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Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Profiles: Don Villar

16 hours 25 min ago
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Profiles: Don Villar

For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this year, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights in the United States. Today's profile is Don Villar.

Don Villar was born into the labor movement and the spirit of social justice. His father was on strike at the time of his birth, fighting for better wages and benefits for bank workers in the Philippines. During his nearly 25-year broadcast journalism career at WLS-TV (ABC) Chicago, Villar won an Emmy for his breaking news coverage. Villar became a member of NABET-CWA Local 41 in 1991, was elected vice president in 2010 and then president in 2015. He became secretary-treasurer for the Chicago Federation of Labor in 2018 and continues to build solidarity across Chicago, Cook County and beyond.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/05/2021 - 09:28

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: AFM Members Rally for a New Contract in Fort Wayne

17 hours 19 min ago
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: AFM Members Rally for a New Contract in Fort Wayne

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

With wages, benefits and working conditions on the line, members of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) rallied in Fort Wayne, Indiana, over the weekend to draw attention to their fight for a new contract with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. AFM International President Ray Hair spoke at the rally in support of the orchestra musicians, who have been furloughed because of the pandemic since August 2020. “Why are these musicians out on the street? Why haven’t they had paychecks since last summer? It’s because the management doesn’t want them to,” Hair told WPTA21. “They’re lining their own pockets. Nobody in management would have a job if it weren’t for us.”

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/05/2021 - 08:33

Tags: Organizing

Nurses at Maine Medical Center Vote to Form First-Ever Union

Tue, 05/04/2021 - 10:40
Nurses at Maine Medical Center Vote to Form First-Ever Union

A lengthy campaign to organize the registered nurses (RNs) at Maine Medical Center (MMC) in Portland, Maine, culminated in an overwhelming victory last Thursday, April 29. The RNs at MMC voted 1,001 to 750 in a mail-ballot election, counted by the National Labor Relations Board, to form their first-ever union.

The Maine State Nurses Association, an affiliate of National Nurses United (NNU), will now represent the nearly 2,000 registered nurses at Maine Medical Center. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Maine Med nurses to the labor movement. Their solidarity, courage and strength throughout this pandemic and in the face of an expensive, divisive anti-union campaign by hospital management is remarkable and an inspiration to all workers,” said Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia Phinney (IBEW) in a statement from the state labor federation.  

“This is a historic union victory at the largest hospital in northern New England," Phinney continued. “We hope other health care workers in Maine will become inspired and organize together to win a voice in their workplaces.”

For over a year, Maine Med RNs have been speaking out against inadequate staffing, overscheduling, a lack of adequate meal and break relief, and inappropriate staffing assignments, among other workplace concerns. 

When it became clear in January 2020 that the nurses at MMC would be heading toward a union election, Maine AFL-CIO Organizing Director Sarah Bigney McCabe leaped the action to garner as much community support as possible.

“We realized pretty quickly how this would be a historic opportunity for workers in Maine,” McCabe said. 

McCabe worked to form the Facebook group “Friends of Maine Med Nurses,” which gained more than 4,500 members who have been using it as a tool to share stories, photos and encouragement throughout the campaign. 

“The energy in the group just immediately took over, it was like wildfire and you couldn’t stop it,” McCabe said. 

Another great aspect of community support during the campaign came from state elected officials, especially from Senate President Troy Jackson and House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, who both spoke out against the hospital’s choice to vaccinate out-of-state union-busting consultants in January ahead of the hospital nurses.

“This hospital serves our entire state—all four corners,” McCabe said. “If you have a serious surgery or injury, you go to this hospital. We want the nurses to have a good staffing ratio, to be well taken care for, because the nurses are such advocates for their patients. That’s why so many people—nurses, patients, union members, felt a stake in this.”

Due to COVID-19 safety restrictions, MMC nurses did not have any in-person rallies. Alternatively, the Maine AFL-CIO worked with the campaign to produce lawn signs and window posters. 

“The lawn sign became the hottest-ticket item in Maine,” McCabe said. Throughout the campaign, union members and leaders from the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Fire Fighters (IAFF) and several other unions came together to help distribute lawn signs as well as door-knock at homes and apartment buildings near the Maine Medical Center. According to McCabe, the nurses were overjoyed to see the solidarity from neighboring buildings as they commuted into work. 

“The statewide support that we received on this campaign was unbelievable,” McCabe said. “When we can all come together on these drives and support them, it’s for the better. Here in Maine, we stick together, we have each other’s back. All of our affiliates came out in support of the nurses, and the next time they have a campaign, we’ll be out there for them.” 

And next stop for the Maine AFL-CIO? 

“Passing the PRO Act,” said McCabe.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 05/04/2021 - 12:40

18 Important Things You Need to Know from the 2021 Death on the Job Report

Tue, 05/04/2021 - 07:40
18 Important Things You Need to Know from the 2021 Death on the Job Report

For the 30th year, the AFL-CIO has produced the 2021 edition of Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect report on the state of safety and health protections for America’s working families. Since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 50 years ago, federal job safety agencies have issued many important regulations on safety hazards, strengthened enforcement and expanded worker rights. The toll of workplace injury, illness and death remains too high, and too many workers remain at serious risk. There is much more work to be done.

Here are 18 important things from the 2021 Death on the Job report you need to know. In 2019:

1. 275 U.S. workers, on average, died each day from hazardous working conditions.

2. 5,333 workers were killed on the job in the United States.

3. An estimated 95,000 workers died from occupational diseases.

4. The overall job fatality rate was 3.5 per 100,000 workers, the same as the previous year.

5. Latino and Black worker fatalities increased; these workers are at greater risk of dying on the job than all workers.

6. Employers reported nearly 3.5 million work-related injuries and illnesses.

7. Musculoskeletal disorders continue to make up the largest portion (30%) of work-related injuries and illnesses.

8. Underreporting is widespread—the true toll of work-related injuries and illnesses is 7.0 million to 10.5 million each year.

9. States with the highest fatality rates in 2019 were: Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana and West Virginia.

10. Industries with the highest fatality rates in 2019 were: agriculture, forestry, and fishing and hunting; mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction; transportation and warehousing; construction; and wholesale trade.

11. America’s workplaces have been a primary source of COVID-19 outbreaks, with thousands of workers infected and dying. However, workplace infection and outbreak information is limited because there is no national surveillance system.

12. Workplace violence deaths increased to 841 in 2019, while more than 30,000 violence-related lost-time injuries were reported.

13. Workplace violence is the third-leading cause of workplace death. There were 454 worker deaths that were workplace homicides.

14. Women workers are at greater risk of violence than men; they suffered two-thirds of the lost-time injuries related to workplace violence, and were five times more likely to be killed by a relative or domestic partner in the workplace than men.

15. Deaths among all Latino workers increased in 2019: 1,088 deaths, compared with 961 in 2018. Some 66% of those who died were immigrants.

16. The Black worker fatality rate of 3.6 per 100,000 workers continues to be higher than the national average. In 2019, 634 Black workers died on the job—the highest number in more than two decades.

17. Workers 65 or older have nearly three times the risk of dying on the job as other workers, with a fatality rate of 9.4 per 100,000 workers in 2019.

18. The cost of job injuries and illnesses is enormous—estimated at $250 billion to $330 billion a year.

There is a lot we can do to address these numbers, which are much too high. Read the full report to learn more about the solutions.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 05/04/2021 - 09:40

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Texas Labor Movement Speaks Out Against Voter Suppression Laws

Tue, 05/04/2021 - 06:29
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Texas Labor Movement Speaks Out Against Voter Suppression Laws

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

Union members and labor leaders from across the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation gathered to denounce efforts to pass oppressive voter suppression laws in the Texas Legislature, standing across the street from the site of Houston’s first sit-in in 1960.

Voter suppression bills under consideration in the Legislature are squarely aimed at counties such as Harris and Fort Bend with majority Black and Latinx populations that have worked to expand voting rights during the pandemic. Instead of focusing on solving problems such as our failing energy grid, big-government conservatives are working to disenfranchise people of color and take away power from the local officials who ran the safest, most secure election in Texas history.

The Texas labor movement is united in opposition to H.B. 6, S.B. 7 and all efforts to suppress the right to vote.

Participants in the event included leaders from Communications Workers of America (CWA) District 6, Transport Workers (TWU) Local 260, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) Gulf Coast, Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) Local 129, CWA Local 6222, Teamsters Local 988, United Steelworkers (USW) Local 13-1, Machinists (IAM) District 141, IAM Local Lodge 811, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) Council 42, Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 51, and Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 88.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 05/04/2021 - 08:29

Tags: Community Service, COVID-19

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Profiles: Lucela Watson

Tue, 05/04/2021 - 06:27
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Profiles: Lucela Watson

For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this year, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights in the U.S. Today's profile is Lucela Watson.

Lucela Watson is a porter at Excalibur and has been a member of Culinary Workers Union-UNITE HERE Local 226 since 2015. “Being a Culinary Union member has changed my life and my family’s lives,” Watson said. “For me, job security is the most important part of being a member. Without a job, you cannot survive. My daughter is in the Philippines, and I am working on bringing her here to Las Vegas to be with me. But because I have a union job, I can support her in ways I couldn’t before. I have rights at work, job security, health care and, when I retire, I will have a pension. I love being a Culinary Union member!"

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 05/04/2021 - 08:27

Empower Workers and Protect Rights: The Working People Weekly List

Mon, 05/03/2021 - 08:00
Empower Workers and Protect Rights: The Working People Weekly List

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.

Pass the PRO Act to Empower Workers, Protect Rights: "The United States Senate should pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), five human rights and labor groups said today in releasing a question-and-answer document about the issue. The Senate should seize on a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle rampant economic inequality by empowering workers and building a more just and human rights-based economy."

Organized Labor Puts Heat on Democratic Holdouts to Support PRO Act: "Senators who haven’t yet voiced support for the Protecting the Right to Organize Act might soon hear from more constituents on the matter. The AFL-CIO labor federation says it’s spending seven figures on television and radio ads aimed at bolstering Senate support for the PRO Act, which would make it easier for workers to join unions. The ads will run in Arizona, Virginia and West Virginia―states with moderate Democratic senators whose support, or lack of it, could determine the bill’s fate."

Unions Applaud Biden OSHA for Advancing COVID Safety Standard to Protect Workers: "'Make no mistake, an emergency OSHA standard will save lives,' AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in response to the move. 'We're grateful for the Department of Labor's work in getting the standard to this point, and we urge swift issuance of the rule.' 'Strong enforceable standards that require employers to develop workplace COVID-19 safety plans, implement science-based protection measures, train workers, and report outbreaks are necessary for reducing infections and deaths, and beating this virus,' Trumka continued."

Biden to Raise the Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors to $15, Giving Roughly 390,000 Workers a Pay Bump: "'This is a victory for working people across the country, but we can’t stop fighting until everyone has the same guarantee,' John Weber, AFL-CIO spokesperson tells CNBC Make It in a statement. 'Building a just recovery means giving workers a fair return on our hard work and finally raising the federal minimum wage to $15.'"

Biden Names Former AFL-CIO Official Celeste Drake as 'Made in America' Director: "President Joe Biden on Tuesday named Celeste Drake, a former AFL-CIO official, as the first 'Director of Made in America' at the Office of Management and Budget. The White House said in a statement that Drake would shape federal procurement policy, to help carry out Biden's vision for a future 'made in all of America by all of America's workers.' One of Biden's early executive orders as president tightened 'Buy American' rules in government procurement. Drake joins the administration from the Directors Guild of America and was the trade and globalization policy specialist for the AFL-CIO."

President Biden Will Promote Unions Through a White House Task Force: "President Biden will sign an executive order on Monday creating a task force to promote labor organizing, according to a White House fact sheet. The task force, to be led by Vice President Kamala Harris and populated by cabinet officials and top White House advisers, will issue recommendations on how the federal government can use existing authority to help workers join labor unions and bargain collectively. It will also recommend new policies aimed at achieving these goals."

Labor Experts: The Power of Unions Could Be Rising Again: "Steven Tolman, the president of the AFL-CIO of Massachusetts, an umbrella union group, has seen unions’ longtime challenges firsthand. The former state senator was a railroad worker in the early 1970s, and he said he watched as businesses’ increasingly hardline stances toward unions became more common. Today, he said, unions remain critical for their ability to improve the lives of their working members. 'We are the only ones able to fight inequality,' Tolman said. 'If you have a union, you have the right to stand up against injustice, the right to advocate for safer working conditions, and most importantly, the right to good wages.' A bill, the Protecting the Right to Organize, or PRO, Act, would limit employers’ ability to stand in the way of union organizing and strengthen the government’s powers to punish companies violating workers’ rights. It faces a daunting challenge in the Senate, but experts nonetheless see a shift in place."

President Trumka Talks Infrastructure and PRO Act: "AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka joined Bloomberg Radio to discuss the importance of passing the PRO Act and a complete infrastructure package."

What This Workers Memorial Day Needs: "[Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill] Londrigan said it is undeniable that OSHA has greatly improved worker safety and health for all workers. 'Indeed, multiple studies bear out the fact that union workplaces have been far safer because unions provide a voice on the job where workers can join with management to address workplace hazards and implement solutions jointly.' Added Londrigan: 'Recognizing the linkage between worker safety and strong trade unions is another critical reason for Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. For the past 50 years, trade unions and our members have been under constant attack from anti-union multinational corporations and politicians bankrolled by big business.'"

It’s All Too Easy for Employers to Interfere in Union Elections: "Earlier this month, we saw a more prominent example of this phenomenon, when workers at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, voted by more than 2 to 1 against joining a union. (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) It followed several other high-profile organizing defeats in recent years, including autoworkers at Volkswagen in Tennessee and Nissan in Mississippi, as well as Boeing employees in South Carolina."

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/03/2021 - 10:00

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Profiles: Tina Chen

Mon, 05/03/2021 - 07:00
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Profiles: Tina Chen

For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this year, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights in the United States. Today's profile is Tina Chen.

Tina Chen serves as secretary-treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 2 in San Francisco. Chen is a first-generation immigrant from China who first joined the labor movement as a hotel housekeeper. She has helped lead victorious campaigns in San Francisco for good jobs, affordable health care and respect for a diverse workforce.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/03/2021 - 09:00

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Honoring the Fallen Workers at the Foundation Food Group Poultry Plant on Workers Memorial Day

Mon, 05/03/2021 - 06:37
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Honoring the Fallen Workers at the Foundation Food Group Poultry Plant on Workers Memorial Day

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

The Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council was joined by GA Familias Unidas, Sur Legal Collaborative, Atlanta Jobs with Justice, and the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health for a vigil in Gainesville, Georgia, to commemorate the workers of Foundation Food Group who have died. Last Wednesday marked the three-month anniversary when six workers lost their lives during a deadly nitrogen leak at the plant.

“This is a crisis across Georgia,” said Executive Director Sandra Williams (RWDSU-UFCW) of the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council. “The figures from the [U.S.] Bureau of Labor Statistics show a 15% increase in deaths from workplace trauma from 2015 to 2019, and we mourn over 207 Georgians who died in work incidents in 2019, that’s not accounting for the pandemic’s toll on the lives of working people.”

In coming together to remember the fallen workers of Georgia, we urge our elected officials to support the PRO Act, a piece of legislation that will expand protection for workers in multiple industries by expanding coverage under the Fair Labor Standards Act and protecting workers’ rights to form unions, and we demand the White House and [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration] to stop delaying the emergency temporary standard to make COVID safety guidelines specific and mandatory.

Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council President James Williams (IBEW) added:

January’s tragedy at Foundation Food Group should have been prevented, and those workers should be with us here today. All workers have the right to be safe on the job. Wednesday’s event in Gainesville for Workers Memorial Day was both to mourn those we have lost, but also to reaffirm that we are going to keep fighting like hell for the living.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/03/2021 - 08:37

Tags: Community Service, COVID-19

In Honor of International Workers' Day, We Must Pass the PRO Act

Sat, 05/01/2021 - 07:00
In Honor of International Workers' Day, We Must Pass the PRO Act

May 1 is International Workers' Day, a symbolic time to conclude our PRO Act National Week of Action. To mark the occasion, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) sends the following message:

Every year on May Day, working people and our unions across the country and around the world take action to show that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. All working people are entitled to living wages, basic rights and dignity on the job—regardless of where we were born, what language we speak and what faith we practice. This International Workers’ Day, we are rising up and calling on senators to immediately pass the PRO Act and immigration reforms that will ensure all workers can join together to demand rights at work.

To fix the systems that have failed working families, we must be united across borders. Together, we can rewrite the rules of the global economy and ensure that workers are no longer treated like disposable commodities. America’s unions are fiercely committed to transforming the lives of working people through bold, structural changes that remove all barriers to the right to organize. In order to build worker power to lift standards in our workplaces, we must finally enact meaningful immigration and labor law reforms.

This includes the protection of and expansion of civil rights. The right to vote, and the right to have that vote accurately counted, is a fundamental building block of democracy and one of the most important ways for working people to express our voices. Just as it is important to fight for fairness in the workplace, it's also important that working people can vote for candidates who will work on our behalf. Protecting every working person's right to vote is a critical part of any labor reform effort.

As we mobilize this May Day, America’s labor movement and our allies are engaged in a full-scale, national campaign to win a long overdue path to citizenship and pass the PRO Act, which would give the tens of millions of workers who want to form a union a fair path to do so. There is much more we need to do to ensure all people are able to live and work safely and with dignity, which is why we are fighting for our right to join together and demand changes to the rules of our rigged system. We will continue to mobilize to demand reforms that uplift the standards and rights of all workers, with no exclusions.

Kenneth Quinnell Sat, 05/01/2021 - 09:00

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: What Solidarity Means to the NFLPA and the Labor Movement

Thu, 04/29/2021 - 07:47
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: What Solidarity Means to the NFLPA and the Labor Movement

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

Solidarity is about teamwork, togetherness and toughness in the face of adversity. “Anytime someone asks our men to become less of a man, less of a person merely because they put on the uniform, I’d rather they not wear that uniform,” said NFL Players Association (NFLPA) Executive Director DeMaurice Smith (pictured above). “Why should our members not see an inextricable line that goes between what they are doing when they take a knee on the sideline to what men and women have done for hundreds of years, standing up for what they think is right?” Watch this new video from the AFL-CIO and the NFLPA about what solidarity means to our unions. And hear from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA), NFLPA President JC Tretter and others as they discuss the connections between the affiliated unions of the AFL-CIO.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 04/29/2021 - 09:47

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

5 Ways the PRO Act Will Help Address Systemic Racism

Thu, 04/29/2021 - 07:30
5 Ways the PRO Act Will Help Address Systemic Racism

Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) and Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (Va.) have introduced the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which restores the right of workers to freely and fairly form a union and bargain together for changes in the workplace. The PRO Act is landmark worker empowerment, civil rights and economic stimulus legislation and an essential part of any plan to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. The provisions of the PRO Act will help all working families, but in particular, the PRO Act will help address systemic racism.

Here are five ways it does that:

1. The union advantage is greater for Black, Latino, women, immigrant, LGBTQ and other workers who have experienced workplace discrimination. Black, Latino and women workers are paid 13.7%, 20.1% and 5.8% more, respectively, when they belong to a union. Union contracts pay women and men the same for doing the same job. You cannot be fired for your sexual orientation or gender identity under a union contract.

2. The latest research shows that the rapid growth of unions in the 20th century dramatically reduced inequality by extending the union advantage to more workers, particularly lower-income workers and Black workers, while at the same time raising standards for nonunion workers across entire industries. Growing today’s labor movement is the only policy that has the scale necessary to take us off our current trajectory of ever-growing inequality. Without it, broadly shared prosperity that extends to most working people has virtually no chance.

3. Another consequence of declining worker power and economic failure is that more and more people lose confidence in the system as a whole. To restore that confidence and strengthen our democracy, we need to make the economy work for working people. The more our democracy functions properly, the more of a voice Black, Latino, women, immigrant, LGBTQ and other workers will have.

4. A union contract is the single best tool we have to close racial and gender wage gaps, and to ensure dignity and fair treatment for all workers, regardless of where we were born, who we are, or what industry we work in. More than 65% of union members are either women or people of color, and Black workers are the most likely of any demographic group to be union members (13.5%). The decline of unionization has played a significant role in the expansion of the racial wage gap over the past four decades, and an increase in unionization would help reverse this trend.

5. The PRO Act would reduce inequality, ensuring that workers share in the benefits of future economic growth and the rising productivity that will be fueled by technology, and give workers a say in how technology is deployed in the workplace. The PRO Act also includes specific provisions to correct trends that may be troubling in the future such as employers washing their hands of responsibility toward the workers who make them profitable. 

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 04/29/2021 - 09:30

Tags: PRO Act

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Ohio AFL-CIO Calls on Business to Pay Fair Share to Repair Ohio Unemployment Compensation System

Thu, 04/29/2021 - 07:00
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Ohio AFL-CIO Calls on Business to Pay Fair Share to Repair Ohio Unemployment Compensation System

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

For the past decade, Ohio Republicans have yet to fix Ohio's broken unemployment system. Last week, Governor Mike DeWine has called on the legislature to tackle the issue, but rather than adjust the corporate taxable wage base to be in alignment with the national average (which is lower than any of Ohio’s neighboring states), the business lobby is calling on Republican legislators to limit eligibility and cut needed benefits to workers.

In an interview with WCBE’s Andy Chow, Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga (USW) said, “When you look at how front-line workers have put their health on the line to get us through this pandemic, I think we’re going to see an opportunity where the employers will understand that they need to step up and just do the average with what the rest of the country is doing to help move the system into a solvency place.”

In the interview, the business community believes workers should take a decrease in benefits. Burga disagrees, saying Ohio has a long history of extending a helping hand to workers laid off through no fault of their own, and this gives our state a competitive workforce advantage.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 04/29/2021 - 09:00

Tags: Community Service, COVID-19

On Workers' Memorial Day, Ask Your Senator to Vote 'Yes' on the PRO Act

Wed, 04/28/2021 - 08:15
On Workers' Memorial Day, Ask Your Senator to Vote 'Yes' on the PRO Act

On Workers Memorial Day, we remember those who have suffered and died on the job. We have lost and continue to lose too many working people to COVID-19 and other workplace hazards. No one should die simply because we go to work.

Under the law, every employer is responsible for providing a safe workplace. But each year, thousands of people are killed and millions more get sick or are injured from preventable workplace hazards. And after this past year, it’s painfully clear that too many corporate interests just don’t care about worker safety, even during a global pandemic.

Throughout this crisis, unions and our allies stepped into action. We held state and local leaders accountable to enforce the law. We won protections for members, including personal protective equipment, ventilation and training.

Unions are, and will always be, working people coming together to demand safer working conditions. To honor those we’ve lost, we’ll keep fighting on their behalf. That’s why we built our PRO Act National Week of Action around Workers Memorial Day.

We need to ensure that future generations will always have a strong voice in the workplace. That every worker has the tools to demand safer working conditions. Worker safety and worker voice go hand in hand. And that’s why on this Workers Memorial Day, we are asking our senators to vote YES on the PRO Act.

Today, we remember. Today, we act.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/28/2021 - 10:15

Tags: PRO Act

The PRO Act: Worker Safety and Worker Voice

Wed, 04/28/2021 - 08:00
The PRO Act: Worker Safety and Worker Voice

Fifty years ago today, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) went into effect, promising every worker the right to a safe job. The law was won in 1970 because of the tireless efforts of the labor movement and allies, who drew major attention to work-related deaths, disease and injuries, organized for safer working conditions and demanded action from their government. Since then, unions and our allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality—winning protections that have made jobs safer and saved lives. But there is much to be done before the promise to keep all workers safe on the job, during the pandemic and beyond, can be fulfilled.

Worker safety and worker voice go hand in hand. And as we grow our movement, we must use those voices to advocate for a strong workplace safety agenda. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the weaknesses in the OSH Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Association’s capabilities to ensure workers are protected on the job and in structural failures that have prevented workers’ from organizing in our workplaces to demand safer working conditions.

The pandemic also highlighted the inextricable link between workplace safety and health and the safety and health of the community. Public health cannot begin to be addressed without attending to the needs and safety of workers on the job. The disproportionate impacts on people of color, widely represented in the essential workforce—health care, food supply, transit, grocery, corrections—has been devastating. Since the beginning of the pandemic, unions have won protections in states and held state and local leaders accountable. We demanded access to the ventilation, personal protective equipment and other measures to protect workers from inhaling the virus at work.

Today, the unions of the AFL-CIO observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job, and to renew the fight for safe jobs. We come together this year to call for action to protect workers from COVID-19 at work and stronger job safety and health protections and enforcement. We will organize to pass the PRO Act, so workers have a right to form a union and have a voice on the job. We will fight for the right of every worker to a safe job until that promise is fulfilled.

As we grieve those we have lost from COVID-19 and other workplace hazards, we must fight and continue to push forward. We must:

  • Pass the PRO Act to ensure workers have safe jobs and the right to freely form a union without employer interference or intimidation.
  • Pass the Protecting America’s Workers Act to provide OSHA protection to the millions of workers without it, stronger criminal and civil penalties for companies that seriously violate job safety laws and improved anti-retaliation protections.
  • Ensure that all workers have the necessary protections from COVID-19 at work.
  • Win new protections on workplace violence, silica exposure in mining, heat illness, exposure to asbestos and other toxic chemicals, and other hazards.
  • Defend hard-won safety and health protections and workers’ rights from attacks.
  • Increase the job safety budgets and improve job safety enforcement.
  • Increase efforts to protect the safety and health of Black, Latino and immigrant workers who are disproportionately affected and especially targeted for speaking up against unsafe working conditions.

Call your senators today at 866-832-1560 and urge them to pass the PRO Act.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/28/2021 - 10:00

Tags: PRO Act

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: 700-Plus Events During Nationwide PRO Act Week of Action

Wed, 04/28/2021 - 07:33
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: 700-Plus Events During Nationwide PRO Act Week of Action

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

This week, the AFL-CIO is leading the PRO Act Week of Action, part of the labor movement’s national campaign urging senators to pass this transformative legislation. The groundswell of support for the bill has been building since it passed the House in early March, with 572 events already occurring. Throughout this week, more than 700 events and actions in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico are scheduled.

Events range from socially distanced mobilizations and teach-ins to worksite leafleting, Senate call-in days and actions highlighting the critical role unions play in workplace safety on Workers Memorial Day, April 28. On Monday in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, officers from the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and the Harrisburg Region Central Labor Council gathered for a workers’ memorial event. State federation President Richard Bloomingdale (AFSCME) helped lead participants in calling for passage of the PRO Act and tossing a wreath into the Susquehanna River in memory of workers who have died on the job this past year.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/28/2021 - 09:33

Tags: Community Service, COVID-19, PRO Act

Just the Facts: Freelance Journalists, Creative Professionals and the PRO Act

Tue, 04/27/2021 - 08:02
Just the Facts: Freelance Journalists, Creative Professionals and the PRO Act

President Joe Biden is ready to sign the PRO Act into law if it gets through the Senate to his desk. Our labor laws are outdated and no longer protect our right to form and join unions. The PRO Act is the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression. Stronger unions mean higher wages, safer working conditions and dignity for all people who work. Passing the PRO Act will be our first step in getting there. 

The PRO Act will help all workers, including freelancers. Here are some common questions about how the PRO Act will affect freelancers and our answers.

I hear that the PRO Act would cause freelance journalists and creative professionals to lose work. Is this true?

No. Corporate interests are waging a misinformation campaign against the PRO Act. The only way the PRO Act could possibly affect freelance journalists or creative professionals is that it might allow them to join a union and engage in collective bargaining, but only if they choose to. Those not wanting to organize a union or engage in collective action would be unaffected. The PRO Act would not stop freelance journalists or creative professionals from continuing to do freelance work.

So what does the PRO Act’s ABC test do then?

The “ABC test” in the PRO Act is used to determine who qualifies for protection under federal law if and when they choose to engage in collective action, organize a union or bargain collectively.

So is the PRO Act the same as A.B. 5 in California?

No. A.B. 5 in California redefines who is an “employee” under a broad range of state employment laws. The PRO Act does not touch any of those laws. The PRO Act only affects the federal law that governs private sector unions.

Would the PRO Act force the company for which I do freelancing work to hire me as a W-2 employee?

No. The PRO Act does not affect any of the laws that typically determine whether someone is hired as a W-2 employee, most notably tax law, but also minimum wage, overtime, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, etc.

Would the PRO Act outlaw independent contracting or gig work, or make freelancing work contracts illegal?

Absolutely not. Nothing in the PRO Act outlaws any kind of work arrangement.

Shouldn’t we just drop the ABC test from the PRO Act to avoid potential problems?

No. The ABC test is an absolutely essential part of the PRO Act. It is critical because employers often try to stop their workers from organizing a union by falsely claiming that the workers are independent contractors. The ABC test protects the rights of those workers to engage in collective action and organize a union.

Call your senators today at 866-832-1560 and urge them to pass the PRO Act.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 04/27/2021 - 10:02

Tags: PRO Act

Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Alexandria Passes First Collective Bargaining Ordinance in Virginia

Tue, 04/27/2021 - 07:35
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Alexandria Passes First Collective Bargaining Ordinance in Virginia

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

The city of Alexandria on Saturday, April 17, became the first jurisdiction in the commonwealth of Virginia to pass a collective bargaining ordinance. The Alexandria City Council unanimously passed a collective bargaining ordinance expanding the rights of city workers. The ordinance gives city employees the right to bargain about most workplace issues, including pay, benefits, grievances and other disputes.

“[This is] a big win for labor,” AFSCME District Council 20 Executive Director Robert Hollingsworth told “Union City Radio,” the Metropolitan Washington (D.C.) Council’s radio show. “On behalf of the thousands of AFSCME Council 20 public employees, we commend the mayor and city council for hearing our concerns. And we look forward to working with them on an ordinance that serves as the leading example for cities and counties across the commonwealth.”

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 04/27/2021 - 09:35

Tags: Community Service, COVID-19

13 Ways the PRO Act Helps Working People

Mon, 04/26/2021 - 08:00
13 Ways the PRO Act Helps Working People

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act is a generational opportunity and the cornerstone of the AFL-CIO’s Workers First Agenda. It motivated working people this past election cycle to mobilize for a pro-worker trifecta in the U.S. House, Senate and White House. And working people won a mandate. The PRO Act was introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) and Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (Va.), and it is landmark worker empowerment, civil rights and economic stimulus legislation, and an essential part of any plan to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.

Here are 13 ways that the PRO Act helps working people:

1. Strengthens employees' bargaining rights: The PRO Act adopts new procedures to make sure unions can reach a first contract. To achieve this, it requires: collective bargaining to begin within 10 days of a certified union’s request to do so; mediation if no contract is reached within 90 days; and mandatory arbitration of a two-year contract if no contract is reached through mediation.

2. Holds corporations accountable: By strengthening the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and allowing it to penalize employers who retaliate against working people in support of the union or collective bargaining. The problem is that our basic labor law, which is supposed to protect the rights of workers to form a union and bargain collectively, is broken. In recent decades, employers have been able to violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) with impunity. An entire union-busting industry now works nonstop to block working people from exercising our rights. Today, in more than 40% of all union organizing elections, employers are charged with breaking the law. They lie. They threaten and coerce. They routinely fire union supporters. Workers are forced to attend mandatory meetings with one item on the agenda: union-bashing. These messages of fear and intimidation come from the very people who control our paychecks, how much time we can spend with our families and whether we will have a job tomorrow. And the penalties for employers that engage in this illegal behavior are inconsequential. The PRO Act is the answer because it would fix many of these problems.

3. Increases wages: When union membership is greater, our wages are better. Between 1948 and 1973, when New Deal era laws expanded and enforced collective bargaining, hourly wages rose by more than 90%. But over the next 40 years—from 1973 to 2013—hourly wages rose by just over 9% while productivity increased 74%. As it is, workers are not getting paid a fair share of what we produce. Another expansion of collective bargaining would lead to a similar increase in wages.

4. Increases workplace safety: The COVID-19 pandemic has shown once again that belonging to a union can literally be the difference between life and death on the job, especially for workers of color and women who are disproportionately essential workers and have been more likely to lose life, health and employment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Increasing the power of working people to collectively bargain increases wages and would help close wage gaps that have persisted for decades.

5. Addresses inequality: The latest research shows that the rapid growth of unions in the 20th century dramatically reduced inequality by extending the union advantage to more workers, particularly lower-income workers and Black workers, while at the same time raising standards for nonunion workers across entire industries. Growing today’s labor movement is the only policy that has the scale necessary to take us off our current trajectory of ever-growing inequality. Without it, broadly shared prosperity that extends to most working people has virtually no chance.

6. Expands civil rights: The PRO Act is more than labor law reform, it’s civil rights legislation. A union contract is the single best tool we have to close racial and gender wage gaps, and to ensure dignity and due process for workers, regardless of where we were born, who we are or what industry we work in. Removing barriers to organizing and bargaining is important for all workers, especially those who have been marginalized. Expanding collective bargaining will increase protections for women, people of color, immigrants and the LGBTQ community in areas where our laws are still falling short. We need the PRO Act to promote racial justice and eradicate all kinds of discrimination. More than 65% of union members are either women or people of color, and Black workers are the most likely of any demographic group to be union members (13.5%). The decline of unionization has played a significant role in the expansion of the racial wage gap over the past four decades, and an increase in unionization would help reverse this trend.

7. Protects collective action and removes barriers to worker voice: The PRO Act ensures that employers cannot: fire and permanently replace workers who are on strike; lock out, suspend or withhold work from employees to stop them from striking; tell employees that they are independent contractors when they are actually employees; force employees to attend anti-union messaging meetings; change work conditions, pay or benefits while negotiating a union contract; force employees to waive their right to collective and class legal action; or prohibit employees from using work computers for collective action. It also empowers employees to stand in solidarity with other workers through efforts like picketing, striking or boycotting; protects strikes of any duration, scope or frequency; requires employers to notify each new employee of their rights under the NLRA and to post those rights in the workplace; and allows unions to collect fees to cover the expenses of collective bargaining, regardless of state “right to work” laws.

8. Modernizes the union election and enforcement processes: The PRO Act requires employers to provide contact information for all relevant employees before the union elections take place and allows union elections to take place by mail, electronically, or at a convenient location; keeps employers from intervening in administrative hearings on union representation; ensures workers can form commonsense bargaining units; requires the NLRB to order the employer to bargain if the union wins the election, or if the employer interferes with the election and a majority of employees have already designated the union as their desired bargaining representative; pauses union elections when unfair labor practice charges are filed; requires the NLRB to seek a U.S. District Court injunction when employers may have unlawfully fired workers or otherwise interfered with their rights under the NLRA; and makes NLRB orders self-enforcing and appealable within 30 days. It also ensures new elections do not take place if: the union and employer are still bargaining; the employer voluntarily recognized the union; the union and successor employer are just starting to bargain; the time window for filing a petition has closed.

9. Ensures most workers are included under NLRA protections: The PRO Act amends the definition of employer so that entities that control material aspects of employees’ work are actually at the bargaining table. It also adopts a clear test to determine employee status so that workers are not misclassified as independent contractors and therefore unable to organize. It narrows the definition of supervisor so that employees who make routine, commonsense workplace decisions are not excluded from their unions. And it guarantees that workers are eligible for recovery regardless of immigration status.

10. Repeals "right to work" laws: The PRO Act would repeal right to work laws, which are divisive and racist laws created during the Jim Crow era that lead to lower wages, fewer benefits and more dangerous workplaces.

11. Helps fix the economy: The result of growing inequality and a shrinking middle class is an economy that does not work because the vast majority of people lack the incomes or the economic security to consume or invest. Economists are increasingly recognizing that inequality stunts economic growth. We need to grow the labor movement to rebalance the economy, which will be good for growth.

12. Helps fix our democracy: Another consequence of declining worker power and economic failure is that more and more people lose confidence in the system as a whole. To restore that confidence and strengthen our democracy, we need to make the economy work for working people.

13. Gives working people a real say in our future: The PRO Act would reduce inequality, ensuring that workers share in the benefits of future economic growth and the rising productivity that will be fueled by technology, and give workers a say in how technology is deployed in the workplace. The PRO Act also includes specific provisions to correct trends that may be troubling in the future such as employers washing their hands of responsibility toward the workers who make them profitable.

Call your senators today at 866-832-1560 and urge them to pass the PRO Act.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/26/2021 - 10:00

Tags: PRO Act

Stop Workplace Violence: The Working People Weekly List

Mon, 04/26/2021 - 07:47
Stop Workplace Violence: The Working People Weekly List

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.

Bill to Protect Health Care Workers Against Violent Workplace Attacks Passes the House: "'The pandemic of workplace violence has actually been going on for decades, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exasperated it,' said Bonnie Castillo, a registered nurse and executive director of National Nurses United."

AFL-CIO President Discusses the Energy Outlook Under the Biden Administration: "Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President, joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss the 'Green Economy' under President Biden."

Why The PRO-Act Is Key To Racial Justice And Economic Democracy: "The initial results for RWDSU’s high profile organizing drive at an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama demonstrate the extent that labor laws favor employers during unionization efforts.  The historic campaign also illustrates the struggles that working class people of color face in achieving economic justice in the fast growing fulfilment and logistics sector. And more presciently, the campaign highlights the need for better legal protections for such workers seeking to unionize, namely passage of The PRO-Act. In a video press conference on April 9, RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum recognized the efforts of the Bessemer workers while pointing out, 'The results demonstrate the powerful impact of employer intimidation and interference. Amazon misled and tried to manipulate workers. They took full advantage of terrible labor laws.'"

Union Appeals Amazon Election in Alabama, Says Company Violated Laws: "In objections filed with the National Labor Relations Board, attorneys representing Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union allege that Amazon intimidated and threatened employees into voting against unionizing. The union cited meetings that the company held with workers and a mailbox installed outside of the warehouse. More than 70% of workers who cast ballots in the election voted against joining the RWDSU. 'Amazon knew full well that unless they did everything they possibly could, even illegal activity, their workers would have continued supporting the union,' RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum has said. 'We demand a comprehensive investigation over Amazon’s behavior in corrupting this election.'"

King Backs PRO Act After Campaign by Labor, Advocacy Groups: "After a campaign by organized labor and advocacy groups, Sen. Angus King is supporting legislation that would expand the ability of workers to organize a union and pursue collective bargaining.  King’s communications director Matthew Felling confirmed in an email that the Maine independent, who caucuses with the Democrats, is co-sponsoring the Protecting the Right to Organize Act—also known as the PRO Act. The legislation passed the House in March with support from Maine U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden. Andy O’Brien, communications director of the Maine AFL-CIO, said the bill would essentially address policies, such as the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, that over the years have whittled away at workers’ ability to form a union and negotiate a first contract. 'It’s a really exciting time right now because you’ve got so many workers who are organizing and trying to form unions, but unfortunately laws allow for rampant union-busting, so this bill would be really the strongest pro-labor legislation since the New Deal if it passes' he said."

Manchin Throws Support Behind Union-Backed PRO Act: "Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Monday threw his support behind the PRO Act, union-backed legislation to promote labor organizing. The PRO Act would block 'right to work' laws, which allow people who benefit from union representation to opt out of membership and paying dues, and impose tougher restrictions on companies seeking to prevent unionization efforts. It passed in the House last month in a narrow, party-line vote of 225-206, with just five GOP members supporting it and one Democrat voting against."

SEC Chief Gary Gensler Picks Top Labor Union Official for Policy Role: "Gary Gensler, the new chief of the Securities and Exchange Commission, on Monday tapped a labor-union investment official as his policy director, raising expectations that the agency will embrace progressive policy goals. Gensler, who was sworn in on Saturday, picked Heather Slavkin Corzo for the top policy role in his office. The hire suggests Gensler will tackle issues such as stricter corporate disclosures related to climate-change risks and companies’ spending to influence politics. Corzo has worked as director of capital markets policy at the AFL-CIO and as head of U.S. policy at the Principles for Responsible Investment, a group of asset owners that incorporates environmental, social and governance considerations into their holdings."

The Technology 202: The Tech Industry is Fighting a Bill Making it Easier for Its Workers to Organize: "Liz Shuler, the AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer, said in an interview she has 'no doubt' the union push would have been successful if the Pro Act were in place because it might have deterred Amazon from allegedly intimidating workers. 'Right now if Amazon breaks the law, it's like a slap on the wrist,' Shuler said. 'There's really no downside to breaking the law time and time again to intimidate people.… The Pro Act would reverse course on that.'"

Unionization After Amazon: "Amazon workers in the company’s Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse last week voted overwhelmingly not to join a union. This happened despite tales from inside Amazon warehouses across the country of grueling work conditions and little time for bathroom breaks. Labor and management nationwide have been watching this situation closely for what it might mean for the union effort in other states. One of those watchers is Connecticut AFL-CIO president Sal Luciano. He joined Connecticut Public Radio’s All Things Considered to share his thoughts on why this unionization effort failed and what that means for the future of unions."

Freight Trains in the U.S. Are a Disaster Waiting to Happen: "Freight trains in the U.S. are crashing more often, and people in the industry are worried about what comes next. VICE News' Motherboard looks into how the industry got here."

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/26/2021 - 09:47

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