It is unsustainable to turn our backs on workers, communities and the environment. A generation (or two) ago, business schools and CEOs talked about “stakeholder” interests. We all do better when all stakeholders do better. That outlook recognized legitimate common interests, helped build social cohesion and made stronger communities.

We can have legitimate national interests and raise living standards everywhere, without being xenophobic or nationalistic. Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Scandinavia, Singapore and South Korea recognize national interests. They also have more social cohesion than we do. We’ve had more social cohesion in our own history than we do now.

A good trade agreement should require any foreign company to meet minimum standards for labor, environment, human trafficking, food safety and other norms that reflect our values as a country as a condition for getting access to our markets.

Our current failed investor-centric NAFTA approach is exhausted socially, politically and economically. The UPS and CPA stories suggest it’s not that hard to set a more inclusive and sustainable path for globalization. We should accept no less.

 

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 04/06/2018 - 11:14

Tags: NAFTA

Honoring the Life and Preserving the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Wed, 2018-04-04 14:57
Honoring the Life and Preserving the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. TTD

By recognizing social and economic justice as one and the same, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood the immense power working people have when they come together. He saw union representation as the clearest path out of poverty and into the middle class, and fought for the rights of all people to have good jobs and a voice at work.

In the Spring of 1968, those beliefs led King to Memphis, Tennessee, where 1,300 sanitation workers were on strike fighting deplorable working conditions, poverty-level wages and overt racism. Determined to improve their quality of life and build a better future for themselves, their families and their community, these workers demanded recognition of their union—and their humanity. Seeking the freedom to negotiate together for fair wages and dignity and respect on the job, they marched with now-iconic signs that read, "I am a man."

It was here, expressing solidarity with the striking workers and drawing parallels between social, racial and economic justice, that King was assassinated as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

As our nation pauses to reflect upon the 50th anniversary of King’s tragic and untimely passing, we must do more than just commemorate past events. The anniversary of King’s death must be a call to carry his legacy forward, and continue working toward his dream of a fairer and more just society.

While progress has been made in the last half century, it is clear more work needs to be done. The same backward forces that sought to silence sanitation workers in Memphis five decades ago continue to attack the rights of working people across this country today. We see it in aggressive efforts to establish statewide right to work laws in places such as Missouri, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. We see it in efforts to gut safety protections for transportation workers and outsource good jobs to the lowest bidder. And we see it in the corporate-backed push to strip public employees of their rights via the Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME Council 31.

Indeed, the ideals King fought and died for—including access to good jobs, fair pay and safe working conditions—are the same ones working people are fighting for today.

Those struggles—combined with the teachings of Dr. King and the bravery and sacrifice of Memphis sanitation workers—have inspired our brothers and sisters at AFSCME and the Church of God in Christ to carry King’s legacy forward with the I AM 2018 initiative. Through this campaign, a new generation of activists will be mobilized. Voters will be trained on how to hold elected leaders accountable. And the freedom of all working people to join together to make life better for themselves, their families, and their communities will be advanced.

Transportation labor is proud to stand with those who have pledged to honor Dr. King’s life and dream by committing to carrying his legacy into the future. Today we also recommit our efforts to ensure Dr. King’s legacy lives on by fighting for policies that empower working people to join together in union. It is through our collective efforts that misery and despair will be transformed into hope and progress.

This post originally appeared at Transportation Trades Department.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/04/2018 - 14:57

Trumka in Memphis: We’re Reaching for that Mountaintop

Wed, 2018-04-04 13:21
Trumka in Memphis: We’re Reaching for that Mountaintop AFL-CIO

At the 1961 AFL-CIO Convention, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature. He spews racism from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other.

When the rich and powerful oppress others, they rarely go after just one community. They attack whatever unity they can find among working people. They know that united we rise and divided we fall.

It was 50 years ago that I first tasted the power of collective action in the coal mines of southwestern Pennsylvania. Standing together, we made those jobs safer. We demanded good pay, decent benefits and a better life. And we refused to let the bosses divide us.

That same year, we saw the resilience of working people right here in Memphis. Black workers had been deemed less than human. They were treated no better than the garbage they picked up every day. They were robbed of their economic security, their human dignity, and in the case of Echol Cole and Robert Walker, their lives.

And then the workers turned tragedy into triumph. They showed their power. They went on strike and marched and raised their fists in the air. They said loudly and proudly for all of us to hear, “I am a man.” With Dr. King at their side, they changed the course of history.

Half a century later, too many working people are still being treated as less than. The woman grabbed without her consent. The immigrant forced to live and work in the shadows. The African-American still waiting to be judged by the content of their character. The transgender person denied the dignity of a safe bathroom.

Their fight is OUR fight.

So on this day, we are pledging to finish what the sanitation workers started. We are making a promise to our nation and each other to win the dream Dr. King died for.

To the labor-hater and the race-baiter, the union-buster and the corporate hustler, we say this:

We are men.

We are women.

We are teachers and steelworkers.

We are nurses and coal miners.

We are firefighters and sanitation workers.

We are the American labor movement, the people who built this country into the most prosperous nation the world has ever known. And we ain’t done yet.

We’re marching forward. We’re fighting back. We’re reaching for that mountaintop. And if we stick together, no one has a chance in hell of stopping us.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was at AFSCME's "I AM 2018" opening rally today to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/04/2018 - 13:21

King's Agenda for Working People Resonates 50 Years Later

Wed, 2018-04-04 11:55
King's Agenda for Working People Resonates 50 Years Later Wikimedia Commons

Fifty years ago this week, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his final speech in Memphis, Tennessee. In the decades since his assassination, much of the focus on King’s life has centered on his civil rights legacy. But his final days in Memphis are a reminder that he was also a relentless champion for the dignity of work.

King was in Memphis in support of sanitation workers represented by AFSCME who were on strike after two members, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were crushed to death by a garbage truck. The strikers sought recognition of their union, a pay increase, overtime pay, merit promotions, safer working conditions and equal treatment of black workers.

But King wasn’t a latecomer to the fight to raise the voices of working people. He had long before figured out that the movement for civil rights and the movement for workers’ rights were one and the same. In 1961, he explained this in a speech to the AFL-CIO:

This unity of purpose is not an historical coincident. Negroes are almost entirely a working people. There are pitifully few Negro millionaires and few Negro employers. Our needs are identical with labor’s needs: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old-age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community. That is why Negroes support labor’s demands and fight laws which curb labor. That is why the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature, spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.

King is best known for his “I Have a Dream” speech given in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, organized by labor leaders A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin. While the media and historians have emphasized the speech’s civil rights themes, the event was just as much focused on jobs and the rights of working people.

The agenda of the march was no secret; organizers explicitly listed 10 demands. They included:

  • The creation of a massive federal jobs program to place all unemployed workers in meaningful and dignified jobs with decent wages.

  • The elimination of exceptions to the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

  • The passage of a Fair Employment Practices Act that would bar discrimination in government employment and contracting.

  • The creation of a national minimum wage act that would provide a decent standard of living. (At the time, the demand was for at least $2 an hour. In today’s dollars, that amount would be $15.95 per hour.)

The remaining demands were all related to working people having the things they need to survive and prosper outside of the workplace or exercise their political rights:

  • The passage of comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation that would guarantee all Americans access to all public accommodations, decent housing, adequate and integrated education, and the right to vote.

  • The withholding of federal funds from all programs in which discrimination exists.

  • The desegregation of all school districts.

  • The enforcement of constitutional penalties against states that violate the voting rights of African Americans.

  • The issuance of an executive order banning discrimination in all housing supported by federal funds.

  • Giving the attorney general legal authority to use the courts to pursue relief from violation of constitutional rights.

King and his fellow civil and labor rights leaders laid out a good blueprint for improving our country and making our economy work better for all Americans, not just the few at the top. Speaking to sanitation workers in March of 1968, in one of the final speeches of his illustrious career, King called for equality and prosperity for all working people, regardless of race:

If you will judge anything here in this struggle, you’re commanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the worth and significance of those who are not in professional jobs, or those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight, that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity, and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth. One day our society must come to see this. One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive. For the person who picks up our garbage, in the final analysis, is as significant as the physician. All labor has worth. You are doing another thing. You are reminding, not only Memphis, but you are reminding the nation that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages. I need not remind you that this is the plight of our people all over America. The vast majority of Negroes in our country are still perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. My friends, we are living as a people in a literal depression. Now, you know when there is vast unemployment and underemployment in the black community, they call it a social problem. When there is vast unemployment and underemployment in the white community, they call it a depression. But we find ourselves living in a literal depression all over this country as a people. Now, the problem isn’t only unemployment. Do you know that most of the poor people in our country are working every day? They are making wages so low that they cannot begin to function in the mainstream of the economic life of our nation. These are facts which must be seen. And it is criminal to have people working on a full-time basis and a full-time job getting part-time income.

King was right. We must continue to pursue his vision of social and economic justice.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/04/2018 - 11:55

FLOC Calls for Convenience Stores to Stop Selling VUSE E-Cigarettes

Tue, 2018-04-03 16:29
FLOC Calls for Convenience Stores to Stop Selling VUSE E-Cigarettes

On April 9, 2007, Santiago Rafael Cruz was assassinated in the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) office in Mexico. The organizer gave his life in service of trying to improve the lives and workplaces of farm laborers. In his honor, FLOC will picket nationally outside 7-Eleven, Circle K, Kangaroo Express and Wawa convenience stores, calling on the corporations that run these stores to stop selling VUSE e-cigarettes.

VUSE e-cigarettes are a hallmark product of Reynolds American’s tobacco line and are sold at most convenience stores, where 36% of all tobacco sales take place. FLOC and allies have been communicating with the corporate officers of 7-Eleven, Wawa and Couche-Tard (the parent corporation of Circle K and Kangaroo). Since the chains haven’t responded to repeated letters and emails, FLOC will rally outside stores across the country, calling on them to drop the VUSE brand.

For more than a decade, FLOC has been challenging Reynolds to end abuses and human rights violations in its tobacco supply chain. After ignoring FLOC for five years, Reynolds finally started holding talks in 2012, but the talks have yet to lead to an outcome that would guarantee these farm workers freedom to come together in union. FLOC is boycotting VUSE until Reynolds signs an agreement that guarantees farm workers freedom of association.

Stand with farm workers today by boycotting VUSE and demanding that convenience stores stop selling this product until Reynolds agrees to give farm workers a voice on the job. For information on how to get involved or to organize an action, email boycottvuse@floc.com

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 04/03/2018 - 16:29

Caution: Your Right to a Timely Vote May Be at Risk

Tue, 2018-04-03 11:02
Caution: Your Right to a Timely Vote May Be at Risk

Three years ago, the National Labor Relations Board took modest steps to streamline, modernize and improve the process by which workers petition for an election to vote on forming a union at work. The rules reduced unnecessary delay caused by management lawyers litigating issues in order to slow down elections and deprive workers of their right to vote.

Under the rules, workers get to vote two weeks sooner—the median time from petition to election is 23 days, compared with 38 days under the old rules. This shows that the goal of reducing unnecessary delay has been met.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other corporate interests have been campaigning to get rid of the rules, saying they are unfair to businesses. First they tried lawsuits—and lost, with the rules upheld in full by courts in Washington, D.C., and Texas. Then the Chamber and their allies tried to block the rules with legislative action, which has so far failed.

But now three Republican appointees to the NLRB are asking for public comments on whether the rules should be changed. The two Democratic appointees to the NLRB—Mark Gaston Pearce and Lauren McFerran—disagree, saying the rules have worked well and there is no reason to change them.

The NLRB is taking public comments until April 18 on whether it should change the 2014 rules. Add your voice to the growing chorus telling the NLRB to keep the rules.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 04/03/2018 - 11:02

Martin Luther King Jr. Championed Civil Rights and Unions

Mon, 2018-04-02 14:46
Martin Luther King Jr. Championed Civil Rights and Unions Kentucky AFL-CIO

Kentuckians, including many union members, will march Wednesday in Frankfort in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was murdered April 4, 1968, in Memphis.

“The MLK Memorial March to Move” will travel along Capitol Avenue and conclude on the Capitol steps.

Dr. King returned to Memphis on April 3, 1968, to renew his stand in solidarity with striking African American sanitation workers who belonged to AFSCME Local 1733.

Dr. King saw the civil rights movement and the union movement as natural allies.

“As I have said many times, and believe with all my heart, the coalition that can have the greatest impact in the struggle for human dignity here in America is that of the Negro and the forces of labor, because their fortunes are so closely intertwined,” he said.

Dr. King warned that enemies of racial justice were also enemies of unions: “The labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.”

He denounced “right to work” laws as a scam: “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.

“Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone.…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer, and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”

Many union leaders have joined the struggle for equality and economic justice for all. Their numbers include residents of the Bluegrass State, among them Norbert Blume and Augusta Thomas of Louisville and W.C. Young of Paducah.

A Teamster, Blume, who died in 2011, served in the state House of Representatives from 1963 to 1978; he was speaker for the last six of those years. In 1964, he introduced legislation outlawing discrimination in public accommodations. Blume’s bill was a precursor to the Civil Rights Act of 1966, which Dr. King hailed as “the strongest and most comprehensive civil rights bill passed by a Southern state.”

Thomas, 85, is vice president for women and fair practices with the American Federation of Government Employees in Washington. In 1960, she journeyed from Louisville to Greensboro, N.C., to join the historic lunch-counter sit-ins. Angry whites spat on her and knocked her off a stool. Police arrested her twice.

A friend and schoolmate of Dr. King when she lived in Atlanta in her teens, Thomas joined him in Memphis 50 years ago. She heard his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech the night before he was killed. She was at the Lorraine Motel when he was assassinated and heard the shot that took his life.

A national labor and civil rights leader, Young, who died in 1996, spent most of his life in the union movement, retiring in 1987 as Chicago-based Region 10 director of the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education. He said his wallet always included two cards—his union card and his NAACP card. The W.C. Young Award is the highest honor the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council bestows.

Like Young, Dr. King was a student of labor history. In 1965, the 30th anniversary of the landmark Wagner Act, he pointed out that when the 20th century turned, “women earned approximately 10 cents an hour, and men were fortunate to receive 20 cents an hour. The average workweek was 60 to 70 hours.”

He added, “During the ’30s, wages were a secondary issue; to have a job at all was the difference between the agony of starvation and a flicker of life. The nation, now so vigorous, reeled and tottered almost to total collapse. The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress.

“Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, government relief for the destitute and, above all, new wage levels that meant not mere survival, but a tolerable life. The captains of industry did not lead this transformation; they resisted it until they were overcome. When in the ’30s the wave of union organization crested over our nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society.”

Click here to listen to Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan talk about Dr. King’s support for unions and what they do.  

This post originally appeared at Kentucky State AFL-CIO.

 

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/02/2018 - 14:46