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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.

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Paramedic Says, ‘The Anger Is Blinding’

AFL-CIO - Mon, 06/29/2020 - 09:19
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Paramedic Says, ‘The Anger Is Blinding’ Anthony Almojera

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 Washington Post interviewed Anthony Almojera, a paramedic for the New York City Fire Department and vice president of AFSCME Local 3621, DC 37. He illustrated how the words of gratitude for workers like him are not matched by their meager paychecks:

“Do you know how much EMTs make in New York City? We start at $35,000. We top out at $48,000 after five years. That’s nothing. That’s a middle finger. It’s about 40% less than fire, police and corrections—and those guys deserve what they get. But we have three times the call volume of fire. There are EMTs on my team who’ve been pulling double shifts in a pandemic and performing life support for 16 hours, and then they go home and they have to drive Uber to pay their rent. I’m more than 15 years on the job, and I still work two side gigs. One of my guys does part time at a grocery store.

“Heroes, right? The anger is blinding.”

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 06/29/2020 - 11:19

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

AFL-CIO President Trumka calls on bishop to help USW healthcare members

USW Blog - Mon, 06/29/2020 - 08:52

Click here to download a printable version of Trumka's letter. 

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, leader of America’s largest federation of labor unions, last week joined our fight alongside workers who provide care for our most vulnerable patients at the Bishop Noa Home (BNH) in northern Michigan. Trumka wrote to John F. Doerfler, bishop of Diocese of Marquette, Michigan, urging him to treat with dignity our union siblings, who work at the nursing home and rehab facility associated with the Catholic church. The group voted to join USW Local 2-21 and have been trying to negotiate a contract for the past three years. 

Text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Bishop Doerfler:

As the leader of America’s largest federation of labor unions, I am extremely proud of the workers at the Bishop Noa Home who risk their lives every day to care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These workers—represented by United Steelworkers (USW) Local 2-21—feed, clothe, bathe and plan activities for some of the Upper Peninsula’s most vulnerable residents.

They exemplify the compassion and mercy at the heart of Christ’s ministry. And they steadfastly continue to perform their duties even as the coronavirus takes an ever-higher toll on the people who live and work in nursing homes.

During this difficult time, the nurses protect the lives of their patients and defend their god- given dignity.

These workers have more than earned a fair contract. Community members know this, and that is why the workers have widespread support.

For nearly three years, however, the management at the Bishop Noa Home has dragged out negotiations—and proposed cutting benefits the workers already receive—just to punish them for organizing.

The workers adopted a flexible, creative approach to bargaining in an earnest desire to bring the talks to a prompt, amicable conclusion. The negotiating committee made numerous proposals that would have promoted labor- management collaboration and enabled the workers to provide even more excellent care.

But the management at the Bishop Noa Home spurned these heartfelt overtures and refused to budge from its own unreasonable positions, positions that seem at odds with catholic social teaching as articulated by St. Pope John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

The facility’s union-busting attorney belittles workers at the bargaining table—in stark contrast to the kindness they show their patients every day—and demeans the value of their life- sustaining labors. He scoffs at their request for a voice in the workplace, even though these workers know their patients better than anyone else.

At a time when America is relying on health care professionals more than ever—and praising them for the sacrifices they make—the workers at Bishop Noa only ask to be treated with the same dignity they extend to others.

I ask you to intercede with the Administration and Board at the Bishop Noa Home to ensure these workers receive a just contract providing fair wages, decent working conditions and the respect their Christian service requires.

Sincerely,

Richard L. Trumka President
AFL-CIO

USW Opposes Changes to Federal Rule on Very Low-Level Waste Disposal

USW Blog - Mon, 06/29/2020 - 07:25

Very low-level waste (VLLW) could soon be filling local landfills if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reinterprets an existing rule, a change the USW opposes.

VLLW refers to the least radioactive form of Class A low-level radioactive waste. It includes the concrete, soil and other materials generated when nuclear power plants are decommissioned. Regulators consider it safe enough for disposal in landfills not designed for handling radioactive waste.

Four U.S. facilities licensed to accept low-level waste currently accept this material. The NRC can, under current regulations, approve land burial of this waste at hazardous waste and municipal landfills on a case-by-case basis.

The NRC is considering a rule change that would allow landfills to accept this waste without getting the agency’s approval for every shipment. Landfill operators applying for an agency exemption would have to meet specific restrictions, including a cumulative dose limit under 25 millirem from all disposals in any year.

The USW has three major concerns with this rule, USW Vice President Roxanne Brown wrote in her May 19 remarks to the NRC during the public comment period, which lasts until July 20.

First, very low-level waste is not defined by statute or in the NRC’s regulations and is vaguely defined. 

“Simply referring to this type of waste provides insufficient protection to workers and the communities surrounding the receiving company’s premises and the disposal site or sites,” Brown wrote.

Second, updating the rule would allow workers with little or no training to handle radioactive material. This could lead to a higher chance for mishandling of the waste or improper disposal.

“Putting nuclear waste, of any dosage level, in the hands of undertrained and unqualified workers is not only a bad decision for business and the environment, but hazardous to the people doing the work,” Brown wrote.

Third, the proposed rule lacks monitoring of soil and ground water at and around the exempt dumping site to check for unexpected and increased radiological contamination. Many landfills get repurposed for public use when they are closed. They become golf courses, youth soccer fields, amphitheaters and places for other activities.

“At USW-represented facilities, we have experienced soil and water contamination that was not expected,” Brown wrote. “The clean-up for this contamination has substantially burdened American taxpayers and the environment.”

In light of these issues, the USW urged the NRC to not change the existing rule.

“Given the long-term effects of solid waste disposal, a case-by-case review before turning over licensed radiological materials to unlicensed parties for disposal in unlicensed facilities is essential,” Brown wrote. “The NRC needs to give far more attention than is apparent in the proposed rule to the long-term effects of even relatively low levels of radiological contamination in unlicensed facilities.”

Brown cited the union’s representation of atomic workers who are trained to remove, handle and transport nuclear waste at all dosage levels, such as the union’s members at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M.

“The minimal monetary costs this rule may reduce is not worth the costs to workers, our communities, and our environment,” Brown wrote. “We stand with those who oppose this rule, while continuing to support the ongoing mission of the cleanup of our nation’s Department of Energy nuclear sites.”

As Carnegie Museums Reopen, Workers Launch Unionization Effort

Steelworker News - Mon, 06/29/2020 - 07:25

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

MEDIA ADVISORY

PITTSBURGH – The United Steelworkers (USW) today said that roughly 500 workers from the Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Carnegie Science Center are taking steps toward organizing a union at their workplaces.

At 6:30 p.m. today, the union will sponsor a multimedia campaign launch and virtual card drop to be streamed on both Facebook Live and YouTube, where employees from each of the museums will talk about the many reasons that they have chosen to join together and bargain with a stronger voice for safer workplaces and fair wages and benefits.

Workers who will participate in the campaign perform a variety of important jobs at the museums, interact with guests constantly and often care for priceless or unique exhibits.

The announcement comes on the eve of the 128th anniversary of the Battle of Homestead, a watershed moment in U.S. labor history, where workers engaged in a strike against Carnegie Steel over issues that included management ignoring employees’ concerns about dangerous working conditions and low wages.

WHO: Workers from all four of the Carnegie Museums

WHAT: Multimedia Launch of Organizing Campaign with the USW

WHEN: 6:30 p.m., Monday, June 29, 2020

WHERE: https://www.facebook.com/steelworkers/live/ or   https://www.youtube.com/Steelworkers

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.

Respect at Work: The Working People Weekly List

AFL-CIO - Fri, 06/26/2020 - 07:40
Respect at Work: The Working People Weekly List AFL-CIO

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

The President Must Stop Scapegoating Immigrants: "This week, under the guise of protecting workers, President Trump issued a proclamation suspending immigration and a number of work visa programs through the end of the year.  We know what this is really about. We’ve seen it many times before. The president is trying to distract from his failure to lead us through this pandemic by returning to one of his favorite themes⁠—scapegoating immigrants."

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Needing Journalists Now More Than Ever: "Michael Hutton is a sports reporter for the Post-Tribune in Gary, Indiana, and a member of The NewsGuild-CWA (TNG-CWA) Local 34071. For Hutton and his co-workers, everything is now a COVID-19 story."

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: During COVID-19 Pandemic, Oregon Workers Are Helping Workers: "Working people in Portland, Oregon, have stepped up to fill community needs by hosting the Workers Helping Workers food drive and distribution program."

Respect at Work Has to Become the New Normal: ILO Convention 190 and Rebuilding for a Fairer Economy: "The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into stark relief the direct correlation between the exploitative labor model that fuels our global economy and the systemic racism and discrimination that leads to attacks on Black people’s bodies and lives. It is a system rooted in discrimination and oppression, one that strategically devalues and dehumanizes Black and Brown workers, particularly women."

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Working People Across the Nation Join Workers First Caravan for Racial + Economic Justice: "Thousands of workers across the country joined together on June 17 in a national day of action. We called for the Senate to pass the HEROES Act and for Congress to take actions to address structural racism."

Has the Supreme Court Shielded Us from Trump Administration Health Care Rules?: "The Supreme Court last week handed down a landmark decision barring employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity⁠—a significant step forward in the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in the workplace and in broader society. While this case is an important advance in civil rights, it may also undermine the Trump administration’s new health regulations designed to eliminate existing civil rights protections."

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Union Member Uses Seat on City Council to Lead Fight to Ban Tear Gas: "Braxton Winston knows what it’s like to be tear-gassed by the police while exercising his First Amendment rights to nonviolently protest police brutality. A member of the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and a City Council member in Charlotte, North Carolina, since 2017, he has led the fight to ban the use of tear gas in his city."

Working People Join Caravan for Racial and Economic Justice: "On Wednesday, working people across the United States joined the Workers First Caravan for Racial + Economic Justice. In observation of social distancing guidelines for public safety, working people took to their cars and joined caravans across the country. America faces crises on three critical fronts: a public health pandemic, an economic free fall and long-standing structural racism. To address these crises, we must focus on America’s Five Economic Essentials, which cannot be addressed without also taking on racial injustice directly."

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: New York State's Labor Movement Stands United for Racial Justice: "The horrific and senseless death of George Floyd has left Americans reeling during an already uncertain time. Leaders of the labor movement are speaking out and fighting for equality, justice and civil rights."

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Members of UNITE HERE Local 17 Say ‘No’ to Facism, White Supremacy in Their Union: "Members of UNITE HERE Local 17 in Minnesota adopted a resolution last week that excludes members of facist or white supremacist organizations from their union."

Labor Radio–Podcast Weekly: Fighting for Equality and Justice: "The latest episode of the 'Labor Radio–Podcast Weekly' features the fight for equality and justice, a new version of 'Solidarity Forever' and more."

Pride Month Profiles: Aimee Stephens, Gerald Lynn Bostock and Donald Zarda: "For Pride Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various LGBTQ Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our first profile this year is the three plaintiffs in the 2020 Supreme Court cases that led to the landmark decision protecting the workplace rights of LGBTQ Americans: Aimee Stephens, Gerald Lynn Bostock and Donald Zarda."

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Ohio University Workers Rally to Save Jobs: "In Athens, Ohio, Southeast Ohio Area Labor Federation President John Johnson (AFSCME) coordinated a protest last week with dozens of members of AFSCME Local 1699 at Ohio University, demanding that pending layoffs of 140 workers be stopped and that all furloughed workers be brought back."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/26/2020 - 09:40

PLRB Hearing Examiner Rules Pitt Inflated Faculty List to Impede Union

Steelworker News - Fri, 06/26/2020 - 07:19

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

A Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) hearing examiner ruled today that the University of Pittsburgh administration artificially inflated a list of its faculty employees in order to impede a unionization campaign by the workers to join the United Steelworkers (USW).

PLRB Hearing Examiner Stephen A. Helmerich said that the employee list the administration provided to the board “was factually and legally inaccurate” and that more than 300 names should be removed, including upper administrators, supervisors and others, including some who had left the university years earlier.

In order to trigger a unionization vote, the union needed to show support from at least 30 percent of the potential bargaining unit. The administration supplied an inflated list, which included more than 4,000 names, making that 30 percent threshold harder to reach.

“This is only the most recent example of the administration’s hostility to the faculty exercising their right to vote,” said Peter Campbell, assistant professor of English. “The administration also recently had the Faculty Association of the School of Medicine abolished, which had existed since 1976, without allowing the faculty it represented to vote on it.”

The USW expects the administration to appeal the ruling. The administration spent more than $1 million over the 2018-2019 fiscal year on fees to the union-busting law firm Ballard Spahr.

“Using frivolous litigation to delay an election is a classic union-busting tactic,” said Claude Mauk, senior lecturer in linguistics. “Clearly they’re worried that faculty, once they have the choice, will seize the opportunity to compel the administration to shift the university's priorities back to the teaching, research, and clinical work that faculty do.”

“It’s appalling that, during a period in which many of the university’s lowest-paid faculty are being laid off, the administration is choosing to spend taxpayer dollars and student tuition on unionbusting,” said USW International President Tom Conway.

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.

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Flight Attendants Are Essential Workers

AFL-CIO - Thu, 06/25/2020 - 14:07
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Flight Attendants Are Essential Workers

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.

Not only are flight attendants first responders in the air, they also face the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. These women and men provide an essential service. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) is raising awareness through the collecting and sharing of "mask selfies." If you are a flight attendant, send your mask selfie to crewlife@afacwa.org and check out this slideshow highlighting the importance of these front-line workers.

Thanks, aviation’s first responders, for continuing to provide essential service to our nation throughout this pandemic. Fly safe & be sure to send your “mask selfies” to crewlife@afacwa.org, as we love to highlight the important work of frontline workers. ❤️✈️ #whywefly #1u pic.twitter.com/ieygYvXrf3

— AFA-CWA (@afa_cwa) June 22, 2020 Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 06/25/2020 - 16:07

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

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