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Labor Day Across America

Fri, 2017-09-01 13:09
Labor Day Across America

On Labor Day, working people across the country will be taking the day off and celebrating the achievements of working people. From the North Bay Labor Council's annual pancake breakfast in Santa Rosa, California, to the Mother Jones re-enactment in Salina, Kansas, the creativity and hard work of America's workers will be on display. To be specific, for Labor Day, planned events across the country include:

  • 80 picnics
  • 35 parades
  • 18 marches
  • 14 breakfasts
  • 11 rallies
  • 8 festivals
  • 5 celebrations
  • 3 dinners
  • 3 press conferences
  • 2 barbecues
  • 2 labor balls
  • And at least one of each: awards ceremony, bingo game, hog roast, labor statue dedication, carnival, concert, cookout, fishing derby, fundraiser, remembrance, run and wreath placement.

If you'd like to join the tens of thousands of Americans participating in one of the many events planned for Labor Day, contact your local or any of the AFL-CIO state federations and central labor councils across the country.

But not everyone gets to take the day off. Read our 2017 Labor Day survey results, which reveal that only 78% of Americans will get Labor Day off, although that number jumps to 85% for union members.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/01/2017 - 13:09

First Responders: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 2017-09-01 12:19
First Responders: The Working People Weekly List

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

In Devastated Southeast Texas, IBEW Members First Responders: "IBEW locals in the path of the storm, including areas around Corpus Christi, Houston and Galveston, were evacuated, Gonzales said. Some members and retirees have experienced property damage, but no deaths of members have been reported. Houston Local 66 Business Manager Greg Lucero says that crews with utility company CenterPoint Energy are already out working. 'If they were able to report to work, they’re working,' Lucero said of the approximately 1,500 utility members. 'They’re probably sleeping in their trucks right now.'"

Texas Working People Step Up in Worst Storm Ever: "As Hurricane Harvey and its remnants bring unprecedented flooding and damage to a huge portion of Texas, working people in the state are going above and beyond their duties to help one another, Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick said today."

Many Americans to Spend Labor Day Doing Work for No Pay: "The AFL-CIO, one of the nation's largest labor organizations and led by President Richard Trumka, also compared the status of union vs. nonunion workers—and as expected, those affiliated with labor came out ahead."

AFL-CIO Leader Says Hope for Working with Trump Has Faded: "When Donald Trump moved into the White House in January, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka hoped that labor leaders like himself would find common ground with the new president. Several union officials from the building trades even met with Trump for a photo-op during his first week in the Oval Office. But seven months later, Trumka says there is little hope left that unions will have a fruitful relationship with Trump."

Asian American, Pacific Islander Unionists Vow to Resist Trump: "AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, the first AFL-CIO Ethiopian officer, spoke of his history as a refugee who walked 93 days to the Sudanese border to find freedom. He said his experience of risking everything to come here was shared by many other immigrants and refugees. Gebre called on delegates to 'not abandon our spaces for the right wing to take' and that 'every day must be election day.'"

Still Striving for the Promised Land: "Fifty-four years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to proclaim his dream—of a nation where everyone is judged 'not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.'"

Maine Lobstermen Tap into Union Network for Retail Sales: "A few months after buying a lobster pound and processing plant, Maine’s lobstering union is now tapping its connection to unions across the country to rack up online retail sales and reap greater financial returns for its members."

AFL-CIO's Rick Bloomingdale: At the Intersection of Politics, Labor: "When Richard 'Rick' Bloomingdale graduated from college with a political science degree in the mid-1970s, the economy was lackluster, so Bloomingdale, 64, now president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, kept his college job washing trucks for the city of Tucson, becoming a member of AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/01/2017 - 12:19

The Economy Adds 156,000 Jobs in August, and Unemployment Was Little Changed at 4.4%

Fri, 2017-09-01 11:17
The Economy Adds 156,000 Jobs in August, and Unemployment Was Little Changed at 4.4% BLS

The U.S. economy added 156,000 jobs in August, and unemployment was little changed at 4.4%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This continues the recovery of the labor market at a tempered rate, which means the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee should continue to let the economy grow and not raise interest rates.

In response to the August jobs numbers, AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs tweeted:

Wages, August to August, up only 2.5% low wage pressures means @federalreserve has lots of room for growth to continue @AFLCIO @pdacosta

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) September 1, 2017

 

After falling, labor force participation stabilizes with slow increases, slightly more for women @IWPResearch @lizshuler @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/ysjVKHzoSB

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) September 1, 2017

 

Black male unemployment up from 7.0% in July to 7.8% in August in part due to more entering the labor force looking for work @CBTU72 @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) September 1, 2017

 

Those out of the labor force in July were 2.3 times more likely to get a job in August than stuck looking on return to labor force @aflcio

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) September 1, 2017

 

Broadest measure of unemployment stays improved over last year at 8.6% but improvement has stalled last three months @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/nV0obdKw7n

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) September 1, 2017

Last month's biggest job gains were in manufacturing (36,000), construction (28,000), professional and technical services (22,000), health care (20,000), food services and drinking places (9,000), and mining (7,000). Employment in other major industries, including wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, and government, showed little change over the month.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for teenagers (13.6%), blacks (7.7%), Hispanics (5.2%), adult men (4.1%), adult women (4.0%), Asians (4.0%) and whites (3.9%) showed little or no change in August.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was down slightly in August and accounted for 24.7% of the unemployed.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/01/2017 - 11:17

Working People on the Front Lines of Hurricane Harvey Response

Fri, 2017-09-01 10:57
Working People on the Front Lines of Hurricane Harvey Response

Whenever a natural disaster strikes, working people are the first responders, stepping in to save lives and reduce the harm done. After the devastation of a storm like Hurricane Harvey, we are also the recovery and clean-up crews who are around long after the media has moved on to the next story. Here are some of the ways that union members are helping out in the face of one of the most historic storms to ever hit Texas and the surrounding states.

  • Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA): Raising money to help affected families.
  • AFGE: Search and rescue, staffing national and regional response centers, supplementing emergency response communications, providing food and water, providing tarps and generators, water-borne rescue, distributing medical equipment and supplies, evacuating hospitals, evaluating damage to infrastructure, rescue missions using drones, providing information on storm surges and water heights, providing forcasts, assisting zoos and farms with animals, protecting superfund sites, testing flood waters for contaminants, restoring safe drinking water and wastewater facilities, and others.
  • American Federation of Musicians (AFM): Raising money to help affected families.
  • AFSCME: Rescuing and keeping people alive, providing emergency medical services, restoring essential services, protecting property, evacuating hospitals, evacuating inmates from prison facilities, delivering clean water and raising money.
  • AFT: Providing teachers with lesson plans and assistance in teaching children about the storm and its effects, raising money to help affected families, standing in solidarity with undocumented immigrants that are being targeted for enforcement actions while reacting to the storm and inspecting schools so that children can return when it is safe to do so.
  • Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA): Raising money to help affected families.
  • American Postal Workers Union (APWU): Raising money to help affected families.
  • Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU): Raising money to help affected families.
  • Communications Workers of America (CWA): Raising money to help affected families.
  • Fire Fighters (IAFF): Conducting block-by-block search and rescue missions in flooded areas.
  • Machinists (IAM): Raising money to help affected families.
  • Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE): Raising money to help affected families.
  • Electrical Workers (IBEW): Utility crews restoring power, serving as essential personnel at oil refineries in the path of the storm, rescue efforts.
  • Longshoremen (ILA): Raising money to help affected families.
  • Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association (MEBA): Raising money to help affected families.
  • National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC): Raising money to help affected families.
  • National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA): Routing and maintaining the safety of humanitarian flights bringing in supplies for relief efforts, working with rescue helicopters and working to restore normally scheduled traffic, along with military, rescue, and recovery flights from FEMA, the Coast Guard, police, and first responder helicopter and fixed wing aircraft.
  • National Nurses United (NNU): Providing medical assistance.
  • Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU): Raising money to help affected families.
  • Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS): Soliciting blood donations and raising money.
  • SAG-AFTRA: Raising money to help affected families.
  • International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART): Raising money to help affected families.
  • Transport Workers (TWU): Raising money to help affected families.
  • Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA): Raising money to help affected families.
  • United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW): Raising money to help affected families.
  • United Steelworkers (USW): Raising money to help affected families.

These are just some of the ways union members are stepping up to help in response to Hurricane Harvey. We will update as more reports come in. You can donate directly to the Texas Workers Relief Fund today.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/01/2017 - 10:57

Defending Our House: IBEW Local 1245's Public Sector Members Gear Up to Fight Back Against Anti-Union Attacks

Thu, 2017-08-31 14:40
Defending Our House: IBEW Local 1245's Public Sector Members Gear Up to Fight Back Against Anti-Union Attacks IBEW 1245

On Aug. 22, Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1245 members from across the public sector packed the Ronald T. Weakley Union Hall in Vacaville, California, to learn about the growing attack on public sector unions and Local 1245’s strategy to defend and build our house through Volunteer Organizing Committees (VOC) at each of our public employers.

The Threat

The labor movement is bracing for a ruling on a U.S. Supreme Court case known as Janus v. AFSCME, which likely will be decided in June 2018. If the court rules against the union, it would eliminate "closed shops" (also known as agency shops) in the public sector. This is essentially the same end result as "right to work" laws—the objective being to weaken unions and decades-old labor contracts, giving employers unlimited power to define and control wages, benefits, working conditions and regulations.

According to professor Gordon Lafer, a nationally recognized labor expert from the University of Oregon who has documented the impact of RTW in the dozens of states where it is already the law, the detrimental impacts of such a policy are indisputable.

"Research shows that in right to work states, wages and benefits are lower for union and nonunion workers, with zero impact on job growth," Lafer told the room full of Local 1245 activists. "The claim that RTW is about 'freedom' not to pay dues is false. In most states, people pay dues all the time, such as dues to participate in the Chamber of Commerce, or dues to the American Bar Association. The only 'right' that right to work defends is the right to undermine workers’ organizations, weaken union contracts and eliminate unions."

What’s at Stake

To demonstrate what union members stand to lose under the Janus case and RTW, Local 1245 Business Representative Jennifer Gray held up an original 13-page agreement from nearly 100 years ago and compared it with the current 120-page Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) contract.

"The contract from 1918 looks a lot like your first house. It provides the basics, a roof, some security and comfort. Your current SMUD agreement is like your current home. It’s built equity over time, because of generations of negotiations, and the investment that workers like everyone in this room have given over the years," Gray explained. "Now, how would you feel if someone came in and ripped the roof off your home? Because that’s exactly what Janus would do!"

IBEW Local 1245 Senior Assistant Business Manager Ray Thomas reminded the packed room that absent a labor contract, working men and women at public agencies are exempt from wage and hour provisions of the California Labor Code.

"If we lose our contract, we lose the negotiated rules governing overtime, meal breaks, wages and so much more," Thomas said. "If we don’t have revenue from union dues, we lose the ability to provide the highest-quality representation and the ability to educate policymakers who define the rules and regulations that affect our pensions, our health care and so on."

How serious is the threat? Just ask the domestic workers’ unions. In 2014, a Supreme Court decision (Harris v. Quinn) stripped away the rights of domestic workers, an assault that was compounded by a well-funded, intensive ground operation to encourage domestic workers to opt out of paying union dues.

"The anti-union Freedom Foundation sent mailers, phone-banked, door-knocked and showed up at our members’ schools, churches and community centers spewing anti-union rhetoric," recounted United Domestic Workers (UDW)/AFSCME Local 3930 Vice President Doug Moore. "We fought back. We listened to our 100,000 members. And by going door to door, member to member and holding one-on-one conversations and using all the technology at our disposal, we re-signed our members. We turned fee-payers to full members. We grew our membership. We turned this threat into an opportunity and not only survived, but thrived."

Local 1245’s Fight Back Campaign

Describing this moment as one of the most serious challenges confronting labor, Local 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell affirmed his belief that our members are up to the task.

Pointing to our experience defending and building our house in Nevada, which is already a right to work state, Dalzell emphasized that "We will succeed because of our membership. From linemen to clerical members, our members are stepping up and charting the course. This is your fight. We will support you in every way available. But your voice, your outreach to your co-workers is the most powerful strategy going forward."

Local 1245’s organizers have teamed up with our public sector business representatives and developed a fight back game plan for our 2,500 public sector members. Local 1245 organizer Eileen Purcell laid out the 12-month campaign, which aims to re-sign 100% of our current membership and build leadership and capacity.

"Volunteer Organizing Committees are the heartbeat of our campaign," Purcell said. "Our goal is to build leadership and capacity before, during and after the Supreme Court decision, so that we can re-sign our current membership as voluntary dues-paying members and reap the benefits of a fully engaged membership, no matter the threats we face."

Business reps have begun discussing the threat of Janus and right to work at unit meetings. Members have attended conferences and trainings. VOCs already have been launched at several of our 31 public sector employers, including Sacramento Regional Transit (SRT), Modesto Irrigation District (MID), the cities of Vallejo and Redding.

Connie Bibbs, a 31-year member of Local 1245, the unit chair at Sacramento Regional Transit (SRT) and a leader of the VOC, reported on the progress that her committee has made so far.

"We held our first VOC meeting on July 17 at the union hall. On Aug. 16, we held our second meeting. We doubled in size," said Bibbs. "Within 36 days, we’d held 98 face-to-face, one-on-one conversations, grown our VOC to 25 members, identified a point person in every one of our SRT departments and collected 89 updated contact information cards (44% of our membership). Our next VOC meeting is Sept. 20. We are ready to roll!"

MID Unit Secretary and VOC member Karri Daves, a 17-year member of Local 1245, reported that the MID VOC is comprised of 15 core members.

"Since our Aug. 7 meeting, we have tracked 74 face-to-face conversations, identified 15 prospects for the VOC and gotten three commitments to attend the next VOC meeting on Sept. 12," Daves reported. "We are also developing an MID flier that tells the story of MID before the union came, and after we formed our union."

Flanked by six of his co-workers who are on the VOC at the city of Redding, Unit Chair and VOC leader Dave Williams also reported on their outreach efforts and their plans to hold a family barbecue after Labor Day to educate members.

Tough Conversations

Members discussed ways to talk about RTW with members at work, at home and in the neighborhood—by dispelling myths, sharing the facts and recognizing there may be some tough conversations.

"I’d stress that without the organization [the union] we have no contract," Dave Williams said. "If someone doesn’t want to pay 1.5% of base pay in dues, I say, ‘Think about it. Think about our retirement and what the city pays, only because of the union contract we negotiate. Are you willing to lose upward of 20% in value of your take-home pay and benefits?'"

SMUD member and Organizing Steward Kim Camatti summed it up this way: "Without our contract, the employer determines everything, and we have no rights. Would you rather be paid the nonunion going rate for your job or the union rate?"

Building Our House

By the end of the training, members from 17 employers had set dates and made a plan to recruit their co-workers to the VOC.

"I’m excited about the level of enthusiasm that our members demonstrated for the fight," said Local 1245 Business Representative Sheila Lawton.

"Today, our public sector members took ownership of this fight-back campaign to defend and strengthen their union," veteran Local 1245 organizer Fred Ross added.

Asked his impressions, Lafer declared: "Almost every union I know is in a panic about what to do about right to work. But almost none have done what you’ve done at [Local] 1245: train rank-and-file members so they have a deep, intuitive understanding of the issue and are equipped to talk to co-workers, and then send them out with a goal of having serious, face-to-face conversations with everyone in the union—and putting those conversations to the test by asking everyone to sign a renewed commitment to the union. It’s great to see such a serious and ambitious program, one that doesn’t rely on staff to do everything but [instead] puts members in leadership positions. I wish a lot of unions around the country could sit in on what you’re doing and copy it."

This post originally appeared at IBEW Local 1245.

Compiled by Local 1245's organizing team. Photos by John Storey and Steven Marcotte.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 08/31/2017 - 14:40

Trumka: Unions Are Needed Now More Than Ever

Thu, 2017-08-31 11:23
Trumka: Unions Are Needed Now More Than Ever Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor

This week, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was the guest at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast, where he explained the importance of the union advantage, both for union members and for all working people.

In his opening remarks, Trumka said:

Simply put, union workers, empowered by the freedom to negotiate with employers—do better on every single economic benchmark. Union workers earn substantially more money. Union contracts help achieve equal pay and protection from discrimination. Union workplaces are safer. Union workers have better access to health care and a pension.

And here is the good news: The popularity of unions is rising. A Pew survey shows 60% of Americans support unions and that number is even higher among millennials. And in our Labor Day poll, a majority of working people said they would vote to join a union tomorrow if given the opportunity.

So let’s give them that chance—free from the employer interference and intimidation that has become all too common.

Whether it’s raising wages, paid leave, gender and racial equality, or simply the freedom to negotiate for a better life, unions are needed now more than ever. We can help deliver the economic rules working people are hungry for. That’s our focus and mission this Labor Day and beyond.

Here is some of the key media coverage of Trumka's visit to the Christian Science Monitor breakfast:

Talking Points Memo: Union Leader: White House Is Divided Between ‘Racists’ And ‘Wall Streeters’: "Richard Trumka, the president of the nation’s largest labor union, the AFL-CIO, told reporters Wednesday morning that he has no regrets about quitting the Trump administration’s manufacturing committee in the wake of the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville.'"

New York Daily News: Top Labor Leader Says There's No Working with 'Racists' in the White House: "'A lot of the optimism has faded,' Trumka told reporters. 'We haven’t seen the things that we were hopeful that we could work with him on.' Trumka also released a new study commissioned by the AFL-CIO at the breakfast that found a majority of Americans would join a union if given the chance. It also found that most people are overworked and underpaid—although union members fare better than nonunion workers."

Los Angeles Times: AFL-CIO President: 'Calling the President Names, Even if They’re Accurate, Gets You Nowhere': "Trumka, reared in one of the Pennsylvania coal towns that Trump swept in the election, said that telling voters who supported him that they were stupid to do so is also a strategy for failure. Instead, he said, Democrats need to make the case to those who gave him the benefit of the doubt that Trump has not done what he promised."

USA Today: AFL-CIO President: Trump White House Split Between 'Racists' and 'Wall Streeters': "White House advisers such as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, economic adviser Gary Cohn, and Trump's daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner. That faction 'won out' and is now 'doubling down' on polices that promote corporate profits over improving the wages and working conditions of ordinary Americans, Trumka said."

The Hill: AFL-CIO Chief: Trump Torn Between 'Racists' and 'Wall Streeters': "Although the council was ultimately disbanded by the president, Trumka said that it had never been a functioning body in the first place. 'The [manufacturing] committee itself, it never was a vehicle to provide real policy solutions. In fact, the committee never met,' he said. 'It became a way to get every regulation they didn’t want to deal with off' the books. 'They didn’t have any solutions for helping manufacturing.'"

HuffPost: AFL-CIO Leader Says Hope for Working with Trump Has Faded: "For all Trump’s talk about the working class on the campaign trail, his domestic policy agenda so far has looked a lot like a wish list for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. His agencies have been busy stalling or repealing regulations at the behest of the industries they are supposed to police, including many worker protections important to the AFL-CIO. Trumka said the White House has done little that his union federation would approve of so far."

Christian Science Monitor: How Big Labor Is Wooing Working-Class Trump Voters Back to Democratic Fold: "'Giving people information is the way to move people,' he said. That means, for instance, pointing out that while Trump promised health care for everyone, he supported a GOP plan that would have eliminated it for millions, said Trumka. Or that the president’s rollback of regulations has included rollback of worker standards. Or that Trump has yet to get an infrastructure plan through Congress, even while his trade renegotiation efforts on NAFTA are only in their earliest stages."

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 08/31/2017 - 11:23

Labor Day 2017: Working People Take Fewer Vacation Days and Work More

Wed, 2017-08-30 11:24
Labor Day 2017: Working People Take Fewer Vacation Days and Work More AFL-CIO

Working people are taking fewer vacation days and working more. That's the top finding in a new national survey, conducted by polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the AFL-CIO in collaboration with the Economic Policy Institute and the Labor Project for Working Families. In the survey, the majority of America's working people credit labor unions for many of the benefits they receive.

In response to the poll, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

Union workers empowered by the freedom to negotiate with employers do better on every single economic benchmark. Union workers earn substantially more money, union contracts help achieve equal pay and protection from discrimination, union workplaces are safer, and union workers have better access to health care and a pension.

Here are the other key findings of the survey:

1. Union membership is a key factor in whether a worker has paid time off. While 78% of working people have Labor Day off, that number is 85% for union members. If you have to work on Labor Day, 66% of union members get overtime pay (compared to 38% of nonunion workers). And 75% of union members have access to paid sick leave (compared to only 64% of nonunion workers). Joining together in union helps working people care and provide for their families.

2. Working people go to work and make the rest of their lives possible. We work to spend time with our families, pursue our dreams and come together to build strong communities. For too many Americans, that investment doesn't pay off. More than half of Americans work more holidays and weekends than ever before. More than 40% bring home work at least one night a week. Women, younger workers and shift workers report even less access to time off.

3. Labor Day is a time for crucial unpaid work caring for our families. Our families rely on that work, and those who don't have the day off and have less time off from work can't fulfill those responsibilities. A quarter of workers with Labor Day off report they will spend the holiday caring for children, running errands or doing household chores.

4. Women are less likely than men to get paid time off or to get paid overtime for working on Labor Day. Women are often the primary caregivers in their households, making this lack of access to time off or overtime more damaging to families. Younger women and those without a college education are even less likely to get time off or overtime for working on Labor Day.

5. Most private-sector workers do not have access to paid family leave through their employer. Only 14% of private-sector workers have paid family leave through their job. The rest have less time to take care of a family member's long-term illness, recover from a medical condition or care for a new child. As a result, nearly a quarter of employed women who have a baby return to work within two weeks.

6. Over the past 10 years, 40 million working people have won the freedom to take time off from work. Labor unions have been at the center of these wins.

Recently, the AFL-CIO played a lead role in fights to expand access to paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave in in New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C. Individual unions have been at the forefront of new and ongoing fights in Arizona, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington.

7. An overwhelming majority of Americans think unions help people enter the middle class and are responsible for working people getting Labor Day and other paid holidays off from work. More than 70% of Americans agree. A plurality of Americans think weaker unions would have a negative impact on whether or not they have adequate paid time off from work. The majority of Americans would vote to join a union if given the opportunity. A recent Gallup poll showed that 61% of Americans approve of unions, the highest percentage since 2003.

Read the full AFL-CIO Labor Day report.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 08/30/2017 - 11:24

Hurricane Harvey Reminds Us That Budget Choices Make a Difference in People's Lives

Wed, 2017-08-30 10:12
Hurricane Harvey Reminds Us That Budget Choices Make a Difference in People's Lives AFL-CIO

As Hurricane Harvey pummels the Gulf Coast with 130 mile per hour winds, epic flooding and a deadly storm surge, Congress is preparing to make momentous budget choices that will make a real difference in the lives of people threatened by natural disasters.

Hurricane Harvey reminds us how much we all depend on quality public services—and the people who provide them. Yet the Trump administration is proposing drastic cuts to vital disaster response to pay for trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations.

The administration’s proposed cuts to disaster response include $667 million to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, $62 million to the National Weather Service, $967 million to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and $190 million to the National Flood Insurance Program.

FEMA is the federal agency most critical to emergency management. The Trump administration is urging Congress to slash FEMA funding that helps cities and states prepare for natural disasters, including hurricanes and coastal storms.

At the same time, President Donald Trump has proposed about $5 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, including tax breaks that encourage corporations to send jobs overseas.

As Congress returns from its August recess, it will face tough choices on the federal budget and taxes. We cannot afford cuts to disaster response or other vital public services that we all depend on to pay for trillions of dollars in wasteful tax giveaways.

The Texas AFL-CIO is working with the Texas Workers Relief Fund, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that helps affiliated workers in the aftermath of disasters. Please help out today.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 08/30/2017 - 10:12

An Open Letter to Trump About DACA, from a 'Dreamer'

Tue, 2017-08-29 14:37
An Open Letter to Trump About DACA, from a 'Dreamer' Wikimedia Commons

The AFL-CIO demands that the Trump administration defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that provides work authorization to 800,000 people, preventing workplace exploitation and protecting their freedom to join together in union. DACA holders are members of our families, our unions and our communities who have made positive contributions to our society for many years. We will not allow them to lose their rights and status.

The following is an open letter to the Trump administration from Juan Escalante, a "dreamer":

Dear President Trump,

My name is Juan Escalante. I am a longtime Florida resident, the oldest of three brothers and a two-time graduate of Florida State University. I am also an undocumented immigrant who considers myself American in all ways but one — on paper.

My family and I came to the United States in 2000, shortly after Hugo Chávez became president of Venezuela. My parents had the foresight to predict the current chaos engulfing the oil-rich nation, which is why they left their family, belongings and home in exchange for a chance to pursue the American Dream.

However, my family’s hopes of eventually becoming U.S. citizens were dashed in 2006, when we discovered that our immigration attorney mishandled our case. Nevermind that my family spent six years and thousands of dollars waiting in the infamous "line" immigrants are often told to get in — a line which does not actually exist.

Nor did it matter that my parents had started to build a business of their own, paid taxes, and sent me and my younger brothers to public school in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. No. The only thing that mattered to the government was that my family could face deportation due to our lack of a couple of papers.

In 2007, after watching my mother cry inside an admissions office at Florida International University, where she discovered that our immigration status meant a paralyzing financial burden when it came to paying for my college education, I became an immigration advocate.

For the past 10 years, I have fearlessly and unapologetically advocated for the rights of the immigrant community. I have helped organize sit-ins inside congressional offices in support of the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that would allow young immigrants like myself to adjust our status. I have collected hundreds of thousands of signatures denouncing your stance on immigration, a clear expression of my First Amendment right of free speech. And I have lobbied for in-state tuition for undocumented students in Florida, an effort that earned Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s personal recognition back in 2014.

I am proud of my work as an immigration advocate, mainly because it has allowed me to overcome my fear of being deported, but also because it has allowed me to help families across the United States deal with the anxiety and depression that comes with being undocumented.

However, I am even prouder of the obstacles I have been able to overcome as an undocumented immigrant.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), which was announced by President Barack Obama in 2012, provided nearly 800,000 young immigrants with the opportunity to live free from the fear of deportation. It also gave to us a sense of freedom, thanks to the work permits and driver’s licenses it led to.

That freedom that young undocumented immigrants have enjoyed for the past five years has yielded significant gains for the United States. Thanks to DACA, young immigrants have been able to pursue higher education, have started our own businesses, while others continue to work and contribute back to our communities. All of these young people are aspiring Americans, who are working day and night to ensure that we make use of our temporary deportation protection to give back to, not take from, the country we call home.

Ending DACA means disrupting the lives of nearly a million people. Some of these young people may be your critics, myself included. Others may be working on their degrees or helping create jobs for American citizens. However, the truth is that, politics aside, all of us want to give back to this great country.

Mr. President, just as your parents wanted you to succeed, and just as you want your children to succeed, my parents took a great risk for my future. It’s what families do. My family and I do not have a pathway toward citizenship, not today, tomorrow or ever. That is why DACA is so important.

Right now, DACA beneficiaries, often known as dreamers, enrich this country with our talents, culture and determination. All we want is for you to allow us to work and study without using us as targets for deportation or prey for the white supremacists who wish to see us sent back to a country that we do not know.

Juan's post originally appeared at Medium.

Read the AFL-CIO Executive Council statement on DACA and check out our immigration resources to learn your rights and how to protect your family.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 08/29/2017 - 14:37

Texas Working People Step Up in Worst Storm Ever

Tue, 2017-08-29 10:35
Texas Working People Step Up in Worst Storm Ever Texas AFL-CIO

As Hurricane Harvey and its remnants bring unprecedented flooding and damage to a huge portion of Texas, working people in the state are going above and beyond their duties to help one another, said Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick.

Patrick said the heroism of first responders and the persistence of many others working through the storm have saved lives even as wind, rain, and extensive flooding destroy or damage property. Union members across the state have stepped up to look out for others as the storm proceeds.

"The outsized hearts and incredible stamina of working people help make our state the kind of place where the job of saving lives gets done right and where neighbors rush through danger to help neighbors," Patrick said. "If Hurricane Harvey is a test, working people are passing it with flying colors.

"Texas has never seen anything like Hurricane Harvey. This is a worst-case scenario for flooding in the Houston area, and it might get worse. Many other areas of the state have been or are being slammed. We are extraordinarily proud–but not surprised in the least–at the level of solidarity among working people in helping with the primary task of protecting lives. As seen on TV, social media and through other reports, there is no shortage of heroism in Texas.

"First Responders have been joined by any and all who are willing and able to help in rescuing thousands of Texans. Those who care for our infrastructure in emergencies, including electricians, communications workers and a wide range of public employees, are doing everything they can to maintain systems wherever possible."

Patrick said the Texas AFL-CIO is in contact with the national AFL-CIO, central labor councils, executive board members, and international unions to get an early read on what is going to be needed in the long aftermath of this storm. Toward that goal, the state federation has activated a link to donate to the Texas Workers Relief Fund, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that helps affiliated workers in the aftermath of disasters.

"The Texas AFL-CIO thanks everyone who is working to minimize the damage from this horrific storm," Patrick said. "We also want to thank labor organizations from across the nation and Canada who have contacted us with offers of help and donations to the Texas Workers Relief Fund."

This post originally appeared at Texas AFL-CIO.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 08/29/2017 - 10:35

There Is No Excusing Joe Arpaio

Mon, 2017-08-28 17:18
There Is No Excusing Joe Arpaio Bazta ArpaioGetting out the vote to stop Joe Arpaio

One of the few 2016 election victories for working families came in the defeat of then-Arizona Sheriff Joseph Arpaio. A broad coalition of working people formed the “Bazta Arpaio” (Basta is Spanish for "enough") campaign—working tirelessly to register and turn out first-time voters. In one weekend before the election, more than 500 union volunteers knocked on over 13,000 doors. One of the volunteers, Rene Cruz, an election volunteer and Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1245 organizer and steward shared his experiences on the campaign: “This is the people coming together, and this is what solidarity looks like.”

“It’s going to be a new day for Arizona,” 30-year-old realtor Dulce Matuz told ThinkProgress on election night in 2016. “We’re not just going to be known as the state that passed anti-immigrant laws, we’re going to be the state that voted against hate and xenophobia. We can finally move on and be a state that celebrates diversity.”

According to ThinkProgress, Matuz voted for the first time in November and said she was thrilled to cast her ballot against Arpaio, a man who has loomed large over Phoenix’s Latino community for nearly a quarter century.

Late last week, with the pardon of Arpaio, democracy and the efforts of Phoenix's working families was undone.

“[President] Donald Trump’s pardon of convicted criminal Joe Arpaio is an attack on immigrants writ large and shows Trump’s support for Arpaio’s illegal practices,” UNITE HERE stated. “Joe Arpaio terrorized and harassed Latino workers, regardless of immigration status, for the six terms he served as sheriff of Maricopa County. Under him, illegal racial profiling of law-abiding citizens ran rampant in the most populated county in Arizona, and he institutionalized systematic discrimination against Latino workers across Phoenix that included frequent violations of the U.S. Constitution.”

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was infamous for his harsh anti-immigrant policies, accusations of racial profiling and misuse of funds. His so-called Tent City was the perfect symbol of everything that was wrong with his approach to law enforcement. There is no excusing his inhumane treatment nor this subversion of the rule of law.

The AFT also spoke out about why this pardon is problematic: “Ex-Sheriff Arpaio used the power of his office to harass, discriminate against and racially profile Latinos and immigrants, mistreat prisoners, unlawfully detain U.S. citizens and permanent residents, terrify and separate families, and turn routine traffic stops into a mass deportation strategy. He was convicted of violating constitutional rights, defied the courts and was voted out of office by the people of Arizona.”

The strength of working people defeated Sheriff Arpaio at the ballot box, and this same energy will be brought to the fight to ensure that hate will not divide us.

“Sheriff Joe’s raids are used by unscrupulous employers to really take advantage of the undocumented workers that come to this country. Labor has an interest in this fight because we want to make sure that workers aren’t exploited,” said Joe Diggs, an AFGE member who joined the campaign.

Union members who worked on the campaign highlighted how Arpaio’s practice encouraged low-road employers. Organizers on the election campaign were awarded the UnSung Hero Award, which is presented by the AFL-CIO to a leader or leaders who have worked to make a substantive, yet unrecognized, contribution to advancing social justice in society. This award is in honor of their bravery, which is often unknown or goes unacknowledged, but through humility and activism, their work made institutional change in society.

In honor of the hard work of union members, the labor movement will continue to be at the tip of the spear when it comes to immigration reform. Enacting meaningful immigration reform is critical to our long-term efforts to lift labor standards and empower workers, and the labor movement will continue to stand in solidarity with all working people.

Michelle Blau Mon, 08/28/2017 - 17:18

Tags: Arizona, Joe Arpaio

A Government-Sponsored Pay Cut in Missouri

Mon, 2017-08-28 16:08
A Government-Sponsored Pay Cut in Missouri Cathy Sherwin

For thousands of hardworking people in St. Louis, working in restaurant kitchens, retail stores and nursing homes or toiling out in the 90-plus degree heat, their labor earns far less today than it did yesterday.

Today, a new Missouri law takes effect that bars localities from enacting minimum wages any higher than the state minimum wage. The impact is most severe in St. Louis, where citizens overwhelmingly voted to raise the wage back in 2015. There, low-wage workers lost out on millions in unpaid wages while corporate interests fought the higher wage in the court system, until this spring when the Missouri Supreme Court sided with the city in a two-year legal battle, raising wages in St. Louis to $10 an hour. Just days after the Supreme Court ruling, in the last hours of Missouri’s legislative session, extremists in Missouri’s Republican-led legislature passed a law barring municipalities from raising the minimum wage above the state floor of $7.70 an hour. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) declined to veto the bill, cruelly allowing it to become law.

The law is drawing protests in St. Louis and in Kansas City, where a recent vote approving a higher minimum wage essentially is nullified without ever really taking effect. Working Missourians have been collecting the signatures to repeal yet another wage-lowering law, "right to work," signed by Greitens in February. This Labor Day, working people are collecting additional signatures to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot and working to educate the public about the attacks on our wages and dignity.

Tim Schlittner Mon, 08/28/2017 - 16:08

Tags: Minimum Wage

Fix NAFTA Once and for All: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 2017-08-25 12:03
Fix NAFTA Once and for All: The Working People Weekly List

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

AFL-CIO: Fix NAFTA Once and for All: "The North American Free Trade Agreement has been an unequivocal failure, sending jobs abroad, holding down wages and devastating communities. Only the Wall Street and Washington elite can claim NAFTA is yesterday’s war. For millions of American families, it’s today’s crisis."

Bend the Trend: Reviving Unionization in America: "It is wrong to assume that collective bargaining is incompatible with our modern economy. The truth is that our labor laws have not been sufficiently modernized."

"The Economy Isn’t Working for Workers": "AFL-CIO President Trumka on workers’ rights in the era of Trump, international trade deals and the threat of automation in the jobs market."

'Walmart on Steroids': Beware of Amazon's Growing Monopoly: "When news first broke that Amazon was buying Whole Foods, it sent shockwaves throughout the retail food market. The stock prices of top grocery stores all declined, and thousands of Whole Foods workers began to worry whether Amazon’s love of automation and preference to use robots instead of people would mean the end of their jobs. Amazon’s pursuit of world domination didn’t stop there."

Why I Served on Trump’s Manufacturing Council—And Why I Left: "In January, I was invited to serve on President Trump’s manufacturing council, along with my boss, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. At the time, I was deputy chief of staff at the AFL-CIO (the largest federation of trade unions in America) and a spokesperson for the organization on trade, manufacturing, and economic policy. President Trumka and I agreed to serve because we believed—and still do—that working people should have a voice in crucial government decisions affecting their jobs, their lives, and their families."

The Skies Just Got Friendlier for Working People—Worker Wins: "Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with flight attendants and air traffic controllers standing together to make the skies safer for working people and travelers and includes numerous examples of workers organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life."

For Monday's Eclipse, Working People Kept Us Safe, Informed: "In ways large and small, working people helped America learn about and enjoy Monday’s rare total solar eclipse safely and with minimal disruptions."

The U.S. Should Not Reward Mauritania for Slavery Practices: "Thousands of men, women and children in Mauritania live in slavery. Under the direct control of their masters, they are treated as property and receive no payment for their work. Meanwhile, Mauritania receives preferential access to U.S. markets under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade benefits program."

Working People Have 17 Recommendations for NAFTA. Here’s #2: "By now, you’ve probably heard of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). You might have heard that some businesspeople think it’s a great deal, while average working families—and those who stand with us—think it only works if you’re already at the top. If you’ve been reading our blog regularly, then you know NAFTA is being renegotiated. That means working people like us have an opportunity to fix it. And we laid out the first step: open the negotiations so that average citizens, not just corporate lobbyists and CEOs, can participate. So far, it’s not clear the negotiators heard us—but you can help us keep up the pressure."

Federal Whistleblowers Should Be Praised, Not Punished: "Without federal whistleblowers, the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon might not have come to light. We might never have discovered the FBI’s failure to follow up on evidence about terrorist plots before the Sept. 11 attacks. And the waitlist scandal that resulted in veterans being denied timely access to medical care might have remained a secret."

Right to Work Founder Was a Klan Fan: "AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka didn’t pull punches when he announced Aug. 15 that he and Thea Lee, former AFL-CIO deputy chief of staff, were exiting President Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council."

Missourians Get Nearly Triple the Needed Signatures for November Right to Work Repeal Referendum: "Extremists and outside interests representing big corporations rammed through a "right to work" bill against the will of the people of the state. The bill was signed into law by Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens in February. Today, Missourians spoke up loudly and, pending the certification process, a ballot referendum on right to work will appear on the November 2018 ballot."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 08/25/2017 - 12:03

American Water Charitable Foundation Awards $22,500 Grant for Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s 100th Conservation Project

Fri, 2017-08-25 11:20
American Water Charitable Foundation Awards $22,500 Grant for Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s 100th Conservation Project Wikimedia Commons

The American Water Charitable Foundation has provided a grant of $22,500 to support the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s 100th Work Boots on the Ground project at the historic Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

The USA will support the National Park Service by replacing a fishing pier, originally constructed in 1950, at the park that is in critical need of repair.

The AWCF grant helps cover expenses to rebuild the fishing pier. Virginia American Water provides drinking water service to the city of Alexandria, and the company’s Alexandria District employees will help rebuild the pier by supplying some of the skilled union workers to complete a portion of the project. SEIU Local 32BJ covers Virginia American Water field operations employees in Alexandria.

"The American Water Charitable Foundation is proud to again support the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance with this grant, which is vital to rebuilding the fishing pier at Alexandria’s Jones Point Park," said AWCF President Laura Martin.

Located on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Jones Point Park is just a few miles from Washington, D.C., and is an important urban park with fishing and boating access to the Potomac River.

"Built with the help of Virginia American Water employees, the new pier will encourage greater interaction with, and appreciation for, the Potomac River—one of the sources of Alexandria’s drinking water supply—and an important water resource for our nation," said Barry Suits, president of Virginia American Water.

This conservation project is the USA’s 100th since it launched its Work Boots on the Ground program in 2010. The program brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to tackle hands-on, community-based conservation projects.

"Our public lands are a treasure for all Americans, but they’re at risk of falling into disrepair with budget cuts and a $12 billion maintenance backlog," said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. "Our 100th Work Boots on the Ground project is a shining example of public and private partners and dedicated volunteers coming together to restore, conserve and protect our parks, their legacy and critical infrastructure for all Americans to enjoy for generations to come." 

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 08/25/2017 - 11:20

9 Things You Need to Know About the Role of Unions in 2017

Fri, 2017-08-25 10:13
9 Things You Need to Know About the Role of Unions in 2017 AFL-CIO

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute takes a deep look at the role and importance of unions as the key avenue for working people to come together and negotiate for an expansion of their rights and freedoms. Here are nine things you need to know about the state of the labor movement in 2017.

1. Unions amplify the voices of working people on the job: Organized labor is one of the largest institutions in America: One in nine U.S. workers—16 million of us—are represented by unions. Joining a union means that you and your co-workers have a say in the workplace. When working people come together to negotiate, it means they are more likely to have their voice heard, which means they are more likely to win wage increases, better access to health care and workplace safety, more reasonable and predictable work schedules, and more satisfactory avenues for settling workplace disputes.

2. Working people in unions are as diverse as Americans as a whole: Union members are much more diverse than we are depicted in the media. Nearly two-thirds of union workers from 18-64 are women and/or people of color. Almost half of union members are women. More than one-third of union members are people of color. Black workers are more likely to be union members than white or Hispanic workers.

3. Working people in unions come from a variety of sectors: Nearly 40% of working people in unions are in education and health services. Nearly 14% are in public administration. More than 12% are in transportation and utilities. Just over 9% of union members are in manufacturing.

4. Unions are thriving in diverse industries: More and more working people are joining unions in fields that are experiencing a lot of change. Some key groups of working people that are growing in their union membership rates include: television writers, graduate student workers, professional and technical employees, UPS employees, Maine lobster fishers, cafeteria and contract workers, and working people at digital companies.

5. Democracy is strengthened when more working people are union members: Business owners and CEOs organize to represent their interests before government and in society. Unions enable working people to do the same thing with fewer resources. Unions fight not only for their own members, but for laws that benefit all working people, from things as diverse as Social Security and child labor laws to voting rights and the minimum wage.

6. Unions reduce inequality and help middle- and low-wage working people obtain a fair share of economic growth: When more working people are union members, the economy does better. Unions have a strong positive effect not only on the wages of their members, but also on the wages of nonunion members. Unions help boost the wages of middle- and low-wage occupations more than high-income ones, thus reducing inequality, which in turn helps boost the economy.

7. More specifically, unions help reduce wage gaps and increase wages for women and people of color: Through a variety of methods, unions make it easier for women and people of color to obtain equal pay for equal work. Things like establishing pay transparency, correcting salary discrepancies, making raise and promotion processes clearer, and helping pursue justice for workers who have been discriminated against are major tools in the pursuit of worker equality.

8. Union workplaces are safer and all workplaces are safer because of unions: One of the key reasons that working people organize into unions is to improve workplace safety. In a country where annually nearly 60,000 people die on the job or because of workplace-related diseases, and 7 million others are injured or get sick on the job, worker safety is a major concern. Unions have a long history of fighting for safer workplaces. When a workplace is unionized, working people are better able to negotiate for even safer workplaces.

9. Corporate lobbyists and their lawmaker friends are dismantling the rights of working people: From dishonest, but well-funded, anti-union campaigns to pushing for anti-worker federal and state laws, the richest corporations, their lobbyists, and the lawmakers that ally with them are fighting hard to take away your rights as a worker. For example, between 2011 and 2015, 15 states enacted laws that severely limited or dismantled collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions. Many states have cut public-sector wages and benefits. States and localities are frequently abandoning the promises they made to retired workers and abandoning pension obligations. These and a variety of other tactics are widespread and growing. The best way to fight back against these trends is through stronger unions.

As the report concludes:

Unions are a dynamic and ever-evolving institution of the American economy that exist to give working people a voice and leverage over their working conditions and the economic policy decisions that shape these conditions. Collective bargaining is indispensable if we want to achieve shared prosperity.

But it is precisely because they are effective and necessary for shared prosperity that unions are under attack by employers who want to maintain excessive leverage over workers and by policymakers representing the interests of the top 1 percent. These attacks have succeeded in increasing the gap between the number of workers who would like to be represented by a union and the number who are represented by a union. And these threats to the freedom to join together in unions haven’t been met with a policy response sufficient to keep the playing field level between organizing workers and the employers looking to thwart them.

Giving workers a real voice and leverage is essential for democracy.

Read the full report.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 08/25/2017 - 10:13

The Skies Just Got Friendlier for Working People: Worker Wins

Thu, 2017-08-24 12:33
The Skies Just Got Friendlier for Working People: Worker Wins National Nurses United

Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with flight attendants and air traffic controllers standing together to make the skies safer for working people and travelers and includes numerous examples of workers organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life. 

Flight Attendents Reach Tentative Agreement with Mesa Airlines: Flight attendants at Mesa Airlines, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), stood together in efforts to have the work they do as aviation's first responders recognized. They successfully announced that they have negotiated a tentative agreement with management on a four-year agreement that would provide more than 1,100 flight attendants with economic and quality of life gains.

Teachers Who Train Air Traffic Controllers Join IAM: In an effort to make the skies safer and improve the lives of working people, more than 280 instructors at SAIC in Oklahoma City have joined the Machinists (IAM). Facing a strong anti-union campaign from SAIC, the instructors successfully organized and now have more leverage to make sure the public is safer.

Swissport Workers Stand Together and Put Employer on Notice: Cleaners and ramp agents at Bush Intercontinental Airport voted to join the IAM, citing broken promises on pay, scheduling, overtime, and working conditions. IAM Organizer Fabian Liendo said: "Workers stood together throughout the campaign and put Swissport on notice. These new IAM members sent a clear message and are prepared to fight to secure much-needed job improvements. They should be very proud of what they've accomplished."

Graduate Employees at University of Chicago to Hold Election in October: When the university attempted to deny its' graduate employees right to come together to negotiate for a fair return on their work, the working people fought back. Their efforts were rewarded when the National Labor Relations Board rejected the university's argument and ruled that a union election can go forward. The election is scheduled take place in October.

In Near-Universal Vote, Nurses in Turlock, Calif, Vote to Join CNA: Nearly 300 registered nurses at Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock, California, voted overwhelmingly (284-4) to join the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United. Chelsey Jerner, an emergency room RN, said: "As patient advocates, we voted yes to have a collective RN voice to enhance positive patient outcomes at our hospital. Patient safety is our number one priority."

Oregon Service Industry Workers Earn Protection from Unfair Scheduling: A coalition led by the Oregon Working Families Party fought for legislation that would protect retail, hospitality and food service workers from unfair scheduling practices. Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed the bill into law earlier this month. Working Family spokesperson Hannah Taube said: "This is a huge moment for labor rights in America. Oregon's Fair Work Week legislation is one of the most important labor victories in decades for low-wage workers. We hope Oregon is the first of many states to expand scheduling protections for workers—knowing when you work more than a day in advance is essential to parents, students and many other workers trying to make ends meet with two or three different jobs."

More than 40,000 Educators in Puerto Rico Join AFT to Fight Education Austerity: On Aug. 3, the Asociacion de Maestros de Puerto Rico (AMPR) signed a three-year agreement with the AFT in order to fight back against austerity and privatization in education that is having a devastating impact on students and teachers in Puerto Rico. AFT President Randi Weingarten said: "The people of Puerto Rico didn't cause this crisis, but they're forced to shoulder most of the burden because of the actions of hedge funders and irresponsible government deals."

Lipton Tea Workers in Suffolk Organize for First Time in Plant's 60-Year History: For the first time in the history of the Lipton Tea production plant in Suffolk, Virginia, employees have voted to unionize. The vote was 109-6 to join United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400.

 

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 08/24/2017 - 12:33

For Monday's Eclipse, Working People Kept Us Safe, Informed

Wed, 2017-08-23 12:43
For Monday's Eclipse, Working People Kept Us Safe, Informed AFL-CIO

In ways large and small, working people helped America learn about and enjoy Monday’s rare total solar eclipse safely and with minimal disruptions.

School teachers (members of the AFT and the National Education Association) used the solar eclipse as a teachable moment about science and history.

Electrical workers—members of the Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Utility Workers (UWUA) unions—balanced America’s electrical grid, as nearly half of the nation’s solar capacity fell into shadow, causing a rolling dip of nearly 9,000 megawatts. Yet, thanks to workers at coal, hydro, nuclear and natural gas power plants, the grid didn’t fluctuate at all.

Journalists and media professionals—members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA)—brought us the stories, and NASA scientists—members of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE)—helped us all learn more about the earth and our solar system.

All that the rest of us had to do was enjoy it, and we did.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 08/23/2017 - 12:43

The U.S. Should Not Reward Mauritania for Slavery Practices

Wed, 2017-08-23 09:04
The U.S. Should Not Reward Mauritania for Slavery Practices Wikimedia Commons

Thousands of men, women and children in Mauritania live in slavery. Under the direct control of their masters, they are treated as property and receive no payment for their work. Meanwhile, Mauritania receives preferential access to U.S. markets under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade benefits program.

AGOA is designed to spark economic development in Sub-Saharan African countries by expanding duty-free benefits and opening U.S. markets to African goods. As part of the program, AGOA beneficiaries are required to improve the rule of law, human rights and respect for core labor standards, including the eradication of forced labor. This week, the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions, along with labor rights organizations worldwide, are calling on the U.S. Trade Representative to review Mauritania’s eligibility for AGOA trade benefits.

Mauritania outlawed slavery in 1981, the world’s last country to do so. Yet in 2017, the practice of slavery is still widespread in Mauritanian society. Slave status is inherited, so children born to a mother in slavery also are considered property and can be rented out, loaned, given as gifts in marriage or inherited. Men and children in slavery typically herd animals or work in agriculture, while women perform domestic work. They face verbal and physical abuse, and girls and women are subject to sexual abuse and rape.

The government of Mauritania routinely fails to conduct investigations into cases of slavery, rarely pursues prosecutions for those responsible for the practice. Anti-slavery activists and trade unionists are regularly harassed, intimidated and jailed. Survivors of slavery have little access to justice or victim support initiatives, and face ongoing discrimination in society and the workplace.

Mauritania is failing to eradicate slavery and forced labor and to promote core labor rights. The AGOA Implementation Subcommittee must review Mauritania’s eligibility for trade benefits with the United States.

Find out more about the situation in Mauritania by watching this Equal Times investigation with testimony from former slaves.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 08/23/2017 - 09:04

Working People Have 17 Recommendations for NAFTA. Here’s #2

Tue, 2017-08-22 12:23
Working People Have 17 Recommendations for NAFTA. Here’s #2 BorderExplorer on Flickr

By now, you’ve probably heard of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). You might have heard that some businesspeople think it’s a great deal, while average working families—and those who stand with us—think it only works if you’re already at the top.

If you’ve been reading our blog regularly, then you know NAFTA is being renegotiated. That means working people like us have an opportunity to fix it. And we laid out the first step: open the negotiations so that average citizens, not just corporate lobbyists and CEOs, can participate. So far, it’s not clear the negotiators heard us—but you can help us keep up the pressure.  

Even if they do keep the doors closed on the talks, we have to address the rules of the deal. The first rules that need replacement are the labor rules. The labor rules determine whether the playing field is fair for all workers or whether global corporations can treat us like pawns, bidding down our wages and working conditions as they increase their profits at our expense.

Given our long experience of trying to use trade rules to protect rights and freedoms for working people, we know what works and what doesn’t. We won’t fall for vague promises about NAFTA being the best deal ever for working people. Instead, we will be looking for specific provisions.

A fair North American deal will:

  • Ensure that all three countries protect fundamental labor rights as set for in the International Labor Organization’s eight core conventions.

  • Establish an independent monitoring and enforcement entity so that governments can’t use delay tactics to deny our rights.

  • Establish prompt enforcement tools.

  • Ensure that goods traded between the countries are made by workers being paid living wages.

  • Protect migrant workers from fraud and abuse.

  • Protect all workers from discrimination and trafficking.

  • Contain effective tools to continually lift our wages and working conditions, rather then putting a ceiling on what we can achieve.

  • Ensure that no communities are left behind—we must all prosper together or we won’t prosper at all.

Since the dawn of the modern trade era (roughly 1990), no trade deal has ever put working families first. But we know the rules we need to make it happen. But no one will fight for those rules if we don’t lead.

Are you ready to join us? Urge your representative to call for open, transparent NAFTA renegotiations.

 

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 08/22/2017 - 12:23

Tags: NAFTA

Federal Whistleblowers Should Be Praised, Not Punished

Tue, 2017-08-22 11:20
Federal Whistleblowers Should Be Praised, Not Punished AFGE

Without federal whistleblowers, the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon might not have come to light. We might never have discovered the FBI’s failure to follow up on evidence about terrorist plots before the Sept. 11 attacks. And the waitlist scandal that resulted in veterans being denied timely access to medical care might have remained a secret.

As those three examples illustrate, federal workers serve as a vital watchdog against waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement occurring in our government agencies.

Every civil servant takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution—and that includes ensuring that our taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and to the benefit of the American people.

That’s why the current war on whistleblowers being waged by President Donald Trump and others in his administration is not only disgraceful, but downright dangerous to our democracy.

We have a right to know that Trump administration officials have ordered U.S. Department of Agriculture employees to stop using terms like "climate change" and "greenhouse gases"—since it could be a deliberate attempt to discredit scientific evidence that humans are contributing to our warming planet. But without USDA staff sharing those conversations with the press, we might still be in the dark.

We should know why the Department of the Interior has involuntary reassigned about 50 senior career employees to other jobs—including a scientist who was moved to an accounting office after speaking publicly about the danger that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities. But we wouldn’t know about it at all if that scientist didn’t step forward.

It’s in the public interest to know that Scott Pruitt, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is pushing to undo dozens of environmental regulations—largely without the input of the agency’s scientists and other career employees. Yet, we wouldn’t know the scope of this regulatory rollback if EPA employees didn’t come forward.

Federal employees have a right—and even an obligation—to speak out on issues that affect taxpayers and citizens. And by the same token, journalists are just doing their job when they reach out to federal workers for information on the activities of political appointees.

Obviously, there are instances where disclosures may be inappropriate, like when the information is classified or would jeopardize our national security. But those are the exception, not the rule.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions thinks whistleblowers should be prosecuted—and he’s devoting lots of taxpayer dollars to go after them. He attempts to demonize these brave patriots by referring to them as "leakers." He even says that the number of disclosures is "undermining the ability of our government to protect this country."

That’s ridiculous. A free and open press is one of the fundamental tenents of our democracy. So is having a non-political civil service that’s beholden to taxpayers, not their political bosses.

Whistleblowers aren’t the problem. But the White House’s preoccupation with them certainly is.

This post originally appeared at Medium.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 08/22/2017 - 11:20