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Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Chinese Railroad Laborers

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 11:54
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Chinese Railroad Laborers Harper's Weekly, 1867

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our first profile this month features the Chinese laborers who helped build the first transcontinental railroad in North America.

May 10 marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. As the Civil War ended, Congress passed legislation granting land and funding for the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad companies to begin construction on the western portion, which would connect with existing rail lines in the east. Central Pacific began building eastward from Sacramento, California, while Union Pacific worked westward from Council Bluffs, Iowa.

As the project ramped up, Central Pacific put out an ad to hire 5,000 workers, but only got hundreds of responses from white laborers. Those they did hire quickly tired of the low pay and hard work, and Leland Stanford and the leaders of Central Pacific began experimenting with Chinese laborers on the railway, despite Stanford and others believing that  Chinese workers were inferior. Chinese laborers had come to California in significant numbers to work in mines. Some had also worked on rail projects in the state, and Central Pacific began hiring these workers in small groups of 50. 

Before long, Central Pacific learned that the Chinese workers not only could do the work, they were willing to endure worse conditions for longer hours than white workers would. Soon, the company had hired almost all of the available Chinese laborers and started paying to import more workers directly from China. By 1867, more than 90% of Central Pacific's crew working on the transcontinental railroad were Chinese, with anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 workers at any given time. Union Pacific, on the other end of the railroad, hired no Chinese workers, and most of their laborers were Civil War veterans and Irish immigrants. 

While the Union Pacific workers did much of their job on flat plains, the Central Pacific laborers not only worked in mountainous and other dangerous terrain, they were paid significantly less than the Irish workers. The conditions were harsh:

Often toiling in extreme weather, they cleared obstructions, moved earth, bored tunnels and built retaining walls—work done virtually all by hand. They became experts in drayage, masonry, carpentry and track laying. Sometimes they were lowered off cliffs to plant explosive charges when blasting was necessary, knowing that once the fuse was lit the difference between life and death hinged on how fast they were brought back up.

They worked during two of the harshest winters on record to that point. Snow and avalanches were constant fears in the winter months. Few records were kept about the Chinese workers, particularly about deaths on the job, but estimates suggest that more than 1,000 Chinese laborers died during the construction of the transcontinental railroad. Letters home, diaries and other documents are believed to have been destroyed or otherwise lost to time. Few, if any, of the laborers who helped build the railroad have been memorialized, and it took 100 years to get even a statue to honor the sacrifice these workers made to build the United States. 

The disparate pay and working conditions led the Chinese workers to engage in what was then the biggest strike in U.S. history. In 1867, thousands of Chinese workers in the Sierra Nevada walked off the job and returned to their camps. The strike lasted eight days before Central Pacific cut off food and supplies. The workers went back on the job and over time, reports say that conditions improved, even if the strike wasn't a total success.

After the completion of the railroad, the Chinese workers dispersed to many other projects across the country. They helped on more than 70 other railroad projects and helped build roads and contribute other work that would launch Yellowstone Park and other national treasures. 

White Americans didn't take kindly to the competition for jobs and rising anti-Chinese sentiment was powerful in the next decade, leading to the Chinese Exclusion Act being passed in 1882. The act was accompanied by anti-Chinese violence. In California alone, there were more than 200 round-ups of rural Chinese who were killed, lynched or forced to leave town. Forced migrations, such as that in Tacoma, Washington, were common.

For a long time after, the contributions of Chinese laborers, the creation of the transcontinental railroad and the economic boon it helped usher in were ignored. Later, American history textbooks began to include a paragraph or short section on the contributions of the Chinese, but too little has been done to recognize the harsh working conditions and the terrible treatment Chinese laborers faced while helping build the foundation for America's future. Efforts are underway to record and save as much of this chapter in America’s history as possible.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/09/2019 - 13:54

Colorado Legislature Votes to Protect Local Minimum Wage Laws

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 08:07
Colorado Legislature Votes to Protect Local Minimum Wage Laws Denver Area Labor Federation

Last week, the Colorado Legislature passed a bill to repeal the state's 1999 law that prohibits local governments from setting a minimum wage higher than the state level. The Colorado law was part of a wave of measures nationwide pushed by corporate interests trying to keep wages low by preempting democracy. Since then, working people in Colorado have been working to overturn the limitations placed on the minimum wage and will finally do so when Gov. Jared Polis signs the bill, which he is expected to do in the coming days. 

After the passage of the 1999 law, the state legislature kept Colorado's minimum wage at the federal level. In 2006, though, voters approved Initiative 42, which increased the state's minimum wage and required adjustments based on inflation. But by 2016, the state's minimum wage had only risen to $8.31 per hour, an amount that made it nearly impossible for working families to afford basic needs. In 2016, voters proposed and passed Amendment 70, which will raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour.

But in certain parts of Colorado, even $12 an hour isn't enough. A recent study showed that a single full-time worker with no children needs $21.88 to make ends meet in the Boulder area and $19.81 in the Denver metro region. With one child, the cost of living rises to $35 an hour in Boulder and $34 an hour in Denver. Clearly, local governments need the freedom to address the needs of their residents.

Working people across the country support local minimum wage ordinances. A recent survey from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) found that nearly 60% of voters believe that legislatures threaten democracy and silence the voices of the people when they pass such preemption laws.

And the evidence shows that local minimum wage laws are not only popular—more than 40 cities or counties have passed such measures—they also work. When local governments can raise the minimum wage above state minimums, local leaders are able to overcome gridlock at the state or national level to take action that appropriately helps their communities. The most recent study of local minimum wage increases shows that a 10% bump in the minimum wage increases the earnings of food service workers between 1.3% and 2.5% without any discernible decline in employment.

The new legislation gives local governments the authority to adopt minimum wage laws above the state and national minimums so they can address local costs of living and worker needs. Colorado is the first state to repeal a local minimum wage preemption law through their legislature. Arizona voters repealed a preemption law via ballot initiative in 2006. Legislation to repeal similar laws has been introduced in Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/09/2019 - 10:07

Tags: Minimum Wage

No Place for Violence: The Working People Weekly List

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 07:40
No Place for Violence: 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.

Violence Has No Place in the Workplace: "Violence should never be part of the job. But the reality is violence is now the third-leading cause of workplace deaths, resulting in nearly 29,000 serious injuries every year. Nurses, medical assistants, emergency responders and social workers face some of the greatest threats, suffering more than 70 percent of all workplace assaults. Women workers are also at particular risk, suffering two out of every three serious workplace violence injuries. The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Services Workers Act (H.R. 1309, S. 851), introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), would help protect these workers."

Paducah Unions Observe Workers Memorial Day by Helping Feed the Hungry: "Union families gather on Workers Memorial Day to remember men and women who lost their lives on the job the previous year. 'This year, we wanted to do something different,' said Kyle Henderson, president of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council.'"

Economy Gains 263,000 Jobs in April; Unemployment Declines to 3.6%: "The U.S. economy gained 263,000 jobs in April, and the unemployment rate declined slightly to 3.6%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Continued lower levels of job growth provide good reason for the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee to express caution in considering any interest rate hikes."

What (Guest-Worker) Women Want: "We’re farm workers, crab pickers and cruise ship workers. We’re chocolate packers, engineers, veterinarians, nurses and teachers from all around the world. We are united by our motivation, yearn for knowledge and commitment to creating change in our communities. We stand with guest-worker women from around the world to ensure that the policies that affect us reflect our experiences."

Profiling Labor Leaders and Activists for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: "For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. First, let's take a look back at Asian and Pacific Americans we've profiled in the past."

‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: Not Good Enough: "In the latest episode of 'State of the Unions,' podcast co-hosts Julie and Tim talk to Celeste Drake, the AFL-CIO's recently departed trade policy specialist, about flaws in the proposed new NAFTA and outline the labor movement's high standards for current and future trade agreements."

Labor's Resurgence: In the States Roundup: "It's time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states."

Marriott Should Tell the Truth About Sexual Harassment: "Marriott International, the biggest hotel chain in the world, is hiding the truth about the dangers its workers face. UNITE HERE members are demanding that the company comes clean."

12 Things You Need to Know About Death on the Job: "The AFL-CIO today released its 28th annual Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect report. Each April, we examine the state of worker safety in America. This year's report shows that 5,147 working people were killed on the job in 2017. Additionally, an estimated 95,000 died from occupational diseases."

What Happens When Call Center Jobs Are Shipped Abroad and Workers Try to Organize?: "One of the world's largest 'contact center' companies, U.S.-based giant Alorica, has been expanding in the Philippines, where more than 1.3 million women and men work in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector. These workers and their allies came together through BIEN, the BPO Industry Employees Network, to defend workers' interests in this booming sector. Alorica, a global player in this industry, offers 'customer experience' services to the U.S. market for clients like Comcast, AT&T, Citibank, Barclays and Caesars."

USITC Report Backs Up the Need to Fix New NAFTA to Add Real Enforcement: "On April 18, the United States International Trade Commission released its analysis of the likely economic impacts of the new NAFTA (also known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA). The report supports the AFL-CIO’s position on the new NAFTA: Congress should not vote on it until it is fixed."

The U.S. Postal Service is Owned by the People—Let's Keep it That Way: "As the tax deadline looms and millions scurry to get their forms sent on time, Tax Day is a good time to dispel the myth that the U.S. Postal Service is funded by tax dollars."

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Railroad Signalmen: "Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the Railroad Signalmen (BRS)."

Powerful Victory: "A tentative agreement between the 31,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) in New England and management at Stop & Shop supermarkets has been reached, effectively ending the historic strike that captured the country’s attention."

No Enforcement, No Treaty: What Working People Are Doing This Week: "Welcome to our regular feature, a look at what the various AFL-CIO unions and other working family organizations are doing across the country and beyond. The labor movement is big and active—here's a look at the broad range of activities we're engaged in this week."

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/09/2019 - 09:40

North Woods North Star

Wed, 05/08/2019 - 08:39
North Woods North Star Dan Neumann

After years of dealing with an intransigent governor, the Maine AFL-CIO is advancing a pro-labor agenda in the state after victories at the ballot box last year. With their endorsed candidate for governor elected to the Maine House with strong union support, the door is now open for opportunities to pass meaningful legislation for the working people of Maine.

Meanwhile in the legislature, Senate President Troy Jackson, a member of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), has been a strong advocate for a number of pro-worker policies. Along with a number of other union members elected to state office through the Maine AFL-CIO union candidates program, working people in Maine have a reason to believe that real change is achievable, and the Maine AFL-CIO is leading the way.  

Working together with Machinists (IAM) District 4, the Maine AFL-CIO is supporting an effort by a group of North Woods loggers and wood haulers to urge lawmakers in Augusta to support a bill that would grant them the right to organize. The woods workers, who recently formed the New England Loggers Cooperative/IAM, are advocating for legislation that would allow loggers and wood haulers to form cooperatives and demand better wages and working conditions, in brave defiance of the large timber companies who threaten to blacklist workers for standing up for their rights.

On another front, the Maine Legislature approved a bill that will ensure employees are given proper notice when a large employer closes, down-sizes or relocates a facility. The bill will extend the state Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act to require Maine employers with more than 100 employees to provide workers and communities with 90 days advance notice prior to closures, relocations or mass layoffs. Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 members worked with the Maine AFL-CIO to organize the advocacy effort in favor of the bill, which now heads to Gov. Janet Mills’ desk for her signature.  

The Maine AFL-CIO is providing support and assistance on a number of other legislative initiatives, including a responsible contracting bill that is a priority bill for state building trades unions (North America's Building Trades Unions [NABTU]); a 911 dispatcher bill that will provide fair retirement benefits for these public employees (Fire Fighters [IAFF]); an effort to improve the timeliness and safety of public bus service (Amalgamated Transit Union [ATU]); a bill establishing wage and employment parity for social workers with the Maine State Employees Association (MSEA); and a number of other collective bargaining and job creating initiatives that working people across Maine have been waiting for.

Emblazoned on the Maine state flag is the term Dirigo, which is Latin for “I direct,” referring to the North Star that also adorns the state banner. In that same spirit, the work that our brothers and sisters in Maine are accomplishing is a guide for how working people can right the ship of state—by organizing to achieve electoral success and doing the hard work to translate those wins into meaningful change. Dirigo, indeed.  

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/08/2019 - 10:39

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: California School Employees Association

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 09:51
Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: California School Employees Association AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the California School Employees Association (CSEA).

Name of Union: California School Employees Association

Mission: CSEA represents classified school employees across California in collective bargaining efforts while working to further the professional and legislative goals of its members, students and communities.

Current Leadership of Union: Ben Valdepeña is the 45th president of CSEA. He has worked as a custodian with the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District since 1983. He has held a variety of elected and appointed leadership positions locally and with CSEA. He also serves as an executive vice president of the California Labor Federation.

Keith Pace serves as executive director, Rob Feckner is vice president of the CalPERS Board of Administration, and Clyde Rivers represents CSEA on the AFL-CIO Executive Council and California Labor Federation Executive Board. The CSEA board of directors is made up of five officers and 10 area directors, all of whom work as volunteers.

Current Number of Members: 240,000.

Members Work As: A wide range of essential work, including security, food services, office and clerical, school maintenance and operations, transportation, academic assistance and paraeducator services, library and media assistance, and more.

Industries Represented: Public schools and community colleges in California.

History: In 1927, a group of custodians in Oakland came together to support another custodian who couldn't afford to retire because California's public schools offered no pension plan. The group formed CSEA to bargain for rights for themselves and other school employees.

In the years after World War II, CSEA's membership grew from 1,400 members to nearly 10,000. In the 1950s, they helped establish the "Classified Bill of Rights," which helped increase benefits and legal protections for classified employees. 

After Prop. 13 passed in 1978, CSEA fought budget and program cuts that targeted music, art, athletics and school transportation. In 1988, they helped pass Prop. 98, which established a minimum level of state funding for public schools.

In the ensuing years, CSEA would grow to nearly 800 local chapters. In 2001, it became an independently chartered member union of the AFL-CIO. CSEA fought back against pension raids and voucher campaigns, and worked to maintain and improve school funding to protect crucial services for California students.

Current Campaigns: CSEA has a variety of campaigns to fight outsourcing, promote school safety, protect school funding, and defend against staff layoffs and pension cuts.

Community Efforts: CSEA honors and awards members for their efforts in the community, provides them a variety of benefits and publishes a series of periodicals to keep them informed. 

Learn More: WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/06/2019 - 11:51

Paducah Unions Observe Workers Memorial Day by Helping Feed the Hungry

Fri, 05/03/2019 - 11:25
Paducah Unions Observe Workers Memorial Day by Helping Feed the Hungry Berry Craig

Union families gather on Workers Memorial Day to remember men and women who lost their lives on the job the previous year.

“This year, we wanted to do something different,” said Kyle Henderson, president of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council.

So on Saturday, about 30 members of council-affiliated unions grabbed shovels and helped start a living memorial to deceased workers. They planted about 40 dwarf apple trees whose fresh fruit will help feed the hungry.  

(This year, Workers Memorial Day is Sunday. But many unions held observances on Saturday.)   

More than 250 men, women and kids pitched in to boost Project Pomona, a city nonprofit started by Bryant Hileman. 

He said many times local food pantries are swamped by the need for food. Project Pomona is designed to reduce the number of food insecure households by planting and cultivating orchards and donating the harvest to the food pantries.

Hileman named his nonprofit for the Roman goddess of fruitful abundance. 

Project Pomona has raised nearly $20,000 since it began in March, 2018. More information is available from the organization’s Facebook page or from an article posted on Forward Kentucky. Contributions can be made by visiting gofundme.com/project-pomona.

Henderson said Hileman is a strong supporter of area unions, which donated funds to build a greenhouse for the orchard whose trees are expected to bear fruit in three to five years.

"In Memory of All Workers Killed on the Job," says a plaque Hileman put on a post in front of the greenhouse. "May Their Sacrifices For Their Families Not Be In Vain." Also inscribed on the plaque are "Mother" Jones's famous words: "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."

After the little trees were in the ground, Hileman gathered the union members for a group photo by the greenhouse. 

"Thank you for coming out," he said. "My father was a working person; I'm a working person; my grandfather was a working person. Working people built this and this is for working people."

"This is a great community event," said Jimmy Evans, business manager of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 816. Bryant does a great job and this is a great way to honor workers who lost their lives."

Jeff Wiggins agreed. "We are observing Workers Memorial Day as part of a great community event," said the secretary-treasurer of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO. "We get two birds with one stone."

Wiggins, who lives in Reidland, a Paducah suburb, preceded Henderson as area council president.  "As a labor leader, I'm here to support the community," said council Vice President Howard "Bubba" Dawes who also served under Wiggins. 

"This is something that the whole community can come out and see and not for just one day," said Dusty Owens of Local 816. 

See photos of the program from Forward Kentucky.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/03/2019 - 13:25

Economy Gains 263,000 Jobs in April; Unemployment Declines to 3.6%

Fri, 05/03/2019 - 08:14
Economy Gains 263,000 Jobs in April; Unemployment Declines to 3.6%

The U.S. economy gained 263,000 jobs in April, and the unemployment rate declined slightly to 3.6%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Continued lower levels of job growth provide good reason for the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee to express caution in considering any interest rate hikes.

In response to the April job numbers, AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs tweeted:

Though the unemployment rate fell to 3.6% the share of Americans holding a job remained steady.  Labor force participation fell 0.2%. The number employed fell, pointing to a very mixed picture for workers. #JobsReport @AFLCIO #1u

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 3, 2019

After a rough three months, the Black unemployment rate stabilized at 6.7%, unchanged from March; while the employment to population ratio edged up for men and women @CBTU72 @APRI_National @AFLCIO #1u

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 3, 2019

Unemployment rate for LatinX fell from 4.7 to 4.2% but shows the bigger trend, drop in the number employed, drop in labor force participation, drop in the employment-to-population ratio.  #JobsReport @AFLCIO @Marietmora

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 3, 2019

Drop in labor force participation was most noticeable for those workers who have some college or an associate's degree.  Says something interesting about weak wage growth in the middle. #JobsReport @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/jktY625FGa

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 3, 2019

Another reason the jobs report may be more mixed for workers than the low unemployment rate shows, the rising share of unemployed workers who are long term unemployed. #JobsReport It stabilizes after rising in February and March, but higher than last April @AFLCIO #1u pic.twitter.com/DKpvCTiXy9

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 3, 2019

More understanding on the drop in labor force participation: women who were unemployed in March were more likely to drop out of the labor force in and give up looking in April than to get employed. #JobsReport @AFLCIO @CLUWNational @IWPResearch pic.twitter.com/qT2OsARViR

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 3, 2019

Why the job numbers are more mixed than the top line drop in unemployment rate suggests: continued weakness in motor vehicle manufacturing, dropping again in April by 1,500 @AFLCIO #JobsReport

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 3, 2019

Employment in food services was up 25,000, so now 12.18 million Americans work in this industry compared to 12.8 million in all of manufacturing.  This is why the #RaiseTheWage Act is so important. #JobsReport @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 3, 2019

In straight numbers, why the @BLS_gov #JobsReport was mixed for workers: The number of workers in the labor force fell 490,000, the number employed fell 103,000 and the share employed in April was flat with the March rate @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/7MWYQZG95O

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 3, 2019

The drop in labor force participation in April and the recent trend in the share of long term unemployment among the unemployed make the @BLS_gov #JobsReport mixed for American workers, the household survey and payroll report diverge @AFLCIO #1u pic.twitter.com/BgjvCSSQNR

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 3, 2019

Retail trade stood out as the big loser in April, losing 12,000 jobs, and remaining below last year's employment.   Troubled waters in retail have been highlighted by @EileenAppelbaum pointing to heavy leveraging by private equity firms. @UFCW @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/XoSxHtOHK7

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 3, 2019

Last month's biggest job gains were in professional and business services (76,000), construction (33,000), health care (27,000), social assistance (26,000), financial activities (12,000) and manufacturing (4,000). Employment in retail trade (-12,000) declined in April. Employment in other major industries, including mining, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, leisure and hospitality, and government, showed little change over the month.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates fell for and Hispanics (4.2%), adult men (3.4%), adult women (3.1%), whites (3.1%) and Asians (2.2%). The jobless rate increased for teenagers (13.0%). The jobless rate for blacks (6.7%) showed little change in April.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed in April and accounted for 21.1% of the unemployed.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/03/2019 - 10:14

What (Guest-Worker) Women Want

Thu, 05/02/2019 - 10:56
What (Guest-Worker) Women Want

We’re farm workers, crab pickers and cruise ship workers. We’re chocolate packers, engineers, veterinarians, nurses and teachers from all around the world. We are united by our motivation, yearn for knowledge and commitment to creating change in our communities. We stand with guest-worker women from around the world to ensure that the policies that affect us reflect our experiences.

In several different ways, we have all endured inequity and hardships in our journeys to the United States and in our workplace. Our hopes to provide a better life for our children and families have been met with deceit, discrimination and lack of access to opportunity. Many of us have suffered sexual harassment, one that doesn't let us live or work. Basic medical aid is nonexistent, with something as little as an aspirin being inaccessible to us. At our employment-provided housing, we are provided one bathroom for all and must take cold showers. We live and work in physical and mental isolation. We often don’t speak the language, nor know anyone beyond the employer. Many of our employers take our passports and visas upon arrival. It is difficult to access any justice or remedies.

As guest-worker women, we are together in this movement. We are telling our story because we do not want others to face what we did. It is our responsibility to follow this path, to unite, organize and not let it get lost. We represent our families, our community and future generations. We're women, and there is nothing braver than thinking aloud. We aren’t the “weaker sex.” We are strong and capable. We are courageous and triumphant.

We want equal rights and opportunities, as we have equal responsibilities. We want to speak up and be heard. We want transparency. We seek reforms in law. We want to change conditions. We want our employers and the people and the government of this country to value us.

We envision an alternative future for ourselves and our communities—one where migrant women feel empowered to raise our voices and not stand alone. This future holds concrete policy changes and a shift in the ways companies and employers work. Generations to come have strong protections, are free from abuse and hold employers accountable. Women are not isolated; we have access to resources for our mental and physical health to exercise our rights. In this joint vision, we are as powerful as ever.

This vision requires disassembling guest-worker programs in order to build gender equity in labor migration. Join us—the hundreds of thousands of guest-worker women—in building that future now.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/02/2019 - 12:56

Profiling Labor Leaders and Activists for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Thu, 05/02/2019 - 09:48
Profiling Labor Leaders and Activists for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. First, let's take a look back at Asian and Pacific Americans we've profiled in the past:

Check back throughout May as we add more names to this prestigious list. 

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/02/2019 - 11:48

Tags: Labor History

‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: Not Good Enough

Wed, 05/01/2019 - 12:54
‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: Not Good Enough AFL-CIO

In the latest episode of "State of the Unions," podcast co-hosts Julie and Tim talk to Celeste Drake, the AFL-CIO's recently departed trade policy specialist, about flaws in the proposed new NAFTA and outline the labor movement's high standards for current and future trade agreements. 

"State of the Unions" is a tool to help us bring you the issues and stories that matter to working people. It captures the stories of workers across the country and is co-hosted by two young and diverse members of the AFL-CIO team: Mobilization Director Julie Greene and Executive Speechwriter Tim Schlittner. A new episode drops every other Wednesday featuring interesting interviews with workers and our allies across the country, as well as compelling insights from the podcast’s hosts.

Listen to our previous episodes:

State of the Unions” is available on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotifyStitcher and anywhere else you can find podcasts.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/01/2019 - 14:54

Tags: Podcast, NAFTA

Labor's Resurgence: In the States Roundup

Wed, 05/01/2019 - 08:46
Labor's Resurgence: In the States Roundup AFL-CIO

It's time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states. Click on any of the links to follow the state federations on Twitter.

Alabama AFL-CIO:

11th annual "Road Kill BBQ" is getting off to a great start. #1U pic.twitter.com/Cm9BXBUSX0

— Alabama AFL-CIO (@AlabamaAFLCIO) April 3, 2019

Alaska AFL-CIO:

Keep our pioneers in Alaska! Time to testify on Alaska Pioneer Homes (HB 96) is NOW (3 pm)! #akleg pic.twitter.com/IkT9Gk4nhd

— Alaska AFL-CIO (@AKAFLCIO) April 23, 2019

Arizona AFL-CIO:

Huge thank you to all our Union Brothers and Sisters and Arizona State Legislators that participated in our 2019 #AZAFLCIO Day of Action at the Capitol today! Remember, the work does not stop here! #WeWorkForUnions @ Arizona State Capitol — at... https://t.co/ONnN7ZRS0K

— Arizona AFL-CIO (@ArizonaAFLCIO) April 17, 2019

Arkansas AFL-CIO:

Expensive degree and no guaranteed job: More students are considering options outside of 4-year college https://t.co/RJLkA092B7

— Arkansas AFL-CIO (@ArkansasAFLCIO) April 24, 2019

California Labor Federation:

Companies who dodge their obligation of providing basic protections like a minimum wage need to be held accountable. To put an end to cheating workers #CALeg must #DisruptInequality and vote #YesOnAB5. @LorenaAD80 https://t.co/JbOnMC9WlB

— California Labor Federation (@CaliforniaLabor) April 23, 2019

Colorado AFL-CIO:

Colorado can do it – reduce carbon emissions, make a difference on climate change and ensure a fair and just transition for displaced fossil fuel dependent workers at the same time. Read the report below!https://t.co/e7x5ozckq5

— Colorado AFL-CIO (@AFLCIOCO) April 16, 2019

Connecticut AFL-CIO:

Today we remembered and honored the lives of the 28 workers who were killed in the L'Ambiance Plaza collapse 32 years ago. We must recommit ourselves to fight for good, safe jobs for all working people. @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/jbdkQPGdb6

— Connecticut AFL-CIO (@ConnAFLCIO) April 23, 2019

Florida AFL-CIO:

Week 7 was full of political tricks as the attack on Working Families continued. Watch our update videos covering all of the critical issues affecting you and your family during Legislative Session. Sign up for email alerts at https://t.co/tDa78A8Tvyhttps://t.co/i3td0bV3cE

— Florida AFL-CIO (@FLAFLCIO) April 22, 2019

Georgia AFL-CIO:

Union workers hit another milestone in building our energy future. This investment in Georgia's energy infrastructure & workers is key for the future of Georgia, its infrastructure & its economy as the state grows. Congratulations and thank you for the work you do every day! #1u pic.twitter.com/1Aa1mNYa04

— AFL-CIO Georgia (@AFLCIOGeorgia) March 26, 2019

Idaho AFL-CIO:

#SpringCleaning? Be sure to buy #Union! #Solidarity #UnionYes #UnionProud #1u #MadeInUSA #unionstrong
Check out @Labor411 for a complete list! https://t.co/YH92oU5TtC pic.twitter.com/c7bNKxIrMr

— Idaho State AFL-CIO (@IdahoAFLCIO) April 22, 2019

Indiana State AFL-CIO:

The message that #StopAndShopWorkers sent to their company by collectively standing up for themselves, their families, and good jobs has resonated not only with the company, but all of America. Thank you to the hardworking @UFCW members at Stop & Shop for everything you’ve done!

— Indiana AFL-CIO (@INAFLCIO) April 22, 2019

Iowa Federation of Labor:

Workers Memorial Day Events Around Iowa https://t.co/kEyH9hGGnL pic.twitter.com/U8yqaGzQFX

— Iowa AFL-CIO (@IowaAFLCIO) April 23, 2019

Kansas State AFL-CIO:

Working people everywhere thanks you Governor Kelly for the veto of
SB 22. pic.twitter.com/ZEDqMXlbc6

— Kansas AFL-CIO (@KansasAFLCIO) March 25, 2019

Kentucky State AFL-CIO:

Thank you to our union brothers and sisters working with Operation Victory to build a home for a Veteran in need.
Greater Louisville Central Labor Council, GLCLC https://t.co/ZfF1HrgtzV

— Kentucky AFL-CIO (@aflcioky) April 22, 2019

Maine AFL-CIO:

Chris Tucker of LIUNA Local 327 testifying in support of LD 1386 to improve the way prevailing hourly wages & benefits are set on state construction projects #mepolitics pic.twitter.com/GhJry21Hka

— Maine AFL-CIO (@MEAFLCIO) April 24, 2019

Massachusetts AFL-CIO:

Statement from President Tolman on the end of the 2019 UFCW Stop & Shop Worker Strike. Click for full statement: https://t.co/ZZ1CMFYjRJ #1u #solidarity #StopAndShopWorkers #Stopandshopstrike @StopDontShop pic.twitter.com/CkZC4OzRN9

— Massachusetts AFLCIO (@massaflcio) April 22, 2019

Metro Washington (D.C.) Council AFL-CIO:

Painters lend a hand in the community https://t.co/vdXmSEj8kh

— MetroDCLaborCouncil (@DCLabor) April 24, 2019

Michigan AFL-CIO:

America’s largest one-day food drive is Saturday, May 11! Help your letter carriers #StampOutHunger: https://t.co/BP500FrxNF pic.twitter.com/7wntxQKwPk

— Michigan AFL-CIO (@MIAFLCIO) April 22, 2019

Minnesota AFL-CIO:

The House is back in session and they’re working on the Jobs bill, which includes paid family & medical leave, cracking down on #WageTheft, and earned sick and safe time. #PaidLeaveMN #mnleg #1u

— Minnesota AFL-CIO (@MNAFLCIO) April 24, 2019

Missouri AFL-CIO:

Thanks to Senators Holsman, May, Nasheed, Arthur, Walsh, Rizzo, Sifton, Schupp, Williams, and Curls for standing up for Missouri voters and protecting our constitutional right to have a say in Missouri laws. Join us in thanking them for standing up against SJR1. #moleg pic.twitter.com/aFLe8GilEc

— Missouri AFL-CIO (@MOAFLCIO) April 17, 2019

Montana AFL-CIO:

Under flags at half-mast to honor the fallen, Montana protects its future by making presumptive coverage for firefighters law. Thank you to @mcconnell_nate, our men and women in uniform, and everyone else who fought to make this happen! #mtpol #mtleg pic.twitter.com/WvQj8Dn1X5

— Montana AFL-CIO (@MTaflcio) April 18, 2019

Nebraska State AFL-CIO:

We oppose any proposal that disproportionately increases taxes on low-income families. LB289 would increase the state sales taxes by 3/4 cent and the effects would fall heaviest on low-income families. Tell your senator to oppose LB289. Find senator here: https://t.co/qxFk3gHDC9

— NE State AFL-CIO (@NEAFLCIO) April 18, 2019

Nevada State AFL-CIO:

Nevada’s legislators are learning about how paid apprenticeship programs benefit key communities and our economy at Apprenticeship Day 2019 at the #NVLeg. pic.twitter.com/cHbCgU6mO6

— Nevada State AFL-CIO (@NVAFLCIO) April 23, 2019

New Hampshire AFL-CIO:

By acclamation @PresBrackett has been elected to a second term as NH AFL-CIO President! #nhpolitics

— NewHampshire AFL-CIO (@NHAFLCIO) April 13, 2019

New Mexico Federation of Labor:

Congratulations Brothers and Sisters https://t.co/dhPjnvPbZ5

— NMFL (@NMFLaflcio) April 18, 2019

New York State AFL-CIO:

President Cilento on the picket line with #UnionStrong @UAWRegion9A
CAMBA workers on strike in NYC. pic.twitter.com/TvJDuKqGzu

— NYSAFLCIO (@NYSAFLCIO) April 17, 2019

North Carolina State AFL-CIO:

"The ban on collective bargaining for public employees denies us the information we need to recruit, retain, and ensure the safety and well-being of our employees." @CityofWinston @bessefornc #ncga #ncpol #1u pic.twitter.com/3fmCqnPo9J

— NC State AFL-CIO (@NCStateAFLCIO) April 24, 2019

Ohio AFL-CIO:

Union rallies outside GE as contract talks near. We stand united in #Solidarity with our ⁦@IUE_CWAUnion⁩ members! Across the country workers are finding their strength and power for dignity and respect... and winning! https://t.co/3BCS9OUpan

— Ohio AFL-CIO (@ohioaflcio) April 24, 2019

Oklahoma State AFL-CIO:

Thank you to those who keep the work going! pic.twitter.com/Hoq9Oqtwfh

— Oklahoma AFL-CIO (@OK_AFL_CIO) April 24, 2019

Oregon AFL-CIO:

https://t.co/0JCfYGS5BA

— Oregon AFL-CIO (@OregonAFLCIO) April 20, 2019

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO:

2019 Hall of Fame Inductees - William Leskosky, (posthumously) AFSCME, Vicki Wyland SEIU, Ed Yankovich, Jr. UMWA. An outstanding annual event hosted by a Central Labor Council with outstanding members! — at DoubleTree Pittsburgh Meadow Lands https://t.co/zQRBC2jY3g

— PA AFL-CIO (@PaAFL_CIO) April 20, 2019

Rhode Island AFL-CIO:

#HelpASisterOutPeriod The RI Coalition of Labor Union Women, w/ the support of @rifthp, @IBT251, @riaflcio, is launching our #HelpASisterOutPeriod campaign, to raise awareness for women who lack the financial means to purchase menstrual products. https://t.co/cIgjYAAcTb #1U

— Rhode Island AFL-CIO (@riaflcio) April 22, 2019

South Carolina AFL-CIO:

Facing Escalating Workplace Violence, Hospital Employees Have Had Enough https://t.co/U84xXMiEHh

— SC AFL-CIO (@SCAFLCIO) April 9, 2019

Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council:

ICYMI: Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee pokes a sleeping tiger with his school voucher agenda https://t.co/M5ZewLoPZz

— Tennessee AFL-CIO (@tnaflcio) April 22, 2019

Texas AFL-CIO:

Dow locks out more than 200 workers in Deer Park https://t.co/vHUyrO5U8t via @houstonchron

— Texas AFL-CIO (@TexasAFLCIO) April 23, 2019

Virginia AFL-CIO:

"We’re talking to people about labor history and we’re not even walking the walk in this institution." https://t.co/3rZVCX1g4v

— Virginia AFL-CIO (@Virginia_AFLCIO) April 23, 2019

Washington State Labor Council:

“Jacquie’s unexpected passing is a major loss for the labor movement in Washington state,” said WSLC President Larry Brown. https://t.co/N7rhBW1kIm

— WA State AFL-CIO (@WAAFLCIO) April 17, 2019

West Virginia AFL-CIO:

When underground labor is used, the communities lose millions.... payroll taxes go unpaid, the City of Charleston doesn't get its user fee.  The state gets no state income taxes. https://t.co/q1vyqP7Ynp

— West Virginia AFLCIO (@WestVirginiaAFL) April 16, 2019

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO:

Wisconsin AFL-CIO Applauds Executive Order to Combat Worker Misclassification and Prevent Payroll Fraud, https://t.co/HeVsiPqY51

— WI AFL-CIO (@wisaflcio) April 18, 2019 Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/01/2019 - 10:46

Marriott Should Tell the Truth About Sexual Harassment

Fri, 04/26/2019 - 10:57
Marriott Should Tell the Truth About Sexual Harassment UNITE HERE

Marriott International, the biggest hotel chain in the world, is hiding the truth about the dangers its workers face. UNITE HERE members are demanding that the company comes clean. 

In 2018, working people at Marriott went on strike and won greater sexual harassment protections. For those protections to fully work, the company has to tell the truth about the pervasiveness of harassment at its hotels. But it refuses to do so.

Marriott was asked to report the total number of incidents of sexual harassment at its hotels to shareholders. Instead, it revealed the number of formal legal complaints that have been filed in the past five years, only 44 worldwide. But according to estimates from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, between 25% and 85% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, while only 6%-13% file a formal complaint. By revealing only the number of formal legal complaints, Marriott is likely under-reporting harassment in its hotels and making it harder to prevent future incidents. 

Join UNITE HERE in signing the petition demanding that Marriott tell the truth about harassment and assault on its properties and engage in a dialogue with workers to find solutions to this growing problem.

 

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 04/26/2019 - 12:57

12 Things You Need to Know About Death on the Job

Thu, 04/25/2019 - 13:31
12 Things You Need to Know About Death on the Job AFL-CIO

The AFL-CIO today released its 28th annual Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect report. Each April, we examine the state of worker safety in America. This year's report shows that 5,147 working people were killed on the job in 2017. Additionally, an estimated 95,000 died from occupational diseases.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) called for action: 

This is a national crisis. And it’s well past time that our elected leaders in Washington, D.C., stop playing politics and take action to prevent these tragedies. Instead, the Trump administration is actually gutting the protections we fought so hard to win in the first place. This is unacceptable. It’s shameful. And the labor movement is doing everything in our power to stop it.

Here are 12 key findings from the report:

  1. Every day, 275 workers die from hazardous working conditions.

  2. There is only one Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspector for every 79,000 workers.

  3. Since 1970, there have been 410,000 traumatic worker deaths, but only 99 cases have been criminally prosecuted under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

  4. The average OSHA penalty for serious worker safety violations is only $3,580. The penalty rises to $7,761, on average, for worker deaths.

  5. About 8 million public sector workers lack OSHA protection. Their rate of injury and illness is 64% higher than private sector employees.

  6. Workplace violence is now the third-leading cause of death on the job.

  7. Women face the brunt of workplace violence, accounting for 2 of every 3 people who are attacked.

  8. Workplace violence caused 807 deaths in 2017 and nearly 29,000 serious injuries. More than 450 of those deaths were homicides.

  9. Health care and social assistance workers are four times more likely to suffer a workplace violence injury than those who work in other occupations. The level of serious workplace violence injuries for these workers has risen 69% in the past decade.

  10. The five most dangerous states to work in are: Alaska, North Dakota, Wyoming, West Virginia and South Dakota.

  11. The fatality rate for Latino and immigrant workers and workers 65 and older is higher than the national average.

  12. Workplace violence is preventable. An enforceable OSHA standard would keep workers safe, but in the meantime, Congress should pass the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act.

Read the full report to learn more.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 04/25/2019 - 15:31

What Happens When Call Center Jobs Are Shipped Abroad and Workers Try to Organize?

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 08:02
What Happens When Call Center Jobs Are Shipped Abroad and Workers Try to Organize? BIEN

One of the world's largest "contact center" companies, U.S.-based giant Alorica, has been expanding in the Philippines, where more than 1.3 million women and men work in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector. These workers and their allies came together through BIEN, the BPO Industry Employees Network, to defend workers' interests in this booming sector. Alorica, a global player in this industry, offers "customer experience" services to the U.S. market for clients like Comcast, AT&T, Citibank, Barclays and Caesars.  

Since 2015, Unified Employees of Alorica (UEA) has been organizing to defend these workers' rights. At every step, Alorica has denied workers their right to form a union, broken laws and refused to recognize the union, retaliating against workers who unionize by firing them.

In September 2018, the union filed a notice of strike and began planning a legally protected strike to protest union-busting by Alorica. The United Employees of Alorica have the following demands:

  1. Drop the criminal charges filed against the union leaders.
  2. Reinstate the terminated officers of UEA.

Just this week, Michael Concepcion, a regional organizer for BIEN who has worked directly with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), received a death threat by text message. 

This and previous threats show a pattern of harassment, extra-judicial detentions and killings that have affected more and more union activists in the Philippines under the Duterte administration. Large corporations like Alorica and AT&T use this repressive climate to their own benefit.

Starting today, CWA and Filipino activist groups Migrante and Bayan are holding solidarity protests in San Francisco and Los Angeles, along with other local supporters in California.  

Support the UEA and allies like BIEN in their efforts to defend workers’ rights in this key industry in an economy globalized according to rules written by corporations and governments desperate to attract investment. Please tweet or post the following to Facebook and other social media:

Respect workers’ rights in the Philippines @OfficialAlorica @ATT Drop charges against UEA union leaders. #HumanRights #AloricaPH

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/24/2019 - 10:02

USITC Report Backs Up the Need to Fix New NAFTA to Add Real Enforcement

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 07:50
USITC Report Backs Up the Need to Fix New NAFTA to Add Real Enforcement

On April 18, the United States International Trade Commission released its analysis of the likely economic impacts of the new NAFTA (also known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA). The report supports the AFL-CIO’s position on the new NAFTA: Congress should not vote on it until it is fixed.

The usual Washington, D.C., pundits will talk a lot about how the report "proves" that the new NAFTA is good for the economy. But they probably won’t talk very much about the most important thing: Does the report provide useful insight on what matters most to workers?

An important caveat: The USITC has a history of wrong predictions. Not just randomly wrong. The USITC has only erred in one direction: to overestimate how great trade deals will be.  

For instance, the USITC predicted the original NAFTA would have small positive effects on wages in the United States and Canada and large positive effects on wages in Mexico. Instead, NAFTA suppressed wages in all three countries. Many U.S. union members saw their workplaces transfer production to Mexico, while others were forced to accept concessionary contracts to keep their jobs. In Mexico today, the minimum wage has less purchasing power than before NAFTA and there is a bigger gap between U.S. and Mexican manufacturing wages. This is because the original NAFTA puts the interests of global corporations ahead of the interests of working people.

Importantly, the new USITC report notes: "The agreement, if enforced, would strengthen labor standards and rights." In fact, it predicts that with enforcement, wages for union workers in Mexico would rise by 17.2%. This prediction may be another wild exaggeration (and even if it is not, a 17% raise on $2.00 per hour is still only $2.34 per hour). But it confirms what the AFL-CIO has been saying all along: A new NAFTA is useless to working people without swift and certain labor enforcement.

With or without NAFTA, America’s working families live in a global economy. We are exposed to international competition no matter what. One great way to increase our leverage to negotiate better pay and benefits is to help workers in other countries—including Mexico—raise their wages and benefits, too. The USITC is right that Mexican wages will only rise if Mexico completes its labor law reform process and all three NAFTA parties work hard to monitor and enforce the labor provisions of the deal.

But enforcement can’t happen unless the text is repaired to make sure that one party can’t block enforcement, unless labor loopholes are eliminated, unless new swift and certain monitoring and enforcement tools are added, and unless adequate, long-term resources are devoted to enforcement. And those changes to the deal can’t happen unless Congress tells the administration that it refuses to vote on the new NAFTA until it is fixed.

Please help us get this right. Call Congress today at 855-856-7545 and tell your representative: No vote until NAFTA is fixed!

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/24/2019 - 09:50

Tags: NAFTA

The U.S. Postal Service is Owned by the People—Let's Keep it That Way

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 12:40
The U.S. Postal Service is Owned by the People—Let's Keep it That Way

As the tax deadline looms and millions scurry to get their forms sent on time, Tax Day is a good time to dispel the myth that the U.S. Postal Service is funded by tax dollars.

In fact, the Postal Service receives zero tax dollars for its operations. Without taking a dime in taxes, the Postal Service maintains the lowest prices for mail services in the industrialized world and delivers to 159 million addresses, six—and now often seven—days a week—all funded by revenue from the sale of stamps and other postal products.

While private courier companies only deliver where a profit can be made, the public post office provides universal service to everyone, no matter age, wealth, race, who we are or where we live.

It is little wonder that the Postal Service, a public institution enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and the crucial anchor of the growing e-commerce revolution, remains the most trusted federal agency. A recent Pew Research Center survey revealed that 88% of the population has a favorable view of the Postal Service, with the highest favorability ratings coming from young adults. Whether sending or receiving medicine, packages, greeting cards, letters, periodicals, catalogs or ballots, every person, household and business in this country is a postal customer.

Still, that persistent myth—that the Postal Service is a burden to taxpayers—is precisely the false narrative that led Congress to pass the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. That act manufactured a financial crisis by compelling the Postal Service to pre-fund all retiree health care costs, 75 years into the future—for workers not even born yet. This mandate transferred postal revenues to the U.S. Treasury and robbed the Postal Service of $5.6 billion a year over a 10-year period. No other company or agency faces, or could be expected to survive, such an onerous financial burden.

Adding to the absurdity is the fact that, prior to the 2006 law, the Postal Service had been reliably paying its annual retirement health benefit premiums on time.

Fast forward from 2006 to last year. Exactly one year ago, in April 2018—again using the guise of taxpayer protection—President Donald Trump established a postal task force to study Postal Service finances. However, before the task force even published its findings, the White House Office of Management and Budget in a June 2018 report on reforming government laid bare their goal of selling the Postal Service to the highest corporate bidder.

Postal privatization, if allowed to move forward, would surely enrich some Wall Street investors and a few powerful corporations. For the rest of us, it would result in diminished postal services and higher prices. This is exactly what happened when other nations, such as the United Kingdom, went down this path. Evidence of this can be seen in both the OMB report and the task force report that followed in December, which called for higher rates, cuts to service and lower wages and benefits for postal workers, all as a first step toward total privatization.

Other task force “solutions” include eliminating delivery days, slowing service speed, allowing anyone who pays a fee access to your secure and private mailbox, reducing door delivery, undermining the universal service obligation and piecemeal privatization that will all undermine the future of a vibrant public postal service.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Congress should simply fix the pre-funding fiasco they created in 2006. In addition, the Postal Service should provide an array of expanded services such as increased financial services and paycheck cashing, notary and various licensing services, internet access and electric automobile charging stations.

Everyone who sends and receives mail and packages has a stake in making sure that the U.S. Postal Service remains owned by, and in the service of, the people. Ask your member of Congress to co-sponsor House Resolution 33 and Senate Resolution 99. Both resolutions oppose privatizing the Postal Service.

Let’s ensure that the postal eagle, symbolizing its public ownership, is never sacrificed on the altar of private profit and replaced by the vulture of corporate greed. The U.S. Postal Service operates without tax dollars and provides a necessary and popular public service. Keep it—it’s yours.

This post originally appeared at The Cap Times.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 04/23/2019 - 14:40

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Railroad Signalmen

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 11:51
Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Railroad Signalmen AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the Railroad Signalmen (BRS).

Name of Union: Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen

Mission: To represent the men and women who maintain railroad signal systems and highway-rail grade crossing warning devices across the nation. In addition, the BRS negotiates contracts and promotes safety in the industry for its members and the traveling public. Local lodges elect delegates to national conventions, which is the organization's supreme authority. Delegates set policy, review the general state of the union, establish collective bargaining goals and elect Grand Lodge officers, who direct the organization between conventions.

Current Leadership of Union: Jerry Boles was elected to serve as president of the BRS in 2019. Mike Baldwin serves as secretary-treasurer. The BRS also has six vice presidents who serve in various capacities: Joe Mattingly (Midwest), Kelly A. Haley (Headquarters), James Finnegan (Commuter/Passenger), Tim Tarrant (East), Cory Claypool (West) and Brandon Elvey (NRAB).

Current Number of Members: 10,000-plus.

Members Work At: various railroad and supplier locations installing, repairing and maintaining railroad signal systems and highway-rail grade crossing warning devices. The signal system is used to direct train movements and the crossing warning devices warn motorists when a train is approaching a crossing. These members have been installing positive train control (PTC) equipment since Congress mandated the railroads install PTC back in 2008. PTC is an advanced train control system designed to automatically stop a train before certain accidents occur. In particular, PTC is designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, over speed derailments, train movements over track switches not properly lined and train movements into roadway worker work zones.

Industries Represented: The railroad industry and suppliers in the United States.

History: At the turn of the century, railroad signaling became an emerging craft as railroads increasingly incorporated new technology. In 1901, the BRS was founded to improve the safety and efficiency of railroad operations, and to represent the men and women who install and maintain signal systems. Over the ensuing decades, the organization grew into a national union consisting of working people across the Unites States.

Community Efforts: The BRS maintains a regular schedule of training for members as well as ongoing membership on various committees including the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee, which assist the Federal Railroad Administration in developing new regulatory standards to promote railroad safety. The BRS is actively engaged in Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit public safety education and awareness organization dedicated to reducing collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail crossings, and trespassing on or near railroad tracks.

Learn More: Website.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/22/2019 - 13:51

#StampOutHunger: The Working People Weekly List

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 07:49
#StampOutHunger: 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.

‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: #StampOutHunger: "In the latest episode of 'State of the Unions,' podcast co-host Tim Schlittner talks to Brian Renfroe, National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) executive vice president, and Christina Vela Davidson, assistant to the president for community services, about #StampOutHunger, the annual one-day drive that has collected more than 1 billion pounds of food for the hungry."

The Center of Victory: "The labor movement helped elect a wave of union members and pro-worker allies across the country last night. We proved that if you support working people, we’ll have your back. And we sent a resounding message to every candidate and elected official that if you seek to divide and destroy us, we’ll fight back with everything we have."

It's Time for Equal Pay: "Equal Pay Day serves as a reminder of how far we still have to go to close the gender pay gap. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler (IBEW) has more on why unions are the best tool to achieve pay parity."

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: AFT: "Next up in our series that will take a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the AFT. The series will run weekly until we've covered all 55 of our affiliates."

New North American Trade Deal Faces Hurdles in U.S. Congress: "'This agreement right now, for it to be voted on, would be premature,' Richard Trumka, president of America’s largest labor federation, the AFL-CIO, told Bloomberg TV. 'The Mexican government has to change their [labor] laws, then they have to start effectively enforcing them, and then they have to demonstrate that they have the resources necessary to enforce those laws, because if you can’t enforce a trade agreement, it’s useless.'"

At Our Current Pace It'll Take 80 Years to Repair All the Structurally Deficient Bridges in the U.S., A Report Finds: "Officials have dubbed Monday's bridge collapse in Tennessee a freak accident, but that might be turning a blind eye to a larger issue. Bridges across the United States are deteriorating, and a new report estimates it will take more than 80 years to fix all of them. More than 47,000 bridges in the United States are in crucial need of repairs, says the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, or ARTBA. The group, which advocates for investment in transportation infrastructure, analyzes data from the Federal Highway Administration and releases an annual Deficient Bridge report."

Trumka Warns Lawmakers: Don’t Vote for Quickie ‘New NAFTA’: "AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is warning lawmakers that voters will oppose any solon who votes for a 'quickie new NAFTA,' so to speak. That means workers would oppose lawmakers who favor a quick vote on legislation implementing the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement—before Mexico has both enacted stronger worker rights and put in place the systems and people to implement them. Even a stronger Mexican labor law, but without enforcement in place, won’t satisfy U.S. workers, or the U.S. labor movement, he adds. Trumka forecast such electoral retribution in an April 1 telephone press conference on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), also known as NAFTA 2.0 or the 'new NAFTA.' The GOP Trump administration negotiated it with—Canada would say strong-armed it on—the other two North American nations to replace the 25-year-old original NAFTA."

Women Can Close the Pay Gap by Forming Unions: "In 2018, women once again came home with over 16% less money in their paychecks. Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, which means women had to work until April 2—92 days longer—to be paid the same amount as a comparable man in 2018. For many women of color, this gap is much worse. For the past 15 years, the gender wage gap has barely budged and persists across all wage levels and among employees at every education level. More and more, women are turning to their unions to implement workplace tools to narrow the gender wage gap."

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/10/2019 - 09:49

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: American Postal Workers Union

Mon, 04/08/2019 - 09:28
Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: American Postal Workers Union AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that will take a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the American Postal Workers Union (APWU). The series will run weekly until we've covered all 55 of our affiliates.

Name of Union: American Postal Workers Union

Mission: Through collective bargaining, legislative action and mobilization of its members and the public, APWU fights for dignity and respect on the job for postal workers throughout the postal industry—for decent pay and benefits and safe working places, for defense of the right of the people to public postal services and for solidarity with all workers, at home and abroad.

Current Leadership of Union: Mark Dimondstein was elected president of APWU in 2013 and won a second term in 2016. He began his postal career in 1983. In 1986, he was elected to the first of six consecutive terms as president of the Greater Greensboro (N.C.) Area Local. Beginning in 2000, he served as APWU's national lead field organizer. He won AFL-CIO's Southern Organizer of the Year Award in 2001. 

Debby Szeredy serves as APWU’s executive vice president, Elizabeth Powell serves as secretary-treasurer and Vance Zimmerman is the industrial relations director. The national executive board also includes four craft division directors who oversee the clerk, maintenance, motor vehicle service and support service crafts at the United States Postal Service (USPS), as well as five regional coordinators.

Current Number of Members: 222,000.

Members Work As: Retail postal clerks, mail processors and sorters, building and equipment maintenance, custodial workers, truck drivers and mechanics, information technology workers, nurses and others.

Industries Represented: Members are active and retired workers for the USPS, as well as private-sector workers employed in the mailing industry.

History: The American Postal Workers Union was founded on July 1, 1971, when five postal unions merged after the Great Postal Strike in 1970. The two largest unions involved in the merger were the United Federation of Postal Clerks—which represented employees who "worked the windows" at post offices and workers who sorted and processed mail—and the National Postal Union—who represented postal workers in multiple crafts. The National Association of Post Office and General Service Maintenance Employees, the National Federation of Motor Vehicle Employees and the National Association of Special Delivery Messengers were the other three unions who merged to create the APWU.

Before the Great Postal Strike, early postal unions essentially had no collective bargaining rights, with wage increases dependent on the whims of Congress, i.e. "collective begging." As a result, postal workers were chronically underpaid, barely making enough to make ends meet.

Workers grew increasingly frustrated with Congress’ inaction, and on March 18, 1970, thousands of New York City postal workers walked off the job in protest, starting the Great Postal Strike. During the strike, mail service ground to a halt and the plight of postal workers was brought to the public’s attention. The strike was soon settled, with Congress approving a 6% wage increase and other gains for postal workers.

The strike motivated the enactment of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, which granted unions the right to negotiate with management over their wages, benefits and working conditions.

Since that first contract almost 50 years ago, the APWU has fought for dignity and respect on the job for the workers they represent, as well as decent pay and benefits and safe working conditions. As a result, the postal unions have achieved unprecedented job security provisions.

Current Campaigns: APWU is a partner in A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service that fights back against efforts to dismantle the USPS. APWU has many current campaigns to protect the workers and customers of the USPS, including fighting: against privatization, for a fair and decent contract protecting their entire bargaining unit, against post office closures and to promote safe postal jobs. With the solidarity of the labor movement and community allies, the APWU led the successful "Stop Staples" fight against the privatization of postal retail services.

APWU is also pushing for postal banking as a way to expand basic financial services to those whose needs are unmet by the corporate-dominated financial sector, and protect them from the predatory Payday Loan and check cashing industry.

Community Efforts: The American Postal Workers Accident Benefit Association provides insurance and pays benefits to postal workers and their families in the case of accidental death or disability. The E.C. Hallbeck scholarship provides educational benefits for children of APWU members while the vocational scholarship program helps the children of APWU members pursue trade, technical, vocational or industrial occupations. The Postal Employees Relief Fund helps postal workers and their families recover from natural disasters and house fires. The APWU promotes strong alliances and common bonds between the labor and civil rights communities.

Learn More: WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/08/2019 - 11:28

Collective Voices Lead to Victory: Worker Wins

Fri, 04/05/2019 - 11:11
Collective Voices Lead to Victory: Worker Wins

Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with grocery store workers using their collective voices and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life.

UFCW Workers at King Soopers/City Market in Colorado Reach Tentative Agreement to End Prevent Strike: United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) members who work at King Soopers and City Market in Colorado have accepted a tentative agreement to prevent a strike and the new deal must be approved by the membership. The new contract addresses wage increases, health care costs, improved benefits and increased safety requirements. UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova said: "Today’s deal represents an important investment in King Soopers and City Market workers and strengthens our ability to continue providing shoppers with the high-quality customer service they deserve. The fact that this offer is significantly better than where we started in December is a tribute to the hard work of every member."

Two More Condé Nast Publications Join Organizing Wave: Pitchfork and Ars Technica, two publications owned by Condé Nast, have become the latest publications to join the wave of organizing that has been sweeping newsrooms and digital media in recent years. Employees at both publications have asked for voluntary recognition of their union representation. Ars Technica covers technology and science and Pitchfork publishes music criticism and news. Pitchfork's senior editor Stacey Anderson said: "The editors, writers, producers and strategists of Pitchfork are deeply proud of the work we do here. We believe that forming a union will keep this a sustainable place for all of us. We’re ready for management to address our concerns and work as hard for us as we do for them."

Boise Philharmonic Musicians Vote for Representation by American Federation of Musicians: With 96% of the vote, musicians at the Boise Philharmonic have voted to join the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). Kate Jarvis, a violinist and assistant concertmaster, said: "We're excited to join the community of working musicians, and we think this is an exciting time in the life of our orchestra. We have a vested interest in the organization, and we think it's important for the musicians to have a voice in the organization."

Staff at Podcast Startup Gimlet Media Join Writers Guild: More than 80 staff who work for Gimlet Media have asked management to voluntarily recognize their unionization with the Writers Guild of America, East. Gimlet produces popular podcasts such as Reply All and StartUp and the membership includes producers, engineers, reporters and hosts. Among the issues the new union will be negotiating with management are fair treatment for contractors, increased workplace diversity, protection of employee intellectual property, and transparency around pay, promotions and firings.

Flying Food Workers Avoid Strike and Ratify New Contract: Nearly 700 catering employees of Flying Food Group who work at Los Angeles International Airport averted an approved strike after 98% voted to ratify a new contract. The workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 11, will see wage increases and the end of costly monthly health care premiums. Flying Food Group worker Juan Varela applauded the agreement: "This new contract is going to change my life. I used to pay $332 a month for my health insurance and now I won’t have to pay any money out of my check for full coverage for me and my family."

Tufts Dining Workers Reach Tentative Agreement After Nearly a Year: Dining workers represented by UNITE HERE at Tufts University have reached a tentative contract after nearly a year of negotiations. The contract would be the first for dining workers at the university. The contract addresses wage increases, health care, the conversion of temporary employees to regular status, maintaining employees' existing time-off benefits and other issues.

Ohio Teachers End Strike After Ratifying New Contract: Teachers at Summit Academy Parma in Ohio ended a nine-day strike after the members of the Ohio Federation of Teachers overwhelmingly voted to ratify a new contract. OFT President Melissa Cropper said: "The teachers and intervention specialists at Summit Academy Parma organized their union to improve their students’ learning conditions. That’s what this contract does with language on staffing and class sizes, and by establishing a labor-management committee so that we can solve problems as they arise." The contract was secured after the teachers went on strike in order to improve teaching and learning conditions at the charter school, which serves special needs students.

New Jersey State Workers and Gov. Phil Murphy Agree to New Contract: After a long-fought battle with former Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey's new governor, Phil Murphy, is much more open to working with state workers. A breakthrough contract last year was followed by a tentative agreement on a four-year contract with the state and the Communications Workers of America New Jersey. The new contract was approved by the membership at the end of March.

BuzzFeed Workers Join NewsGuild: The overwhelming majority of U.S. journalists working for online news outlet BuzzFeed voting to be represented by The NewsGuild of New York, CWA Local 31003. Earlier this year, BuzzFeed moved to eliminated 15% of its workforce and the new unit is seeking better benefits and fair pay. The BuzzFeed workers said: "We want to remain spry and competitive, but we reject the argument that we must choose between freelancing in a hellscape gig economy for vampirical platforms or submitting to the whims of a corporation that botches basic HR tasks." The BuzzFeed workers have asked management to voluntarily recognize the union.

Boston's WBUR Staff Overwhelmingly Vote for Representation Through SAG-AFTRA: With 96% voting in favor, staff at radio station WBUR in Boston voted to recognize SAG-AFTRA as their union. They are in the beginning stages of negotiating their first contract. Ally Jarmanning, a digital producer at WBUR, said: "We are thrilled to officially be recognized as a union at WBUR. Organizing has brought our staff closer together and we can't wait to get to work negotiating a contract that will be fair for all. We know together we can make WBUR an even better place, both for workers and listeners."

Machinists at Boeing Win Mid-Contract Pay Raise: Thousands of Machinists who work for Boeing in Seattle have won a $4-per-hour increase of minimum pay rates. While their current contract sets pay rates through 2024, the Machinists fought for an increase after management responded to a labor shortage by offering new hires wages higher than the existing contract. The union successfully argued to management that the contract's minimum wage should be raised so that already hired workers would be making as much or more than new hires.

Gizmodo Editorial Staff Unanimously Ratifies New Contract: Nearly 170 members of the editorial staff at Gizmodo Media Group voted unanimously to ratify their second collective bargaining agreement. The staff is represented by the Writers Guild of America, East, and about the contract the bargaining committee said: "We’re incredibly proud of the contract we won. With a strong union, and the support of our colleagues at other unionized shops across digital media, we were able to build on our first contract and help elevate industry standards to better protect workers and the independence of our newsrooms. But building labor power in digital media is bigger than just a contract, so the struggle for a more democratic, transparent industry continues. There’s power in standing together, and when we fight we win."

Nurses Vote to Join Minnesota Nurses Association: An overwhelming majority of nurses at CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck, North Dakota, voted to be represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association. The nurses sought union representation after operational changes and layoffs had a negative impact on patient care. Nurse Leslie Wenger said: "We’re all extremely excited. We just really wanted to come together and have a voice to get heard and to get a seat at the decision-making table."

Journalists at The Morning Call Join NewsGuild: By a vote of 31-12, reporters, photographers and other staff at The Morning Call, located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, voted to be represented by The NewsGuild-CWA. Peter Hall, a senior reporter, said: "For a lot of people, this is about improving our sense of certainty about the future. Everyone involved in this has really worked hard."

San Francisco Bikeshare Workers Vote for TWU Representation: Workers at Ford GoBike in the San Francisco Bay area have voted to join the Transport Workers (TWU). The maintenance workers are employed by Motivate LLC and are seeking wage increases, better scheduling practices and other quality of life factors. TWU already represents Motivate workers in New York City, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Jersey City.

 

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 04/05/2019 - 13:11

Tags: Organizing

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