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Service + Solidarity: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 05/15/2020 - 06:47
Service + Solidarity: 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.

Service + Solidarity: Meet Michelle: “Michelle Simmons is a letter carrier who lives and works in Grand Island, Nebraska, and is a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC). Grand Island is a COVID-19 hot spot with one of the highest density rates of contagion anywhere in the country.”

Service + Solidarity: Meet Brent Kirby: “Brent Kirby is a musician based in Cleveland and a member of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Local 4. In addition to his solo career, Kirby performs with Brent Kirby & His Luck and the Jack Fords, and leads a monthly Gram Parsons revival. Kirby recently performed in a virtual concert series produced by the Cleveland Federation of Musicians Local 4 and the Local 4 Music Fund.”

Tammy Johnson Leads Wyoming’s Labor Movement, Fighting for Struggling Workers and the Unemployed: “With the Wyoming Legislature scheduled to begin an emergency session later this week, Wyoming State AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Tammy Johnson (USW) is taking the lead fighting for workers in her home state. Policymakers are considering a bill that includes three major components: unemployment insurance (UI), workers’ compensation and rent relief. The UI provisions would hold employers harmless as the state provides additional money to cover the increase in UI claims, and the rent relief portion would provide additional eviction protections for tenants.”

Labor Is Pioneering a New Kind of Relief Effort in the Twin Cities: “Scores of workers across America have been laid off through no fault of their own, and still many of them are not eligible for federal benefits during these unprecedented times. In Minnesota’s Twin Cities, the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation (MRLF) is organizing to provide support to those workers who can’t get the support they need from our federal government.”

A Chuukese Registered Nurse’s Story During #NursesWeek: “Let’s uplift Marina Robinson, a Chuukese registered nurse in Honolulu working in the OB-GYN department. She is proud to bring the idea of aterenges, or family, into her care work. She keeps pregnant people and their families safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

AFSCME: Strong Public Services Needed to Beat Pandemic, Reopen Economy: “AFSCME launched two ads calling on Congress and President Trump to send aid to state and local governments to keep front-line public service workers on the job. AFSCME President Lee Saunders said: ‘Front-line health care workers, corrections officers, home and child care providers, sanitation workers and other public service workers put their lives on the line every day to save ours. America refuses to thank them with pink slips. Public service workers and the services they provide are essential to beating this pandemic and opening the economy.’”

Hoosiers Need Help from Mike Pence, Not a Visit and Photo-Op: “When [Vice President] Mike Pence returns to Indiana on Thursday, he’ll find Hoosiers in the grips of a crisis unlike anything we’ve witnessed in generations. Cases of the coronavirus are climbing, our health care system is being overwhelmed, and countless working people are being forced to choose between our health and a paycheck. We need more than a photo-op. We need help, and we need it now.”

Economy Loses 20.5 Million Jobs in April; Unemployment Jumps to 14.7%: “The U.S. economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April, taking payroll employment back to levels last seen in spring 2011 when the economy was recovering from the Great Recession, and the unemployment rate jumped by a historic amount to 14.7%, according to figures released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for white males is 12.4%, the largest for white men in the post-World War II era and the first time it has been in double digits since that era.”

Thanking Heroes for National Nurses Week: 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.”

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: An EVS Technician’s COVID-19 Story: “Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! Let’s uplift Asian American and Pacific Islander workers this month⁠—those who are on the front lines of COVID-19 and those who are on the front lines of our families and communities.”

If Trump Wants Meat Plants Open, He Should Protect Their Workers: “The United States now has more than a million reported coronavirus cases, by far the most of any country in the world. The health of our nation, physically and economically, depends on the safety of our workers.”

Labor Radio-Podcast Weekly: Saluting Front-Line Workers, Remote Learning and More: “The latest episode of the Labor Radio-Podcast Weekly features a daily salute to front-line workers in the Electchester community of New York, Chicago Teachers tackling remote learning and Richard Trevellick’s fight for the eight-hour workday.”

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/15/2020 - 08:47

Tammy Johnson Leads Wyoming’s Labor Movement, Fighting for Struggling Workers and the Unemployed

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 09:03
Tammy Johnson Leads Wyoming’s Labor Movement, Fighting for Struggling Workers and the Unemployed Wyoming State AFL-CIO

With the Wyoming Legislature scheduled to begin an emergency session later this week, Wyoming State AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Tammy Johnson (USW) is taking the lead fighting for workers in her home state. Policymakers are considering a bill that includes three major components: unemployment insurance (UI), workers’ compensation and rent relief. The UI provisions would hold employers harmless as the state provides additional money to cover the increase in UI claims, and the rent relief portion would provide additional eviction protections for tenants.

However, Johnson and the state federation are working to change the state’s workers’ compensation system so that all front-line workers who get infected will be presumed to have been infected on the job. Currently, most employers are exempted from the state’s workers’ compensation system unless their employees are performing “extra hazardous” jobs. Johnson said legislators were surprised to learn that many grocery store workers in Wyoming would not be eligible for compensation under the proposed legislation.

“We have to have some kind of protection in place for workers,” she explained. “If they don’t have health care because their hours have been cut to part time and they can’t take unemployment because there’s work available, then they’ll have to go to work sick. You would not want sick grocery store workers to be in the stores.”

Johnson was also appointed by Gov. Mark Gordon to be on the Business and Financial Sector Task Force that is providing policy recommendations for reopening Wyoming’s economy. She said that one of the local unions she has helped is United Steelworkers (USW) Local 13214, whose members mine soda ash. Working with her colleagues on the task force and the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, she helped ensure that those USW members who were placed on furlough wouldn’t be penalized by the UI system for drawing on their pensions or for taking a “voluntary” furlough. “The challenge going forward is to educate everyone that all workers contributed to these systems and we have to modernize thinking about compensation packages,” she said.

“The backbone of Wyoming is exposed right now. Big corporations are keeping us in the shade, but it’s the workers who keep these companies up and running,” Johnson explained. “Companies may leave, but the workers are still going to be here, and they are the people who make up our communities....COVID-19 has made it clear where the strength in our economy is: It’s with the workers.”

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/14/2020 - 11:03

Tags: COVID-19

Service + Solidarity: Meet Michelle

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 08:36
Service + Solidarity: Meet Michelle

Michelle Simmons is a letter carrier who lives and works in Grand Island, Nebraska, and is a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC). Grand Island is a COVID-19 hot spot with one of the highest density rates of contagion anywhere in the country. 

She speaks here about what it feels like to be considered "essential."

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/14/2020 - 10:36

Tags: COVID-19

Labor Is Pioneering a New Kind of Relief Effort in the Twin Cities

Wed, 05/13/2020 - 12:47
Labor Is Pioneering a New Kind of Relief Effort in the Twin Cities UFCW

Scores of workers across America have been laid off through no fault of their own, and still many of them are not eligible for federal benefits during these unprecedented times. In Minnesota’s Twin Cities, the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation (MRLF) is organizing to provide support to those workers who can’t get the support they need from our federal government.

Led by President Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou (UFCW), the MRLF is pioneering a new kind of initiative focused on filling that gap. The Twin Cities Hospitality Relief Effort is specifically designed to help laid-off hospitality workers who are being left behind. The labor federation is giving direct one-on-one assistance to dozens of these workers who need immediate help with health care, housing and money to survive.

“A lot of hospitality workers are not eligible for government assistance for a number of reasons: they receive much of their income from tips, they have families with mixed immigration status, they received a combination of wages and 1099 forms, or they worked for many different employers over the course of the year,” Glaubitz Gabiou explained. “These workers come from an industry that was the first to shut down, and they have a very long recovery ahead.”

The MRLF has 16 people trained to provide navigation services, and they are in place to keep the relief effort going. The navigators are doing direct outreach to those who need help the most, and they interact with community partners and government agencies to provide tailored support for each individual. They are a mix of union organizers, laid-off workers and labor federation staff, and many of them are bilingual. Their conversations with the people receiving help also has an organizing component, as the labor federation is promoting union values to these laid-off workers.

“The way that this team of front-line workers is coming together to take care of other workers in this industry is inspiring,” Glaubitz Gabiou said. “They’re helping people negotiate payment plans with their landlords, get access to active food resources and pharmaceuticals, and much more.” She pointed out that they have helped more than 150 laid-off workers and their families—90% of whom do not have access to unemployment insurance benefits.

The MRLF’s Twin Cities Hospitality Relief Effort is operating in close collaboration with its affiliates, including UNITE HERE Local 17, Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 13 and the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. The initiative is receiving financial support from the LIFT Fund, the city of Minneapolis, Ramsey County, Minnesota, the Greater Twin Cities United Way, the Minnesota Nurses Association-NNU and UNITE HERE. The coalition recently held an online bingo tournament that raised nearly $5,000. And this funding is being used to support the relief effort and provide $200 cash grants to those laid-off workers who meet minimum standards.

“We have to keep fighting and scraping for people to take seriously the state that all workers are in,” Glaubitz Gabiou said. “It’s not just about surviving right now; we’re working to make sure we recover more resilient in the future.”

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/13/2020 - 14:47

Tags: Community Service

A Chuukese Registered Nurse’s Story During #NursesWeek

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 08:09
A Chuukese Registered Nurse’s Story During #NursesWeek

Let’s uplift Marina Robinson, a Chuukese registered nurse in Honolulu working in the OB-GYN department. She is proud to bring the idea of aterenges, or family, into her care work. She keeps pregnant people and their families safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Like so many others, Robinson is concerned that worker protections are not being prioritized in the nation’s response. Her concerns are heightened because of the high number of essential workers and the prevalence of existing chronic health conditions in Pacific Islander communities. Some states and counties are beginning to report that Pacific Islanders are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, including California and Nevada. Our society’s inequities are especially revealed during this pandemic. 

That’s why we are fighting for major changes that will bring us through the COVID-19 health crisis as safe as possible and build strong and prepared communities for the future.

Join us to protect essential workers.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 05/12/2020 - 10:09

Tags: APALA, COVID-19

Service + Solidarity: Meet Brent Kirby

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 09:06
Service + Solidarity: Meet Brent Kirby

Brent Kirby is a musician based in Cleveland and a member of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Local 4. In addition to his solo career, Kirby performs with Brent Kirby & His Luck and the Jack Fords and leads a monthly Gram Parsons revival. Kirby recently performed in a virtual concert series produced by the Cleveland Federation of Musicians Local 4 and the Local 4 Music Fund.

These concerts are part of a fundraiser for the Musicians’ Relief Fund, a fund working to assist northeast Ohio musicians who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. All donations received by the Local 4 Music Fund will go toward the Musicians’ Relief Fund and to the assistance of our cultural community.

Donate here: go.aflcio.org/afm.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/11/2020 - 11:06

Tags: COVID-19

AFSCME: Strong Public Services Needed to Beat Pandemic, Reopen Economy

Mon, 05/11/2020 - 06:11
AFSCME: Strong Public Services Needed to Beat Pandemic, Reopen Economy

AFSCME launched two ads calling on Congress and President Trump to send aid to state and local governments to keep front-line public service workers on the job. AFSCME President Lee Saunders said: "Front-line health care workers, corrections officers, home and child care providers, sanitation workers and other public service workers put their lives on the line every day to save ours. America refuses to thank them with pink slips. Public service workers and the services they provide are essential to beating this pandemic and opening the economy."

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/11/2020 - 08:11

Hoosiers Need Help from Mike Pence, Not a Visit and Photo-Op

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 13:19
Hoosiers Need Help from Mike Pence, Not a Visit and Photo-Op Indiana AFL-CIO

Brett Voorhies (USW) is president of the Indiana State AFL-CIO, a federation of more than 400 local unions representing nearly 300,000 working Hoosiers.

When [Vice President] Mike Pence returns to Indiana on Thursday, he’ll find Hoosiers in the grips of a crisis unlike anything we’ve witnessed in generations. Cases of the coronavirus are climbing, our health care system is being overwhelmed and countless working people are being forced to choose between our health and a paycheck.

We need more than a photo-op. We need help, and we need it now.

Unions are working to empower and protect those in harm’s way, but we should not have to do this alone. Our government must do its part to protect working people from infectious diseases. 

But for months, President Donald Trump has stood in the way of the full-scale federal response that this moment demands. He ignored his own advisers, downplayed the virus, and wasted precious time that could have been used to prepare for the coming pandemic. He did not heed the labor movement’s early call for action and did not act quickly to secure testing, workplace plans and protective equipment. And as the crisis has worn on, he’s broken promise after promise.

In February, Trump suggested that the virus wouldn’t spread beyond 15 U.S. cases. Today, the United States has suffered more coronavirus deaths than any country in the world—including nearly 1,000 Hoosiers.

Once the crisis was too devastating to ignore, the Trump administration promised to deliver 27 million tests by the end of March. When that deadline arrived, they had fulfilled less than 4% of their own goal.

That national failure is hurting us here in Indiana. Earlier this month, the state health commissioner announced a goal of processing 6,300 tests per day, but equipment shortages have limited us to just half that rate. Across the state, Hoosiers are in the dark about our own status as well as the severity of the outbreak in our communities. 

That lack of information is even more dangerous given working Hoosiers’ inability to stay safe on the job. Nearly a month ago, the state health department announced that the Trump administration would not send any additional protective equipment to Indiana. Since then, Hoosiers have been forced to scramble for donated—or even homemade—supplies.

Months into this pandemic, health care workers across Indiana are still being forced to ration gloves, reuse masks, and wear garbage bags in place of protective garments. It’s a travesty of historic proportions. At a time when our leaders are asking everything of working people—from punishing hours to emotional and physical exhaustion—the very least they can do is keep us safe. 

This White House isn’t interested in putting the needs of working people ahead of political self-preservation. When pushed to distribute emergency supplies, Trump told reporters he wasn’t interested: “We’re not a shipping clerk.”

His son-in-law’s response was even more chilling: “It’s supposed to be our stockpile.”

That kind of selfishness is putting Hoosiers’ lives in danger. This virus doesn’t care about politics or party. It doesn’t care about news cycles or petty spats. It’s coming for all of us, and we’ll only be able to fight back if we work together.

Working people have always known that we’re stronger when we act collectively. More than ever, this is a time for our country to rally behind a cause that affects each and every one of us. To do that, we need a federal government focused on delivering results—not photo-ops.

This op-ed originally appeared at IndyStar.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/08/2020 - 15:19

Tags: COVID-19

Economy Loses 20.5 Million Jobs in April; Unemployment Jumps to 14.7%

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 10:52
Economy Loses 20.5 Million Jobs in April; Unemployment Jumps to 14.7%

The U.S. economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April, taking payroll employment back to levels last seen in spring 2011 when the economy was recovering from the Great Recession, and the unemployment rate jumped by a historic amount to 14.7%, according to figures released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for white males is 12.4%, the largest for white men in the post-World War II era and the first time it has been in double digits since that era. 

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

The unemployment rate in April jumped for all education categories, Less than high school from 6.8 to 21.2%, high school grads from 4.4 to 17.3%, some college and associate degree holders 3.7 to 15.0% and college grads 2.5 to 8.4%. @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020

In another measure of labor market stress, among the 51.3% with jobs, the jump in part-time work for economic reasons was from 5,765,000 to 10,887,000; most of that reflecting slack business with a reduction in hours (4,043,000 to 9,939,000). @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020

All industries reported drops in payroll in April (left of the vertical line), the largest loss in leisure and hospitality (the lowest wage industry-moving down the graph from the average wage of $30.01 an hour), higher wage industries (going up the chart) showed fewer losses. pic.twitter.com/id24EvK9Fh

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020

The index of average weekly hours fell 14.9% from March,in leisure and hospitality (food service and accomodations) the drop was a dramatic 43.1%. That with the increase in part time work because of slack, shows that those who remain at work are struggling. @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020

The drop of 801,000 jobs in local government is a harbinger of things to come; from the effects of the shutdown of schools (468,800) to loss revenues. If aid to doesn't flow to state and local governments there won't be a recover. @AFSCME @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020

In an odd world of convergence, the Black and white EPOPs moved closer (in the wrong direction of course). This is because of the devastating effects on entire industries, not just on front line workers. @CBTU72 @rolandsmartin @APRI_National @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/QpFf9gsxsl

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020

This picture says it all. The dramatic turn of events tests our national leadership. The last 36 months showed anyone can continue to drive the car on a dry road and sunny skies, but, when there is a crisis, leadership matters. This is a failure to plan. @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/VTT6OF30vp

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020

The Black unemployment rate in April was 16.7%, compared to 14.2% for whites (so not double), and more importantly in this environment, the share of people employed (EPOP) was 48.8% for Blacks and 51.8% for whites. @CBTU72 @APRI_National @NAACPecon @rolandsmartin @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020

Average weekly earnings (not accounting for inflation) were lower in April 2020 than last April in construction, manufacturing and leisure & hospitality. This is another indication of the strain on those remaining employed. @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/89tfOOQuOy

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020

The loss of jobs in April fell hardest on women, who after climbing to over half the American workforce, fell back to levels lower than last April. Whether we will devise a stimulus aimed at women in the work place will be the big challenge. @IWPResearch @lizshuler @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/TsJqyzjljP

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020

A key age group hit hard in the April numbers were those 20 to 24, whose unemployment rate jumped from 8.7 to 25.7%. @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020

A dramatic increase for women heading households: for married women, with a spouse present, the unemployment rate jumped from 3.0% in March to 13.1% in April, and for single women heads of household, it jumped from 5.3 to 15.9%. @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020

Two signs of the discouraged worker affect: 1) In April the number of long term unemployed dropped from March (a sense they dropped out) and (2) the high share of workers who were in the labor force in March but dropped out of the Labor Force in April. @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/r7gSVFqAli

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020

Another discouraged worker sign: The drop in people being unemployed as they re-entered or were new entrants to the job market from March to April. The drop in new entrants will be important in understanding how this downturn affects the Class of 2020 graduating now. @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/ozHVjdOfBc

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020

If there is a silver lining, it is the very large share (78.3%) of the unemployed who believe they are on temporary layoff (or furlough). Their belief about returning to work will slow the spread of anxiety common in 2008, when job losses were viewed as permanent. @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/U7Z7ca1L2A

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) May 8, 2020

Every sector saw job losses in April. The largest losses were in leisure and hospitality (-7.7 million), education and health services (-2.5 million), professional and business services (-2.1 million), retail trade (-2.1 million), manufacturing (-1.3 million), other services (-1.3 million), government (-980,000), construction (-975,000), transportation and warehousing (-584,000), wholesale trade (-363,000), financial activities (-262,000), information (-254,000), and mining (-46,000).

In April, unemployment rates rose among all major worker groups. The rate was 31.9% for teenagers, 18.9% for Hispanics, 16.7% for blacks, 15.5% for adult women, 14.5% for Asians, 14.2% for whites and 13.0% for adult men. The rates for all of these groups, except black Americans, represent record highs in the history of this measure.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) declined by 225,000 in April and accounted for 4.1% of the unemployed, as a sign of discouraged workers.

In advance of the release of the April job numbers, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) spoke about the unemployment crisis and what needs to be done about it:

Trumka said:

Here is the good news: there are practical solutions on the table. We can use federal funding to keep people employed and guarantee everyone’s paycheck for the duration of the crisis. This concept is neither new nor radical. It’s been done before. Employers that have to lay off workers or shut down can certify their payrolls to the federal government. The government pays for the employer to pay their employees. No money goes to CEOs or to Wall Street—just to workers.

Payroll support has been endorsed across the political spectrum, from Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri to Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. It’s supported by Alabama’s Doug Jones and Vermont’s Bernie Sanders. And it’s gaining traction among both business and labor. Yes, we must work out the details. But that’s what governing is. What better time to put aside party labels and do what is necessary to keep America whole?

Trust me, every worker would rather receive a paycheck than an unemployment check. But that’s not all we want. Our jobs are a source of dignity. A piece of our pride. We are ready to get back to work. We are ready to rebuild America—a nation built by unions. We’ve made this country better, and we’re going to do it again.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/08/2020 - 12:52

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: An EVS Technician’s COVID-19 Story

Thu, 05/07/2020 - 14:19
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: An EVS Technician’s COVID-19 Story

Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! Let’s uplift Asian American and Pacific Islander workers this month⁠—those who are on the front lines of  COVID-19 and those who are on the front lines of our families and communities.

Angel Sherburne is an environmental services (EVS) technician in Seattle: Her work keeps patients safe by disinfecting hospital rooms, including COVID-19 patients. Sherburne is critical to stopping the spread of infection, but workers like her are not being allocated enough personal protective equipment.

It is terrifying for health care workers when they do not have access to personal protective equipment and safe working environments. Without protection for workers, both patients and workers suffer. Sherburne is fighting for the rights and protections of workers like her. Join us to support the Essential Workers Bill of Rights, which includes guaranteeing safety protections for all workers on the job; universal health care access; compensation and job protections workers deserve for their heightened risks; and more.

We can't let Sherburne and millions of workers like her down. Join us in the fight and learn how to protect Asian American and Pacific Islander working people.

 

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/07/2020 - 16:19

Tags: COVID-19, APALA

If Trump Wants Meat Plants Open, He Should Protect Their Workers

Thu, 05/07/2020 - 07:43
If Trump Wants Meat Plants Open, He Should Protect Their Workers

The United States now has more than a million reported coronavirus cases, by far the most of any country in the world. The health of our nation, physically and economically, depends on the safety of our workers.

That has always been true, but perhaps never more so than in the face of today’s crisis—and it’s why we need clear and decisive action from the White House.

President Donald Trump has given us more confusion than solutions, failing to use his executive authority to protect working people.

In times of crisis, the Defense Production Act is an important tool for mobilizing resources and producing emergency supplies. Trump hemmed and hawed on using it—he said he would use it only if “we need to invoke it in a worst-case scenario.” If this isn’t a worst-case scenario, nothing is.

Take critical ventilators. Not until after GM and Ventec revealed that they had secured suppliers for 700 parts, made a deal with the UAW to staff the Kokomo, Ind., plant and started setting up the plant did the president issue an order telling GM to do what it was already doing.

On April 28, Trump signed an executive order using the Defense Production Act to keep meat-processing plants open. By doing so, he overrode states and some of those plants themselves that know it’s not safe yet. We all want to keep the food supply chain intact, but we have to balance that against the very real risks caused by impatience and imprudence.

The United Food and Commercial Workers, the largest packinghouse union in America, knows of at least 20 meatpacking workers who have died from COVID-19. Five thousand more workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, are awaiting test results, have been hospitalized or have been exposed to the virus. Thousands more may be affected.

The president’s decision to reopen these plants without proper safety protections—on Workers Memorial Day, of all days—was dangerous and disgraceful.

What’s worse, Trump said he would also shield meatpacking companies from legal liability as long as they follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Occupational Safety and Health Administration for the facilities, which have proved to be wholly inadequate. Once again, this administration is favoring executives over working people, and the stock market over human lives. He is forcing workers to choose between a paycheck and their health.

This isn’t a choice workers should have to make. But Trump is essentially forcing their hand, ignoring the warning signs and using the Defense Production Act to keep open what should be closed until it is safe.

We need workplace safety standards based on safety and sound science, and we need the president to use his authority to make and distribute personal protective equipment to essential workers.

There is no time to waste. Like health care workers, front-line workers in meatpacking plants are facing similar PPE shortages, and many plants have become coronavirus hot spots. No one knows whether it is safe to go to work because the administration has utterly failed to plan for the tens of millions of tests we need to prevent exposure.

When workers are left unprotected, we get sick and cannot work. We can transmit the virus to our families and communities. If all workers are not protected from the virus, our economy will collapse.

Forcing meat-processing plants to remain open might temporarily satisfy Trump, but it doesn’t help contain the spread of the virus. It is a harmful and misguided use of what can be a valuable tool when properly applied.

The Defense Production Act can replicate successes of the past. Before America joined World War II, the labor movement led the way in calling for defense production. Henry Ford’s assembly line workers produced a B-24 bomber every hour, and California shipbuilders could make cargo vessels about every five days. Companies remained profitable and ensured workers on the front lines were properly equipped and compensated.

This contagion is fast-moving and the crisis it has wrought is rapidly evolving. We need to be faster in our response. We do not have a vaccine for this virus yet, but we have an answer to the lack of lifesaving equipment: America’s workers.

Trump needs to use the Defense Production Act for the right reasons, effectively and swiftly.

This op-ed originally appeared in The New York Times.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/07/2020 - 09:43

Tags: COVID-19

Labor Radio–Podcast Weekly: Saluting Front-Line Workers, Remote Learning and More

Wed, 05/06/2020 - 09:41
Labor Radio–Podcast Weekly: Saluting Front-Line Workers, Remote Learning and More Labor Radio-Podcast Weekly

The latest episode of the Labor Radio–Podcast Weekly features a daily salute to front-line workers in the Electchester community of New York, Chicago Teachers tackling remote learning and Richard Trevellick's fight for the eight-hour workday.

This week, Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 3’s Chris Erikson Jr. talks to "UCOMM Live" about the daily salute to front-line workers in Electchester, a New York City community built in the 1950s by Local 3 to house its members: "The windows open up, people start banging pots and pans and whooping and hollering."

Also on "UCOMM Live," actor Harold Phillips talks about the financial impact union television shows have on the community: "There were a lot of different unions that benefited from that one production being based in Portland, Oregon."

On "CTU Speaks," the podcast of the Chicago Teachers Union, it’s pretty clear that teachers don’t like remote learning, and students like it even less, but what about the parents? "CTU Speaks" talks with Andrea Mosley and Valerie Nelson, parents whose children attend Chicago Public Schools: "I was so confused, and I'm like, well, how do you start remote learning? But we don't have the tools in order to make that first week successful."

Plus, Labor History in 2:00 on labor pioneer Richard Trevellick, one of the early leaders of the U.S. labor movement and the fight for the eight-hour workday.

Check out all the Labor Radio/Podcast Network shows.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/06/2020 - 11:41

Tags: Podcast

A Message to Workers: The Working People Weekly List

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 11:15
A Message to Workers: 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.

Union Leaders' Message to Workers About COVID-19: "Leaders of America's unions send a message of support and thanks to the union members and workers who are keeping our economy going and providing all of us with basic needs and essential services."

Labor-Radio Podcast Weekly: Danny Glover, Jamie Partridge and More: "This week, actor and activist Danny Glover says, 'We need to fight a fight for the new future' on Work Week Radio (KPOO), and Jamie Partridge of Communities and Postal Workers United says, 'This pandemic is life and death, if not for you, for your coworker, for your family, for their family, for our customers' on Labor Radio (KBOO), which included an excerpt from this year’s online Labor Notes conference."

Plant Workers in Kentucky Fight for Safer Workplaces: "In late March, when workers at GE Appliances, a Haier company in Louisville, Kentucky, were mandated to work during the COVID-19 crisis, members of IUE-CWA Local 83761 sprung into action to make sure they were protected on the job. While the plant was shut down for one week, Local 83761 President Dino Driskell reached out to Gov. Andy Beshear and other elected officials who agreed to send letters to Haier calling for stronger workplace safety measures. The local’s internal organizing team, led by Kindre Batliner, organized some 1,000 members for a 'drive-by' rally on March 28, calling on Haier to keep the plant closed until stronger safety and health protocols were in place."

We're All in This Together: 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."

Rhode Island's Working People and the Response to COVID-19: "Patrick Crowley, secretary-treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, spoke to Erik Loomis of the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog about the response from the state federation and the larger labor movement to COVID-19."

Helping Those in Need Is a ‘Labor of Love’ for Union Members in North Georgia: "Wearing face masks and gloves and sharing a determination to help their brothers and sisters in need, dozens of members of the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council sorted and bagged emergency food to hand out to union families on Saturday, April 18. The 'Labor of Love' food drive was a member-to-member relief effort in collaboration with the United Way of Greater Atlanta and the Georgia State AFL-CIO, in partnership with Margie’s House mobile food pantry and the city of Fairburn, Georgia, to help 300 union families who are now struggling to put food on their tables. It was one of a series of volunteer events that the labor council has coordinated to support union members and the wider community during the pandemic."

Worker Safety Above Political Gain: In the States Roundup: "It's time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states."

​​​​​​​Defend Global Supply Chain Workers Facing the COVID-19 Pandemic: "COVID-19 may not yet have sickened as many people in developing countries as in the United States or Europe, but more than 150 million workers in supply chains are already suffering the swift and massive impact of the pandemic. These workers have even less savings and weaker social protection systems than the very weak ones America's workers have. Just as we insist U.S. government assistance in this crisis must prioritize jobs and workers’ lives and livelihoods, global collective efforts must focus on millions of workers in global supply chains who have no safety net."

San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council Launches Food Assistance Program: "We are in an unforeseen crisis. Just a few weeks ago none of us could have predicted the economic impact created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our members and our neighbors are in a financial and food crisis. Our entire labor council operation has converted to an emergency team focused on securing member benefits and running a substantial food distribution operation. To date we’ve distributed more than 150,000 pounds of food and served over 5,000 families in need. In the coming days, our distribution will provide food to more than 2,000 families per week, as our operations continually expand. I wish to commend our staff team for the work they are doing to keep this operation running, in the face of the health crisis swirling around them."

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 05/05/2020 - 13:15

Nevada’s Labor Movement Comes Together to Support Each Other

Mon, 05/04/2020 - 07:38
Nevada’s Labor Movement Comes Together to Support Each Other Nevada State AFL-CIO

The backbone of Nevada’s gaming and hospitality industry, more than 98% of the 60,000 members of the Culinary Workers Union/UNITE HERE Local 226 and thousands of other union members have been laid off since the pandemic began. Now, Nevada’s labor movement is swiftly responding to the unprecedented scale of need among union members and their families.

The United Labor Agency of Nevada (ULAN)—a partnership of the Culinary Workers Union, the Nevada State AFL-CIO, community organizations and Las Vegas-area labor unions—is providing services to not only union members, but also to people in the community who have been impacted by COVID-19.

“A number of different affiliates have contributed both funds and volunteers,” said Rusty McAllister (IAFF), executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO. “A large part of the labor federation’s relief efforts are done through ULAN, helping to raise money and provide relief to those in need.” ULAN was founded 25 years ago by the Culinary Workers Union and the state federation. McAllister is currently serving as chairman of its board.

In addition to its food pantry, which receives funding from the United Way of Southern Nevada, ULAN also is offering rent and utility assistance, as well as handing out gift cards that were purchased from grocery retailers. And while ULAN is based in southern Nevada, the Northern Nevada Central Labor Council is also stepping up to help members in need.

Union members from a wide range of unions, including Bricklayers (BAC) Local 13, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 88 and Teamsters locals 631 and 986, have been volunteering their time and efforts to help their brothers and sisters who are out of work. The Teamsters locals recently teamed up to bring a truckload of food from Southern California to Las Vegas to bolster the state’s relief efforts.

“I’ve seen firsthand what labor can do when we get involved and come together. Just the amount of work and effort from our union members is incredible,” McAllister said. “The tough part for Nevada is that we’re always one of the first states to suffer from an economic downturn and one of the last to recover.”

UNITE HERE’s Culinary Training Academy has put union members to work to run their own drive-through food bank. The Culinary Union’s members have been hit the hardest by the pandemic and many of the Nevada State AFL-CIO’s affiliated unions have stepped up to donate funds.

“Look out for each other,” McAllister said to union members across the country. “Those who have work, help out your brothers and sisters who are hurting as much as you can.”

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/04/2020 - 09:38

Tags: COVID-19

Labor-Radio Podcast Weekly: Danny Glover, Jamie Partridge and More

Wed, 04/29/2020 - 11:14
Labor-Radio Podcast Weekly: Danny Glover, Jamie Partridge and More Labor Radio-Podcast Weekly

This week, actor and activist Danny Glover says, “We need to fight a fight for the new future” on Work Week Radio (KPOO), and Jamie Partridge of Communities and Postal Workers United says, “This pandemic is life and death, if not for you, for your coworker, for your family, for their family, for our customers” on Labor Radio (KBOO), which included an excerpt from this year’s online Labor Notes conference.

Plus, “The Fight for Equality” from Labor History in 2:00.

Listen to the show or check out the Labor/Radio Podcast Network.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/29/2020 - 13:14

Tags: Podcast

Union Leaders' Message to Workers About COVID-19

Wed, 04/29/2020 - 08:20
Union Leaders' Message to Workers About COVID-19

Leaders of America's unions send a message of support and thanks to the union members and workers who are keeping our economy going and providing all of us with basic needs and essential services.

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Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/29/2020 - 10:20

Tags: COVID-19

Plant Workers in Kentucky Fight for Safer Workplaces

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 10:35
Plant Workers in Kentucky Fight for Safer Workplaces Kentucky AFL-CIO

In late March, when workers at GE Appliances, a Haier company in Louisville, Kentucky, were mandated to work during the COVID-19 crisis, members of IUE-CWA Local 83761 sprung into action to make sure they were protected on the job. While the plant was shut down for one week, Local 83761 President Dino Driskell reached out to Gov. Andy Beshear and other elected officials who agreed to send letters to Haier calling for stronger workplace safety measures. The local’s internal organizing team, led by Kindre Batliner, organized some 1,000 members for a “drive-by” rally on March 28, calling on Haier to keep the plant closed until stronger safety and health protocols were in place.

“That rally was tremendous, the morale really lifted after that. The company wasn’t even willing to talk to us before,” said Ashley Snider, vice president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO and IUE-CWA staff. “Thanks to the members' political action and the rally, Haier really started to listen to our concerns.” 

Since the rally, workers at GE Appliance Park secured new safety protections, such as plastic barriers around workstations and other social distancing measures. Most notably, members of Local 83761 won a $2 an hour hazard pay raise and a flexible leave policy for workers at high risk from the coronavirus and those who have child care needs.

Members of Local 83761 have also donated extra face masks to other essential workers in the Louisville area, including members of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1447, UAW Local 822 and Teamsters Local 783. However, the union is still working to get additional protective equipment in Louisville and is supporting similar member mobilization campaigns at shops across the country, including a GE plant in Madisonville, Kentucky, that builds plane engines and has several positive COVID-19 cases.

Snider is leveraging her relationships with political leaders to help those who have been laid off to start receiving unemployment benefits. After spending countless hours on hold trying to get more information on benefit issues members were having, Snider contacted Morgan McGarvey, the Democratic leader in the state Senate, who connected her directly with the manager of the local unemployment office who was able to speed up the benefit approval process for many of the workers the union represents. She explained: “Elections matter, and the people in office can actually affect our lives in a big way.”

As the labor movement looks toward the future, this crisis is demonstrating how every worker needs to be protected on the job. IUE-CWA has been receiving calls from employees in other plants asking how they can join the union. “We’re all in this together. It’s a scary time, but I’m so glad I have my union family and I know I’m supported,” Snider said. "And many workers without a union are starting to understand the value of having support on the job."

In an effort to further protect workers and ensure that our country has the tools and resources we need to fight this pandemic, the IUE-CWA is calling on GE to produce ventilators in its empty shops. To support its effort, you can sign IUE-CWA's petition.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 04/28/2020 - 12:35

Tags: COVID-19

Rhode Island's Working People and the Response to COVID-19

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 11:24
Rhode Island's Working People and the Response to COVID-19

Patrick Crowley, secretary-treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, spoke to Erik Loomis of the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog about the response from the state federation and the larger labor movement to COVID-19.

Here in Rhode Island, the state federation has been holding conference calls for local labor leaders every other day so our leaders, many of whom are still rank-and-file workers, can ask questions of the state’s political leaders. We’ve had Governor Raimondo join us twice, the State Treasurer, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, the Senate President and our entire congressional delegation. Our leaders have been able to ask questions, sometimes pretty tough ones, about what steps the government has taken to address the crisis. It’s also been a chance to triage problems that have come up for our members. For example, in the early days of the crisis, there was a real concern that one of our hospital chains was going to start furloughing front line health care workers because they were hemorrhaging money after elective procedures were cancelled, cutting off a significant revenue stream.  As a result of these calls, labor leaders were able to convince political leaders to investigate so folks could keep working.

Read the full article.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 04/24/2020 - 13:24

Helping Those in Need Is a ‘Labor of Love’ for Union Members in North Georgia

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 12:47
Helping Those in Need Is a ‘Labor of Love’ for Union Members in North Georgia Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council

Wearing face masks and gloves and sharing a determination to help their brothers and sisters in need, dozens of members of the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council sorted and bagged emergency food to hand out to union families on Saturday, April 18. The “Labor of Love” food drive was a member-to-member relief effort in collaboration with the United Way of Greater Atlanta and the Georgia State AFL-CIO, in partnership with Margie’s House mobile food pantry and the city of Fairburn, Georgia, to help 300 union families who are now struggling to put food on their tables. It was one of a series of volunteer events that the labor council has coordinated to support union members and the wider community during the pandemic.

In March, as classrooms were closing and fear of the coronavirus was increasing, members of the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council volunteered their time to help AFSCME school support workers in the Atlanta public schools prepare breakfast and lunch for students forced to learn from home. “Union members have been coming out. We’re trying to not only help our members, but also help the community,” said Sandra Williams (RWDSU), the labor council’s executive director. Union members were also on hand in conjunction with Atlanta Jobs with Justice, to deliver lunch to faculty, residents and students of the Morehouse School of Medicine working at Grady Hospital earlier this month.

In other ways, the labor federation is working to assist those who now find themselves without a job or are experiencing financial hardship because of this crisis. Many members attended a Zoom town hall hosted by state Sen. Zahra Karinshak that included a panel on unemployment insurance with James Williams (IBEW), president of the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council, and Denise Beckwith, the unemployment division director of the Georgia State Department of Labor. The council also has worked with Jobs with Justice and many other community partners to provide community support. “We hope that members see our support, look at it with pride and they know they can rely on their union to come through for them,” Sandra Williams said. “People are very thankful, but they’re also fearful for their health.”

With some businesses allowed to reopen in the coming days, James Williams expressed concerns that Gov. Brian Kemp is putting money ahead of people’s safety and health. “Georgia is likely to run out of unemployment funds in the next few months, and this is a way to keep contractors employed,” he explained. If these workers are forced out of work a second time a few weeks from now, their unemployment claims are likely to be denied.

“Last year, we celebrated the 100-year anniversary of my local, Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 613, and we’ll be around for another hundred years,” James Williams said, looking toward a bright future for the labor movement in the north Georgia region. With volunteering events planned every other week for as long as they are needed, the members of the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council will be there to lift up their union family and their community.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 04/23/2020 - 14:47

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

Defend Global Supply Chain Workers Facing the COVID-19 Pandemic

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 09:18
Defend Global Supply Chain Workers Facing the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 may not yet have sickened as many people in developing countries as in the United States or Europe, but more than 150 million workers in supply chains are already suffering the swift and massive impact of the pandemic. These workers have even less savings and weaker social protection systems than the very weak ones America's workers have. Just as we insist U.S. government assistance in this crisis must prioritize jobs and workers’ lives and livelihoods, global collective efforts must focus on millions of workers in global supply chains who have no safety net.

Global demand has plummeted and major corporations have stopped buying, many canceling orders already placed—even refusing to pay for goods already produced. Employers in these supply chains are cutting jobs and wages. Global garment workers, already facing some of the worst working and living conditions before the pandemic, are losing their precarious foothold on survival. At minimum, major garment brands and retailers must pay for work already done and goods already made or in production. Some companies have acted ethically; others have not.  

Today, workers and employers announced a joint statement to work together in the garment industry at the global level to clarify principles that major brands and retailers must act on throughout this industry that has long depended on unsustainable practices and low wages.  

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow joined the call to action:

We cannot afford the human and economic devastation of the collapse of our global supply chains and millions more in developing economies thrown back into poverty. Jobs, incomes and social protection are the dividends of business continuity, and this statement calls for emergency funds and social protection for workers to guarantee industry survival in the poorest of our countries. Leadership and cooperation from all stakeholders are vital to realize a future based on resilience and decent work.

In the statement, employers and workers commit to work together to seek funding for the producing countries from governments and international financial institutions and other sources, so that workers can get wages, jobs can be preserved during the crisis and governments can commit to strengthen social protection programs in the future. 

Like all statements of principle, this one is a first step that will mean nothing without immediate action and sustained collaboration with workers. Beyond paying wages, the industry must reform its labor relations and buying practices to fix problems that have existed for decades. The global labor movement and allies will track the behavior of governments that receive this assistance and the actions of buyers and suppliers in the supply chain, as well as the impacts of both on workers. Student labor activists are already tracking the follow-through by some brands from the United States

Other industries need to collaborate globally and work upward from these principles, too, making more concrete commitments. Working with the global labor movement, the AFL-CIO will pursue these commitments to ensure that companies and governments fulfill their stated principles and ethical and legal commitments in this crisis and move toward globalization with social justice.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/22/2020 - 11:18

Tags: COVID-19

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