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USW Backs BlueGreen Alliance National Manufacturing Agenda

Steelworker News - Thu, 06/25/2020 - 12:39

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

The United Steelworkers (USW) union, along with other members and leaders of the labor-environmental partnership BlueGreen Alliance (BGA), today launched the group’s ambitious agenda to rebuild American manufacturing while fighting the effects of climate change.

The BGA, founded in 2006 by the USW and the Sierra Club, now includes more than a dozen unions and environmental organizations committed to fighting for good jobs, clean infrastructure and fair trade. The group’s proposal, released today, outlines a set of national actions necessary to create a manufacturing economy that is globally competitive, clean, safe and fair for workers and communities.

“The USW will always reject the false notion that we must choose between good jobs and a clean environment,” said USW International President Tom Conway. “We believe this country must have both, or we will have neither. That belief has formed the basis for our membership in the BlueGreen Alliance for the past 14 years.”

The BGA agenda outlines a set of national actions to modernize the U.S. industrial base, create good jobs, combat climate change and ensure fairness for workers and communities. The five pillars of the plan are to invest in a new generation of American manufacturing; to innovate to transform industry; to responsibly mine, recycle and reclaim the critical materials necessary for a secure, clean economy; to use public investment to create markets for a strong, clean, fair manufacturing economy; and to change the rules to build a clean economy that works for all Americans.

“These priorities, if they are followed, will mean a stronger, safer, more prosperous future for all workers, families and communities in the United States,” Conway said. “American industrial workers - and Steelworkers in particular - are an essential part of that future.

“USW members have led the way in producing the next generation of clean, environmentally friendly products, including tires designed for greater fuel efficiency, paper products from recycled materials, bearings for wind turbines, and new steel pipe to prevent leakage,” Conway said. “Manufacturing workers are the key to solving our environmental crisis while ensuring the growth of our manufacturing base.”

Conway said that the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the urgency of the United States rebuilding its manufacturing base and putting Americans back to work.

“We don’t have the luxury of time,” Conway said. “We need to act now, to ensure the long-term health of our citizens, our economy and our planet.”

Conway is scheduled to testify on Wednesday, July 1, before a special U.S. Senate committee on the climate crisis, and he plans to submit the BGA’s manufacturing agenda as part of his testimony.

“To achieve the goals laid out in the BGA’s agenda, we will need the support of workers as well as government and industry leaders,” Conway said. “We must make sure that American workers are leading the way on these changes, rather than becoming victims of them.”

The full text of “The BlueGreen Alliance Manufacturing Agenda: A National Agenda for Clean Technology Manufacturing Leadership and Industrial Transformation” can be found here: www.bluegreenalliance.org/manufacturing

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.

For good jobs and a clean environment, look to paper and packaging

USW Blog - Thu, 06/25/2020 - 12:38

Keith Frazier remembers what it was like at Domtar’s Ashdown, Ark., plant when the facility operated at full capacity. About 850 workers represented by the USW made good, family-sustaining wages while the company churned out uncoated free sheet used to make copy paper and other products.

But over the past nine years, said Frazier, president of USW Local 1329, Domtar has had to gradually scale back operations. It eliminated three production lines, idled a fourth and cut hundreds of jobs as it attempted to remain competitive.

While there are a number of forces at work, including recently the novel coronavirus, the United States’ widely debated energy policy has made it difficult for all U.S. paper producers to plan for the future and retain a competitive edge.

The first step towards protecting these domestic jobs is definitively designating wood biomass energy as carbon neutral, as it has been elsewhere around the world.

American production of paper food containers, toilet tissue, copy paper, shipping boxes and more, sets the standard for clean manufacturing. On average, about two-thirds of the energy used to make paper comes from biomass rather than fossil fuels.

Yet the lack of designation currently subjects biomass energy to cumbersome regulations and permit processes under the Clean Air Act, putting the domestic industry at a disadvantage.

And when federal policy makers waffle on the issue of biomass energy, it becomes difficult for domestic companies to compete globally or plan for investments in existing and future facilities.

This hurts us all, as domestic papermaking is among the cleanest, environmentally friendly industries, and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing processes are an inherent part of the industry’s environmental stewardship.

Domestic paper facilities help ensure that more trees are replanted than harvested each year, and in the United States alone, forests and forest products stored enough carbon in 2018 to offset more than 12 percent of the nation’s total CO2 emissions.

Domestic paper producers are also diligent that no part of the tree goes to waste. From the top of the tree to the base, every part is used. And, the byproducts – branches, bark and liquid biofuel – generate bioenergy to power the mills. 

Yet federal policy in the United States does not clearly recognize biomass energy as carbon neutral, jeopardizing this delicate system.

In the meantime, approximately 950,000 American workers, many of whom are members of the United Steelworkers (USW) union, face an uncertain future.

“The paper mills do pay better than anything around,” said Frazier, noting laid-off workers have a difficult time finding new jobs that allow them to maintain their standard of living.

At a time when tens of millions of Americans are out of work, we cannot afford to concede these good-paying, family-sustaining jobs or the communities they help keep afloat.

On average, paper workers earned 24 percent more than the national average of all non-farm private sector employees, and many of these facilities are located in small, rural communities where papermaking forms the backbone of the local economy.

It’s imperative that we keep these domestic jobs where they are, and paper producers’ environmentally-sound energy practices helps bolster this effort as well.

Domestic paper mills harness the residuals from the manufacturing process, which would otherwise decay and release carbon. In some cases, the ability of mills to sell this clean energy back to the grid kept these facilities operating when demand for product dipped, which ensured those essential jobs stayed in place.

Repeated studies, agencies, institutions, legislation and rules around the world – in addition to 100 forestry scientists – recognize the carbon neutrality of biomass harvested from sustainably-managed forests. Yet the lack of clear designation domestically puts American industry at a disadvantage.

The U.S. Congress, last December, once again stated its intent that long-term federal regulatory policy should reflect the carbon neutrality of forest-based biomass in domestic spending legislation, as it has done for the past four years. 

Workers and their families now urgently need the EPA to advance a long-awaited policy that acknowledges the carbon neutrality of biomass, and the role it plays in providing significant greenhouse gas reduction benefits to the environment.

A clear, science-based approach will promote the efficient and responsible use of domestic natural resources in the manufacturing of paper products and level the playing field for the industry. This, in turn, will help preserve both good jobs and a clean environment.

Leeann Foster is International Vice President of the United Steelworkers overseeing the paper sector and Heidi Brock is President and CEO of the American Forest & Paper Association.

The President Must Stop Scapegoating Immigrants

AFL-CIO - Thu, 06/25/2020 - 07:32
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.

America’s unions have a clear list of steps the administration could take if it really wants to protect workers amidst this crisis and promote a just recovery. Suspending immigration isn’t one of them.  

Working people have had enough of the divide and distract tactics⁠—we are rising up to demand real measures to enact our Five Economic Essentials and promote an inclusive pro-worker agenda for our country.  

Unions have long called for reforms to our work visa programs to protect workers’ rights and prevent employers from pitting workers against each other to drive down standards. Those changes are needed now more than ever, but they require a thoughtful approach, not a blunt instrument like a ban.  

The proclamation does little more than pause visa programs that harm America's workers and migrant workers alike. That is no substitute for real reform. These programs were broken before the onset of the pandemic and, absent congressional action, will remain broken when the economy fully reopens.

As we have for more than a decade, the labor movement will continue our push to restructure work visa programs so they can only ever be used in cases of real need and so that all workers in affected industries are assured full rights, fair pay and equal treatment.  

Working people know the difference between callous campaign stunts and real solutions. We will not be misled by proclamations that only serve to rob America of what truly makes us great: our diversity.

Union members and our families come from every country in the world, and our labor movement has trade union partners around the globe. These connections are a source of strength and vitality for our country, our workforce and our movement. Each new travel and asylum ban imposed by this administration undermines our values, our competitiveness and our standing in the world—but it will never undermine our solidarity.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 06/25/2020 - 09:32

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Needing Journalists Now More Than Ever

AFL-CIO - Wed, 06/24/2020 - 09:01
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Needing Journalists Now More Than Ever

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.

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. He writes about students not finishing the season, tournaments being canceled and coaches dying. As a result of the pandemic, Hutton, and everyone at the Post-Tribune, has been furloughed for three weeks and is worried about losing his job in the fall. Learn more about how journalists and the whole journalism industry are being affected during these dangerous times.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 06/24/2020 - 11:01

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

USW Applauds Commerce Department Investigation of PVLT Tires from 4 Countries

Steelworker News - Tue, 06/23/2020 - 17:29

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

The United Steelworkers (USW) union today applauded the U.S. Commerce Department’s decision to initiate an investigation of Vietnam’s currency manipulation as an illegal subsidy on passenger vehicle and light truck (PVLT) tires, as part of its investigation into unfairly traded PVLT imports from four countries.

The USW filed antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) petitions against four countries on May 13. This included a countervailing duty petition on PVLT from Vietnam, alleging that the Vietnamese government’s systematic undervaluation of the dong in relation to the U.S. dollar constitutes an illegal subsidy.  

The Commerce Department issued new rules earlier this year that allowed currency undervaluation to be considered as an illegal subsidy.

“U.S. workers have for too long borne the brunt of a broken trade system,” said USW International President Tom Conway. “When a country like Vietnam artificially suppresses its currency for the purpose of propping up its own industry, we need to treat that like we would any other illegal subsidy. Importantly, these USW-initiated charges of currency manipulation are the first time they are being challenged under the new rules by the Department of Commerce.”

“We need swift and decisive action. Thousands of community-supporting domestic jobs depend on it,” Conway said.

At the same time that the USW filed the CVD petition against Vietnam, it also filed antidumping petitions against Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. The International Trade Commission (ITC) is expected to vote on preliminary determinations in that case on July 14.

The USW is the largest North American union in tire manufacturing, representing workers at tire plants in eight states: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Ohio, North Carolina, New York and Virginia.

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: During COVID-19 Pandemic, Oregon Workers Are Helping Workers

AFL-CIO - Tue, 06/23/2020 - 12:20
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: During COVID-19 Pandemic, Oregon Workers Are Helping Workers Oregon AFL-CIO

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.

Working people in Portland, Oregon, have stepped up to fill community needs by hosting the Workers Helping Workers food drive and distribution program. The program is led by President Jeff Anderson (UFCW) of the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, Oregon AFL-CIO President Graham Trainor (IBEW) and Labor’s Community Service Agency. In response to layoffs, furloughs and record unemployment, the unions came together to distribute 1,000 food boxes in the first of at least three planned distributions.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 06/23/2020 - 14:20

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

Respect at Work Has to Become the New Normal: ILO Convention 190 and Rebuilding for a Fairer Economy

AFL-CIO - Tue, 06/23/2020 - 10:37
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. Returning to “normal” is not an option or even desirable—we must instead rebuild an economy designed to meet human needs and protect fundamental rights, including safety and respect on the job.

After years of campaigning by the global labor movement, workers, governments and employers came together June 21, 2019, at the International Labor Organization to negotiate a global standard to end violence and harassment in the world of work. The ILO Convention that resulted from those discussions, C190, was the first international treaty to recognize the right of every worker to be free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment, and the responsibility of governments and employers to ensure safe, respectful workplaces. Uruguay recently became the first country to ratify the convention, and others are soon to follow its lead. One year later, as we confront racial, economic and health crises, the convention takes on an even greater role in addressing the many forms of work-related violence and harassment workers are reporting related to the pandemic. 

With increased incidence of domestic violence and health and safety violations during the current crisis, unions are using the C190 framework to negotiate with employers and governments for policies that address the forms of violence they confront. Female workers throughout the global economy often are the first to lose their jobs as the economy contracts or are forced to work in low-paid positions with few health and safety protections. C190 requires that employers recognize gender-based violence and harassment in their safety and health protections. It is clear the convention provides an important framework for addressing the systemic discrimination and exploitation workers face around the world.

Rebuilding our economy will require that we proactively design and implement systems that empower and protect workers and address systemic power imbalances. As countries shape policies for reopening and rebuilding economies, the C190 framework provides guidance on how to ensure workplaces are safe and address the continuum of violence workers often experience. C190 calls on all governments to address the root causes of violence and harassment at work, including discrimination, and develop strategies to address the underlying factors that support these systems.

Women, particularly women of color, have been on the front lines of the pandemic, many working for very low wages. Overall, front-line workers are 64% women and disproportionately people of color. According to the National Domestic Workers Alliance, 73% of Black immigrant domestic workers report not being provided with any form of personal protective equipment (PPE) by their employers. Women particularly are overrepresented in care work, making up more than 85% of child care workers and 75% of health care workers. Caring for others sustains our communities and allows our economy to function, but it has long been dismissed as women’s work and systematically devalued, informalized and underpaid. Not coincidentally, these professions also face high rates of violence and harassment on the job. 

In addition, women, along with marginalized groups such as migrant workers, Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming individuals, are disproportionately pushed into the precarious workforce. And while precarious work arrangements—aka corporations using subcontractors, franchises and gig models to avoid a formal employment relationship and escape liability for some or all labor rights—predate COVID-19, the pandemic has spotlighted how these jobs operate with little to no regard for worker safety. 

C190 explicitly requires governments to address precarious work arrangements and ensure that everyone in the working world has legal protections from violence and harassment. It also contains protections for others in the workplace who are often left unprotected by labor laws and social protection systems, including people looking for work, unpaid interns and apprentices. As unemployment rises and state reopenings foreclose many from qualifying for emergency assistance, people will become increasingly desperate for income and can be forced into more dangerous and exploitative situations.

Critically, C190 also recognizes the importance of addressing underlying power relationships at work. Ending violence and harassment requires shifting more agency and control into the hands of workers themselves. This pandemic has made clear that far too often, workers are not viewed as human beings deserving of dignity and safety, but as expendable cogs in a machine. Violence and harassment exist in this system not as a glitch, but as a feature—tools of control used to reinforce hierarchy both in the workplace and in society.

To get all of this done, we need to build alliances across our movements. Feminist, worker, climate, racial justice, migrant and human rights organizations must build joint analysis and campaigns that work toward ratification and implementation of C190. All workers must have the ability to organize collectively to proactively shape their own working conditions. A union is how change is made, and one of the few inspiring outcomes of the pandemic has been the rise of new waves of worker and community organizing. Going forward, we must create an enabling environment for organizing to demand respect on the job by protecting everyone’s fundamental right to come together and act in concert to demand better. 

One of the most heartbreaking elements of the COVID-19 crisis is that so much of the suffering is the result of political choices, made to prioritize the stock market and uninterrupted markets, rather than human life. C190 provides us a framework for a worker-centered response and recovery that builds systems for all workers and addresses the power imbalances created by systemic discrimination. We can and must make different, better choices—choices to recognize the inherent dignity and value of all workers, to require respectful, safe working conditions, and to allow people more agency in shaping their working lives.

 

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 06/23/2020 - 12:37

Tags: COVID-19

2020 Leadership Scholarship Classes Postponed

USW Blog - Tue, 06/23/2020 - 09:52

After much thought and debate and due the widespread activity on the coronavirus, the decision has been made to POSTPONE all Leadership Scholarship 2020 classes.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause some, but your health and welfare and that of our staff must be the number one priority. District Directors have been informed of this change and we are currently working to set dates for 2021.

We are working to set up some on-line activities including workshops, a movie and a book club.

You can find more information about this on our USW Leadership Facebook Group or send an email to Paulette Battisti (pbattisti@usw.org) for more information.

We appreciate your understanding and patience as we work through this very concerning time in our nations.

Thank you to all of you going to work every day…taking care of us in hospitals and nursing homes, in our communities as public sector workers, manufacturing all the products we continue to need (especially the sought after toilet paper!)….

Local 9460 continues fighting back against layoffs

USW Blog - Mon, 06/22/2020 - 14:20

Members of Local 9460 at Essentia Health in Minnesota have been facing layoffs in the wake of the coronavirus, but they’re still pressing on in their campaign for justice. New, large billboards now dot the landscape of northeastern Minnesota in support of the workers, which were erected after a caravan picket through downtown Duluth on June 1.

"Our goal is to get their attention," said Local 9460 President Deanna Hughes. “Essentia has received more than $80 million from the government to deal with the pandemic, and there’s no excuse for them to be cutting workers during this crisis.”

Visit the local’s Facebook page for regular updates.

Recognizing trauma, practicing self-care as front-line workers

USW Blog - Mon, 06/22/2020 - 14:18

As front-line health care workers, and many others, continue to confront loss and trauma in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, self-care and resilience are more important than ever. The work each of us performs is important, but it is just as vital to remember that no one can take care of others if they don’t take care of themselves.

This is why is the USW hosted a special resilience and mental health training through the Tony Mazzocchi Center on June 9 and 11. We covered how to spot the signs of mental health struggles and trauma, both within oneself and others, as well as how to cope using healthy mechanisms.

We will be hosting another virtual session in the future, so please stay tuned for updates. And make sure to check out this short video preview of the course, featuring several USW members.

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Working People Across the Nation Join Workers First Caravan for Racial + Economic Justice

AFL-CIO - Mon, 06/22/2020 - 10:50
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Working People Across the Nation Join Workers First Caravan for Racial + Economic Justice

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.

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. The HEROES Act is grounded in America’s Five Economic Essentials that are desperately needed to keep working people safe and financially secure. This day of action was just the beginning. Today and every day that follows, working people will mobilize like never before to make the HEROES Act the law of the land and rid our institutions of systemic racism. Check out this video recapping the various actions around the country.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 06/22/2020 - 12:50

Has the Supreme Court Shielded Us from Trump Administration Health Care Rules?

AFL-CIO - Mon, 06/22/2020 - 07:07
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.

The AFL-CIO applauds the Supreme Court for its decision in Bostock v. Clay County. Our affiliates represent people in a broad array of work settings and organizational cultures. We believe a person should be judged by their actual performance on the job, not stereotypes of a particular occupation or a particular gender. Union members are protected from invidious discrimination by their employers because of union contracts that protect them from being fired or discriminated against without just cause. But the court’s ruling provides essential workplace protections for millions of workers in the 27 states without LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws. 

The case also may have implications for work-based health coverage and other benefits. For example, employers may need to adjust group health plan coverage of gender dysphoria and related services, adjust benefits for same-sex and opposite-sex spouses, and review the need for gender assignment as an identifier in benefit plan administration. 

The court’s ruling also undercuts the legality of harsh new regulations from the Trump administration issued three days before the court’s decision that would allow doctors, hospitals and other providers to withhold medical care from transgender people.  

The court’s decision in Bostock rests on an interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act—so it doesn’t address the health care regulations directly. But those regulations rely on an interpretation of sex discrimination in Title IX of the Education Amendments Act and other laws that are quite similar to Title VII. Courts often look to interpretations of Title VII when they decide the meaning of the anti-discrimination provisions in Title IX. With the Supreme Court rejecting the administration’s narrow understanding of Title VII when it comes to hiring and firing, most experts believe the courts will look skeptically at new health regulations that seek to reduce protections against discrimination in the same way.   

The AFL-CIO, along with hundreds of other organizations, submitted comments to the administration last year urging them not to go forward with these new regulations, which are part of a broader Republican effort to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As an organization that recognizes the importance of work-based health insurance, we believe it is critical that payers and health care providers provide the full range of medically necessary health care services, regardless of whether or not a worker conforms to the stereotype⁠—whether it is a stereotype for that particular occupation or a stereotype for a particular gender.

By preventing insurers from denying coverage based on gender identity, the ACA protections have saved lives. One study found that the suicide rate among transgender and gender-nonconforming people dropped by as much as 50% in states that barred such discrimination. 

Of course, the timing of these new rules couldn’t be worse⁠—limiting access to health care during a pandemic. Turning away patients based on their sexual orientation or gender identity not only may have life-threatening implications for those individuals but the well-being of the broader community.

The next big test will be later this month when the administration must decide whether or not to publish the regulations in the Federal Register. The Supreme Court has given the administration valuable guidance on the scope of federal nondiscrimination laws. One can only hope that the administration is listening because going forward with these regulations would do nothing to help the Department of Health and Human Services fulfill its mission to promote the health and well-being of people across the nation.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 06/22/2020 - 09:07

Tags: LGBTQ Rights

USW Applauds House Progress on Infrastructure Investment

Steelworker News - Fri, 06/19/2020 - 15:40

CONTACT: Jess Kamm Broomell, (412) 562-2444,

United Steelworkers (USW) International President Tom Conway issued the following statement today on the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passage of the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act:

“The USW applauds today’s committee action advancing a robust infrastructure investment that includes strong ‘Buy America’ provisions.

“Our nation’s crumbling infrastructure has long needed attention. Now, as our nation works to recover from the economic devastation brought about by the COVID-19 crisis, it is doubly important that we devote significant resources to rebuilding our roads, bridges, highways and other infrastructure.

“Done properly, these investments will not only make our country safer and more secure but will also spur badly needed economic growth, strengthen domestic manufacturing and create jobs.

“The nearly $500 billion in the INVEST Act, championed by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio, is an important start.

“The USW particularly commends Steel Caucus Chairman Rep. Conor Lamb (Pa.), Vice Chair Rep. Rick Crawford (Ark.), Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.) and others who fought for amendments that strengthened Buy America language.

“These vital changes ensured that the bill closes loopholes in current policy, including those that allow foreign companies to skirt domestic content rules. The bill now also supports an increase of domestic content in rolling stock purchased with federal dollars.

“The INVEST Act serves as an integral part of a wide-reaching infrastructure proposal, the Moving Forward Act, which if enacted would provide $1.5 trillion dollars of investments in our country’s infrastructure. The USW supports these ambitious investments, while at the same time recognizing that Congress must roll up its sleeves and pass surface reauthorization legislation by September of this year.  

“We encourage lawmakers to continue working together as this legislation advances through the House and the Senate, where it faces an uphill battle, so that America’s workers remain the top priority.”

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.

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Union Member Uses Seat on City Council to Lead Fight to Ban Tear Gas

AFL-CIO - Fri, 06/19/2020 - 08:41
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Union Member Uses Seat on City Council to Lead Fight to Ban Tear Gas Braxton Winston

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.

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. Last week, the Charlotte City Council voted to stop funding chemical agents for the police department. Winston wrote an editorial column for The Washington Post, in which he described his experience and what led him to fight for this change:

“No chemical agents should be used on a human being anywhere in this world. And that certainly includes American streets as citizens exercise their First Amendment rights. Being exposed to tear gas and pepper ball rounds is a miserable experience that I will never forget….

“Our police chief has argued that without chemical agents, police will be forced to use batons to break skin and bones. But that is not an acceptable answer to the people of Charlotte. What’s more, comments like that hurtfully evoke Bull Connor’s German shepherds and fire hoses. If the current police chief, or the new chief set to take over in September, cannot figure out how to deal with human beings without the tactics of violence and fear, the people that make up this city will be here, step by step, to show him how to deal with us as the sentient beings we are.”

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/19/2020 - 10:41

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

Working People Join Caravan for Racial and Economic Justice

AFL-CIO - Thu, 06/18/2020 - 08:18
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. 

America's Five Economic Essentials are: 

1. Keep front-line workers safe and secure.
2. Keep workers employed and protect earned pension checks.
3. Keep state and local governments, our public schools and the U.S. Postal Service solvent and working.
4. Keep America healthy by protecting and expanding health insurance for all workers.
5. Keep America competitive by hiring people to build infrastructure.

Here are some highlights of yesterday's caravans from around the country:

Just finished up an Executive Council meeting and am headed to the Capitol to join the #WorkersFirst Caravan for Racial + Economic Justice. #1u pic.twitter.com/Y8SMSPDeJ8

— Richard Trumka (@RichardTrumka) June 17, 2020

I’m heading to the US Capitol in Washington DC for the @AFLCIO #WorkersFirst Caravan - we’re demanding Congress hear our voices and pass the HEROES Act and put an end to systemic racism and inequality! #SenateActNow pic.twitter.com/kXkRH7KQhT

— Liz Shuler (@lizshuler) June 17, 2020

#WorkersFirst #HeroesAct pic.twitter.com/gKDzb90ANe

— streetheat@dclabor.org (@DCLabor) June 17, 2020

Kicking off Workers First Caravan❗️❗️#WorkersFirst #SenateActNow pic.twitter.com/GUUCBIBqqE

— LCLAA (@LCLAA) June 17, 2020

AFT President @rweingarten is in a car on the way to the #WorkersFirst Caravan for Racial + Economic Justice! Tune in live: https://t.co/Rk1mH97z0q pic.twitter.com/rfGPexowH0

— AFT (@AFTunion) June 17, 2020

Set-up for #WorkersFirst news conference at #TxAFL-CIO to all for #HEROESAct to see all families through pandemic and demand racial justice. #SenateActNow #1u pic.twitter.com/pP1ayRKR52

— Texas AFL-CIO (@TexasAFLCIO) June 17, 2020

The #WorkersFirst Caravan in Atlanta is headed out! Honk if you see us! #UnionStrong #gapol pic.twitter.com/ccsfJycP7Q

— Georgia AFL-CIO (@AFLCIOGeorgia) June 17, 2020

HAPPENING NOW: The Workers First Caravan is beginning in the Washington, D.C. area. CLUW President Elise Bryant is on board! We are demanding that Senators support the #HEROESAct, the proposed COVID-19 financial and social relief bill. #WorkersFirst pic.twitter.com/elqfeUaEQu

— CLUW National (@CLUWNational) June 17, 2020

.@unitehere folks getting everyone ready for the #WorkersFirst caravan, where hundreds of cars will be driving from Arlington + Maryland to the Capitol pic.twitter.com/joC7H7yTtc

— Kalina Newman (@KalinaNewman) June 17, 2020

The #WorkersFirst caravan is lining up in #Columbus #Ohio to demand Mitch McConnell take up the #HeroesAct and help restore funding to local governments. We can’t call workers essential one day and make them expendable the next. pic.twitter.com/1ewcA3BFXS

— Ohio AFL-CIO (@ohioaflcio) June 17, 2020

Workers First Caravan for Racial & Economic Justice is getting underway in Nashville! @NashvilleCLC is getting folks out in droves #WorkersFirst pic.twitter.com/Qggihk18aq

— Tennessee AFL-CIO (@tnaflcio) June 17, 2020

The video is too long to fit us all, but we are heading out in our caravan! #WorkersFirst #SenateActNow pic.twitter.com/zFVH7b1uJG

— Virginia AFL-CIO (@Virginia_AFLCIO) June 17, 2020

Pride at Work South Florida members are out on the streets today for racial and economic justice #WorkersFirst #1u #SenateActNow #1uPride pic.twitter.com/6CtLWtsYiN

— Pride at Work (@PrideatWork) June 17, 2020

We stand with working people who are standing up for what is right via the #workersfirst caravan. Working families are demanding Congress hear their voices, pass the HEROES Act, and put an end to systematic racism. cc @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/Wvl7B7UQ0h

— Transp. Trades Dept. (@TTDAFLCIO) June 17, 2020

Cars lined up and ready to go for the ⁦@coloradoaflcio#WorkersFirst caravan around ⁦@SenCoryGardner⁩ ‘s Denver office #SenateActNow pic.twitter.com/ebLRztlBG5

— UNITE HERE Local 23 (@unitehere23) June 17, 2020

That's why we showed up this morning to put #WorkersFirst. The Senate must pass the #HeroesAct ASAP! #SenateActNow pic.twitter.com/do9kPX883x

— Northern Nevada Central Labor Council (@northernnvlabor) June 17, 2020

Decorating our cars and getting ready to kick off our #WorkersFirst caravan in Indianapolis! pic.twitter.com/AWMS1Nao11

— Indiana AFL-CIO (@INAFLCIO) June 17, 2020

Workers rallied nationwide seeking action from elected leaders on three fronts: the coronavirus pandemic, the resulting economic devastation, and the long-standing structural racism that has sparked protests. #WorkersFirst https://t.co/GSvcifF4UE

— AFSCME (@AFSCME) June 17, 2020

Int. Pres. John Costa joined @ATULocal689 Pres. Ray Jackson today as hundreds of cars with members from ATU, @unitehere, @AFSCME, and others at the Tommy Douglas Conf. Ctr. for the #workersfirst caravan for Racial + Economic Justice around the U.S. Capitol. #1u #UnionStrong pic.twitter.com/IFD5ju58X0

— ATU, Transit Union (@ATUComm) June 17, 2020

Thank you to everyone who came out to support Workers First Caravan Broward County #WorkersFirst#SenateActNow #CWA #IATSE #AFT #UFF #BTU #FOPE #OPEIU #SEIU #1union #FLAFLCIO #BRAFLCIO #FFLL pic.twitter.com/tyhqopNGFO

— Broward AFL-CIO (@BRAFLCIO) June 17, 2020

We kicked off the #WorkersFirst caravan in York PA today with our union sisters and brothers from across the Commonwealth. It’s time for the Senate to take action, fight for equality and put #WorkersFirst! @AFLCIO @PhillyAFLCIO @sepaalf @AlleghenyLabor @afscmecouncil13 pic.twitter.com/qB9j5QAmHL

— PA AFL-CIO (@PaAFL_CIO) June 17, 2020

#1U #Workersfirst #WorkersFirstCaravan https://t.co/29y57PtFj1

— Rhode Island AFL-CIO (@riaflcio) June 17, 2020

Today is a national Day of Action for the @AFLCIO highlighting the importance of the 5 economic essentials paramount to America's recovery.

1: Keep front-line workers safe and secure
2: Keep workers employed while protecting their pensions pic.twitter.com/LC5NAcO4Ig

— Nevada State AFL-CIO (@NVAFLCIO) June 18, 2020

Local 1 was proud to join our @MOAFLCIO Brothers and Sisters on the Workers First Caravan for Economic and Social Justice! #WorkersFirst @RepAnnWagner @FjacobsLU1 @AFLCIO @UFCW655 pic.twitter.com/24AN8ITkwd

— IBEW Local One (@IBEWLocal1) June 18, 2020

Today we had a great action in Orlando to call on Congress to pass the HEROES Act! We demand Rick Scott and Marco Rubio put workers first!#WorkersFirst#SenateActNow#1u pic.twitter.com/OMDc6nA5NU

— CentralFloridaAFLCIO (@CentralFLAFLCIO) June 18, 2020

I’m proud to stand with folks across the country participating in today’s #WorkersFirst Caravan. Senate Republicans need to pass the #HeroesAct now and take action to root out systemic racism. https://t.co/s5zCJBXYIp

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) June 18, 2020

American workers are paying the price for Leader McConnell’s efforts to slow-walk our response to COVID-19. Truly inspiring to witness today’s caravan of workers in Washington, driving together to demand that the #SenateActNow to pass the #HeroesAct. #WorkersFirst pic.twitter.com/W4I4w5wxxZ

— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) June 17, 2020

I was inspired to see swarms of cars circling the U.S. Capitol as part of @AFLCIO's Workers First Caravan for Economic and Social Justice. Workers from around the region are demanding Congress take decisive action to end racial prejudice in policing. #WorkersFirst #SenateActNow pic.twitter.com/SztXNFTGcg

— Rep. Andy Levin (@RepAndyLevin) June 17, 2020 Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 06/18/2020 - 10:18

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: New York State's Labor Movement Stands United for Racial Justice

AFL-CIO - Thu, 06/18/2020 - 07:41
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: New York State's Labor Movement Stands United for Racial Justice New York State AFL-CIO

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 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. On the New York State AFL-CIO’s “Union Strong” podcast last week, state federation President Mario Cilento (TNG-CWA) and Secretary-Treasurer Terry Melvin (CSEA-AFSCME) addressed racial injustice in America and what the labor movement can do to change it.

“There is no contract that allows murder on the job. There is no contract that allows a worker to supersede any local, state or federal law,” said Melvin, who is also the president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU). “What has to happen is long-term reform. Institutional reform to reflect the needs of the community. Reform that humanizes the citizens and devalues the problem….Our elected officials can do more than they want to do and are comfortable blaming the union and the contract.”

“I know right now there is so much pain, there is so much anger, there is so much frustration, there is so much tension,” Cilento said. “But our goal should be to match those feelings with an equal amount of hope, and that only happens if we stand united in our commitment to make real and lasting change. Let me start by being very clear, as a labor movement in New York state, we recognize, we believe and we know that Black Lives Matter.” 

Listen to the podcast here.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 06/18/2020 - 09:41

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Members of UNITE HERE Local 17 Say ‘No’ to Facism, White Supremacy in Their Union

AFL-CIO - Wed, 06/17/2020 - 08:43
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Members of UNITE HERE Local 17 Say ‘No’ to Facism, White Supremacy in Their Union UNITE HERE Local 17

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 their 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.

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. The resolution states: “The majority of our members are immigrants, people of color or LGBTQ. We are proud to be a diverse union, [and] we know diversity is our strength.” Local 17, led by President Christa Mello (front row, center), represents thousands of hospitality workers in and around Minneapolis, where George Floyd was tragically killed. The Sioux Falls AFL-CIO in South Dakota has passed a similar resolution.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 06/17/2020 - 10:43

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

Labor Radio–Podcast Weekly: Fighting for Equality and Justice

AFL-CIO - Tue, 06/16/2020 - 14:27
Labor Radio–Podcast Weekly: Fighting for Equality and Justice Labor Radio-Podcast Weekly

The latest episode of the "Labor Radio–Podcast Weekly" features the fight for equality and justice, a new version of "Solidarity Forever" and more. This week’s highlights from labor radio and podcast shows focusing on working people include:

  • On the latest SAG-AFTRA podcast, SAG-AFTRA officers, President Gabrielle Carteris and National Executive Director David White, discuss their personal journeys and the union's role in the fight for equality and justice: “We are going to bring this around to the issue of police brutality, social inequality, the organization's role on that.”
  • A new, millennial version of “Solidarity Forever” from the RadioLabour podcast.
  • WorkWeek talks with a Chicago bus driver: "We have at least four dead bus operators  in Chicago from COVID-19. I was one of many dozens who have gotten COVID-19."
  • Plus Labor History in 2 and a teaser for the latest episode of The Gig podcast. 

Check out all the shows on Labor Radio/Podcast Network.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 06/16/2020 - 16:27

Tags: Podcast

Pride Month Profiles: Aimee Stephens, Gerald Lynn Bostock and Donald Zarda

AFL-CIO - Tue, 06/16/2020 - 10:56
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.

Aimee Stephens was a funeral director at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes in Michigan. When hired, Stephens lived and presented as a man. When she informed the owner and operator of the funeral home that she intended to transition from male to female, Stephens was fired. Stephens filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging unlawful discrimination. The EEOC investigated and filed a lawsuit. The case was originally decided in favor of the funeral home but was overturned on appeal and made its way to the Supreme Court.

Gerald Lynn Bostock, a gay man, worked for the Juvenile Court of Clayton County, Georgia. He began participating in a gay recreational softball league. His participation in the league was criticized, and several months later an internal audit was conducted to look into Bostock's program. He was fired for conduct "unbecoming of a county employee." Bostock sued the county, claiming he was fired because he was gay. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia dismissed the complaint, but Bostock's appeal was upheld and the divided rulings led the case to be heard by the Supreme Court.

Donald Zarda, a gay man, worked as a skydiving instructor at Altitude Express in New York. Zarda was fired after he informed a client that he was gay and she complained to management. Zarda was fired, and he alleged that he was fired because of his sexuality. He sued, but the District Court rejected his claim. He appealed and the initial ruling was overturned. Altitude Express appealed.

The three cases were combined and this week the Supreme Court sided with the LGBTQ workers, saying that firing them because of their sexuality was a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Pride At Work Executive Director Jerame Davis called the ruling "a huge win for equality." He continued:

Today, the Court recognized that discrimination based on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is rooted in sex discrimination. The approximately 11.5 million LGB people and 1.5 million transgender people in the United States are now protected from discrimination in workplaces across the country. While many lower courts already have recognized that, we now have clarity from the highest court in the land.

The Supreme Court extended protections to millions of LGBTQ Americans because three individuals⁠—Aimee Stephens, Gerald Lynn Bostock and Donald Zarda⁠—faced discrimination and refused to accept it. That's the type of courage that Pride Month celebrates.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 06/16/2020 - 12:56

Tags: LGBTQ Rights

Court Rejects Constellium Bid to Reverse Health Care Ruling

Steelworker News - Tue, 06/16/2020 - 10:17

CONTACT: R.J. Hufnagel, 412-562-2450

MINERAL WELLS, W.Va. ­– A U.S. District Court judge blocked an effort by Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood to overturn an arbitrator’s ruling that prevented the company from making unilateral changes to health care benefits for its retirees.

In his ruling, Judge Thomas E. Johnston rejected the aluminum company’s argument that it had the right to modify health and prescription drug coverage for retired workers and agreed with the arbitrator that the coverage was subject to the terms of USW’s collective bargaining agreement with the company, which went into effect in 2017 and runs through Sept. 19, 2022.

“This is a significant victory for this group of workers, many of whom devoted decades of their lives to this company,” said Ernest R. "Billy" Thompson, the USW’s director of District 8, which represents thousands of workers in West Virginia and three neighboring states. “They deserve the benefits that they earned over a lifetime of hard work, benefits that this company negotiated into their union contract.”

The dispute began in August 2018, when the Ravenswood, W.Va., company informed its retirees in a letter that it was planning to terminate their group medical and drug coverage at the end of that year and replace it with health reimbursement accounts that they could use to purchase supplemental Medicare coverage. The union filed a grievance objecting to the company’s plan, which ultimately led the two sides to arbitration.

The arbitrator’s ruling, upheld by Judge Johnston in his June 11 decision, ordered that “the retiree benefits in question must be maintained, unchanged, through the entire term of the 2017 agreement.”

The USW also sued to obtain an injunction, which prevented the changes from taking effect while the arbitration proceeded.

“We have collective bargaining agreements to prevent exactly this kind of scenario – to keep corporations from making unilateral, top-down decisions like this, decisions that hurt working people,” Thompson said. “I hope that this ruling sends a clear message that employers can’t simply decide to ignore the pieces of their contracts that they don’t like.”

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.

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