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Service + Solidarity Spotlight: USW Members at Minnesota Nursing Homes Secure Wage Increases Amid Coronavirus Surge

Wed, 2021-01-27 11:12
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: USW Members at Minnesota Nursing Homes Secure Wage Increases Amid Coronavirus Surge

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.

As the coronavirus continues to surge in nursing homes across the United States, worker burnout and distress are at an all-time high. Staff retention was already an issue before the pandemic, and the chaos it has brought to these vulnerable facilities has turned it into an emergency. To help offset some of this burden placed on essential health care workers, a United Steelworkers (USW) local is doing all it can to negotiate wage increases for its members, such as those at Pennington Health Services in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. The coronavirus has hit the nursing home once again, straining the already short staff. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) there have been able to secure a 14.2% wage increase. Workers at The Waterview Woods nursing home in Eveleth, Minnesota, won an increase in pay differential, an increase in health insurance coverage, and a $2 increase for LPNs and registered nurses. The facility, like Pennington, has been struck hard by the coronavirus and short-staffing. Workers at both facilities are members of USW Local 9349 and are part of separate bargaining units.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 01/27/2021 - 10:12

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

RWDSU-UFCW Leads Organizing Drive at Amazon Fulfillment Center in Alabama

Tue, 2021-01-26 15:21
RWDSU-UFCW Leads Organizing Drive at Amazon Fulfillment Center in Alabama

The strongest effort to create a union at Amazon in many years is underway in Bessemer, Alabama. Organizers with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW (RWDSU-UFCW) have been working with employees at the Amazon fulfillment center. By December, more than 2,000 workers had signed union cards, leading to an election set to begin in February. The company is engaging in union-busting activities in response, but the workers are not backing down. Many of the organizers and the employees at the fulfillment center are Black, and the organizers have focused on issues of racial equality and empowerment as a part of the drive.

Read more about the drive in The New York Times or on Twitter @BAmazonUnion and #BAmazonUnion.

Congratulations everyone, we’re thrilled to share we have a date for our #union election to begin. More details are coming soon but we wanted to share this incredible news! #1U #BamazonUnion #UnionStrong pic.twitter.com/T9cEmchmmo

— BAmazonUnion (@BAmazonUnion) January 15, 2021

Warehouse workers in Bessemer, AL have come together to make Amazon a safer, better place to work. @NYT shares the story of how and why @BAmazonUnion workers began organizing with @RWDSU. #BAmazonUnion #UnionYes #1u

— Richard Trumka (@RichardTrumka) January 25, 2021

Our fight to build power and unionize our facility began with workers talking to workers. Today, the @nytimes shared the critical story of how our fight to form a #union came to be. https://t.co/WzMGXn43Yq #1U #UnionStrong

— BAmazonUnion (@BAmazonUnion) January 25, 2021

Workers united can never be defeated! During last night's game @NFLPA players pledged support for @BAmazonUnion and urged workers to vote #UnionYes! "Remember this union stands behind you and is inspired by your actions" -@JCTretter #1u #BAmazonUnionhttps://t.co/8jPb9FjuBx

— RWDSU (@RWDSU) January 25, 2021

In convos with Amazon workers @RWDSU poultry worker Michael Foster focuses on solidarity: “I am telling them they are part of a movement that is worldwide. I want them to know that we are important & we do matter.” @BAmazonUnion #BAmazonUnion #UnionYes #1uhttps://t.co/EwxsgolMww

— RWDSU (@RWDSU) January 25, 2021

In convos with workers, @RWDSU worker-organizer Mona Darby talks about the benefits of voting #UnionYes–like protections & job security. “You can pay me $25 an hour, but if you don’t treat me well, what’s that money worth?" #BAmazonUnion @BAmazonUnion #1uhttps://t.co/EwxsgolMww

— RWDSU (@RWDSU) January 25, 2021

Union busting is disgusting—even when the anti-union propaganda is coming from a disguised Amazon drone!

The Unfinished Story of Women at Work: 9to5 Yesterday, Today the PRO Act

Tue, 2021-01-26 14:58
The Unfinished Story of Women at Work: 9to5 Yesterday, Today the PRO Act

If you’ve never had to make coffee for your boss, it’s thanks to women who organized in the 1970s. And while the electric typewriter is no more, how women of that era organized is relevant—to current battles like organizing Big Tech, building care infrastructure and winning labor reform by passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act—so women can form and join unions now without fear.

A new documentary, "9to5: The Story of a Movement," captures the history of an organization started by a group of secretaries in the 1970s, and their sister union, SEIU District 925, and offers powerful insight for us today.

They were the biggest sector in the workforce, but women office workers in the 1970s were seen as servants or, like the wallpaper, they weren’t seen at all. The 9to5 organization changed the culture by using creative tactics like public awards for horrible bosses to name and shame bad behavior. They used humor to call it what it was: ridiculous and unacceptable.

The organization became a cultural phenomenon, with a movie starring Jane Fonda. It inspired Dolly Parton’s iconic song

9to5 developed leaders from the bottom up, it was intersectional. Women with high school educations and college degrees were committee co-chairs, Black and White women led campaigns together, older and younger women worked together to plot strategy.  

They recognized the power of a union. Women were organizing throughout the workforce, often building new organizations that collaborated with existing labor unions. 

Unions leverage the power of workers standing together. If you are in a union, your employer has to negotiate a contract with wages, benefits and working conditions. It’s one of the most powerful tools for guaranteeing equal pay. That’s why the best way to close the gender pay gap is by joining a union. 

And that’s why the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States, is also the largest working women’s organization in the country.  

Look at UNITE HERE, the AFL-CIO’s powerhouse hotel and hospitality union affiliate. Bartenders, servers and room attendants—mostly women of color—stood up to a powerful hotel chain in 2019 to win pay increases and protect health benefits. More than that, they demanded panic buttons be put in the hands of housekeepers, one of the greatest victories of the #MeToo movement

In the 1970s, language for sexual harassment didn’t even exist. 9to5 helped pioneer it. That legacy lives on in #MeToo and the power to say #TimesUp.

Ultimately, 9to5 grew nationally and voted to align with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) as an independent chapter. But the promise of the 1970s met the fierce resistance of a growing conservative movement and an all-out attack on unions. That union-busting tradition continues today.  

For example, Google fired workers who tried to organize in 2019. And Big Tech is the biggest growth factor in the U.S. economy where there is almost no union presence. Without unions, we’re seeing a gluttony of power and profit

But this corporate greed in the pandemic is stirring a renewed sense of worker solidarity. In Bessemer, Alabama, 6,000 workers at Amazon will vote to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW (RWDSU-UFCW). 

Following Kickstarter and Glitch, workers at Google and other Alphabet companies have started the Alphabet Workers Union, with the full support and investment of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Taking a page from women organizing in the 1970s, it’s an innovative model for organizing. 

One difference between now and then: The 1970s saw 12 million more women in the workforce by the end of the decade. In the pandemic, there are 4.5 million fewer women in the U.S. workforce than just 12 months ago. 

One reason is the care crisis. Care jobs make all other jobs possible. And without paid family leave and good-paying care jobs, the burden of care is crushing women. We need a care infrastructure that covers everyone and makes sure all care jobs are good jobs with living wages. 

So if we’re going to learn anything from history, it’s this: We need labor empowerment laws for the 21st century. A bill in Congress called the PRO Act will remove barriers to organizing and make it easier for the millions of working women who want to join and form unions. That, in turn, will help create unions in Big Tech and in the care economy, empowering the next generation of working women with equal pay and opportunities on the job. 

The effort that defined a movement, for women, by women, lives on in the language we use even today at work. Through the 2020 organizing efforts, we have the newest term added to our vocabulary: Madam Vice President. And by continuing to tell the stories about women organizing, we continue to define our power to shape the future.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 01/26/2021 - 13:58

A New Day: What Working People Are Doing This Week

Tue, 2021-01-26 11:27
A New Day: 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:

Tomorrow is #SwingDay! We'll be sharing videos from swings and theatre professionals throughout the day, so be sure to follow us and #EquityTeamSwing on IG and FB as well.

Want to join the celebration?
Download social media covers & a story template >> https://t.co/ZjmtWsmX19 pic.twitter.com/mse6dOhhbW

— Actors' Equity (@ActorsEquity) January 26, 2021

AFGE:

A new day is here for federal workers! https://t.co/oNth6IJCL4

— AFGE (@AFGENational) January 22, 2021

AFSCME:

.@JulieSuCA is a fighter for economic justice, a proven and powerful advocate for working people, especially those in low-wage industries. She and @MartyJWalsh will be a dynamic team at @USDOL. Excited to partner with them. Let’s get to work. #1u pic.twitter.com/uKnMhTFmze

— AFSCME (@AFSCME) January 26, 2021

Air Line Pilots Association:

Winter weather will hit much of the US & Canada this week. ALPA #pilots know they have to take extra steps to ensure their aircraft are #ReadyForTakeoff. Click below to learn how our pilots are #TrainedForLife, even for extreme winter weather. https://t.co/Xuv0J5cojq

— Air Line Pilots Association (@WeAreAlpa) January 25, 2021

Alliance for Retired Americans:

The funds are there. Now the Biden administration must make helping people sign up and #GetCovered for 2021 a priority. https://t.co/fEUiCOrUKD

— Alliance for Retired Americans (@ActiveRetirees) January 25, 2021

Amalgamated Transit Union:

Today, ATU International President John Costa opened up a zoom Negotiations and Contract Campaigns training for Local leaders across the ATU. #1u #TogetherWeFightTogetherWeWin pic.twitter.com/sQ64lVwO56

— ATU, Transit Union (@ATUComm) January 26, 2021

American Federation of Musicians:

While COVID-19 has upended the media giant’s business, shuttering its theme parks for months, closing down its Broadway shows -- leaving many union workers out of work, Disney Leaders Still Rake in Millions

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: NFLPA Boosts RWDSU’s Campaign to Organize Amazon Workers in Alabama

Tue, 2021-01-26 10:23
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: NFLPA Boosts RWDSU’s Campaign to Organize Amazon Workers in Alabama

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.

Members of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) are lending their voice to support Amazon workers who are voting to form a union in Bessemer, Alabama. Lorenzo Alexander, a retired football player and member of the NFLPA Executive Committee, said: “I’ve been an active member of my union for the past ten years, and I understand that taking a vote on such an important decision can be difficult. But I find comfort and conviction that being a part of a union has protected our workers and our rights, especially during these challenging times.” All eyes are on the workers in Bessemer as they get ready to vote on forming a union. Earlier today, The New York Times shared the critical story of how the fight to form a union—supported by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW (RWDSU-UFCW)—came to be.

Support for our @BamazonUnion is rolling in! The @NFLPA is standing in solidarity with us and urging us to vote #unionYES! Check out messages of support from @JCTretter, @Michael31Thomas and @onemangang97, below, and full update here: https://t.co/SQxfwfDxrk #1U #Union pic.twitter.com/DCv0ZjBjCP

— BAmazonUnion (@BAmazonUnion) January 25, 2021 Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 01/26/2021 - 09:23

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

Raising Standards for the Tech Industry: Worker Wins

Mon, 2021-01-25 12:44
Raising Standards for the Tech Industry: Worker Wins

Despite the challenges of organizing during a deadly pandemic, working people across the country (and beyond) continue organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life. This edition begins with:

Tech Workers Union Local 1010 Launched to Raise Standards for Tech Industry: Workers in the tech industry will get a boost with the launch of Tech Workers Union Local 1010, a new initiative from the Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU). The new local's mission is to raise industry standards and provide tech workers with a better future. OPEIU President Richard Lanigan said: “OPEIU has been investing resources in supporting tech workers as they organize to gain rights and raise standards in the workplace for many years, but now we’re focusing and strengthening that effort by having an organization dedicated to, created for and run by tech workers who understand the unique challenges facing the industry. We’re proud to be building solidarity with working people across the sector so together we can ensure tech workers have a strong voice in their workplaces.”

Emily's List Employees Win Voluntary Recognition from Management: Workers at Emily's List have joined OPEIU and secured voluntary recognition after a card-check process. Contract negotiations will begin soon and the new union, officially OPEIU Local 2, will seek open and protected discussions about race and inequality in the workplace, salary and promotion transparency and other protections. Samantha Bauman, an organizer at Emily's List, said: “I’m inspired by my colleagues who organized during one of the most consequential elections in our lifetimes and during a pandemic. Unionized workspaces empower employees. Voluntary recognition is a huge achievement and I look forward to what comes next.”

ACLU Staff United Votes to Join Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU): A supermajority of workers at ACLU voted to form ACLU Staff United, an affiliate of NPEU. They are requesting voluntary recognition and intend to focus on staffing diversity and a clear and equitable process for salaries, benefits, promotions and layoffs. In a statement, the Organizing Committee of ACLU Staff United said: “Every day, the workers of the ACLU work tirelessly to defend all of our rights. Today we have formally asked management for the support we need to do our job by forming ACLU Staff United. We are proud to carry on the ACLU’s 100-year legacy of supporting the rights of employees to unionize and bargain collectively. The ACLU began with our founders taking action to fight the anti-union crusades of the 1920s. As the workers of the ACLU of today, we believe in our mission, the work we do, and each other. We believe that the principles and values we promote and defend through that work should govern our offices as well: justice, equity, transparency, cooperation, and respect. To that end, we have come together to represent, support, engage and empower all ACLU workers.”

Housing Works Employees Form a Union with RWDSU-UFCW: More than 600 workers across all Housing Works locations in New York City voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW (RWDSU-UFCW) by an overwhelming margin on Dec. 23. This organizing victory was the largest union election in New York in 2020 and marked the end of two years of organizing by the workers for fair representation and a seat at the table. Housing Works is a nonprofit that works with people living with and affected by HIV or AIDs and homelessness, and the workers in the bargaining unit handle maintenance, legal work, casework, social work, health care and retail at Housing Works facilities. “We’re proud to finally and officially welcome the 605 workers employed by Housing Works into our union,” said RWDSU-UFCW President Stuart Appelbaum. “These workers experienced a needlessly long fight to unionize their workplace. Their tenacity and fortitude never wavered in this unnecessarily long process, which was stalled by their employer at every turn. Together, they are ready to win a strong contract that will only enhance their ability to care for the Housing Works community.”

USW Strike at Constellium Ends with New 5-Year Contract: A strike of United Steelworkers (USW) who work at Constellium in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, ended after the members ratified a five-year contract with 15% raises, the elimination of wage tiers, seniority protections and other wins. The strike began on Dec. 15 when USW Local 200 went on strike after months of negotiations failed.

Crescent City Nurses Join California Nurses Association (CNA): With a vote of 85%, registered nurses at Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City, California, voted to join CNA, an affiliate of National Nurses United (NNU). The new unit is negotiating for safer staffing, a collective voice in patient care conditions, workplace violence protections, proper infectious disease controls and other health and safety protections. Niki Pope, an RN at Sutter Coast, said: “We are thrilled to be joining our 8,000 Sutter RN colleagues to bring a unified voice for advocating for safe patient care for our patients here in Crescent City, as well as throughout the Sutter system, which is even more critical in the midst of this deadly pandemic.”

Google Workers, Demanding Change at Work, Are Launching a Union with CWAWorkers at Google and other Alphabet companies announced the creation of the Alphabet Workers Union, with support from the Communications Workers of America (CWA)—the first of its kind in the company’s history. It will be the first union open to all employees and contractors at any Alphabet company, with dues-paying members, an elected board of directors and paid organizing staff. The new union is part of CWA’s Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA) project, and workers will be members of CWA Local 1400. It follows successful union drives by other Google workers—like HCL Technologies contract workers in Pittsburgh and cafeteria workers now with UNITE HERE in the San Francisco Bay Area—as well as unions formed by workers at other tech companies like Kickstarter and Glitch. “We are a democratic, member-driven union, with experience building and sustaining worker power at some of America’s largest corporations,” said Local 1400 President Don Trementozzi. “This is a historic step toward making lasting improvements for workers at Google and other Alphabet companies.”

Live TV Musicians Ratify Contract with Streaming Residuals for the First Time: Members of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) who perform live music for shows on ABC, CBS and NBC have ratified a new contract that provides streaming residuals for the first time. The contract covers musicians who appear on live shows that are streamed, including house bands, guest artists, backing musicians and others who work in the preparation of musical performances on the shows. Ray Hair, president of AFM, said that the win “is a fundamental, structural contract change that would not have been possible without the solidarity, activism, hard work, and enormous time investment of all involved in the negotiations, including musicians who created the #RespectUs campaign to highlight the inequities in their contract. I am thankful for the steadfast commitment of the Federation’s negotiating team towards protecting and improving the benefits our great musicians receive for their talented contributions to the television industry.”

New Jersey's Garden State Parkway Toll Collectors Win New Contract with Wage Increases: International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 196 members who work as toll collectors and other jobs unanimously approved new contracts with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. The new contracts provide wage increases, back pay and other benefits. Chapter 1 of Local 196 represents toll collectors and maintenance workers. Chapter 12 represents technicians and craft persons.Members of both locals have ratified the contract, he said. The old contract expired in 2019 and has roots back to a contract agreed to in 2011.

New Jersey Meals on Wheels Delivery Drivers Win New Contract: After a two-and-a-half year organizing drive, 80 drivers who deliver Meals on Wheels for the South Jersey Transportation Authority have voted to be represented by IFPTE. The divers are mostly African American women and are considered essential employees who deliver Meals on Wheels, shuttle seniors to doctors and other related tasks. The drivers unanimously ratified their first contract. “This victory could not have been possible without the assistance provided by New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech [IUOE],” said President Sean P. McBride of IFPTE Local 196.

Staff at Queens Defenders Join Growing Trend of Unionized Public Defenders: Some 70 staffers at Queens Defenders in New York city joined the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys (UAW Local 2325), becoming the fourth of the city's public defender agencies to unionize. A number of other New York metropolitan-area nonprofit legal groups have also joined UAW recently. The staffers have asked for voluntary recognition from management. “A lot of offices have unionized and we were becoming one of the outliers. This helps us negotiate with the city for fair pay and reasonable caseloads and to be able to represent our clients better,” said staff attorney Christopher Van Zele. In addition to negotiating for their first contract, the lawyers and social workers will be seeking more organizational transparency and diversity in hiring and management.

More Than 100 Registered Nurses in Washington State Organize with IAM: More than 110 registered nurses (RNs) from CHI Franciscan Hospice Care Center in University Place, Washington, joined hands to vote to join the Machinists (IAM) by an 82% majority. Just two and a half weeks earlier, their co-workers who work as master social workers and bereavement counselors at the same facility chose the IAM as well. "I couldn’t be happier for these nurses and healthcare professionals who worked so hard to join the Machinists Union and have a seat at the table," said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. "I am so proud of this organizing team that helped these workers join together and have their voices heard.”

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 01/25/2021 - 11:44

Tags: Organizing

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Union Veterans Council and Pride At Work: End Ban on Transgender Service Members

Mon, 2021-01-25 10:34
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Union Veterans Council and Pride At Work: End Ban on Transgender Service Members

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 Union Veterans Council and Pride At Work issued a joint statement Thursday calling for the immediate reversal of the Trump-era ban on patriotic Americans serving in the military. Banning transgender Americans from volunteer military service is an insult to our troops, the LGBTQ community and our nation’s founding principles, the constituency groups said. They added: “We call on the Biden administration to fulfill their campaign pledge to immediately reverse this failed and unprincipled policy and to commit the federal government to rebuilding the careers of service members already affected.”

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 01/25/2021 - 09:34

Big Tech Organizing: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 2021-01-22 11:16
Big Tech Organizing: 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.

Big Tech Unionizing: "Workers at Google and other Alphabet companies have started the Alphabet Workers Union, in partnership with the Communications Workers of America. This is a breakthrough. It includes all workers. It follows union victories at Kickstarter and Glitch. This is Labor 2.0. Unions are for everyone, in every field. That’s why the labor movement is working to organize Big Tech and fighting for a fair and equitable future of work, in every sector. The AFL-CIO is even starting a technology institute, to leverage innovation for the labor movement, because the benefits of technology should create prosperity and security for everyone, not just the wealthy and powerful."

President Biden Picks Former United Steelworkers Safety Official to Lead OSHA: "President Joe Biden has tapped James S. Frederick, a Pittsburgh-area workplace safety advocate who spent 25 years with the United Steelworkers, to lead the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, signaling tougher federal enforcement on employers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The nomination of Mr. Frederick, 53, to the federal workplace safety agency was announced Wednesday in a union press release a few hours before Mr. Biden took the oath of office at the U.S. Capitol."

Biden Moves to Oust Top Labor Board Attorney Peter Robb: "The Biden administration has asked for the resignation of the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel, Trump-appointee Peter Robb, according to four people familiar with the decision. The White House notified Robb of its decision by letter, which specified he had until 5 p.m. Wednesday to voluntarily resign or be fired, two people with knowledge of the correspondence said. The NLRB enforces private-sector workers’ rights to organize, and its general counsel has sweeping authority to determine which types of cases the agency does or doesn’t pursue. Robb, a former management-side attorney who helped Ronald Reagan defeat the air traffic controller’s union, has pushed an aggressive, pro-business agenda at the labor board."

Biden Names Gensler as SEC Head in Push Toward More Scrutiny: "His appointment was cheered by Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO labor federation, in a sign that he was considered palatable on the left of the Democratic party. 'We applaud Joe Biden for choosing a man who stands up for public interest against Wall Street excess, is knowledgeable and has shown through his work during the Obama administration that he supports working families,' Mr Trumka wrote in a tweet on Monday morning."

Biden, AFL-CIO Labor Law Agendas Track Each Other: "Go to incoming Democratic President Joe Biden’s 'Building Back Better' agenda on his website and read through it. The word 'union,' the phrase 'right to organize' and especially the word 'worker' run through it like a constant thread. No wonder AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, in a Jan. 12 telephone press conference, considered Biden the most pro-worker president in decades. 'And in one week and one day, Joe Biden will be inaugurated and we’re ready to work with him.' That’s because two key items of pro-worker legislation top both Biden’s agenda and the Workers First Agenda Trumka unveiled at the press conference. And so does a lot of other legislation—from job safety and health rules to new infrastructure–the incoming U.S. chief executive advocates."

AFL- CIO Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler Touts Workers First Agenda: "Liz Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO was featured on today’s edition of the America’s Work Force Union Podcast. She spoke with host Ed 'Flash' Ferenc about how heartbreaking it was to hear President Trump incite violence at the Capitol, the 'worker first' agenda of 2021, and the Orsted Wind Farm project being a union job. New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento also joined the podcast today. He discussed improved technology to communicate with workers and union members through an app called Union Strong, the NYS legislative agenda for 2021 and preventing layoffs in the future."

Biden must pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act: "So America today needs more than anything solidarity and human dignity—the church's core teachings. The teaching that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, that we are not commodities whose value is determined by a flawed and arbitrary market, but human beings, souls, created in the image of God, and each of our worth is beyond price. And it is high time our nation's laws promoted solidarity and human dignity. That is why as Biden prepares to take office during a devastating pandemic and defining moment for our country, this is the moment to rewrite America's labor laws and pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. This piece of legislation would protect and empower workers to exercise our right to organize and bargain. It would make sure that workers can reach a first contract quickly after our union is recognized, end employers' practice of hiring permanent replacements to punish striking workers and hold corporations responsible. And it would ban so-called 'right to work,' a regime of state laws rooted in racism, that has left working people poorer and weaker."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 01/22/2021 - 10:16

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Inauguration 2021: Brought To You By Unions

Fri, 2021-01-22 10:47
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Inauguration 2021: Brought To You By Unions

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 Wednesday, we witnessed a nearly flawless inauguration ceremony that served to uplift Americans and help unify us on a path toward tackling the significant challenges we face as a country. Much of the inauguration was powered by union members. Leading up to the November election and continuing until the January runoff in Georgia, the labor movement contributed countless hours, including hundreds of thousands of phone calls made, postcards sent and doors knocked. Working people were key in determining which party controlled the White House and Congress.

As for Inauguration Day, the UAW produced the official inauguration masks (pictured, modeled by UAW member Phillip King). IATSE’s production of the event included the beautiful “Field of Flags” art display that lined the National Mall. The Pledge of Allegiance was spoken (and delivered in American Sign Language) by Andrea Hall, a longtime firefighter and IAFF member. Machinists (IAM) built and maintain Air Force One, which safely delivered the outgoing president to his new home and will carry President Biden as he executes the duties of the presidency. Members of SAG-AFTRA, like Tom Hanks, and other entertainment-related unions hosted or performed as part of the daylong event. Our thanks go out to these and all the other union members who helped elect Biden and Harris to the White House and who made the inauguration an inspiring event that opens a new and hopeful chapter in America’s history.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 01/22/2021 - 09:47

Tags: Community Service, COVID-19

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Ohio AFL-CIO Mobilizing in Support of Workers First Agenda

Thu, 2021-01-21 10:56
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Ohio AFL-CIO Mobilizing in Support of Workers First Agenda

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 Ohio AFL-CIO has begun immediately mobilizing to make sure the Workers First Agenda is at the forefront of the first 100 days of the Biden administration as the state federation rolls out its legislative platform for 2021. It has coordinated with Sen. Sherrod Brown to do a series of virtual town halls with his staff in the state. These town halls give front-line workers a chance to provide direct input to Brown about what Ohio's working people, their families and their communities need to be successful. Workers in these forums have demanded immediate additional COVID relief that supports workers, investment in our communities through massive investment in infrastructure, and the right to organize through the immediate passage of the PRO Act. By the time these forums are finished, Brown’s office will have direct input from workers in all of our major industries, and from Ohio communities large and small, rural and urban, and everywhere in between.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 01/21/2021 - 09:56

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

Pathway to Progress: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Scripto Strike

Tue, 2021-01-19 11:05
Pathway to Progress: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Scripto Strike Georgia State University

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 1964-65 Scripto Strike in Atlanta and Martin Luther King Jr.

When talking about Martin Luther King Jr., it's important to note that he was an activist for economic and labor rights, not just civil rights. King's death came while he was in Memphis, Tennessee, supporting sanitation workers and AFSCME members. His support for unions and collective bargaining rights was a key part of his agenda and that support went public in Atlanta during the Scripto Strike that began in 1964.

In the 1960s, Scripto was a leading pen and pencil manufacturer. The company had a plant in Atlanta since 1931 and were not only one of the largest employers in the city, but the company took pride in being the preferred employer for Black women, particularly in the area of town closest to the plant. Scripto President James V. Carmichael was surprised in 1962, when the International Chemical Workers Union started organizing at the plant. Carmichael believed that he and Scripto should be exempt from race-based complaints, as he took pride as a progressive on the topic, providing better policies for Black workers than the rest of the White Atlanta business community. Carmichael was too far removed from Black workers, though, to understand their needs and hopes and he underestimated their desire for a voice and some power in their economic lives.

The Chemical Workers Union sent the Rev. James Hampton, a Black organizer who was also a Baptist minister, to work with the Scripto employees. He tied the union organizing he was doing to the work that Martin Luther King Jr. was doing with civil rights. Hampton reached out to Black Baptist ministers in the area, recognizing that many of the Scripto workers were parishioners at their churches. King and most of the other Black ministers supported the organizing drive, speaking on behalf of the workers from the pulpit.

Support from the churches significantly boosted the union drive such that by August 1963, the Chemical Workers had collected enough union cards to petition the National Labor Relations Board for a union election. Scripto was confident it would win the election, so it agreed to a quick turnaround and an election date was set for late September. Management quickly made some minor changes, such as organizing an employee committee and removing segregation signs from bathrooms and drinking fountains. Events that spring and summer across the country had the Scripto workers primed for action, however, as they saw civil rights demonstrations having an effect in the South and beyond. 

Nearly 95% of the 1,005 eligible voters participated in the election on Sept. 27, 1963. The union side won, 519-428. Within a week, Scripto began to stall. It filed objections with the NLRB that the appeals to civil rights and race by organizers tainted the election and it should be invalidated. The NLRB repeatedly rejected Scripto's objections until June 9, 1964, when the NLRB in Washington, D.C., certified the Chemical Workers as the union representative for the plant's workers. Scripto stalled on contract negotiations as long as it could and organizers realized that a contract wouldn't come without a strike.

The day before Thanksgiving 1964, a mass of workers walked into the union office and demanded a strike. They worked tirelessly over the holiday and the picket lines were in place when the plant opened the day after Thanksgiving. The workers were unified. Even those who voted against the union largely supported the strike. The "no" vote for many was out of fear of management retaliation more than opposition to union goals and they rejected initial offers from Scripto as discriminatory. Approximately 85% of the plant's workforce were Black and most were classified as "unskilled workers." They were offered half the pay raise that the "skilled workers," who were mostly White, were to be given. The Chemical Workers membership wouldn't accept that deal.

The ministers of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference became involved in the strike because so many of their parishioners were Scripto employees. Led by SCLC director of affiliates C.T. Vivian, they brought their members' concerns about wages and working conditions at Scripto to King's attention. King and the other SCLC ministers, while philosophically sympathetic to the labor movement, they were Southerners and thus unions were outside their life experience. Once the cause of the Scripto workers was put on their radar, though, the potential for alliance was obvious to most, including King.

Vivian, King and others launched a nationwide boycott of Scripto products in support of the strike. As the strike moved on, management refused further pay increases and refused to withhold union dues from employee paychecks, despite giving some on salary increases. By Christmas, the union's resources were virtually exhausted and the company's leadership began to worry about two federal contracts they had and whether the company would be in compliance with an executive order on equal opportunity issued by President John F. Kennedy.

By that point, Carmichael had been replaced by Carl Singer as president and CEO of Scripto. Singer had just come off of a successful tenure as president of the Sealy Mattress Company in Chicago. Singer and King began a series of secret meetings and they worked out a broad framework to end the strike. The company negotiated in good faith and the strike came to an end on January 9, 1965, after six weeks. They soon agreed to a new contract and the Chemical Workers won most of what they asked for. Over time, the company moved towards a more favorable bargaining atmosphere and began to work more directly with the union by the 1970s until the plant shut down in 1977.

The unity established between the labor movement and the civil rights movement during the Scripto strike endured. The SCLC was heavily involved in the labor movement from that point forward and when asked if the Scripto strike would be King's only involvement in labor conflicts, he simply said, "There will be many more to follow." The Scripto strike taught King and others that solidarity and unity are key on the pathway to progress.

Source: Atlanta History Center

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 01/19/2021 - 10:05

Tags: MLK conference, Pathway to Progress

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: ATU Local Leads Fight for Investment in Baltimore Transit System

Tue, 2021-01-19 10:53
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: ATU Local Leads Fight for Investment in Baltimore Transit System

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.

A coalition consisting of labor, elected officials and Johns Hopkins University was formed in central Maryland to fight for increased funding for the Baltimore region’s transit system. The group is pushing for $750 million in additional funding for the transit system, which it says is underfunded. President Mike McMillan of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1300 spoke out in an interview with Maryland Matters. He said that his members who work on the front lines have to field customer complaints about the transit system, even though they do not control the budget. “Once they get the tools and the buses that are needed to help them perform their job successfully, they will ensure that the public will stay safe and get to where they need to be,” McMillan said of the members of Local 1300.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 01/19/2021 - 09:53

Tags: Community Service, COVID-19

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Masters, Mates & Pilots

Fri, 2021-01-15 16:08
Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Masters, Mates & Pilots

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is our newest member union, Masters, Mates & Pilots.

Name of Union: International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P)

MissionTo protect the rights and working conditions of members of the seagoing maritime community.

Current Leadership of UnionDonald Marcus serves as international president of MM&P and Donald Josberger as international secretary-treasurer. MM&P also has eight vice presidents: Thomas Larkin (Offshore, Atlantic Ports), Jeremy Hope (Offshore, Gulf Ports and Government Affairs), J. Lars Turner (Offshore, Pacific Ports), Tim Saffle (United Inland Group–Pacific Maritime Region), Randall Rockwood (Federal Employees Membership Group), George Quick (Pilots Membership Group), Tom Bell (United Inland Group–Great Lakes & Gulf) and Michael Riordan (Atlantic Maritime Group).

Number of Members5,500.

Members Work AsLicensed deck officers on U.S.-flag commercial vessels sailing offshore, on the inland waterways, on civilian-crewed ships in the government fleet and for the state ferry systems in Alaska and Washington; mariners who work on tug, ferry and harbor tour vessels in New York Harbor, throughout the Northeast and on the Pacific Coast; licensed and unlicensed mariners who work on dredges; state pilots; marine engineers; unlicensed seafarers; and maritime industry shore-side clerical and service workers.

Industries RepresentedThe U.S. maritime industry.

HistoryOn June 28, 1880, a boiler exploded on the side paddle-wheeler Seawanhaka in New York Harbor. Captain Charles P. Smith maneuvered the ship to shallow waters so passengers could escape safely. While his heroism would later be recognized, local politicians initially sought to make him the scapegoat for the fire. Other pilots and captains were so outraged, they formed the committee that would become the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots.

Current Campaigns/Community Efforts: MM&P Political Contribution FundMM&P Federal Credit UnionMaritime Institute of Technology & Graduate Studies (MITAGS), The Wheelhouse Weekly newsletter and The Master, Mate & Pilot magazine.

Learn More: WebsiteFacebookTwitterYouTubeInstagram.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 01/15/2021 - 15:08

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: NATCA Members Guide First Flights Carrying COVID-19 Vaccine

Fri, 2021-01-15 11:03
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: NATCA Members Guide First Flights Carrying COVID-19 Vaccine

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.

National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) members in the Michigan cities of Lansing and Grand Rapids were proud last month to control the two aircraft containing the first shipments of COVID-19 vaccines to be distributed throughout the United States. The UPS-transported vaccines were moved by semitrucks, escorted by U.S. marshals, from the Pfizer manufacturing and storage facility in Portage, Michigan, on Dec. 13. They departed Lansing and headed to the UPS WorldPort at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport. “All NATCA members at [Lansing airport] were honored to be a part of this country’s history and are looking forward to being able to provide quality service to all future shipments out of [Lansing],” said Zac Ploch, NATCA facility representative.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 01/15/2021 - 10:03

Tags: Community Service, COVID-19

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: IBEW Members Integral to Production and Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccines

Wed, 2021-01-13 12:01
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: IBEW Members Integral to Production and Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccines

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.

Almost one year after the first cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in North America, vaccines from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna are on the verge of becoming widely available. And while members of the Electrical Workers (IBEW) are not the scientists creating those vaccines, they have been nearly as integral to the discovery, production and distribution process as any biochemist or virologist on the planet. “Without a doubt, the vaccine that will end this scourge has and will be brought to you by the skilled craft unions. They are every bit as important as the person working at the lab bench they built,” said Tim Dickson, executive director of the Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association. For instance, IBEW members have built most, if not all, of the major pharmaceutical and biotech research facilities in the United States. Click here to read more.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 01/13/2021 - 11:01

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

We Are Angry: In the States Roundup

Wed, 2021-01-13 10:07
We Are Angry: 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 on Twitter.

Alaska AFL-CIO:

Pres. @vincebeltrami's statement about attempted coup in our nation’s capital: "We. Are. Angry. Angry at an assault on our nation’s hallowed capital and our elected representatives . . .”
@lisamurkowski @SenDanSullivan @repdonyoung
Read full statement: https://t.co/3SlcsY7TJj pic.twitter.com/7UiQlLiRyf

— Alaska AFL-CIO (@AKAFLCIO) January 8, 2021

California Labor Federation:

Late stage capitalism in action.

Here's your daily reminder to join your union. https://t.co/BlVyEwJJJS

— California Labor Federation (@CaliforniaLabor) January 11, 2021

Connecticut AFL-CIO:

Research shows that unionized health facilities have better patient outcomes and are more likely to correct workplace hazards. Union nursing homes have lower #COVID19 mortality rates, better access to PPE & stronger infection control measures. #JoinAUnion https://t.co/fIEaD9paHO

— Connecticut AFL-CIO (@ConnAFLCIO) January 12, 2021

Florida AFL-CIO:

“Three weeks after President Trump moved to extend unemployment benefits, countless Floridians have still not gotten any payments — cutting off a crucial lifeline for workers who lost jobs to the pandemic.”https://t.co/NJVEomO1n7

— Florida AFL-CIO (@FLAFLCIO) January 12, 2021

Georgia State AFL-CIO:

Weekends became lit dropping. Afternoons became postcard writing. Evenings became phone banking. For months, union volunteers and community orgs worked tirelessly to #FlipTheSenate. Why? Because Georgia deserves better. Workers deserve better. We deserve better. And we did this! pic.twitter.com/zN3hD06Dsl

— Georgia AFL-CIO (@AFLCIOGeorgia) January 6, 2021

Iowa Federation of Labor:

Attempted Coup an Unconscionable Assault on Democracy https://t.co/9RVwbzq5Km

— Iowa AFL-CIO (@IowaAFLCIO) January 7, 2021

Maine AFL-CIO:

A new book chronicles the militancy of Maine paper makers against Wall Street Greed. https://t.co/XQUIwS3RpS #mepolitics #LaborHistory

— Maine AFL-CIO (@MEAFLCIO) January 8, 2021

Massachusetts AFL-CIO:

The @massaflcio commends President-Elect @JoeBiden for his nomination of @marty_walsh to the position of Secretary of the Department of Labor.

Thread

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Sacramento Central Labor Council Brings Holiday Joy to Children with Disabilities

Tue, 2021-01-12 09:40
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Sacramento Central Labor Council Brings Holiday Joy to Children with Disabilities

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 Sacramento Central Labor Council delivered groceries to more than 200 union families in need during the holidays, and 450 kids also received a present from Santa. Santa visited the Ralph Richardson Center to deliver teddy bears and take pictures (all socially distanced) with students. Also, in a continuation of a six-year tradition, the council passed out teddy bears from a fire truck (with union member Santa) to children with special needs at Starr-King K–8 School in Sacramento.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 01/12/2021 - 08:40

Tags: Organizing, COVID-19

At Once: The Working People Weekly List

Mon, 2021-01-11 11:55
At Once: 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.

AFL-CIO Calls on Trump to Resign or be Removed from Office 'At Once': "The AFL-CIO called on President Trump to resign or be removed from office 'at once, whether through impeachment or the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,' following the riots at the U.S. Capitol this week. The labor group’s general board released the statement Friday, saying it is not one America's labor movement makes lightly. 'The deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol by a mob looking to overturn the results of a free and fair election, encouraged and inspired by President Donald Trump, was one of the greatest attacks on our democracy in American history. And the fact that trespassers were allowed to roam the halls of Congress without consequence is one of the latest examples of why we must tear down the systems and abiders of white supremacy,' the AFL-CIO General Board said."

AFL-CIO Head Says Walsh Will Be 'Exceptional' Labor Secretary: "The president of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest federation of unions, praised President-elect Joe Biden’s nomination of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) for secretary of Labor, calling the mayor an 'exceptional' choice. 'Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will be an exceptional Labor secretary for the same reason he was an outstanding mayor: he carried the tools. As a longtime union member, Walsh knows that collective bargaining is essential to building back better by combating inequality, beating COVID-19 and expanding opportunities for immigrants, women and people of color,' Richard Trumka said in a statement Thursday."

Union Leaders Join in Blaming Trump for Insurrection, Coup Attempt: "Union leaders blamed GOP White House occupant Donald Trump for the violent insurrection which saw thousands of white nationalist domestic terrorists overrun the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Union leaders, including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and particularly National Nurses United Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, declared Trump is liable for inciting the insurrection. She called for punishment but did not suggest how. 'The president has been encouraging sedition. No one is above the law,' said Castillo. 'He is responsible for the scenes we have seen today at the Capitol and he should be held accountable.' 'We are witnessing one of the greatest assaults on our democracy since the Civil War. Today’s attempted coup has been years in the making as Donald Trump consistently spews venom, conspiracies, hate, and lies to his supporters,' Trumka said in a statement."

How Unions Helped Georgia Flip the Senate: "In the Georgia Senate runoff elections on January 5, Democrats Jon Ossoff and the Reverend Raphael Warnock unseated Trump-supporting incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue by margins of less than 80,000 votes—abetted by what a UNITE HERE! leader calls an 'unprecedented ground game' by labor unions. 'In the last couple weeks, we were talking to 15,000 people a day,' says Gwen Mills, the secretary-treasurer of the 300,000-member hotel and food-service workers union. During the six-week runoff campaign, according to Mills, UNITE HERE! had more than 1,000 members knocking on people’s doors in the Atlanta and Columbus areas a total of 1.5 million times."

Flight Attendant Union Wants Pro-Trump Rioters Barred from Flights: "The country’s largest flight attendant unions on Wednesday expressed safety concerns over politically motivated disruptions on flights after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol building, demanding that the results of the presidential election be overturned. 'The mob mentality behavior that took place on several flights to the D.C. area yesterday was unacceptable and threatened the safety and security of every single person onboard,' said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents some 50,000 cabin crew members at United, Alaska and more than a dozen other carriers. The riots at the Capitol 'create further concern about [participants’] departure from the D.C. area,' Nelson said. 'Acts against our democracy, our government and the freedom we claim as Americans must disqualify these individuals from the freedom of flight.'"

Alphabet Employees and Contractors Form a Labor Union: "Google is getting its first labor union. Approximately 230 workers out of the 130,000-plus employees and contractors at Alphabet joined forces on Monday to launch the tech giant's first labor union. Unlike labor unions such as the AFL-CIO, this one is 'not seeking ratification through a federal agency,' reports The Washington Post. Accordingly, the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) will not have the power to collectively bargain with management. Instead, the union intends to jointly and 'actively push for real changes at the company,' including on such matters as discrimination, harassment, and various ethical questions about how the company runs its business."

Glass Ceilings Shattered at American Federation of Musicians Local 47: Stephanie O’Keefe Elected First Female President; Danita Ng-Poss Is New Secretary-Treasurer: "Stephanie O’Keefe has been elected president of the American Federation of Musicians Local 47, becoming the first woman president in the union’s 123-year history. John Acosta, who served three two-year terms as president, did not seek re-election. In the local’s other elections, Danita Ng-Poss has been elected secretary-treasurer—the first person of Asian descent to serve as a titled officer of the union—and Rick Baptist has been re-elected to a fourth term as vice president."

Obituary: Byron W. Charlton: "How do you sum up a life? Byron W. Charlton, 81, of Lorton, VA., fondly known as 'Big Boy,' 'Chuck' and 'Uncle,' was born June 8, 1939, in Radford, Virginia, to the late Lawrence Charlton and Ollie Snell Charlton. Byron was an international affairs operative for the AFL-CIO at the height of the neo Cold War in the late ’70s and early ’80s. He worked in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. His stories from those times would chill your blood, and then leave you laughing. Byron also worked as the assistant to the executive director of the African American Labor Center at the AFL-CIO from 1984-1990. More than 30 years ago, Byron joined the staff of the AFL-CIO as a legislative representative. He worked on federal and postal worker legislation, and served as the chairman of the United Department of Defense Workers Coalition for the past 20 years. Byron loved his career so much when asked if he was going to retire he would respond by saying he intended to die at his desk."

The Life in 'The Simpsons' Is No Longer Attainable: "Lisa needs braces at the same time that Homer’s dental plan evaporates. Unable to afford Lisa’s orthodontia without that insurance, Homer leads a strike. Mr. Burns, the boss, eventually capitulates to the union’s demand for dental coverage, resulting in shiny new braces for Lisa and one fewer financial headache for her parents. What would Homer have done today without the support of his union?"

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 01/11/2021 - 10:55

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Alaska Public Employees Pay Off Student School Meal Balances

Mon, 2021-01-11 11:39
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Alaska Public Employees Pay Off Student School Meal Balances

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.

With the pandemic hitting everyone economically, the members of the Alaska Public Employees Association/AFT elected to do what they could, paying off thousands of dollars of school meal balances.

“The Juneau Education Support Staff (JESS) Local 6096 Executive Board started thinking about how to use the money in April. We all wanted to help families and students in the community, and as the pandemic continued we started realizing how everyone needed to have some kindness come into their lives—they needed good news,” said Catherine Pusich, the board’s public relations officer.

The union paid off the balances for 564 students, totaling $7,446. Letters went out in the days before Christmas letting students and families know of the donation.

“We have been able to see firsthand how this pandemic has affected some of our more vulnerable students, and this donation from JESS will at least take one thing off the table that they will not have to worry about,” said Elizabeth White, a union member and meal cashier at Sayèik: Gastineau Community School. “We are pleased that they saw fit to use the money to take care of the families that are close to our hearts.”

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 01/11/2021 - 10:39

Tags: Organizing, COVID-19