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Updated: 3 min 13 sec ago

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

San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council Launches Food Assistance Program

Mon, 04/20/2020 - 13:14
San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council Launches Food Assistance Program

Keith Maddox is the executive secretary-treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.

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.

Our ability to provide for our members would not be possible without the support of a number of our unions. A big thanks to Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 465, Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 122 and United Domestic Workers (UDW)/AFSCME Local 3930 for assigning staff to our labor council food distribution in the City Heights community in San Diego, including scheduling appointments. Our team is ordering food to support our City Heights food bank, for the Unions United-United Way of San Diego County food bank, and for UNITE HERE Local 30’s and IBEW Local 569’s distributions to their members. We have secured a steady stream of food product and have recently opened an Imperial Valley distribution site for our members.

Last week, for the fourth Saturday in a row a team of labor council volunteers joined in solidarity to provide food to more than 1,000 families in need. These distributions to the general public have been in partnership with Feeding San Diego and the San Diego Food Bank. A big shout out to the unions serving on our logistics committee—Ironworkers Local 229, the San Diego Education Association, UDW, Local 122, UFCW Local 135 and Local 569. They are leading this effort with our labor council staff to make sure our distributions run efficiently, and the safety of our volunteers is maintained. In addition, we have had a large turnout of over 100 volunteers each week willing to provide a helping hand, and we thank them all. 

I’d like to acknowledge both locals 30 and 122 for the effort they are making to support their impacted members. Both unions have essentially lost their entire memberships to layoffs. Many of these workers lost their jobs more than a month ago, due to conventions and major conferences canceling. They are hurting. Yet these two unions, with strong leadership and commitment, have assisted their members in filing unemployment claims, guiding them with utility and worker assistance processing, and making sure they are getting food for those most in need. This is a time that we all need to do our part to help these workers, and all of the other members who have lost their jobs and their paychecks!

FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR UNION MEMBER FOOD: Providing food for our union members impacted by this health and economic crisis requires a constant purchase of food. You can support our efforts by sending union contributions to the labor council’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit fund that is certified to receive and distribute food with both the San Diego Food Bank and Feeding San Diego. All funds received will go to providing food for our union members in the coming days and weeks. A big shout out to Local 135, AFT Local 1931, OPEIU Local 30, California Teachers Association and San Diego Gas & Electric for their contributions to a Partnership for a Better San Diego. We’ve also secured more than 110 online donations from individuals. 

UNIONS: Make checks out to A Partnership for a Better San Diego and mail or deliver to our labor council office. If you have questions, please contact Sandra Williams: swilliams@unionyes.org.

INDIVIDUAL DONORS: Send contributions by clicking: Union Member Relief Program.

FOOD DISTRIBUTION: All affiliated local unions have been provided a form to request assistance for their members. Please provide the labor council with names of those you wish to receive food. Once received, the labor council staff or staff from our member unions will call to set an appointment time. Food assistance is by appointment only. The Unions United food pantry is fully functional. You can contact its operation directly. You also will need to provide the information to schedule an appointment for food assistance.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/20/2020 - 15:14

Tags: COVID-19

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