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The Senate Is in a Hurry to Cut Our Health Care

Wed, 2017-09-20 10:46
The Senate Is in a Hurry to Cut Our Health Care AFL-CIO

Do you remember "Repeal and Replace," "Repeal and Run" and "Skinny Repeal"? Those were all plans pushed by the Senate Republican leaders at the end of July in a frantic, failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and make massive cuts in our health care. Millions of working people stood up and spoke out to stop those cuts. Now, however, Republican leaders are back, just as desperate but hopeful they can sneak something through.

The media are calling the new Senate Republican proposal the Graham-Cassidy plan because two of its lead authors are Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.). A more accurate way to think of it is as "Repeal, Replace and Run."

This plan wipes out major parts of the ACA. There are no more federal tax credits to help the middle class pay health insurance premiums. No more Medicaid expansion for low-income working people. No airtight ban on discriminatory premiums for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Insurance companies can impose an age tax by charging older Americans up to five times what they charge young adults. Employers are let off the hook completely: No employer would be required to contribute toward any worker’s health care; but the 40% tax on middle-class worker health benefits would be made permanent.

In place of much of this, the federal government would give out time-limited block grants to states to do with what they please. This money would run out in 10 years, unless Congress votes to extend it. Graham and Cassidy designed these block grants to shift costs to states, providing much less money, on average, than people in a state would get under the ACA. On top of that, they end the federal funding guarantee for Medicaid, the program that covers the more than 70 million people who are struggling the most to make ends meet. They convert federal support for Medicaid to capped amounts per person, which they designed to shrink over time compared to the cost of the medical care that it needed.

Republican leaders are pushing hard to pass something before the end of September. That is when time officially expires on their attempt to repeal the ACA and cut health care using a special rule. This allows them to pass a highly partisan bill with just 50 votes.

Republican leaders are in such a rush that they plan to vote on the bill before they even know fully what the bill will do. Congress' independent budget experts say they will not be ready with an analysis of what the bill does to the federal budget or health care coverage until sometime in October. Congressional Republicans are prepared to do this despite warnings from other experts that this bill could take health care away from as many as 32 million people. This is like buying a used car before you get the Carfax report you ordered. When that report finally comes pointing out all the defects, however, there is no "lemon law" to let the American people return this clunker of a bill.

If you've had enough, call your senators at 888-865-8089 and tell them not to take health care away from millions of Americans.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 09/20/2017 - 10:46

How the Canadians Are Trying to Use NAFTA to Raise Your Wage

Tue, 2017-09-19 11:59
How the Canadians Are Trying to Use NAFTA to Raise Your Wage AFL-CIO

Finally, after nearly a quarter of a century, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is being renegotiated. This is a good thing. NAFTA is called a "trade deal," but it’s mostly a collection of rules that give corporations more power over the three economies of North America. It gives companies tools to undermine laws and rules that protect America’s working families. It increased threats by U.S. employers to close workplaces and move to Mexico. And once the companies got there, NAFTA provided strict rules for them, but only vague guidelines to protect working people’s rights and freedoms.

NAFTA negotiations have not progressed very far, and it is too early to say whether the effort will bring a New Economic Deal to working people or simply more crony capitalism. But there was some fantastic, surprising, excellent news recently.

The Canadian negotiating team did something big: They told the U.S. negotiators that U.S. laws that interfere with people’s freedom to negotiate on the job are dragging down standards for Canada and need to be abolished. Guess what? Canada is right.

These laws, known as "right to work," are another example of the wealthiest 1% rigging the rules to weaken the freedom of people joining together in union and negotiating with employers for better pay, benefits and conditions at work. Not surprisingly, states with these freedom-crushing laws are less safe and have lower wages, dragging down workplace standards for those in other states, and apparently in Canada, too.

Canada gets the obvious: These laws take away working people’s freedom to join together and raise their wages. Canada is pushing the United States to be fairer to working people, just as the U.S. is pushing Mexico to be fairer to its working people. Will the U.S. negotiators see the light and agree to this proposal in NAFTA? We certainly hope so. It will tell us a lot about who the president stands with: Corporate CEOs or working families?

Learn more about laws that take away working people’s freedom.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 09/19/2017 - 11:59


North Carolina’s Labor Federation Elects First Woman President

Fri, 2017-09-15 13:27
North Carolina’s Labor Federation Elects First Woman President North Carolina State AFL-CIO

MaryBe McMillan becomes the first woman to lead the North Carolina labor movement after being unanimously elected president of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO during the 60th annual convention that wrapped up today.

McMillan has served as secretary-treasurer of the state federation since 2005. She has spearheaded the cause of getting national and international unions to invest in and organize the South. Before beginning her career in the labor movement, she worked with housekeepers trying to organize at North Carolina State University and, after receiving her Ph.D in sociology, did public policy research for several progressive nonprofits. In 2004, she took a job at the AFL-CIO's Union Community Fund, where she met North Carolina State AFL-CIO President James Andrews—beginning a 12-year partnership fighting for working families in North Carolina.

"James has mentored and inspired countless labor leaders and activists in North Carolina and beyond," said McMillan. "For over 40 years, he has fought tirelessly to make our state a better place for working people. Our labor movement is much stronger because of James’ leadership, and so many of us are better leaders because of his example. I know that I am."

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper awarded Andrews the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest honor, for his more than four decades of service to the labor movement.

McMillan knows challenges lie ahead, but she is ready to lead with the support of the most diverse board in history that includes two members from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) and the first LGBTQ member.

"I look forward to working with our affiliates to build the movement we all want—one that is constantly growing, that is both big enough and bold enough to set the agenda and drive our politics, that is unafraid to hold our politicians and our own leaders accountable—a movement with the power to change this state and this nation."

The 60th annual convention featured workshops on storytelling, internal and community organizing, and strategic planning for the future of North Carolina’s labor movement. It also highlighted the debut of a North Carolina labor history exhibit from the Knights of Labor in the 19th century to the Duke Faculty union in 2016.

"I am proud to call the new president of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO my friend," said AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre. "MaryBe is a champion of working people in North Carolina, and we will stand with her in the fight to ensure we all have the freedom to join together and negotiate. We will march with her to end discrimination at the polls in North Carolina and across America. And we will organize and mobilize across the state and the South."

For highlights from the convention, including photos and video, check out the hashtag #ncafl60.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/15/2017 - 13:27

Popular Support for Working People at Highest Level in a Decade: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 2017-09-15 11:57
Popular Support for Working People at Highest Level in a Decade: The Working People Weekly List IBEW Local 3

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.

Support for Labor Unions Is at Decade High, Poll Finds: "Union approval is at its highest level among Americans in a decade—but still not as high as it once was. A Gallup Poll released for Labor Day found 61% of adults in the U.S. approve of labor unions—the highest percentage since 2003, when approval was at 65%. The 2017 approval rate is up 5 percentage points from last year and 13 points above the all-time low of 48% in 2009."

Canada Is Using NAFTA to Demand Protection for U.S. Unions: "As unions and Big Business prepare to square off in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, there will be heated debate over the continental trade pact’s impact."

President Trump Has Reached a Compromise with Top Democrats on DACA: "The top House and Senate Democrats said Wednesday they had reached agreement with President Donald Trump to protect thousands of younger immigrants from deportation and fund some border security enhancements—not including Trump’s long-sought border wall."

Poll: Majority Wants Congress to Establish Path to Citizenship for DACA Recipients: "A majority of voters want Congress to pass legislation that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to become citizens if they meet certain requirements, according to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted following the Trump administration’s decision to wind down the program protecting these so-called Dreamers from deportation."

Labor Unions Are Stepping Up to Fight Deportations: "Yahaira Burgos was fearing the worst when her husband, Juan Vivares, reported to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in lower Manhattan in March. Vivares, who fled Colombia and entered the U.S. illegally in 2011, had recently been given a deportation order. Rather than hide, he showed up at the ICE office with Burgos and his lawyer to continue to press his case for asylum."

Unions Aren't Obsolete, They're Being Crushed by Right-Wing Politics: "Growing up in heavily Republican Missouri years ago, Dawn Burnfin was sure that workers in the modern world didn't need the labor movement. 'I was taught that unions were just a bad deal all the way around,' she said. 'I don't know if anybody specifically took me aside and said, "Hey, unions are bad." It was just the implied attitude of everyone there.'"

OSHA's Claims About Hiding Information on Worker Deaths Fall Flat: "Since January, government agencies under the Donald Trump administration have taken steps to hide information from the public—information that was previously posted and information that the public has a right to know."

AFT Survey Shows Strong Parental Support for Public Schools: "Too often, the voices of the parents of public school children are left out of our national discussions about education. The AFT sought to change this and commissioned a survey that interviewed 1,200 public school parents to learn how they feel about the issues that directly affect their children."

Responding to Harvey and Irma: 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."

Working Families Remember 9/11: "On the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, America's working people commemorate those who lost their lives and those who worked tirelessly to help us recover and rebuild. Here are their words...."

RN Response Network to Deploy Additional Nurse Volunteers to Houston Post-Hurricane Harvey: "National Nurses United’s (NNU’s) Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN), a national network of volunteer nurses, will deploy its second delegation of RN volunteers to Houston, beginning Monday, Sept. 11, to provide medical assistance in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, NNU announced today."

Freelancing Ain't Free: "When is the moment in time for a freelance writer that a late payment becomes wage theft, and what do you do about it?"

Attention, Kentucky: Closing a Pension Is Never a Good Idea: "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it—and it’s prime time for Kentucky lawmakers to learn a history lesson."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/15/2017 - 11:57

OSHA's Claims About Hiding Information on Worker Deaths Fall Flat

Fri, 2017-09-15 08:41
OSHA's Claims About Hiding Information on Worker Deaths Fall Flat

Since January, government agencies under the Donald Trump administration have taken steps to hide information from the public--information that was previously posted and information that the public has a right to know. 

But a recent move is especially personal. Two weeks ago, the agency responsible for enforcing workplace safety and health—the Occupational Safety and Health Administration—removed the names of fallen workers from its home page and has stopped posting information about their deaths on its data page. In an attempt to justify this, the agency made two major claims discussed below. Like many efforts to decrease transparency by this administration, these claims are unfounded, and the agency whose mission is to protect workers from health and safety hazards is clearly in denial that it has a job to do. Here's how:

OSHA claim #1: Not all worker deaths listed on the agency website were work-related because OSHA hasn't issued or yet issued a citation for their deaths.

Fact: It is public knowledge that 1) OSHA doesn't have the jurisdiction to investigate about two-thirds of work-related deaths but does issue guidance on a wide variety of hazards to workers that extend beyond their enforcement reach, and 2) OSHA citations are not always issued for work-related deaths because of a variety of reasons, including limitations of existing OSHA standards and a settlement process that allows employers to remedy certain hazards in lieu of citation. (The laborious process for OSHA to develop standards deserves a completely separate post.) But neither of those points mean the agency cannot recognize where and when workers are dying on the job, and remember and honor those who sought a paycheck but, instead, did not return home to their families.

In fact, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, also housed in the Department of Labor, counts and reports the number of work-related deaths each year. The agency reported that in 2015, 4,836 working people died of work-related traumatic injury—"the highest annual figure since 2008." So, another agency already has taken care of that for OSHA (whew!). But this is just a statistic. Luckily for OSHA, employers are required to report every fatality on the job to OSHA within eight hours, so the agency has more specific information that can be used for prevention, including the names of the workers and companies involved, similar to the information the public has about deaths that occur in any other setting (outside of work).

OSHA claim #2: Deceased workers' families do not want the names and circumstances surrounding their loved ones' death shared.

Fact: Removing the names of fallen workers on the job is an incredible insult to working families. The shock of hearing that your family member won't be coming home from work that day is devastating enough, but then to hear that their death was preventable, and often the hazards were simply ignored by their employer, is pure torture. The organization made up of family members who had a loved one die on the job has stated repeatedly that it wants the names of their loved ones and information surrounding their deaths shared. It does not want other families to suffer because of something that could have been prevented. The organization has made it very clear that it opposes OSHA's new "out of sight, out of mind" approach.

So why shield this information from the public? We know the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have long opposed publication of this information. The Trump administration seems to live by very old—and very bad—advice from powerful, big business groups whose agenda it's pushing: If we don't count the impact of the problem or admit there is a problem, it must not exist.

Find out more.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/15/2017 - 08:41

AFT Survey Shows Strong Parental Support for Public Schools

Thu, 2017-09-14 11:31
AFT Survey Shows Strong Parental Support for Public Schools AFT

Too often, the voices of the parents of public school children are left out of our national discussions about education. The AFT sought to change this and commissioned a survey that interviewed 1,200 public school parents to learn how they feel about the issues that directly affect their children.

AFT President Randi Weingarten spoke about the survey:

These results match what I hear from parents and communities across the country. There is zero ambiguity when it comes to what parents want for their children’s education: safe and welcoming, well-funded neighborhood public schools that help children develop their knowledge and skills and ensure equal opportunity for all kids. Parents deeply support the public schools their children attend and are happy with the job public schools are doing. And while we will never be satisfied until every public school is a place parents want to send their children, educators want to work, and kids are engaged and happy, these results confirm the sentiment we’ve seen in other recent polls that show support for public education continuing to rise.

It’s striking that the agenda being pushed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to defund public education and divert resources to vouchers and other privatization schemes—even when they are cloaked as ‘choice’—is completely at odds with parents’ educational priorities. This is true across every race, political persuasion and area of the country. These results should serve as a clarion call to policymakers to stop defunding our schools and instead deliver on the priorities parents want, to reclaim the promise of public education for all children.

The survey found that public school parents:

  • Say that the public schools their children attend provide them with an excellent or good quality education.
  • Are satisfied with their children's public schools when it comes to helping their child or children achieve their full potential.
  • Favor good quality neighborhood public schools over school choice.
  • Say their top priorities are: providing a safe and secure environment for children, making sure students graduate with the knowledge and academic skills to succeed in college, ensuring that all children have the opportunity to succeed, and developing students' critical-thinking and reasoning abilities.
  • But they also have concerns about education issues such as: education budget cuts at both the local and federal levels, shifts in funding away from traditional public schools to vouchers and charter schools, increased class sizes, layoffs of teachers and staff, high teacher turnover rates, and cutbacks in art, music, libraries and physical education to focus more on reading and math.
  • Say the central challenges facing public schools today are inadequate funding, too much standardized testing, large class sizes and lack of support for teachers.
  • Overwhelmingly disapprove of the job Betsy DeVos is doing as education secretary.
  • Express the greatest confidence in educators—both teachers and principals—and parent organizations to have the best ideas for public schools.
  • When it comes to investments to strengthen public schools, they favor expanding access to career and technical education and other vocational programs that prepare students for jobs, reducing class sizes, providing extra resources and support to turn around struggling neighborhood schools, making sure school curriculums include art and music, providing health and nutrition services to low-income children through their public school, improving mentoring for new or struggling teachers, increasing the number of community schools, and providing high-quality preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds.

Read more about the findings.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 09/14/2017 - 11:31

Responding to Harvey and Irma: What Working People Are Doing This Week

Tue, 2017-09-12 10:26
Responding to Harvey and Irma: What Working People Are Doing This Week AFSCME

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:

We remember and honor those we lost, today and always. #NeverForget

— Actors' Equity (@ActorsEquity) September 11, 2017


AFGE activists are among the thousands of union members supporting victims of #Harvey and #Irma. #1u #HarveyRelief

— AFGE (@AFGENational) September 12, 2017


AFSCME members helped Floridians cope with #HurricaneIrma & are ready to assist communities recover from the storm.

— AFSCME (@AFSCME) September 11, 2017


#Harvey and #Irma remind us of the long-lasting impact of disaster and trauma on kids.

— AFT (@AFTunion) September 12, 2017

Air Line Pilots Association:

Pilots, ALPA’s P4P fund provides members with emergency financial relief. Apply here for assistance: #hurricaneimra

— ALPA (@WeAreALPA) September 12, 2017

Alliance for Retired Americans:

Next #NAFTA talks set for Sep. 23-27 in Canada. We need an agreement that benefits Americans, not a #TPP look-alike.

— Alliance Retirees (@ActiveRetirees) September 11, 2017

Amalgamated Transit Union:

#Detroit Bus Drivers Expose Deplorable Working Conditions: Rodents, Bed Bugs, Spitting And Assaults #publictransit

— ATU, Transit Union (@ATUComm) September 12, 2017

American Federation of Musicians:

All of us deserve the freedom to join unions & right to work laws take away that freedom. Go Canada! via @slate

— Amer. Fed. Musicians (@The_AFM) September 7, 2017

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance:

Please donate to emergency funds for the undocumented community in the #DMV: @APALADC

— APALA (@APALAnational) September 11, 2017

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA:

Our heroes on those 4 fateful flights acted as first responders. Today highlights the tremendous bravery of Flight Attendants. #NeverForget

— AFA-CWA (@afa_cwa) September 11, 2017

Aviation Safety Specialists:

PASS members look out for one another. Thanks @Douglas_Lowe_13, ChapFL1. Fed employees on the job during #Irma2017 @PASSRegionII @FAANews

— PASS (@PASSNational) September 9, 2017


BAC joined brothers and sisters from @LCLAA and @AFLCIO to #defendDACA. #HereToStay

— Bricklayers Union (@IUBAC) September 7, 2017

North America's Building Trades Unions:

Preach, John. PRRREEEAAACH!!!

— The Building Trades (@BldgTrdsUnions) September 11, 2017

California School Employees Association:

Dreamers contribute to our economy, our diversity and our growth as a society. @CSEA_Now will protect all students:

— CSEA (@CSEA_Now) September 5, 2017

Communications Workers of America:

CWAers at @ATT are at the #AppleEvent to stand up for a fair contract & fight against layoffs & offshoring. #1u

— CWA (@CWAUnion) September 12, 2017

CWA Printing Sector:

The devastation of these storms will affect many. Here is one CWA members home in Houston. See below to find out...

— CWA Printing Sector (@CWAPrintingSect) September 11, 2017

Department for Professional Employees:

Unions of professionals are standing with Houston and supporting the relief effort. #1u #HarveyRelief

— DPE (@DPEaflcio) September 10, 2017

Electrical Workers:

#IBEW linemen race to restore power in #Irma ’s wake

— IBEW (@IBEW) September 12, 2017

Farm Labor Organizing Committee:

At #FLOC50 Farmworker convention in Toledo youth/young adult program "Homies" teaches human rights & skills for leadership!! @SupportFLOC

— Sharon Stanley-Rea (@StanleyRea) September 9, 2017

Fire Fighters:

#IAFF staff has established operations @CapeFireL2424 to help with #Irma Relief efforts in Florida #IAFFRelief

— IAFF (@IAFFNewsDesk) September 12, 2017


Members of Iron Workers Local 46 (Springfield, IL) help build 9/11 memorial #September11

— Ironworkers. (@TheIronworkers) September 11, 2017

Jobs with Justice:

Troubling news: the #wagegap continues to widen between black and white men. #BlackWorkMatters

— Jobs With Justice (@jwjnational) September 12, 2017


#Infrastructure priorities in the wake of #HurricaneIrma #RebuildRenew

— LIUNA (@LIUNA) September 11, 2017


"If there is someone that has the elements & tools to fight back, it is Labor & it is #LCLAA" - @Hesanche LCLAA Executive Director #LCLAA45

— LCLAA (@LCLAA) September 8, 2017


A look inside the events of #September11th from the eyes of @MachinistsUnion members. #1u

Our documentary:

— Machinists Union (@MachinistsUnion) September 11, 2017

Metal Trades Department:

Working People at Their Best as Hurricane Harvey Delivers Havoc in Major Portions of Texas; Here’s One Way to Help

— Metal Trades Dept. (@metaltradesafl) September 10, 2017

Musical Artists:

To those affected by #HurricaneHarvey & #HurricaneIrma the #AGMAReliefFund can help w/ emergency assistance

— AGMA (@AGMusicalArtist) September 10, 2017

National Air Traffic Controllers Association:

Over the weekend #NATCA volunteers worked with @AARPcares to #EndSeniorHunger with a goal of 1.5M meals! Ready. Set. Pack!

Working Families Remember 9/11

Mon, 2017-09-11 12:31
Working Families Remember 9/11 Actors' Equity

On the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, America's working people commemorate those who lost their lives and those who worked tirelessly to help us recover and rebuild. Here are their words:

Union Veterans Council:

Today marks 16 years since four coordinated attacks on American soil shaped and changed our country as a whole. Two thousand nine hundred and ninety-six American lives were lost and more than 6,000 others were injured as a direct result of those attacks. America as a whole lost its sense of safety and security on September 11, 2001.

Since that day we have been at war, a war that has no end in sight. Millions of young men and women have volunteered and continue to volunteer to serve their country and defend the ideas we hold so dear. Many of those soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice. Many came home with injuries, ones you can see and so many you cannot.

This war has created a new generation of American veterans who have faced new and difficult struggles. We must insure that these veterans have the support and resources to be able to transition into civilian life, so they can achieve the American Dream.

Today, we honor the ones that we have lost, both at home and abroad and pledge to NEVER FORGET.

Fire Fighters:

“We will always remember their service, their dedication and their courage in the face of one of the most horrific moments in our union’s history,” said General President Harold Schaitberger. “We will never forget the supreme sacrifice made by our New York fire fighters who risked their lives to save others on that fateful day.”

Other unions and organizations memorialized the day on Twitter:

We honor & remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11 & in the days, weeks & years that have followed. We will #neverforget.

— NYC CLC (@CentralLaborNYC) September 11, 2017

U.S. & FDNY flags are carried across the Brooklyn Bridge by #FDNY members in remembrance of 9/11/01 #NeverForget

— FDNY (@FDNY) September 11, 2017

Join us in our vow to #NeverForget September 11th and all those we've lost.

— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) September 11, 2017

Today and every day, we remember our fallen. #NeverForget

— IAFF Canada (@IAFFCanada) September 11, 2017

Never forget.

— Laborers Local 79 (@local79nyc) September 11, 2017

Today and everyday we remember those who lost their lives on September 11th and honor the courage of our brave American heroes. #NeverForget

— Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW (@Local338) September 11, 2017

#FDNY members observe a moment of silence at #Engine205 #Ladder118 #NeverForget

— FDNY (@FDNY) September 11, 2017

On #September11, we remember all who lost their lives, esp our 43 sisters & brothers working at the top of the World Trade Center. #1u

— UNITE HERE (@unitehere) September 11, 2017

We #NeverForget our CWA, @AFA_CWA & @NABETCWA members who lost their lives on #September11th. We honor the fallen & fight for the living

RN Response Network to Deploy Additional Nurse Volunteers to Houston Post-Hurricane Harvey

Mon, 2017-09-11 11:31
RN Response Network to Deploy Additional Nurse Volunteers to Houston Post-Hurricane Harvey NNU

National Nurses United’s (NNU’s) Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN), a national network of volunteer nurses, will deploy its second delegation of RN volunteers to Houston, beginning Monday, Sept. 11, to provide medical assistance in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, NNU announced today.

"What we know from RNRN’s work in previous disaster-stricken areas, including Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as post-earthquake Haiti and super typhoon Haiyan, is that after an initial surge of volunteers, many people have to return to work. That is true in this case, as well as some volunteers being pulled to Florida, to address the impending Hurricane Irma," said RNRN Director Bonnie Castillo.

"Yet, the disaster didn’t end for Texans still in the recovery process. So our next round of volunteer nurses will be deploying to help continue ensuring enough medical aid exists on the ground for those impacted by Hurricane Harvey."

The current team of RNRN volunteer nurses will be providing medical assistance at Houston’s NRG Center. They are being deployed on the heels of an initial advance team of RNRN volunteers, who provided care at the George R. Brown Convention Center and the NRG Center in Houston and traveled to the nearby, hard-hit community of Beaumont, where they helped to set up a clinic and also provided care to residents of an assisted living community who were in need of medical aid. The advance team was able to work with local officials to help identify the need for another team of RN volunteers.

"The reason why I became a nurse is that I have always felt compelled to help those in need in the worst moments of their lives," said Cleveland, Ohio, RN Lisa Nguyen, who will deploy with the Sept. 11 delegation. "Disaster relief and humanitarian work is something I’ve always wanted to use my skills for, and when the opportunity arose to go to Texas and help with Hurricane Harvey came about, I knew I had to go. This fulfills the calling of why I became a nurse."

"I hope to provide some healing to residents of Houston," said volunteer RN Dotty Nygard, of Tracy, California, who will also deploy Sept. 11. "That’s what we do, as nurses; we go where we’re needed, and we help. I’m proud to be a member of RNRN because we can use our expertise at a crucial time when people are hurting and suffering."

RNRN also will monitor carefully the dangerous path of Hurricane Irma, to assess whether RNRN volunteers are needed in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 09/11/2017 - 11:31

Freelancing Ain't Free

Mon, 2017-09-11 10:17
Freelancing Ain't Free Kevin McShane

When is the moment in time for a freelance writer that a late payment becomes wage theft, and what do you do about it?

For A.J. Springer, who recently moved to the District of Columbia, the line was April 27, 2017, when he went public in a Chicago Tribune news story about the $1,755 owed him at the time for pieces he wrote for the magazines Ebony and Jet.

It’s hard to step forward as a freelance writer, and publicly demand payment. "A lot of people were uneasy or afraid to speak out. There are no protections for freelancers, and a lot of people are afraid of losing future work," Springer said.

The Establishment first broke the nonpayment story, which spurred Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writers Union (NWU)/UAW Local 1981, to start emailing and calling writers to say his union could help.

The NWU has a long history of fighting for freelance writers, filing suit against media companies in the 1990s to win back pay for those whose works had been sold and resold to databases. (Some writers actually received checks in the mail, out of the blue. As a freelance writer at the time in Boulder, Colorado, I was one of them.)

When Goldbetter reached Springer, he immediately joined the NWU, and so did other unpaid Ebony and Jet freelance writers.

Goldbetter says the list has been growing week by week since the campaign to get Ebony and Jet to pay hit the mainstream.

Six writers had come forward in early May. After Labor Day, the NWU filed a lawsuit against Ebony Media Operations and its parent company, Clear View Group, for allegedly violating the contracts of 37 freelance writers, editors and others who are collectively owed more than $70,000. The case was filed in Cook County, Illinois.

"Oftentimes, freelancers are at the mercy of the publications they write for," Goldbetter said. "They often lack union protections other workers have and many are afraid of being blackballed for speaking up about nonpayment."

Earlier in August, the National Association of Black Journalists presented Ebony with its Thumbs Down award, and unpaid Ebony writers attended the conference for free.

The decision to go public has paid off, at least in part, for Springer. He received about $1,100. He's one of the writers suing the magazines.

Early in his journalism career, when Springer was still a high school student in Las Vegas, he learned of the power of the press. He interviewed the new school superintendent, who used a racial epithet. When the story broke, the superintendent was fired.

Now, with a master’s degree and more than a decade of paid writing and radio work behind him, Springer is thoughtful about a different kind of power—the kind you build together, through communication.

"When this issue came up, I was in a position to speak loudly and boldly," he said. And so he did. "I knew if I lost any potential work, I’d be OK. It was important to organize and to speak out."

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 09/11/2017 - 10:17

Attention, Kentucky: Closing a Pension Is Never a Good Idea

Fri, 2017-09-08 15:16
Attention, Kentucky: Closing a Pension Is Never a Good Idea

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it—and it’s prime time for Kentucky lawmakers to learn a history lesson.

Kentucky’s public pension funds face very real challenges, caused by decades of underfunding on behalf of the state. While public employees contributed with every paycheck, the state continuously kicked the can down the road. Now, rather than address the state’s pension problems with sound economic policy, political interests seek to close Kentucky’s pension systems and place newly hired employees in a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan.

A report released today by consulting firm PFM recommends the switch away from pensions, while also suggesting several other radical changes, including increasing the retirement age for public employees. The report relies upon junk math that has been discredited in other states in the past, in order to push Gov. Matt Bevin’s political agenda. PFM promotes a failed model, recommending measures that will damage both the fiscal health of the state and the recruitment and retention of public servants.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Closing a pension system is never a good idea. One need look no further than the states and cities that have closed their pension systems to learn of the costly ramifications that follow.

In 1997, the Michigan State Employees’ Retirement System (MSERS) pension plan was closed and new hires were placed in a 401(k)-style plan. At the time of the plan’s closure, the funded status was 109%. With no new employees paying into the pension fund and an aging demographic, plan costs soared and the funding level dropped; by 2012, the plan was severely underfunded at 60.3%. After 20 years under the 401(k) plan, the state’s Office of Retirement Services found that the median balance in these accounts is just $37,260.

While Michigan continues to suffer the consequences of the MSERS closure, other states and municipalities have realized the error of their ways and taken steps to reinstate closed plans.

In 2005, West Virginia reopened its pension system for teachers after closing the plan in an attempt to improve funding levels in the early 1990s. In less than a decade after the plan’s reopening, funding levels more than doubled and teachers now enjoy access to a secure, dignified retirement.

After the Great Recession decimated 401(k) accounts across the country, state employees in Connecticut banded together and campaigned for the right to join the closed state pension system. They were successful, and in 2012, transfers out of the faltering 401(k) plan and into the pension began. Estimates place the total cost savings for the state of Connecticut as a result of these transfers at $10 million per year.

State employees weren’t the only ones in Connecticut to recognize the value of a pension: Firefighters in the city of New London moved back to a pension in 2014 after the previous defined contribution plan failed to provide adequate financial security for retirees.

Aside from providing employees with the most secure retirement, pensions also serve as a valuable tool to recruit and retain talented workers. In 2012, the city of Palm Beach, Fla., moved from a traditional pension to a hybrid defined benefit-defined contribution plan. The city lost 24 public safety officers to neighboring jurisdictions and another 28 left the following year. Without competitive retirement benefits to offer, Palm Beach’s police and fire departments were inexperienced and understaffed. In 2016, the city council voted to return to a traditional defined benefit pension.

PFM’s recommendation to close Kentucky’s pension systems and shift workers into a 401(k) is faulty and politically driven. Their report seeks to promote Bevin’s political agenda, rather than to offer constructive solutions for Kentucky’s pension systems. Their 401(k) "solution" has been tried before and, as history shows, it’s the wrong choice for all parties involved.

This post originally appeared at National Public Pension Coalition.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/08/2017 - 15:16

Standing with the Dreamers: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 2017-09-08 11:49
Standing with the Dreamers: The Working People Weekly List Todd Dwyer

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.

Latino Labor Conference Turns Into Pro-Dreamers, Anti-Trump March: "Led by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, and urged on by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., delegates and leaders of Labor’s Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) converted the first half day of their two-day convention in D.C. into a pro-Dreamer anti-Donald Trump march."

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: The Manufacturing Council Was Wasted, Useless: "AFL CIO President Richard Trumka discusses leaving President Trump's manufacturing council and the president's comments on tax reform and supporting a Democratic deal on supporting a debt limit extension."

AFL-CIO Boss Roasts Trump as Health Hazard, Labor Bust: "AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka celebrated Labor Day by blasting Donald Trump for having “repeatedly assaulted” regulations meant to keep U.S. workers safe. Speaking on CNN, the labor leader said Trump has repealed several important protections for worker health."

The Largest Labor Federation Says Ending DACA Will Encourage Labor Rights Abuses: "The AFL-CIO called President Donald Trump's decision to end the DACA immigration program, which protects 800,000 youths from deportation, 'cruel.' According to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka without this program, which benefits young people who came to the United States as undocumented immigrants at a young age, 'it will increase the number of vulnerable workers in the United States and empower employers to punish workers who try to join a union.'"

Trumka: Trump 'Assaulted' Regulations for Workers: "AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka reacts to President Trump's upcoming announcement on DACA and what he has done for the working class thus far into his presidency."

AFL-CIO Head Says No Contact with Trump on Manufacturing: "Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, comments on his interactions with the Trump administration during an interview with Bloomberg's David Gura on Bloomberg Markets."

AFL-CIO President: This Labor Day, Fight for Paid Leave: "Labor Day. For some Americans, it’s a time for friends, family and fellowship. The end of summer. The beginning of the school year. The start of the football season. An American tradition. That’s not all. Labor Day is an important opportunity to recognize and honor the achievements of working people."

Labor Movement Faces Challenges Amid Growing Public Support for Unions: "Ask AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka about the climate for unions on this Labor Day weekend, and he starts with something positive: a new Gallup poll showing public support for unions at its highest point since 2003. 'There's much more excitement about unions,' Trumka says during an interview in his Washington, D.C., office just across Lafayette Square Park and with a view of the White House. He adds that, 'over 61 percent of the people in the country support unions.'"

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/08/2017 - 11:49

Levin: Improving Workers' Rights in Mexico Key to Improving NAFTA

Fri, 2017-09-08 10:16
Levin: Improving Workers' Rights in Mexico Key to Improving NAFTA Sander Levin

In a new essay for the Financial Times, Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) describes dismal working conditions in Mexico and argues that improving the rights of Mexico's working people to join together in union is a key way to improve the North American Free Trade Agreement.

An excerpt:

After delaying labor reform for two decades, Mexico put a constitutional amendment on fast track, allowing workers to vote for officers and to ratify contracts. This effort occurred in the prelude to the vote in the U.S. Congress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. President Trump jettisoned TPP in the early days of his presidency, but the constitutional amendment was ratified in February.

Real reform at last in Mexico? Surely not yet. The critical "secondary" legislation to implement the amendment has yet to be enacted and could result in limited or nonexistent change, in effect pouring old wine into new bottles. It is not a positive sign that legislation to add transparency was put together largely without open public participation.

But the solution is not to throttle trade with Mexico, an approach which could damage both economies and spread globally. A far better protection for U.S. workers is to ensure better rights for Mexican workers. This would lead to wages and working conditions harmonizing upwards across North America rather than being on their current destructive downward slope. Corporations benefit from a more rapidly expanding market and trade could grow with what legendary U.S. labor leader Walter Reuther called "high velocity purchasing power."

The NAFTA experience indicates that promises only last until the ink on the agreement dries, if that long. Instead, NAFTA locked in a damaging status quo for a quarter century. This time around, NAFTA must include strong language and enforcement in the agreement, but, even more importantly, demonstrated reform in the labor area must take place before the agreement is voted on.

There are many critical issues in the renegotiation beyond labor standards. Absent these labor changes, however, we condemn workers in Michigan, Ohio, California and elsewhere to more dislocation and lower wages. We also ensure Mexican workers remain mired in high productivity poverty. And, we generate unpredictable political tensions on both sides of the border.

Real, functioning core labor rights lay the basis for expanding trade and reducing deficits by building a strong middle class. This is the road the U.S. followed in the aftermath of the second world war that created a broadly shared prosperity and reduced inequality. This approach helps lay the foundation for growing economies and strong democracies across North America.

Read the full essay (behind a paywall).

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/08/2017 - 10:16

Does #NAFTA Allow Corporations to Buy Justice?

Fri, 2017-09-08 08:46
Does #NAFTA Allow Corporations to Buy Justice?

One of the most insidious provisions in the North American Free Trade Agreement is the one that creates private justice for the wealthy few.

You may be thinking to yourself, "What?!?! I thought NAFTA was only about tariffs." Well, in fact, NAFTA is hardly about tariffs at all. News stories that try to boil NAFTA down to a simplistic "protectionism" (high tariffs) versus "free trade" (low tariffs) are glossing over the most important issues in NAFTA, like private justice for investors, rules that chill important regulations, and a complete lack of effective protections for working people, the environment we live in or the prices we pay for important necessities like medicine.

In this post, I’m going to focus on private justice for investors. It comes in the form of something called "investor-state dispute settlement," or ISDS. It is called by this name because all other tools to settle disputes in NAFTA (and other trade deals) are settled between "states" (meaning countries, such as the United States, Canada and China), so they are called "state to state." In NAFTA, private investors—whether they are corporations or actual human beings—can sue that country directly before a panel of three private lawyers (rather than judges they would have to face in a public court).

Weirdly, investors take on no responsibilities in exchange for this privilege. They don’t have to promise to invest a certain amount, create a certain number of jobs or even to follow a country’s minimum wage or clean water laws. There is no maximum amount they can sue for—and it’s taxpayers who are on the hook if countries lose. Well, it’s not so weird when you think about the main reason that multinational corporations supported NAFTA in the first place. They specifically wanted to create a set of rules for the North American economies that empowered corporate interests, disempowered workers and their unions, and drove wages down.

But, back to ISDS. Just what are these privileged investors suing over anyway? The most frequent claim that investors make is that a foreign government violated the investor’s right to "fair and equitable treatment," a claim that is as vague as it sounds, and which doesn’t exist under U.S. law. That’s right, NAFTA gives Canadian and Mexican companies that invest in the United States rights that U.S. companies don’t even have!

Again, why would NAFTA include such a crazy provision? To lock in power for multinational corporations. There is really no way to sugar coat it: It is about making us less powerful in our democracy and making investors more so. Some who defend ISDS say it is necessary because some governments don’t treat foreign investors well. Hogwash! Countries are competing to attract investors and give them all kinds of privileges, including 20-year tax holidays. They are bending over backward to make investors happy, not to treat them badly.

At this point, I hope your blood is boiling—or that you’re at least shaking your head. But don’t just sit and smolder silently. Help us educate more people about how outrageous ISDS is by sharing this post. Sign our petition calling for the elimination of ISDS from NAFTA.

This post is the third in a series. Read the previous posts here and here.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/08/2017 - 08:46


Labor 411's New 'Ethical Consumer' Series Empowers Working People to Express Their Voice Through Spending Choices

Thu, 2017-09-07 13:07
Labor 411's New 'Ethical Consumer' Series Empowers Working People to Express Their Voice Through Spending Choices Labor 411

Through its BuyBlue campaign, Labor 411 has launched a fun and informative new series of "Ethical" blog posts that target products, experiences and ingredients made by companies who treat their workers fairly. The posts, which will appear on the Labor 411 blog, include a variety of targeted topics, including the Ethical Consumerista, Ethical Chef, Ethical Bartender, Ethical Traveler and Ethical Manufacturer.

Labor 411 President Cherri Senders explained the purpose of the BuyBlue campaign:

Buying Blue is ethical shopping, which means spending your money on products and services at businesses that help create good jobs and strengthen the economy. There is no segment of life—day or night, work or play—for which you can’t be an ethical consumer. Our team makes it fun and easy. I’m learning new ways every day.

Several posts in the series already have been published, including the first from the Ethical Consumerista, which discusses turning classic union-made board games into fun party drinking games:

Instead, head for your closet, dust off one of your favorite board games from childhood, and start creating fun memories. The games listed below come with the added bonus of being made by ethical employees who treat their workers with respect. We’ve got the booze that you can find in our directory, but this time it’s about the games.

Another new entry in the series is from the Ethical Manufacturer, introducing the goals of the new blog series:

I hope to use this blog series to reduce some of the helplessness associated with ethical consumption. There are best practices, shortcuts, and educated leaps of faith that savvy consumers can make to bring supply chain malfeasance into the disinfecting light of day and reclaim the right to spend money without sacrificing one's morals and integrity.

In conjunction with the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, Labor 411 also just released their latest edition in their series of consumer guides to major American cities, with the 2017 edition of Labor 411 Philadelphia. The guide will help residents and visitors to Philadelphia find more than 10,000 products and services created by ethically minded businesses in the city. The Philadelphia guide is the latest in a series that includes Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and, coming in 2018, New York.

Follow Labor 411 on Twitter and Facebook to learn when new Ethical Consumer blog posts or consumer guides are published!

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 09/07/2017 - 13:07

NAFTA Renegotiation Isn’t Going So Well, and Here’s Why

Wed, 2017-09-06 12:47
NAFTA Renegotiation Isn’t Going So Well, and Here’s Why

On Sept. 5, the United States, Canada and Mexico finished the second round of talks on renegotiating a new North American Free Trade Agreement. The AFL-CIO laid out 17 ways that NAFTA needs to be improved so that we can have a North American economy that works for families, not just global corporations. So how well are the U.S. negotiators doing at creating a better deal for workers? Not well.

Granted, it is early in the process, and we don’t know a lot yet, but that’s part of the problem.

Our number one recommendation was that negotiators should be more transparent, most importantly by making public the rules they’re proposing for the new NAFTA. So far, the U.S. negotiators are failing. There has been no improvement in making the process open to the general public. As working people know, if we are not at the table, we are on the menu, so this grade is crucial.

In some important areas, the United States has not made proposals, including on labor and tax dodging. In other important areas, such as rules of origin or Buy American, the U.S. proposals are incomplete. Basically, this progress report has a lot of incomplete grades.

Is the U.S. team doing well in any areas at all? Well...the positions on enforcement and state-owned enterprises are a good starting point but need to go much further.

In sum, the U.S. negotiators need to up their game. If I were still a teacher and the U.S. negotiators were in my class, I’d be calling the parents tonight to work out an improvement plan to make sure they could pass my class. Of course, there is still plenty of time left to bring the grade up, but the question is whether the U.S. negotiators are motivated to improve or whether they just want to keep recycling failed trade ideas that will add up to another pro-corporate, anti-worker deal.

Stay tuned....

Note: If the texts are secret, how does the AFL-CIO know if the proposals are good or bad? The AFL-CIO has a seat on the Labor Advisory Committee, which has access to some U.S. proposals. However, because the texts are classified, we cannot reveal the details of any proposals.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 09/06/2017 - 12:47

DACA Announcement Will Not Deter Working People's Fight for Justice

Tue, 2017-09-05 16:02
DACA Announcement Will Not Deter Working People's Fight for Justice DC Metro Labor Council

The Trump administration announced today the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. America's unions responded with outrage and resolve. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

President Donald Trump’s move to terminate DACA and strip work authorization away from 800,000 productive members of our society is cruel and wrong. Ending DACA will increase the pool of vulnerable workers in our country and embolden employers to retaliate against working men and women who dare to organize on the job or speak out against abusive working conditions. This indefensible act will make our workplaces less fair and less safe and will undermine our freedom to join together and fight to raise wages and standards.

This direct attack on union members and union values only strengthens our resolve to overcome racial divisions and demand changes to a system rigged to benefit the wealthiest and corporations. The eyes of history are upon us. The labor movement will stand with these brave young workers and fight for legislation so that the contributions they make are celebrated, rather than assaulted. We will push for a pathway to citizenship and continue to oppose enforcement policies that discriminate and generate fear in our workplaces and communities. We will not give up the struggle until all working people have rights on the job, regardless of where they were born.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders:

It is grossly unfair and morally reprehensible for the U.S. government to go back on its word and deport undocumented young people who bravely came out of the shadows and registered under DACA.

DACA was part of an effort to find solutions to our broken immigration system and a legal path to citizenship for millions of hardworking people who were brought to America as babies and children through no choice of their own, by parents in search of a better life for their families.

It is urgent that Congress act to protect the young adults covered by the DACA program and finally get serious about comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform. It is on Congress to prove to Americans of every race and creed that our government keeps its promises and rejects hate and xenophobia.

AFT President Randi Weingarten:

President Trump has an opportunity to lead on this issue. The time has come for the president and Congress to offer comprehensive solutions to our broken immigration system. We must defend DACA now, but we know the enduring work is to provide pathways to citizenship for millions of students, families and neighbors working and living alongside us, which includes passing the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017.

The AFT will continue to fight to protect undocumented students, refugees, individuals with temporary protective status, and their families from the threat of deportation. A nation built by immigrants should welcome those in pursuit of the American dream, not pull up the ladder behind us.

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) President Monica Thammarath:

Today, we hold our immigrant community close. Know we will protect, defend and fight with you—our immigrant brothers, sisters and siblings—from raids, detention and deportation. We are committed as ever to do everything in our power to stop this mass deportation agenda and to make sure white supremacists and their agenda have no place in the White House or at any level of government now and in the future. If we are to truly move toward comprehensive immigration reform, mass deportation is not the answer. We call on our elected officials to find lasting legislative solutions that protect and strengthen sanctuary cities, defund and demilitarize our borders and our communities, and ensure that all immigrants live free from fear of detention or deportation.

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:

Ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is a heartless, gutless move by the Trump administration that threatens to rip 800,000 young DREAMers from their families.

California is home to 200,000 DREAMers who contribute to our state’s economy and culture every day. I know some of them. These young people are bright—some downright brilliant—hard-working contributors to our community who strive for the American Dream for themselves and their families. They’re our co-workers, classmates, friends and family. They deserve to be treated with compassion and respect.

By ending DACA, Trump will turn their promising lives upside down in an effort to appease his anti-immigrant base. He is committing a cold and cynical act that will harm all of us in the long run.

Culinary Workers Union Local 226 Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Argüello Kline:

Today’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a disgrace. This is not what the United States of America represents, nor is it who we are. This policy is another clear example of White Supremacy strategies and tactics and we denounce it....

This action is shameful and completely stains the Republican Party. We call on Republican legislators in the Senate and Congress to support the young immigrants and work with Democrats to pass a clean, stand-alone DREAM Act. We call on our Las Vegas employers on the Las Vegas Strip and in Downtown Las Vegas to stand with your workforce and to not let this immoral decision pass quietly.

Department for Professional Employees (DPE) President Paul E. Almeida:

Many of the young people covered by DACA are young professionals, working as teachers, doctors, nurses and lawyers, who contribute greatly to the American economy. By eliminating the DACA program, President Trump is ripping over 800,000 hard-working young people from their communities, jobs and families. DPE stands with the young professionals and union members affected by the termination of DACA and will work to help these young people stay in the place that they call home.

Jobs With Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta:

Even after the departure of Steve Bannon, the Trump administration continues to signal that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is brimming with white nationalist-fueled policies. Rather than going after greedy CEOs and corporations that depress wages, offshore jobs, fuel economic insecurity and make workplaces worse, President Trump has decided to scapegoat young immigrants who are working hard, contributing to the U.S. economy and making a better life for themselves and their families....

Taken together, the administration’s actions and policies on immigration and other issues, combined with the state-sponsored violence of ICE and Customs and Border Patrol are accelerating the vitriol and hate speech of Nazis and other white supremacists against people of color and immigrants. Jobs With Justice resists white supremacy and scapegoating of working people of color, whether it manifests as violence, hate speech, laws or policies.

Laborers (LIUNA) President Terry O'Sullivan:

LIUNA was founded more than a century ago by proud immigrant and minority workers, and then as now, we continue to work for fair treatment of all workers. LIUNA has been a strong and tireless advocate of comprehensive immigration reform, but in light of congressional inaction on comprehensive reform, we supported President Obama’s Executive Order to provide relief to children of immigrant families, known as Dreamers, through the DACA program. The administration’s announcement today to end the DACA program is disappointing and only further stresses the importance of Congress acting on real immigration reform.

Dreamers, immigrants who have lived in the United States since childhood, have spent their lives contributing to this country by working, paying taxes and even serving in our military. They are as American as those born here, except for an immigration status that is beyond their control. It is about time that Dreamers are able to live unburdened by the fear of deportation. These young immigrants deserve the chance to obtain lawful permanent residence and eventual citizenship. Today’s announcement ending DACA puts these young adults and children in a precarious and undeserved limbo.

Although our country has a long road ahead in achieving comprehensive immigration reform, the DREAM Act is a promising bipartisan step in the right direction. In light of the administration’s decision, LIUNA strongly urges Congress to immediately redouble efforts to come together and quickly pass this legislation.

UAW President Dennis Williams:

I am deeply disappointed by the Trump administration’s mean-spirited decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). It is now incumbent on the Republican-led Congress to pass the bipartisan DREAM Act.  

If Congress fails, over 800,000 of our friends, neighbors and many fellow union members who came to America as children, pay taxes, raise families and contribute vital services to our economy, risk deportation to a land that many do not know and cannot recollect.

Enough is enough. We cannot let the American Dream become hostage to a politically extreme agenda that seeks to divide us.

Union Veterans Council:

“We should be supporting these brave Dreamers, instead of putting their Military future on the political chopping block" #DefendDACA

— UnionVeteransCouncil (@unionveterans) September 5, 2017

UNITE HERE President D. Taylor and UNITE HERE Vice President Maria Elena Durazo:

Because of Donald Trump, 800,000 legal workers are now facing loss of their ability to work legally, and face deportation and loss of their families. It is imperative that Congress act immediately to protect the 800,000 DACA workers whose fate is now in their hands. It is now up to Congress whether these nearly 1 million immigrants, who contribute to the American economy, live productive and meaningful lives, and attain education and employment at higher levels than natural born Americans, lose their most basic rights to live in a country they were brought to as children. UNITE HERE resoundingly condemns the termination of DACA, as well as Trump’s lack of political courage, and will take to the streets, lobby our congressional members in UNITE-HERE dense districts across the country, and activate and mobilize our 270,000 workers in every state in the nation to advocate tirelessly to Congress to save DACA.

United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) President Marc Perrone:

President Trump’s decision to end DACA is cold-hearted, cruel and a betrayal of what America stands for. 

Hundreds of thousands of young, hard-working men and women who love America will now be needlessly punished for childhood circumstances. These young people have grown up in this country, passed background checks, pay taxes, go to school and have worked hard to build a better America. They have earned and deserve fair treatment, but instead their lives are being thrown into chaos with this announcement. 

President Trump’s decision will not make America great again; rather, it will tear families apart, damage communities and further fuel a terrible divide that is already hurting the nation we all love. 

On behalf of the 1.3 million members of our union family, we urge all members of Congress to immediately do what is right and protect these Dreamers.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 09/05/2017 - 16:02

Working on Labor Day to Recover from Harvey

Tue, 2017-09-05 13:53
Working on Labor Day to Recover from Harvey Texas AFL-CIO

Watching helplessly as flood waters rose was not an option for Brandon Parker. This Texas refinery worker and member of the United Steelworkers (USW) union has a jacked-up Suburban and a friend with a boat. There was no way he was going to let family members, neighbors or strangers drown.

Like Brandon, many union members couldn’t sit still through the storm. One drove her high-riding pickup truck two hours to find baby formula for co-workers rescued from their roof with a newborn. Another used his pickup truck to rescue people whose cars got caught in fast-moving water.

These are among the many workers across Texas and across the United States whose sense of community drove them to respond to the crisis created by Hurricane Harvey.

Brandon’s most harrowing rescues occurred on Sunday, Aug. 27, when he joined the citizens armada, the flotilla of boats owned by civilians who drafted themselves to serve as first responders when the catastrophic size of the emergency overwhelmed professionals.

The crew on Brandon’s boat was all union. His longtime friend, Kenneth Yates, a member of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 68 in Houston, owned the Bay Stealth craft. Yates’ stepfather, Robert Young, a retired member of the AFT, joined them on the expedition through engulfed Dickinson, Texas.

They launched the boat into deep water on Interstate 45. Bands of storm clouds pelted them with rain, paused, then resumed. The flood water was about six feet deep, not quite over the front door of most homes they passed. The current was strong, making it hard to maneuver the boat.

At one point, Brandon saw—just two inches below the water’s surface—an iron fence topped by arrow-shaped finials. He quickly shoved the boat away with an oar, preventing the metal points from puncturing the hull and sinking the craft. They were lucky. They saw rescue boats that were flipped over and one wrapped around a light pole. Ultimately, though, both the hull and propeller of Kenneth Yates’ boat were damaged from striking unseen underwater objects.

They picked up nine people. One family came from a second-story deck. They climbed down the deck’s steps and got into the boat. Another group was on the second story of an apartment building and descended its exterior staircase to the boat.

This was before evacuation was ordered, and Brandon was frightened for the people who chose to remain in their homes. He said he urged everyone he saw to leave while they could but many refused. "Because all the professional resources were being used, it might be hours before they could be rescued in an emergency," Brandon told me last week.

When it got dark, Brandon, Kenneth and Robert went home. They didn’t have lights on the boat, so it wasn’t safe to continue.

Brandon wasn’t done though. That night, a family in his neighborhood needed to get out of their house after water had risen four feet inside. It was a young boy, a friend of Brandon’s 11-year-old son, and the boy’s uncle. Brandon drove as close as he could to the house, then got a guy in a boat to go in and bring them out to where the car was.

That is how Brandon started rescuing people—with his car, which would end up with damage to the steering system, differentials and wheel bearings from driving in high water. He first put his car into service Saturday night, Aug. 26. He was headed home from his brother-in-law’s house, where he’d watched boxer Floyd Mayweather defeat Conor McGregor. Rain was pouring down and lightning flashing. He saw people walking along the swamped road, drenched.

Some had lost their cars in the rising water. Some had parked, afraid to drive further. Brandon picked up about a dozen in his high-riding, 1990 Suburban and drove them to their homes, most to the neighborhood where his brother-in-law lived.

By Sunday, Aug. 27, the roof of Brandon’s house in League City, Texas, was leaking, and he and his wife and three children had taken in flooded out in-laws. Still, he told his wife that he wanted to go out and help people. "She wasn’t too happy, but she understood that I needed to do that," Brandon recounted. "I have been in situations where people have helped me. Why wouldn’t I go and help other people?"

That morning, he drove to a neighborhood in hard-hit Dickinson, where nearly every house was flooded. He found hurricane refugees walking through deep water, carrying plastic garbage bags of belongings over their heads. This is dangerous because people can step in the wrong place and suddenly slip under water. That’s because there were deep ditches on both sides of the road and floods push manhole covers off.

He piled people into his Suburban and drove them to a bar that was still on dry ground. Other volunteers ferried them to shelters from there.

On Monday, Aug. 28, Brandon drove his truck through high water to get to a donation center in Galveston. He picked up cases of water, food, toiletries and other supplies. He distributed them in his neighborhood because many elderly residents had refused to leave their homes. "I went door to door giving out water and food. A lot of people turned me down. They said they didn’t want to take what others needed."

The supplies were crucial because even when people with high vehicles like Brandon could get out, they found stores closed and gas stations out of fuel. Brandon continued checking on his neighbors and handing out provisions through Wednesday, when water started receding and he had to go to work at the LyondellBasell refinery in Houston.

Like Brandon, Felicia Weir of Santa Fe, Texas, is a USW refinery worker with a high-riding truck. Even after her home flooded, she drove for hours on Wednesday, backing up constantly to circumvent flood-closed roads, to get baby formula and clothes for a couple who had been plucked from their rooftop with an infant granddaughter and two other young grandkids.

Marcos Velez, a USW staff member from Pasadena, Texas, drove his pickup truck through flood waters to rescue a refinery worker whose car was inundated by three feet of fast-moving water in Baytown, Texas, as he tried to drive to his job before dawn. Then Velez turned around and, despite blinding rain, rescued another dozen people whose cars were bobbing in the fast-rising water in that same neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the Texas AFL-CIO set up a charitable organization, the Texas Workers Relief Fund to aid working families, and local unions from across the country began donating. The National Nurses United (NNU) Registered Nurse Response Network, an organization of volunteer unionized nurses, deployed its first unit to Houston on Thursday. Three Texas USW local unions handed out food and water to first responders and the public.

These efforts won’t stop with the rain. This Labor Day, workers from across the country will be volunteering. They’ll be helping survivors of Hurricane Harvey recover. And they’ll continue donating their services for months.

This guest post by USW International President Leo Gerard originally appeared at Our Future.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 09/05/2017 - 13:53

Failure to Invest in Public Transportation Hurts Communities Across the Country

Tue, 2017-09-05 12:16
Failure to Invest in Public Transportation Hurts Communities Across the Country Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times recently profiled the story—or the commute, rather—of Sheila James, a 61-year-old federal office worker who lives in Stockton, California, but works 80 miles away in San Francisco. She rises at 2 a.m. so she can catch a bus and two trains to get her job as a public health adviser. Her total commuting time? Three hours—each way.

This intense commute isn’t by choice. Sheila is part of a growing community of working-class men and women known as "extreme commuters" who, because of skyrocketing real estate prices and a lack of affordable housing, are forced to travel more than 90 minutes one way each day to get their jobs. For Sheila, and millions of Americans like her, a combination of public transit and commuter options aren’t just alternatives to the office carpool—they are lifelines to economic stability.

But strains placed on state and local budgets mean these vital services are under threat. During the Great Recession, agencies were forced to severely cut back by slashing routes and jobs while raising fares, and many of those cuts have yet to be restored. Reductions in service, maintenance and system expansions don’t just affect extreme commuters like Sheila—they have profound impacts on communities all across the country.

When systems don’t have funds for the most basic of needs, like maintenance, workers who rely on public transit to travel even short distances may find their commutes grueling, unpredictable and sometimes even life-threatening. The men and women who make a living operating and maintaining these systems are often forced to work with outdated equipment and insufficient manpower. And our country’s unemployed, underemployed and lowest-income populations, who can’t afford vehicles but can afford bus and subway fares, are put at an even greater disadvantage. In some cases, lack of access to public transportation can feel like the cruelest of jokes.

Take Minnesota’s Twin Cities, for example. A recent study by the University of Minnesota found that the largest concentration of unemployed workers in the region lack fast or frequent transit service to available jobs. Researchers noted that disadvantaged jobs seekers are often qualified for entry-level positions located in the suburbs but have no way of actually getting to those jobs.

The same thing is happening in Chicago, where young, black adults face an unemployment crisis of startling proportions. While the state of Illinois’ unemployment rate is 4.6%, 60% of black 20- to 24-year-old Chicago residents do not have jobs. A recent study identified lack of public transportation options as a primary reason: The majority of jobs in Chicago are located downtown and on the city’s northwest side, far from Chicago’s traditionally black and disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Failing to address our nation’s commuting problems doesn’t just hurt those who use or want to use public transportation—these failures hurt the entire economy. Every dollar spent on public transit returns four dollars to our economy, and every billion dollars spent on transit supports or creates 50,000 jobs. When transit systems or commuter rail lines are built, workers in construction industries see job opportunities with good pay and solid benefits. And when paired with smart procurement strategies and strong Buy America rules, transit-related job creation is further maximized by ensuring bus and rail cars are made here, in the United States. Translation? Not investing in our transit systems costs our country jobs in other sectors and leads to missed opportunities for economic growth.

As lawmakers consider federal transportation funding next week, it is imperative they reject cuts to our nation’s transit and commuter rail systems and robustly fund these programs. At a time when so many Americans are relying on public transportation as a lifeline to good jobs, investments that will secure and expand these services are more important than ever.

But don’t take our word for it—just ask Sheila James.

This guest post from Larry Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 09/05/2017 - 12:16

Celebrating the Accomplishments of Working People

Tue, 2017-09-05 11:09
Celebrating the Accomplishments of Working People Wisconsin AFL-CIO

Across the country, Americans took time on Labor Day to celebrate working people and our accomplishments.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka discussed Labor Day's importance in an essay for Time magazine:

Labor Day is an important opportunity to recognize and honor the achievements of working people. It was meant to be a day of leisure, especially for workers and working families; it was also meant to be a day to remember the power and purpose of working people united in unions.

The tension between work and time off has always been a concern of the American labor movement. Work may be one of our core values, but it has a purpose, which is to allow us to live good lives, provide for ourselves and our families and, yes, to earn some time off to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Today, work and time off are badly out of balance, and Labor Day is a case in point. For too many people, especially low-wage workers, this day to celebrate working people is just another workday in a relentless slog.

Time off shouldn’t be impossible. Yet for far too many workers today, paid time off to recover from an illness or injury or to care for a family member or a newborn child is an out-of-reach luxury.

In the essay, Trumka discusses the AFL-CIO's new survey of working people and our access to paid time off. Read more about the results.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler was in Detroit for Labor Day. She told the Detroit Free Press:

There’s this sense that organized labor, with all the challenges we’re facing, that people are ready to write our obituary. But working people are coming together in all sorts of ways. But people don’t recognize that labor is still a relevant player in the economy and the reason they've gotten what they've gotten in the workplace is because of the efforts and vibrancy of the labor movement.

Here is some of the key media coverage of Labor Day 2017:

CNN: Trumka: Trump 'Assaulted' Regulations for Workers: "AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka reacts to President Trump's upcoming announcement on DACA and what he has done for the working class thus far into his presidency." (VIDEO)

NC Policy Watch: A Simple and Basic Right That’s Still Denied to Far Too Many American Workers: "Time off from work shouldn’t be impossible, but for too many of us, it is. On Labor Day, everybody in North Carolina who counts on a paycheck should have time for leisure and to recognize and honor the power and purpose of working people united in unions."

Sacramento Bee: This Labor Day, Let’s Remember the Value of Work: "'A day of the people.' That’s how the press described the first Labor Day celebration in New York City in 1882. The day was organized by unions to celebrate the American worker and bring to light the harsh conditions workers toiled under at the time, which included 12-hour workdays, unsafe conditions and low wages."

The Tennessean: Celebrate Labor Day, and Remember the Work Yet to Be Done: "As we observe the unofficial end-of-summer, we are also given another annual opportunity to recognize the American labor movement and all that it has accomplished for working families over the course of the last century."

Florida Today: Let's Celebrate Unions' Contributions on Labor Day: "Celebrating Labor Day honors the contributions of the labor movement. Unions exist because there was injustice on the job and workers fought back. Before the labor movement, children were working long hard hours. Exploitation was a common occurrence, and still is in many ways."

Chicago Sun-Times: What Labor Day Means to My South Side and Black Union Family: "Growing up on Chicago’s South Side, I learned at an early age the power of unions to dramatically improve the opportunities of black families in America. My grandparents were janitors in Chicago, the children of sharecroppers who fled the racist violence and oppression of the South for new opportunities in the North."

The Washington Post: Celebrate Labor Day by Supporting National Paid Family Leave: "None of us should have to choose between the job we need and the family we love. That’s the concept behind paid family leave. It provides a safety net for when life happens — when a baby arrives, a child falls ill, an aging parent needs extra care — and we need to be there."

Washington Post: The Media Still Gets the Working Class Wrong—But Not in the Way You Think: "This will be the first Labor Day since America rediscovered its working class—or, more accurately, one part of its working class. If there was any consensus in the aftermath of last November’s election, it was that elites had lost touch with working people. Yet 10 months later, most commentators still get the working class wrong."

Statesman Journal: Workers Are the Economy, so Celebrate Working Families: "On Labor Day, we recognize and honor the achievements of America’s working people. In 2017, this annual celebration comes at a critical time for our nation. Collective action is on the rise yet so are the attacks on our pay, health care, retirement security and rights on the job."

Santa Fe New Mexican: Celebrating the Freedom to Join on Labor Day: "On Labor Day, we recognize and honor the achievements of America’s working people. In 2017, this annual celebration comes at a critical time for our nation. Collective action is on the rise—yet so are the attacks on our pay, health care, retirement security and rights on the job."

Independent Record: Fighting to Improve the Lives of Montana Workers: "On Labor Day, we take time to recognize the achievements and struggles of all working Americans. In 2017, this yearly celebration could not be more important. The economic system in our country is failing workers, especially young workers, the working poor and retirees who either can’t find decent employment that supports a family or can’t afford to retire with respect and dignity."

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