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CSB Pushes to Prevent Chemical Incidents Ahead of Extreme Weather

USW Blog - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 09:14

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a video safety message and a safety alert to help guide workers and their employers through extreme weather events.

The message, titled, “2020 Hurricane Season: Guidance for Chemical Plants During Extreme Weather Events” will be of use to labor-management health and safety committees, union safety representatives and USW Triangle of Prevention (TOP).

Atlantic hurricane activity this summer and fall is expected to be above normal, according to the report, with an anticipated 13-19 storms—six to 10 of them being hurricanes and three to six expected to be a category 3, 4 or 5, with winds of 111 mph or higher.

Three years ago, Hurricane Harvey stalled over southeast Texas, causing an unprecedented amount of rain. The Arkema Chemical Plant in Crosby, Texas, flooded, causing plant equipment to fail and stored chemicals inside trailers to decompose and burn, releasing fumes and smoke. Twenty-one people reported exposures to the fumes and sought medical help, while more than 200 residents living near the plant evacuated and could not return home for a week.

The CSB investigated the incident and found no industry guidance on planning for such severe weather events. The agency recommended that the Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS) produce a guidance document to aid the industry in its preparation for such events as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and other natural weather.

The CCPS obliged with its new guidance document “Assessment of and Planning for Natural Hazards” that involves assessing natural hazards, addressing them and doing emergency planning. CSB’s safety alert said the CCPS document includes identifying natural hazards, their likelihood of happening and severity level; gathering date on them; evaluating facility design in relation to these natural hazards; assessing risks and planning for emergencies.

Startup of a chemical plant, petrochemical facility or oil refinery is always a hazardous activity, but if process safety requirements are not followed, it can turn into a catastrophic event. That is why CSB’s safety alert emphasizes reliance on established safety systems and checking process equipment thoroughly when starting up after an extreme weather event.

The CSB video is only about four minutes long and the safety alert is three pages. Joint labor-management health and safety committees, union safety representatives and TOP representatives would find more detailed information in the 41-page CCPS document.

Local 13-620 BASF Workers at Geismar Plant Help Fight COVID-19

USW Blog - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 09:53

Lanny Cambre Jr., a 28-year Local 13-620 member and steward at the BASF flagship plant in Geismar, La., said he’s proud that his local is doing its part to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Cambre is a control room operator in the surfactants unit. These chemicals are used in many cleaning products such as soaps and detergents, and have a wide range of uses. His unit makes PE20 that goes into making hand sanitizers and soap.

“During COVID-19, we have had a lot more demand for hand soap,” he said.

The site is a big chemical supplier to Clorox and Lysol.

“Clorox made sure we had the supplies we needed at work because we supply the company with chemicals,” he said.

The site also makes a chemical labeled F127NF that goes into the production of Listerine, and makes a chemical product, P188bio, for Roche Pharmaceuticals that uses it to produce a drug to treat people with pneumonia.

Cambre said that knowing the work he does impacts the fight against COVID-19 makes his job a little more rewarding.

“You feel better about going to work since these products are helping people,” he said.

Innovation, a real manufacturing plan is exactly what we need right now

USW Blog - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 06:52
For generations, our union has been pushing for real manufacturing strategy that builds real wealth, improves our nation and protects good jobs. You can read more about our core issues that our members told us were priorities here.   Today, Joe Biden released the manufacturing and innovation segment of his Build Back Better economic plan, "Made in All of America." It's exactly what we need during these unprecedented times that are challenging so many of us.   “Recovering from the Covid-19 crisis and ensuring shared prosperity for generations to come will take bold action and a sustained commitment," said our International President Tom Conway. "Joe Biden’s plan for revitalizing American manufacturing demonstrates both.   Late last year, we started the Your Union, Your Voice initiative and involved multiple parts, all of which were designed to provide more transparency about the union’s processes and hear from you about your priorities. Among the top priorities were issues related to our jobs: fair trade agreements and laws that protect U.S. workers, increased worker wages, and strong workplace safety and health protections. You can read the results of the survey here.

Here is the rest of what President Conway had to say about Vice President Biden's plan:

“As the pandemic made clear, our country must be able to supply its own needs. And now, more than ever, we urgently need to create good, family-sustaining jobs, both to stop the economic freefall and reverse decades of rampant economic inequality.

“Biden will jump-start American manufacturing through a long-needed investment in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Coupled with strong ‘Buy American’ provisions that ensure tax money supports domestic industry, this rebuilding campaign will make our country more secure and create millions of jobs. 

“His plan also includes a massive procurement commitment as well as a roadmap for bringing critical supply chains back to the United States. These provisions will put our country on stronger economic footing and bolster our national security.  

“Just as crucially, Biden’s plan acknowledges the necessity of strong labor protections that enable workers to bargain collectively for higher wages and better benefits. By supporting the PRO Act, Biden will ensure that the jobs created through his economic plan are middle-class jobs that enable workers to live the American dream. 

“Our nation needs a leader who understands the necessity of a strong manufacturing base; from medicines to steel to clean energy technology, our country must produce things here and pay workers competitive wages to make them. 

“Joe Biden’s plan demonstrates that he not only grasps the strategic importance of domestic manufacturing but also values American workers.”

 Check out our Your Union, Your Voice website to learn more about the issues that matter most to us, how we decide to back political candidates and information about voting. Learn why we endorsed Joe Biden here.  

 



USW Applauds Biden’s Plan for Manufacturing, Innovation

Steelworker News - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 06:39

Contact: Jess Kamm Broomell, (412) 562-2444, jkamm@usw.org                                                                                                                                                        

PITTSBURGH – United Steelworkers (USW) International President Tom Conway issued the following statement in response to the manufacturing and innovation segment of Joe Biden’s Build Back Better economic plan, released today:

“Recovering from the Covid-19 crisis and ensuring shared prosperity for generations to come will take bold action and a sustained commitment. Joe Biden’s plan for revitalizing American manufacturing demonstrates both.

“As the pandemic made clear, our country must be able to supply its own needs. And now, more than ever, we urgently need to create good, family-sustaining jobs, both to stop the economic freefall and reverse decades of rampant economic inequality.

“Biden will jump-start American manufacturing through a long-needed investment in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Coupled with strong ‘Buy American’ provisions that ensure tax money supports domestic industry, this rebuilding campaign will make our country more secure and create millions of jobs. 

“His plan also includes a massive procurement commitment as well as a roadmap for bringing critical supply chains back to the United States. These provisions will put our country on stronger economic footing and bolster our national security.  

“Just as crucially, Biden’s plan acknowledges the necessity of strong labor protections that enable workers to bargain collectively for higher wages and better benefits. By supporting the PRO Act, Biden will ensure that the jobs created through his economic plan are middle-class jobs that enable workers to live the American dream. 

“Our nation needs a leader who understands the necessity of a strong manufacturing base; from medicines to steel to clean energy technology, our country must produce things here and pay workers competitive wages to make them. 

“Joe Biden’s plan demonstrates that he not only grasps the strategic importance of domestic manufacturing but also values American workers.”

The USW represents 850,000 workers employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in health care, public sector, higher education, tech and service occupations.

Pitt Grad Student Organizers Condemn Changes to ICE Student Exchange and Visitor Program Rules

Steelworker News - Wed, 07/08/2020 - 11:51

Contact: Jess Kamm Broomell, (412) 562-2444, jkamm@usw.org

Members of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC-USW) at the University of Pittsburgh today issued a statement expressing solidarity with international students and denouncing the Trump administration’s recent modifications of existing ICE Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) rules.

Under the rule change, students in the United States on F-1 visas must take at least one in-person class or face deportation. This comes at a time when many universities, including the University of Pittsburgh, are still weighing their options for online instruction in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

“This is yet another targeted attack on immigrants disguised as a premature return to ‘business as usual,’” the statement reads. “The modified policy not only forces international students to choose between our safety and academic careers, but also makes it especially dangerous for us to join the call to cancel in-person teaching.”

The group commended the Pitt administration’s call to reverse the decision, but stated university leaders needed to do more.

“We ask that Pitt immediately halt its expensive legal campaigns designed to deny us our right to form a union, and instead divert those millions of dollars to take legal action, which must include retaining immigration attorneys to serve students and faculty,” the statement reads.

“As a union, we are committed to fighting for the rights of all people to study, teach, and conduct research without having to compromise their health, safety, or visa status. We will not sit idly by while more workers become collateral damage due to the U.S. government’s abdication of its duties. Similarly, we will continue to hold the Pitt administration accountable to make sure it protects the safety and wellbeing of our community when making decisions about the upcoming academic year,” according to the statement.

Graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh filed for an election to join the USW in 2017. Last fall, a Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board hearing examiner found that the university administration committed “coercive acts” that undermined the integrity of that election, held in April 2019, and ordered a new one. The Pitt administration appealed the decision, and this process is still underway.

The full GSOC-USW statement on the SEVP rule changes is available here

The USW represents 850,000 workers employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in health care, public sector, higher education, tech and service occupations.

Local 9-675-01 at 3M’s Guin, Ala., Plant Continues Union Tradition for 64 Years

USW Blog - Wed, 07/08/2020 - 11:15

Local 9-675-01 signed a new contract that increased wages and benefits, turned past practices into solid contract language and averted management concessions at 3M’s plant in Guin, Ala., after six months of negotiations.

First organized in 1956, the local continues to negotiate family-supporting wages, benefits and contract language that helps Guin and Marion County thrive.

Members overwhelmingly ratified a three-year agreement on April 24, 2020 that included wage increases of three percent the first year, two percent the second year and two percent the third year.

“The last week of negotiations there was a big argument over retroactive pay,” said Local 9-675-01 President Phillip Markham. “We had to really fight them over that, but they went back, went over everybody’s hours, and paid what they owed them.”

The local obtained increases in payments received for sickness and accident, long-term disability, and accidental death and dismemberment benefits. Changes in how retirement benefits are calculated will result in larger monthly retirement checks for workers. Union negotiators added step parents and step children to the bereavement leave.

Those who work in the Advanced Materials Division manufacturing glass bubbles—a lightweight filler material—will get 15 minutes of company time to take a shower after work.

Workers in the Maker department—producing reflective sheeting for the sides of trucks, and road and traffic signs—will get a $1,120 work clothing allowance for shirts and blue jeans when they join the department and $800/year thereafter.

The local maintained its health care and retirement plans.

Turned back concessions

Bargaining began Oct. 2, 2019 and lasted through the spring, an unusual turn, as until this contract, negotiations typically took no more than a week.

The local’s perseverance, however, paid off.

“We thought we did pretty good,” Markham said. “We were trying to keep a lot of what we had. The company was coming after a lot of things like a zipper clause, contracting out of janitorial work, four job cuts in the bubbles department and the introduction of temporary workers.”

In a zipper clause, if a past practice is not in writing after the contract is ratified or it is not in a memorandum of understanding, it is non-existent, said Local 9-675-01 Vice President Keith Bozeman.

He said the union committee went over its bargaining notes, emails and copies of notes from past bargaining years to remember every past practice and write them down. As a result, overtime rules are in the contract now.

“Our staff rep., Kevin Key, got the company to agree that everything we sign or agree to has to have the signatures of the local union president or vice president, the plant manager, human resources and the department manager,” Bozeman said. “When the company saw we were not implementing items that were not agreed to by everybody, they pulled away from the zipper clause, and Key was instrumental in that.”

Markham said the local saved the janitorial jobs from being contracted out and the four jobs in the bubbles department from being cut. The union also refused to allow the introduction of temporary workers.

“Everybody was united in the whole plant,” he said.

He said members wore t-shirts to show solidarity and union stickers during the days of negotiations. Due to COVID-19, bargaining was conducted via email.

Toward the end, he said the membership was getting antsy, but “we kept telling them we were going to get to the finish line.”

Contract improvements over time

Local 9-675-01 built a solid foundation of achievements before negotiations began for the current agreement.

In 2003, the local and 3M agreed to engage in the USW’s Triangle of Prevention (TOP) program, and the company agreed to pay for a full-time hourly worker to be the TOP representative for the site.

“That was a big change,” said Calvin Bozeman, the local’s first TOP representative. “That put a union person in the company’s daily meetings who could hear what was going on and give the union’s input.”

He said that TOP helped build the local and made it stronger by getting more people involved in health and safety.

In 2004, the union committee negotiated plantwide seniority; it replaced departmental seniority. The local also got contract language for reduced workweeks when business got slow. “Now, we go by seniority to ask people if they want to work three days a week and retain their benefits and service credit,” Keith Bozeman said.

Calvin said many changes to the vacation policy were negotiated over the years. When he hired in, it took three years to get one week of vacation. Now, people hired in get two weeks of vacation immediately. When the local negotiated half-day increments of vacation, the members thought no one would use them, Calvin said. “Today, everyone does.”

Last chance agreements used to be in effect indefinitely until the union committee bargained new language in the contract in 2013 that made them limited to 48 months, Keith said.

As the 3M Guin site has grown, so has the union membership. Today, the local represents around 210 production, warehouse and maintenance workers, and has 96 percent membership in a right-to-work-for-less state.

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: School Leaders Issue Guide to Reopen Schools Safely

AFL-CIO - Tue, 07/07/2020 - 11:29
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: School Leaders Issue Guide to Reopen Schools Safely AFSA

During the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread protests in response to the killing of George Floyd, working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities. In our new Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we'll showcase one of those stories every day. Here's today's story.

School supervisory personnel who were among the first to call for closing schools at the start of the pandemic have released a new, comprehensive guide for reopening schools safely. “School leaders want to reopen their schools, on time and in person,” said Ernest Logan, president of the School Administrators (AFSA), which represents principals, assistant principals, supervisors, and school directors and managers. “In a time of social and emotional upheaval, our students have never needed us more. This is not going to be easy and it's going to cost upward to $300 billion.” The AFSA guide, Reopening Schools Safely in the Age of COVID, covers the major challenges schools must address as the pandemic continues. These issues range from sanitizing schools, hand-washing, physical distancing and health screening to managing lunchrooms and transportation, redesigning academic programs and facilities, and training staff.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 07/07/2020 - 13:29

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

District 6 members demand support, funding for long-term care workers

USW Blog - Mon, 07/06/2020 - 13:48

Members and activists of the District 6 Health Care Workers Council have been campaigning for years for better working conditions and pay for long-term care workers in Ottawa. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, that work has not slowed down.

After a video conference with provincial leaders at the end of June, District 6 Health Care Workers Council President Audra Nixon and District 6 Staff Representative David Lipton followed the meeting up with a letter outlining their demands to keep long-term care workers safe, as well as to strengthen the industry as a whole.

Among the actions the District is calling for is the withdrawal of two provincial bills that they say allow more privatization of long-term care facilities and penalize workers at nonprofit facilities.

“At a time when compensation and working conditions are required to attract and retrain qualified staff, this law [Bill 124] creates an unjustified labour market distortion,” the letter said.

The Steelworker activists also called for increased targeted funding for long-term care, better wages and conditions for workers, improved inspections of facilities, and more.

Click here to read a former Stat Facts story about the district’s work around long-term care in Ottawa.

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: 'Airline Workers Are Doing Everything That We Can to Make the Flights Safe'

AFL-CIO - Mon, 07/06/2020 - 08:53
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: 'Airline Workers Are Doing Everything That We Can to Make the Flights Safe'

During the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread protests in response to the killing of George Floyd, working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities. In our new Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we'll showcase one of those stories every day. Here's today's story.

What does the future hold for air travel? Safety must be the first and highest priority for both workers and passengers, according to Transport Workers Union (TWU) President John Samuelsen. “It is safe to fly, but also, passengers on planes have a level of responsibility,” he said in a recent video from HuffPost. “Facial coverings are a necessity. Personal sanitation on the planes is a necessity. Everybody has a responsibility to ensure that COVID-19 doesn’t spread on these flights.” As air travel continues to gradually increase from its lowest levels in April, TWU members in the airline industry are working to ensure that passengers are as safe as possible.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 07/06/2020 - 10:53

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: UAW Shares Stories of Members Facing Down COVID-19

AFL-CIO - Thu, 07/02/2020 - 10:39
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: UAW Shares Stories of Members Facing Down COVID-19 UAW

During the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread protests in response to the killing of George Floyd, working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities. In our new Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we'll showcase one of those stories every day. Here's today's story.

Whether they are an academic researcher looking for a drug to fight the deadly virus, an autoworker making a quick pivot to manufacture ventilators, masks or shields, a maintenance worker disinfecting the plant, or a health care worker making sure the sick can receive treatment, UAW members are courageously doing what they can to battle COVID-19. The union profiled some of its members on the front lines who are fighting every day to deal with the public health crisis.

David Gordon, an associate researcher at the University of California, San Francisco and member of UAW Local 5810, is racing to find a treatment for COVID-19. Robert Nadler is working 12-hour days to produce face shields as a die repairer and member of UAW Local 245 in Michigan. Sandy Welch, a member of UAW Local 95 and a medical transcriptionist in Wisconsin, continues to go to work at a medical clinic despite being at high risk for complications from the coronavirus because of preexisting conditions. These are just a few of the thousands of union members who are playing their part to keep our country safe and protect our communities. Read more of their inspiring stories here.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 07/02/2020 - 12:39

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

USW International President Testifies on Manufacturing, Climate Crisis

Steelworker News - Wed, 07/01/2020 - 14:18

Contact: Jess Kamm Broomell, 412-562-2444, jkamm@usw.org

United Steelworkers (USW) International President Tom Conway testified today before the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis, calling for robust investments in domestic manufacturing that will both create jobs and reduce emissions.

“We can and must transform our manufacturing sector to become the cleanest, most efficient, most advanced in the world,” said Conway in his testimony. “Our goal should be to accomplish that mission without displacing a single worker.”

This will require financial commitments from top policymakers, so that manufacturers can upgrade their operations to make them more efficient, Conway said. These include the recommendations outlined in the BlueGreen Alliance’s manufacturing agenda released last week.

Ensuring that domestic manufacturers can remain globally competitive as they make costly investments is also essential.

“As long as domestic manufacturers are bearing any cost of reducing emissions that is not borne by foreign competitors, they will be at a disadvantage in the marketplace,” said Conway. “Therefore, we must also have a strong, comprehensive, and timely border adjustment mechanism.”

Finally, preserving and creating good, family-sustaining jobs must remain the central focus. “We must, above all, ensure that American workers are the leaders of this charge, not the victims of it,” Conway said.

Read the full testimony here

The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, mining, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining, the service, public and health care sectors and higher education.

Join unions across the globe for webinar to amplify young worker voices during and beyond COVID-19

USW Blog - Wed, 07/01/2020 - 13:22

Global Unions, including IndustriALL Global Union, have joined together to amplify the voices of young workers during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic in a series of two webinars.

The first webinar will happen on July 6, 2020 at 8 a.m. EST.

Speakers will include:

  • Phelia Wilson, National Workers Union, St Lucia, ITF
  • Mȏnica Bufon, CONTAG, Brasil, IUF
  • Gopinath Panneerselvam, AKITMS, India, BWI
  • Christian Rutendo Ranji, ZEWU, Zimbabwe, IndustriALL
  • Rebeca Sepúlveda Carrasco, FENPRUSS, Chile
  • Speaker from Mandate, Ireland, UNI and others still to be announced

Interpretation will be provided in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian and Japanese.

The room will open as of 13:30 CEST on 6 July 2020 so that you can test your connection and resolve any technical issues in good time.

Click here to register.

You will need to have Zoom version 4.5 or above for the interpretation module to be visible. It is recommended to have at least version 5.0 which has all the latest features (Zoom meeting instructions and guidelines on downloading the application are attached).

The event will also be livestreamed on the ITUC Facebook page at:  https://www.facebook.com/ituccsi/


Economy Gains 4.8 Million Jobs in June; Unemployment Declines to 11.1%

AFL-CIO - Wed, 07/01/2020 - 12:47
Economy Gains 4.8 Million Jobs in June; Unemployment Declines to 11.1%

The U.S. economy gained 4.8 million jobs in June, and the unemployment rate declined to 11.1%, according to figures released Thursday morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The improvements reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that previously was curtailed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the June job numbers, AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs said:

The growing number of workers who are facing more than five weeks looking for work signals a "typical" recession driven by weak demand. The spike in the short-time unemployed, those unemployed less than five weeks, was related to our health crisis. So, even after we get the health crisis in check, we face a recession the size of the Great Recession in terms of unemployed workers.

He also tweeted:

The Black unemployment rate fell in June reports @BLS_gov on the strength of adult Black women's rate going from 16.5 to 14.0%, but it rose for adult Black men from 15.5 to 16.3%. That increase foreshadows the difficulty of the cyclical component of the crisis. @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) July 2, 2020

There are two unemployment crises. The #JobsReport shows big spikes in unemployment since last June for Leisure & Hospitality (mostly restaurant & bar workers), but the jump for durable goods manufacturing and mining are from the collapse in demand and will clear slowly. @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/jvYC8wtIXF

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) July 2, 2020

But, now the #JobsReport shows the labor market returning it racial "equilibrium," as since April the white male unemployment rate continues to fall, while the Black male unemployment rate continues to climb. At 16.3 to 9.0, the ratio is at 1.8:1 @AFLCIO @rolandsmartin

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) July 2, 2020

The #JobsReport shows the difficulty of the "hustle." Women, more than men, compensate low earnings by holding two jobs. In this crisis, that's much harder than last year. The big problem is you can't unemployment insurance to make up for that second job. @AFLCIO @IWPResearch pic.twitter.com/5OYehKsYPH

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) July 2, 2020

In April, the big jobs shock was to leisure & hospitality and retail, but they are slowly leading a bounce back. So, let's put to rest the stupid comments that unemployment benefits are hurting low wage workers return to work. The numbers show that is simply not true. @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/X2aXUm7uXn

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) July 2, 2020

The tale of the two jobs crises: The loss of jobs because of our health crisis spiked the unemployment rate in April, and the number who experienced short spells of unemployment; but, the collapse of demand is fueling the typical recession problem of longer term spells. @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/EHBASvhfq2

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) July 2, 2020

Trying to make sense of the continued big numbers claiming unemployment? The net flows are toward employment, but there are still a large number of workers who are losing jobs. Women, who lost the most in April, are having bigger net flows into work. @AFLCIO @IWPResearch pic.twitter.com/FSFpZjMACI

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) July 2, 2020

Greater detail for understanding the "misclassification" of temporary layoff in the @BLS_gov report:
Who are the Potentially Misclassified in the Employment Report? | The Hamilton Project https://t.co/gRILLcaQ7A

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) July 2, 2020

#JobsReport , reporters, please stop being business shills asking if the $600 Pandemic Unemployment Compensation is discouraging workers. More unemployed workers in May went into employment in June than dropped out of the market; discouraged. People want work. @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/JoqAhEn7IY

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) July 2, 2020

The broadest measure of unemployment, including those who are discouraged and those who are part-time looking for full-time jobs, also fell in June. But, at 18% gives the sense of stress in American households over this job market. @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/O7m4SyeRS0

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) July 2, 2020

Last month's biggest job gains were in leisure and hospitality (+2.1 million), retail trade (740,000), education and health services (568,000), other services (357,000), manufacturing (356,000), professional and business services (306,000), construction (158,000), transportation and warehousing (99,000), wholesale trade (68,000), financial activities (32,000) and government employment (33,000). Mining lost 10,000 jobs in June.

In June, the unemployment rates declined for teenagers (23.2%), Blacks (15.4%), Hispanics (14.5%), Asians (13.8%), adult women (11.2%), adult men (10.2%) and Whites (10.1%).

The number of long-term unemployed workers (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) increased in June.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 07/01/2020 - 14:47

USW Says Much Work Remains to Ensure Effectiveness of USMCA

Steelworker News - Wed, 07/01/2020 - 08:56

Contact: R.J. Hufnagel, rhufnagel@usw.org, 412-562-2450

United Steelworkers (USW) International President Tom Conway issued the following statement on the effective date of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA):

“The USW sought for years to replace the failed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with an agreement that was fair to workers, that ensured good jobs for families and communities in all three countries, and that protected our planet for future generations.

“While the new version of NAFTA, the USMCA, gets us closer to those goals, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that this new deal is effective in protecting good jobs, preserving our environment, and ensuring workers’ rights.

“Despite the big promises workers have gotten from Washington, D.C., in recent years, the U.S. trade deficit with its North American trading partners has only increased under this administration. This is simply unacceptable and unsustainable. We have to do better.

“The labor movement, led by thousands of USW members, pushed hard to ensure that the USMCA was a significant improvement over NAFTA, which cost the United States tens of thousands of good manufacturing jobs. Thanks to the hard work of Democrats in Congress, the new agreement contains stronger language to protect good jobs from offshoring and to ensure workers’ rights, particularly in Mexico.

“Unfortunately, Mexico’s government still fails to control greedy corporations and provide the strong labor protections that the Mexican people deserve.

“The harsh repression of democratic unions in Mexico by Grupo Mexico (which has also been charged by the National Labor Relations Board with violating the rights of USW and other union members at its Asarco subsidiary in the U.S.), the murders of union organizers at Canadian company Torex Gold, and the recent unjust arrest and imprisonment of labor attorney Susana Prieto Terrazas, prove that Mexico hasn’t stopped the bullying of workers and their allies.

“We also can’t ignore that today’s implementation of the USMCA comes at a perilous time for all workers. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken thousands of lives, cost millions their jobs, and put the health of millions more at risk. Now, more than ever, we need to protect working people and fight for good, family-supporting jobs for people across North America.

“Simply put, the USMCA is a baseline, not a final destination. It sets minimum standards, and we must continue to fight each day to ensure those standards are enforced. As we look forward to future trade pacts with other countries, we will seek even stronger rules to protect workers and communities from offshoring, pollution, unfair trade policies and violations of labor rights.”

The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.

USW Salutes the Heroism of Postal Workers

Steelworker News - Wed, 07/01/2020 - 06:55

Contact: Joe Smydo, jsmydo@usw.org, 412-562-2281

(Pittsburgh) – United Steelworkers (USW) International President Tom Conway today issued the following statement in honor of National Postal Worker Day.

“National Postal Worker Day takes on added significance this year because of the tremendous sacrifices that these dedicated public servants have made to keep the nation functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Postal workers risk their lives every day to deliver the medicines and other supplies that their fellow Americans need to survive the health crisis. They bring the letters that keep families and friends connected during this unprecedented period of lockdowns. 

“And come November, the U.S. Postal Service will play a critical role in preserving American democracy by delivering the unusually large number of absentee ballots likely to be cast in a presidential election occurring amid the pandemic. 

“Sadly, although the postal service is more important than ever, its fate has never been in greater jeopardy.

“Unless Congress and President Donald Trump act quickly, the postal service will soon be forced into bankruptcy because of budget problems exacerbated by the COVID-19 recession. The U.S. mail is a lifeline Americans cannot afford to lose. That’s why the public overwhelmingly supports saving it.

“The USW salutes postal workers for their heroic service to America and calls on the federal government to take immediate steps to safeguard this vital institution.”

The USW represents 850,000 workers employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Milwaukee Area Labor Council Hosts Rallies to Thank Front-Line Workers

AFL-CIO - Wed, 07/01/2020 - 06:52
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Milwaukee Area Labor Council Hosts Rallies to Thank Front-Line Workers Milwaukee Area Labor Council

During the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread protests in response to the killing of George Floyd, working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities. In our new Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we'll showcase one of those stories every day. Here's today's story.

The Milwaukee Area Labor Council, under the leadership of President Pam Fendt (LIUNA), has been hosting weekly events on Wednesdays for union members to thank front-line workers. The labor council's “We Thank You Wednesday” event last week recognized city of Milwaukee workers. Members of the labor council gathered to show support for AFSCME Council 32 members who are city sanitation workers and to call for increased funding for state and local governments. Union members and allies met outside the city’s sanitation garage with signs and banners to thank the sanitation workers as they returned from their shifts.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 07/01/2020 - 08:52

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: UFCW Fights to Save Members' Lives, Help Those on the Front Lines

AFL-CIO - Tue, 06/30/2020 - 13:52
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: UFCW Fights to Save Members' Lives, Help Those on the Front Lines UFCW

During the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread protests in response to the killing of George Floyd, working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities. In our new Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we'll showcase one of those stories every day. Here's today's story.

In a press conference on Thursday, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) announced that 238 UFCW members have died from COVID-19 and nearly 29,000 workers have been infected or exposed to the coronavirus over the past 100 days. 

The union announced it would take action on three key priorities to protect and help workers during the pandemic:

  1. Reinstating hazard pay and establishing a $15-per-hour minimum wage for all front-line workers.
  2. Establishing a public mask mandate in all 50 states.
  3. Creating a new national public registry to track COVID-19 infections in front-line workers and require companies with more than 1,000 employees to submit monthly reports on their worker deaths, infections and exposures.

International President Marc Perrone said, “With our country now 100 days into the COVID-19 pandemic, America’s front-line workers still face many of the same dangers they faced on day one. In grocery stores, meatpacking plants and health care facilities, our country’s front-line workers are still getting sick and dying. It’s high time for America’s CEOs and elected leaders to pull their heads out of the sand and take the strong action needed to protect these brave workers and the communities they serve.”

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 06/30/2020 - 15:52

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

Carnegie Museum Workers Announce Organizing Campaign to Join USW

Steelworker News - Tue, 06/30/2020 - 10:00

Contact: Chelsey Engel, cengel@usw.org, 412-212-8173

(PITTSBURGH) – Workers from across four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh locations announced on Monday, June 29, that they will be conducting an election to join the United Steelworkers (USW) union. 

Presenting themselves as the United Museum Workers, the group of more than 500 scientists, educators, art handlers, front staff, gift shop clerks, event ushers, and other workers said, in their mission statement, “We are proud future members of the United Steelworkers union, whose members built the fortune of our museum’s founder.”

The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh was founded in 1895, originally as the Carnegie Institute, by steel giant Andrew Carnegie. The museums consist of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Carnegie Science Center, and the Andy Warhol Museum.

Despite their diverse range of departments and duties, Gabi DiDonna, an assistant registrar of loans at the Carnegie Museum of Art, said in the campaign’s video announcement, “What unites us is a dedication to preserving and presenting art, scientific collections, and ideas.”

DiDonna also said that although working at a prestigious, mission-driven nonprofit is often a labor of love, many of the workers struggle to make ends meet. “Prestige doesn’t pay the rent,” she said.

Along with better pay and benefits, the United Museum Workers are demanding inclusivity in hiring, accessibility, increased transparency and a voice in the museum’s decision-making process.

“We are looking forward to the days ahead,” DiDonna said at the rally’s conclusion, “and we can’t wait to win our election.”

The USW represents 850,000 working people employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector, higher education, tech and service occupations.

 

Follow-up Letter to the American Hospital Association: Stop Muzzling Frontline Healthcare Workers

USW Blog - Mon, 06/29/2020 - 10:33

Below is a follow-up letter sent to the American Hospital Association urging them to publicly denounce any such efforts to muzzle health care professionals and call on its member hospitals and health care systems to encourage their doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals to speak freely about coronavirus patient caseloads, dwindling hospital supplies, and any other challenges that should be immediately addressed. We initially signed on to a letter asking the AHA to do this in March.

Click here to read the letter as a PDF.


Richard J. Pollack
President and Chief Executive Officer
American Hospital Association
800 10th Street, N.W.
Two CityCenter, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20001-4956
Delivered by email to rick@aha.org

Dear Mr. Pollack:

In the United States there are approximately 30,000 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection each day and that number is increasing. (1) As businesses reopen and social restrictions ease, many cities and states are seeing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on the rise again. (2) The pandemic is far from over, and health care professionals and hospital support workers continue to put their lives on the line fighting this virus. Moreover, hospitals still struggle with maintaining adequate protective gear and personnel to properly combat the pandemic.

Disturbingly, health care professionals and hospital support workers continue to refrain from coming forward with their concerns about inadequate medical supplies and dangerous working conditions for fear of retribution. In the group letter we sent you on March 27, 2020, signed by 54 organizations, we urged the American Hospital Association (AHA) to publicly denounce any efforts to muzzle health care professionals with threats of disciplinary action for speaking out about COVID-19 patient caseloads and dwindling hospital supplies needed to care for such patients.

The AHA’s reply, dated March 27, 2020, rebuffed our request by saying, “the AHA has not heard any reports of hospitals or health systems restricting the free speech of physicians, nurses or others regarding the conditions related to COVID-19.” Since then, we have found numerous examples of health care workers facing punishment for speaking out against hospital policies and preparedness including the following:

Dr. Ming Lin was fired from PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, WA, after complaining to his superiors about the hospital’s lack of coronavirus preparedness and then going public about it on YouTube and Facebook when the hospital did not respond to his concerns. He called for faster turn-around in testing, an area where healthcare workers could disinfect to avoid carrying the virus back to their families and the community, and better personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Los Angeles Times, April 3, 2020 (3)

Dr. Samantha Houston lost her job at Baptist Memorial Hospital-North in Oxford, MS, after sending e-mails to colleagues about the lack of PPE in the hospital and organizing a donation drive for masks and baby monitors. According to the article, at least one additional doctor in Mississippi was fired for advocating for stronger safety measures.
- Mississippi Today, April 5, 2020 (4)

Kenisa Barkai was fired from her nursing job at Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit, MI, after complaining about her workload and poor conditions at the hospital while treating coronavirus patients.
- Detroit Free Press, April 6, 2020 (5)

HCA Healthcare, the largest healthcare system in the country with 185 hospitals in 20 states, e-mailed guidelines to employees telling them they could get disciplined or fired for posting information on social media or speaking to journalists. Jhonna Porter, a charge nurse, was suspended retroactively from West Hills Hospital in California for posting in a private Facebook group about the lack of hospital equipment on the COVID19 floor.
- Business Insider, April 7, 2020 (6)

Ten nurses at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, were suspended when they demanded N95 masks before working in the COVID-19 unit.
- CNN, April 17, 2020 (7)

Ana Sanchez, an obstetrician at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, CA, was suspended after complaining about the lack of PPE and posting a video on Facebook showing inadequate social distancing by hospital workers.
- Medscape, April 27, 2020 (8)

Adam Witt, the local nurses’ union president, was fired from Jersey Shore University Medical Center after he took the day off to defend a nurse at a disciplinary hearing. The nurse had raised concerns about coronavirus exposure at the hospital.
- New York Times, April 27, 2020 (9)

Tasha Smith, a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, NY, was fired after complaining that she was uncomfortable treating coronavirus patients without the proper PPE.
- New York Times, April 27, 2020 (10)

The chief operating officer of New York Presbyterian Hospital told staff to “stop sending e-mails, cards, and letters saying that we are disrespecting you. If you feel that way... it raises for us whether you, in fact, want to keep working for New York-Presbyterian.”
- Medical Economics, May 11, 2020 (11)

These stories indicate that efforts to muzzle health care professionals and hospital support workers by hospital administrators have been a pervasive problem throughout the pandemic. And, given how underreported workplace retaliation can be, these media reports fail to represent the full extent of the problem.

Given the ample evidence of retaliation in the face of truth telling, why has the AHA still not made a clear statement to hospital administrators that it is unacceptable to fire, suspend, or reprimand workers who come forth with very real concerns about limited supplies and problematic hospital policies?

More than 84,000 healthcare workers in the U.S. have contracted COVID-19 according to the CDC, 12 and nearly 600 have died. (13) For every healthcare worker infected, many more family members and patients are put at risk. As the frontline of the healthcare system, they are in the best position to observe where the system is weak or failing. The health of our nation depends upon hearing their voices.

We once again strongly urge the American Hospital Association to publicly denounce any efforts to muzzle healthcare professionals and hospital support workers. The AHA must call on its member hospitals and healthcare systems to encourage their doctors, nurses, and other hospital workers to speak freely about scarce hospital supplies, COVID-19 patient caseloads, inadequate staffing, and any other challenges that put worker safety at risk that should be immediately addressed.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent public health matter. Please contact Dr. Michael Carome, Director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, at mcarome@citizen.org, or Dr. Juley Fulcher, Worker Health and Safety Advocate at Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, at jfulcher@citizen.org with your response.

Sincerely,

ACORN 8
Adnan Ahmed, MD, Inpatient Adult Division Director, Northwell Hospital
American Civil Liberties Union
American Federation of Teachers
American Muslim Health Professionals
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Broome Tioga Green Party
Coalition on Human Needs
Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces
Debs-Jones-Douglass Institute
Doctors in Politics
Doctors of Gaming
DP MEDICAL SERVICES
Elizabeth Dewey, MD
Equality North Carolina
Government Accountability Project
HER Foundation
Hisam Goueli, MD
HPEC
International Chemical Workers Union Council
IWJSD
Labor or Love Safety Training
MassCOSH - MA Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Center for Health Research
National Employment Law Project
National Employment Lawyers Association
National Nurses United
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Women's Law Center
New Jersey Work Environment Council
Private Practice
Progressive Doctors
Public Advocacy for Kids
Public Citizen
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)
Public Justice Center
R1 Labs
SafeWork Washington
Times Up Healthcare
Union of Concerned Scientists
United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and
Service Workers International Union
University of Illinois at Chicago Center for Healthy Work
Virginia Organizing
Western New York Council on Occupational Safety & Health
Whistleblowers of America
Worksafe
Yasin Khan, Director of Public Programs, Labor Occupational Health Program

1 Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count, NEW YORK TIMES, https://nyti.ms/2AVXmr6.
2 Arielle Mitropoulos, Soo Rin Kim and Ella Torres, Novel Coronavirus Hospitalizations Increasing in 17 States, ABC NEWS (June 19, 2020), https://abcn.ws/2B5vJwa.
3 Richard Read, Doctor Fired After Criticizing his Hospital for Coronavirus Response, LOS ANGELES TIMES (April 3, 2020), https://lat.ms/2MK5wpk.
4 Kayleigh Skinner and Erica Hensley, Two Mississippi Doctors Fired after Speaking Out about Coronavirus Safety, MISSISSIPPI TODAY (April 5, 2020), https://bit.ly/3hbNJWc.
5 Kristen Jordan Shamus and Darcie Moran, Detroit Free Press, and Robin Erb, Bridge Magazine, Nurses Protest Conditions at Detroit’s Sinai-Grace, Said They were Told to Leave, DETROIT FREE PRESS (April 6, 2020), https://bit.ly/37dT4rm.
6 Allana Akhtar, Leaked Memo Reveals the US’ Largest Health System Could Fire Nurses Who Post Coronavirus Policies on Social Media – and a Nurse has Already been Suspended without Pay, BUSINESS INSIDER (April 7, 2020), https://bit.ly/2AQsFns.
7 Paul P. Murphy, 10 Coronavirus-unit Nurses are Suspended, Potentially for Weeks, for Refusing to Work without N95 Masks, CNN (April 17, 2020), https://cnn.it/3dJl5cG.
8 Sheila Mulrooney Eldred, Doc Suspended for Exposing Poor Social-Distancing Practices, She Says, MEDSCAPE (April 27, 2020), https://wb.md/2zmk0bW.
9 Noam Scheiber and Brian M. Rosenthal, Nurses and Doctors Speaking Out on Safety Now Risk Their Job, NEW YORK TIMES (April 27, 2020), https://nyti.ms/2zi8dLE.
10 Id.
11 Rebekah Bernard MD, Coronavirus Pandemic Demonstrates Disconnect between Executives and Doctors, MEDICAL ECONOMICS (May 11, 2020), https://bit.ly/2YeGVye.
12 CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, , Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Cases in the U.S., https://bit.ly/2MIm0OJ.
13 Christina Jewett, Melissa Bailey, and Danielle Renwick, Exclusive: Nearly 600 – and Counting – US Health Workers have Died of COVID-19, KAISER HEALTH NEWS (June 6, 2020), https://bit.ly/37eGXKy.

Labor Unions Fight for Emergency Temporary Standards to Protect Workers from COVID-19 Exposure

USW Blog - Mon, 06/29/2020 - 09:43

The USW joined the United Mine Workers Union (UMWA) in filing a petition on June 16 to force the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to protect miners from exposure to COVID-19.

If successful, the petition, filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, sought a court order to compel MSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for infectious diseases.

“The problem is that the guidance is entirely voluntary, and some mine operators have not volunteered to implement it,” Mike Wright, director of USW’s Health, Safety & Environment Department, wrote in his declaration. “These operators are putting their employees and our members at risk. In addition, they are putting those miners’ families and their communities at risk.”

The unions’ petition states that miners need an ETS because they face unique challenges working closely with each other underground.

Miners face different risks

The general public does not descend to work in a “cage” like many miners do. “They are squeezed into a small elevator car, with their bodies compressed together and their faces inches from each other,” Wright wrote.

Workers in Local 12-9477 face these unique challenges. They work at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico, an underground salt repository for transuranic waste that consists of items contaminated with small amounts of plutonium and other man-made radioactive elements. 

At WIPP, miners descend to the salt mine in a six-foot by nine-foot cage, said Javier Leyva, Local 12-9477 safety representative. He said doing that “makes social distancing go away.”

“Management limits the number of people in the cages, but people are still not at the six-foot recommendation to be away from each other,” he said. “In a cage of four people, we are still shoulder to shoulder. The company requires you to write down who was in the cage with you so that contact tracing can be done if a worker comes down with COVID-19.”

Working in the salt mine is noisy sometimes, and Leyva said that forces him to move closer to others in order to communicate with them.

“Most Americans do not work in cramped underground quarters,” Wright wrote. “Most are not exposed to high levels of silica and diesel emissions.

“Most Americans can choose to follow CDC guidelines on sanitation, social distancing, and the quarantine of symptomatic individuals,” Wright wrote. “Miners have no such freedom; those choices are made by the mine operator.”

Fight for worker health and safety

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the labor movement has fought for Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) for infectious disease that are mandatory and legally enforceable.

The recent petition is the second attempt to convince MSHA to issue a standard after David Zatezalo, a former coal industry executive who heads MSHA, declined the UMWA’s March 24 petition.

The AFL-CIO also tried to get an ETS on infectious disease from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

The federation filed a petition on March 6 to the Department of Labor (DOL), and the USW signed on as well.

Not all employers are following a coronavirus protocol and of those that do, the guidelines vary, the AFL-CIO said in its petition. 

A perfect example of some guidelines being followed and others not followed is the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state.

USW Local 12-369 saw how Hanford contractors were “cherry picking” which COVID-19 guidance principles they wanted to follow, and the union issued a stop work order because workers’ lives were being put at risk. The local went to the Department of Energy (DOE) and ensured the site followed one COVID-19 protocol.

The DOL declined to issue the ETS. The agency said its existing enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, along with the COVID-19 requirements and guidelines of other entities, rendered an ETS unnecessary.

The AFL-CIO then sued OSHA on May 18 to force the agency to issue an ETS. But on June 11, a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the federation’s appeal.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would require employers to develop and implement infectious disease exposure control plans. Called the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act), H.R. 6800 passed the House on May 15.  The legislation is now awaiting approval in the Senate.

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