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Updated: 2 hours 42 min ago

New Legislation in Kentucky Would Slash Unemployment Insurance; Take Action Now to Stop It!

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 08:20
A devastating legislative bill has been filed to dramatically lower unemployment insurance benefits in Kentucky.   The Republican majorities in Frankfort filed simultaneous bills, HB-317 and SB-171, backed by Governor Bevin, that would cause union members who work under a union referral procedure to suffer a 32% cut in unemployment benefits. Every other Kentuckian would suffer up to a 40% cut in unemployment benefits.    The attacks on Kentucky’s working families continue as these bills would lower the unemployment weekly benefit by 11.5% and cut off benefits at 20 weeks instead of 26 weeks.   You can read more about how these bills would leave Kentuckians stranded in this report from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy here: https://kypolicy.org/new-bills-would-slash-unemployment-insurance-and-leave-kentuckians-stranded/.   TAKE ACTION NOW Share this information with fellow union members and urge them to call 1-844-641-3862 to tell their Legislator to VOTE NO on HB-317 and SB-171.  

USW's Garza among delegation to offer solidarity to striking Mexican workers

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 10:56

This article is courtesy of the AFL-CIO.

A delegation of union leaders from the national AFL-CIO, the Texas AFL-CIO, the UAW and the United Steelworkers (USW) traveled to Matamoros, Mexico, last week to support tens of thousands of factory workers who have launched a wave of strikes to demand wage increases and democratic control of their unions.

Since Jan. 25, at least 48 factories that produce auto parts and other goods for export to the United States have signed agreements to increase wages by 20% and pay a bonus of 32,000 pesos (about $1,750). This is a huge victory for the workers, most of whom make around $2 per hour. In the past week, the strike wave has spread beyond the factories to supermarkets and other employers, with all the workers demanding "20/32." The leaders of the Matamoros unions, which historically have been close to the employers, were forced to endorse the workers’ demands.

The delegation visited the picket line at Advanced Scientifics, a subsidiary of Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher Scientifics, which produces medical supplies. Some 70 workers have been camped outside the plant 24 hours a day in near-freezing temperatures.

"It’s heartbreaking to see workers who make life-saving equipment treated with so little respect," said USW District 13 Director Ruben Garza. "This is what happens when we sign trade agreements like [the North American Free Trade Ageement] that have no real protections for workers’ rights."

While the wage increase and bonus are a huge victory, the employers and the Confederation of Mexican Workers unions are striking back already. In the past week, as many as 2,000 strike leaders have been fired and blacklisted, despite legal prohibitions and non-reprisal agreements signed by the employers. The U.S. delegation met with fired leaders from several factories who are planning a public protest to demand reinstatement. Here are their testimonies:

  • "We were told we were fired because we offended the company."
  • "The union never helped us, they deceived us. So we had to put our own courage on the line to confront them."
  • "We need to be firm. I have a family, too. My greatest wish is that justice is served. I don’t want just a salary, I want justice!"

"These workers—many of whom are working mothers—are fighting for the pay they’re owed, for better working conditions and for respect on the job," said Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Montserrat Garibay. "They are using their voices, and it is time to listen. The Mexican and U.S. governments must both demand that these U.S. companies honor their agreements and stop firing and blacklisting these courageous workers."

 

DeWALT recalls drills due to shock hazard

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 10:37

From the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission:

Name of product:
DEWALT DWD110 and DWD112 drills

Hazard:
The drill’s wiring can contact internal moving parts, posing a shock hazard.

Remedy:
Repair

Recall date:
February 5, 2019

Units:
About 122,000 (in addition, about 8,000 were sold in Canada)

Photo left: Recalled drill, the DWD110 and DWD112 drills are similar in appearance. Consumers should check the label to determine their specific drill.

Photo right: Recalled DWD112 Drill showing location of model number and date code. The date code pictured is not within the recall range.

Photos courtesy of www.cpsc.gov.

For more information regarding the recall, click here.

Accreditation Organization Issues Advisory on De-escalating Patient Aggression

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 09:23

Citing the increasing violence against health care workers, the Joint Commission, a health care accreditation organization, last month issued a “Quick Safety” advisory, offering suggestions to help de-escalate aggression in patients and keep workers safe.

Though the Joint Commission acknowledges that there is no single model that has proven to be completely effective, it offers tactics that can help increase communication and maintain the safety of staff and patients.   Interventions for defusing aggression include engaging in risk assessments for early intervention, implementing environmental controls such as minimizing loud conversations, calmly responding to patients’ requests to foster a sense of trust, as well as setting clear limits with patients.    There also needs to be a commitment from senior management, according to the Joint Commission, which should include giving staff adequate training and resources.   To read the “Quick Safety” advisory, click here.

Pension Benefits Are Not Only Critical to Retirees but to the Overall Economy

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 08:20

Retiree pension benefit spending generated $1.2 trillion in total economic output in 2016, supporting 7.5 million jobs across the United States, according to a recent report by the National Institute on Retirement Security.

The most substantial effects on employment occurred in the health care, real estate, food services, and retail trade sectors.

When a retiree maintains a steady income, the whole community thrives. This is especially true for lower-income areas and areas fraught with higher-than-average unemployment. It is not just a drop in the bucket, either. Each dollar of defined benefit pensions contributes more than double, $2.13, back to the economy.

Pension spending added a total of $202.6 billion to government treasuries since retirees paid taxes at the federal, state and local levels on their benefits and purchases in 2016. Virtually every state and local economy across the country gains when retirees spend their pension benefits.

That spending also provides stability in the face of economic downturn. This is most noticeable in rural areas with less economic diversification.

Our unions are crucial in the fight to maintain and improve pension benefits for workers around the country. We defend these earned benefits because no one who has worked hard, in some cases for over forty years, deserves to live in poverty.

The Alliance’s defense of traditional pension benefits is particularly important as we experience a rising life expectancy and longer periods of retirement. Our current retirees, our future retirees, and their communities all depend on them.

Robert Roach, Jr. is president of the Alliance for Retired Americans. He was previously General Secretary-Treasurer of the IAMAW. For more information, visit www.retiredamericans.org.

February Update from SOAR Director Julie Stein

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 10:21
Election Results Already Paying Dividends for Working Families

From taking swift action to expand healthcare access to more Americans, to leading the charge to protect Social Security, lawmakers who were backed by our union during the 2018 election campaign have quickly taken up the fight for working families in states all across America.

“Healthcare is for everyone, not just the well to do,” said Janet Mills, the USW’s endorsed candidate and now-Governor of Maine during her inaugural address. Mills signed ‘Executive Order 1’ during her first day in office in an effort to remedy the state’s opioid crisis by expanding health insurance to more than 70,000 Mainers who were previously unable to access care.

In addition to expanding healthcare, Mills was the obvious best choice for working families based on her commitment to grow the middle class by defending workplace rights and supporting laws that encourage job creation and investments in infrastructure.

In Michigan, where an anti-union “Right to Work” law was forced through the state legislature and signed by the former Governor Rick Snyder in 2013, our union worked hard to help elect Gretchen Whitmer, who was a staunch ally of workers during her years in the Michigan State Senate. Reversing the anti-union “Right to Work” law will be difficult because Governor Whitmer’s pro-worker allies are in the minority in the state legislature. However, Whitmer has already taken a number of steps to improve life for working families, including signing a series of Executive Directives aimed at ensuring fair pay, strengthening workplace protections for state employees, and rein in employers who attempt to deny workers quality healthcare and other benefits through job misclassification and unfair contracting practices.

While progress in the federal government has been stymied by the longest partial shutdown in history, some of our union’s most trusted allies in the United States Senate, namely Sherrod Brown (OH), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Bernie Sanders (VT) and Elizabeth Warren (MA), have formed the Expand Social Security Caucus. Joining them in this effort are more than 150 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Conor Lamb (PA-17), whom our union strongly supported in a March 2018 special election to fill a vacant seat. Lamb also had the USW’s backing in November when redistricting forced him to run against another incumbent member of Congress who had voted consistently to weaken work protections and retirement security.

With less than one month into the 116th Congress and the legislative sessions in state governments across the country, the hard work of USW members in the 2018 election campaigns is already paying dividends for retirees and working families.

Sources:

Julie Stein
SOAR Director

February Update from SOAR President Bill Pienta

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 10:15
SOAR More Important Than Ever

Recently USW members in Massachusetts ended a six-month lockout at National Grid with pensions being one of the major issues. The company did not want to continue providing a defined-benefit pension plan for new hires. This scenario is becoming a more common issue affecting current and future retirees, as more often than not, despite skyrocketing profits, companies no longer want to provide benefits to their retirees – even after all their years of hard work and dedicated service.

I did some research on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website to gather some information to better understand where this country stands on pensions. I was surprised to find out that according to the BLS in 2017 only 15 percent of private-sector workers participated in a defined-benefit pension plan and only 50 percent participated in ANY workplace retirement plan. Those numbers go up to 23 percent and 54 percent when you include state and local government workers. These numbers also show a continuing pattern of employers freezing or terminating defined-benefit pension plans for workers.

I raise this issue to bring the importance of preserving and improving what is for many, the primary source of income in retirement, Social Security. We in SOAR have been fighting for improvement in the way Social Security is funded by removing the cap on earnings and making sure any attempt to reduce benefits is met with strong resistance.

Many of us in SOAR have less to worry about than the present generation of workers; unfortunately, the possibility of a comfortable retirement is no sure thing for them. That is why it is more important than ever before that the present workforce, if they haven’t already done so, consider the formation of a SOAR chapter in their area. The continued attack on retirement security must be confronted by those presently in SOAR and those who look forward to retirement in their future.

SOAR Coordinators and Executive Board members must make themselves available to local unions in their area and let them know how important and valuable a SOAR chapter can be to them.

This year let’s all make an effort to grow and improve SOAR in your respective areas and Districts.

Source: https://www.bls.gov.

Bill Pienta
SOAR President

En español:

SOAR más importante que nunca

Recientemente, los miembros del USW en Massachusetts pusieron fin a un cierre de seis meses por parte de la empresa National Grid, y las pensiones son uno de los principales problemas. La compañía no quería continuar brindando un plan de pensión de beneficios definidos para las nuevas contratistas o empleados. Este escenario se está convirtiendo en un problema más común que afecta a los jubilados actuales y futuros, ya que la mayoría de las veces, a pesar de las estupendo crecientes ganancias, las empresas ya no quieren proporcionar beneficios a sus jubilados, incluso después de todos sus años de trabajo duro y servicio dedicado.

Hice una investigación en el sitio web de la Oficina de Estadísticas Laborales (BLS) para recopilar información para comprender mejor en qué situación se encuentra este país sobre las pensiones. Me sorprendió descubrir que, conforme el BLS en 2017, solo el 15 por ciento de los trabajadores del sector privado participaban en un plan de pensiones de prestaciones definidas y el 50 por ciento de los cuales participaba en CUALQUIER plan de retiro en el lugar de trabajo. Esos números aumentan al 23 por ciento y al 54 por ciento cuando se incluyen trabajadores de gobiernos estatales y locales. Estos números también muestran un patrón continuo de empleadores que congelan o terminan los planes de pensión de beneficios definidos para los trabajadores.

Presento este problema para resaltar la importancia de conservar y mejorar lo que para muchos es la principal fuente de ingresos en la jubilación, el Seguro Social. En SOAR hemos estado luchando por mejorar la forma en que se financia el Seguro Social eliminando el límite de ganancias y asegurándonos de que cualquier intento de reducir los beneficios encuentre una fuerte resistencia.

Muchos de nosotros en SOAR tenemos menos de qué preocuparnos que la generación actual de trabajadores; desafortunadamente, la posibilidad de una jubilación cómoda no es algo seguro para ellos. Por eso es más importante que nunca que la fuerza laboral actual, si aún no lo ha hecho, considere la información de un capítulo de SOAR en su área. El ataque continuo a la seguridad de jubilación debe ser confrontado por aquellos que están actualmente en SOAR y aquellos que esperan jubilarse en su futuro.

Los coordinadores de SOAR y los miembros de la Junta Ejecutiva deben estar disponibles para los sindicatos locales en su área y hacerles saber cuán importante y valioso puede ser para ellos un capítulo de SOAR.

Este año, hagamos un esfuerzo para crecer y mejorar SOAR en sus respectivas áreas y distritos.

Fuente: https://www.bls.gov

Bill Pienta
presidente de SOAR

Literally giving voice to the voiceless

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 09:44

Seven-year-old Tyler can sing a beautiful rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Jacob tells hilarious jokes. 

Both shined Tuesday at an event at United Steelworkers headquarters where they shared their voices – voices they did not always have – to help promote Variety the Children’s Charity. The charity helps children who otherwise could not speak get communication devices that use technology to produce words. The charity also provides adaptive bikes and strollers.

They were joined by USW International President Leo W. Gerard, who called on the state of Pennsylvania to explore ways to make the devices available to more families who need them. 

The USW has sponsored several devices and adaptive bikes through Variety, and Gerard has helped spearhead major fund-raising for the charity. Children of USW members have been among the recipients.

“The difference we can make for these children, to be able to help families and help young men and women have a pathway to a better life is very rewarding, and what we as Steelworkers believe in,” Gerard said. 

Variety Chief Executive Officer Charles LaVallee and others spoke about the importance of allowing children to communicate, such as when they are in pain, what they like to eat or even simple, “good mornings.” 

“Think of how many conversations you’ve already had today,” LaVallee said. “How many I love yous you’ve shared. We want these children to have that opportunity.”

Tyler Winfield was non-verbal because of a developmental delay until he received his iPad two years ago. The union paid for the device, which allows users to tap on photos and icons to form sentences until children are able to spell out sentences on the keyboard. 

Once he received his device, Tyler literally found his own voice and now can speak without the iPad. At Tuesday’s event, Tyler used his own voice to sing to LaVallee, who was celebrating his birthday. The performance brought many to tears. 

Between the iPad, case, apps and support, each costs about $1,200, which Variety funds through donations from individuals and organizations like our union. 

Variety also provides adaptive bikes, customized for children's disabilities, and strollers intended to help families move around with a child where a wheelchair would be too cumbersome. 

Jacob Buchheit has both a stroller and a speaking device, which he used to share a Pittsburgh-friendly joke: “Why should you date a girl from Philadelphia?” he asked. “Because she’ll never expect a ring,” he finished, drawing laughter from the audience.

Jacob’s mother, Eileen, said hearing her son’s voice has been life-changing for everyone.

“Finding a place for Jacob took us years. Now, he is in an adult care program. He can communicate. He has ‘Joke Thursdays.’ Now he is a part of something,” she said. “Without Variety and this device, he would have never been included, and that’s everything to me.” 

 

 

Health Care Activists Advocate Universal Pharmacare on Parliament Hill

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 09:48

More than 100 public health care advocates, including members of the United Steelworkers, visited MPs on Parliament Hill last week to push for universal public pharmacare.  

While Canada has universal health care, this currently does not include prescription medications, with levels of drug coverage varying across the country. This patchwork system leaves many Canadians paying out of pocket for prescription drugs.   Nearly one in four Canadians reported that they or someone in their household did not take their medications as prescribed in the past 12 months because of cost, according to information distributed by the Canadian Department of Finance in June 2018. An estimated one million Canadians were forced to cut back on food or heating in order to afford prescription medications.   Momentum has been building for universal prescription drug coverage. The federal government appointed an advisory council last year to research options for how to implement such a system. It is due to receive the final report in spring 2019.  Pharmacare will be an issue in the Canadian federal election, scheduled for October 2019.   Activists scheduled more than 100 meetings with MPs and other officials on Jan. 29 to advocate for national pharmacare that meets five core principles: that it be comprehensive, affordable, accessible, publicly funded and publicly administered.   To read more about the lobbying effort, click here and here.

USW Staff Surprise SOAR Member at Ceremony Honoring Community Service

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 09:31

At the USW's ceremony last December honoring the 2018 USW Jefferson Award winners, International staff and district directors surprised Marc Scott, the USW 2018 Champion Volunteer from Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees, with a donation of more than 200 young adult books for his program "Olivia's Books."

Last year, Scott won a National Jefferson Award for starting the Olivia Scott Foundation in honor of his 17-year-old daughter who passed away from cancer. One of the Foundation's projects, “Olivia’s Books,” gives books to teens receiving treatment at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh.

International and district staff members purchased brand-new books from an Amazon wish list full of popular titles from the young adult genre to donate to Scott’s program. Ceremony attendees, including Vice-President at Large Carol Landry, Vice-President of Human Affairs Fred Redmond, the 2018 USW Jefferson Award winners and district directors, wrote “care cards,” tucked bookmarks into the books, and wrapped each one with a bow before USW President Leo W. Gerard announced the gift to Scott as he was accepting his award from District 10 Director Robert McAuliffe and SOAR Director Julie Stein.

Olivia’s Books is one of many programs the Olivia Scott Foundation runs in order to support young patients and their families as they go through life-threatening or life-altering illness or trauma.

If you would like to donate a book to the Olivia Scott Foundation, you can purchase off the USW Cares - Olivia’s Books wish list on Amazon and have your donation sent directly to USW New Media (which will deliver the books to Marc Scott): http://usw.to/OliviasBooks.

SOAR Executive Board Member Reacts to Government Shutdown

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 11:34

The partial shutdown of the federal government was a major attack on Unions and the working class. The shutdown affected 25 percent of the federal government. More than 400,000 federal workers were effectively locked out; furloughed without pay. Another 400,000 are engaged in compulsory labor without pay.

The population, as a whole, was affected by delays in income tax refunds and other federal stipends. Over and above that, the disruption of air travel, as payless paydays drive air traffic controllers and airport security screeners from their jobs, as well as the loss of many other services.

A partial government shutdown led to financial stress for federal workers. National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) President Tony Reardon stated, “I’ve been dismayed and frankly angered by suggestions that they shouldn’t have financial concern.”

American Federal Government Employees (AFGE) President J. David Cox Sr. said in a statement, “Our members put their lives on the line to keep our country safe. Requiring them to work without pay is nothing short of inhumane.”

Finally, on January 10, in a letter sent to Washington D.C. leaders about the shutdown of the United States government, USW Int’l President Leo W. Gerard made the following statement. “On behalf of the 850,000 members of the United Steelworkers (USW) and in solidarity with the more than 800,000 workers impacted by this unnecessary shutdown in nine of fifteen federal departments, I urge you to reach an agreement that will allow critical agencies to conduct the necessary tasks to move our economy forward.”

The shutdown, which is the longest in American history, ended January 25 as a result of a temporary spending bill that was signed into law. It restores operations of the affected federal agencies and opened the way to paying the 800,000 federal workers who had been furloughed or forced to work without pay for 35 days. The government will only remain open until February 15, and so there could be another shutdown fight in a few weeks.

Steelworkers Respond to Alarming Study on Health Care Worker Poverty

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 06:56

A striking number of female health care workers in the United States earn less than $15 per hour, leaving 1.7 million of them and their families living in poverty, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH).

Researchers Katheryn Himmelstein and Atheendar Venkataramani found that this economic vulnerability had serious repercussions for the industry and recommended raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour as one solution.

Mandy Hartz, USW health care coordinator, and Mike Wright, director of the USW’s Health, Safety and Environment Department, offered another remedy to help health care workers: unionization.

In a response to the Himmelstein study, also published in the AJPH, Hartz and Wright explain that a collective bargaining agreement offers some of the best protections against the racial and gender disparities between health care workers and provides a means to stop the overall devaluation of health care work.

“Full-time union health care workers in community and social service occupations earn $221 more per week; personal care and service occupations earn $135 more per week; and health care practitioner and technical occupations earn $128  more per week than their non-union counterparts,” write Hartz and Wright.

“In addition, collective bargaining agreements go well beyond wage rates with provisions for retirement security, paid sick days, maternity leave, vacations, holidays, and rational promotion based on training, skill and seniority,” write Hartz and Wright. “Most importantly, union workers are more likely to be covered by employer-provided health insurance and to enjoy greater employer contributions towards that insurance.”

Unions also fight for safer working conditions, which is a particularly pressing concern for health care workers, who suffer one of the highest rates of nonfatal injury and illness of any occupation.

To read the original study “Economic Vulnerability Among U.S. Female Health Care Workers: Potential Impact of a $15-per-Hour Minimum Wage,” click here.

To read Hartz and Wright’s response “In Demand and Undervalued—The Plight of American Health Care Workers,” click here.

30,000 Factory Workers in Matamoros, Mexico Demand Fair Wages and Democratic Unions

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 12:27

Since January 12, approximately 30,000 workers from 45 autoparts and other manufacturing plants in the city of Matamoros (on the Mexico-US border opposite Brownsville, Texas) have joined work stoppages and demonstrations to demand a general wage increase of 20% and a bonus of 32,000 pesos (US $1600).

The workers have also called for the resignation of the leaders of the two unions that control most of the collective bargaining agreements in Matamoros – the Sindicato de Jornaleros y Obreros Industriales y de La Industria Maquiladora (SJOIIM) and the Sindicato de Trabajadores en Plantas Maquiladoras y Ensambladoras de Matamoros (SITPMEM). Both of these unions are affiliated to the pro-employer Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM)

The protests were triggered by the 100% increase of the Federal minimum wage in the border zone effective January 1, from 88.36 pesos (US $4.50) per day to 176.72 pesos ($9.00) per day. This caused employers to raise the wages of workers who were earning less than the new minimum; however, workers who were making more than the minimum got no increase. The SJOIIM filed a legal strike notice (emplazamiento) for January 25, but the union leadership has remained silent about the negotiations. 

Unlike most border cities, Matamoros has a history of active unionism. Under the leadership of Agapito González in the early 1980s, the SJOIIM won wages significantly higher than other maquiladora workers and contract language requiring increases in the federal minimum to be passed on to all workers, not just those receiving less than the minimum, maintaining the existing contractual differentials. This language still exists in many SJOIIM contracts, and it is what the workers are demanding: raises for all the workers, not just those at the bottom of the pay scale.

The Tamaulipas government, controlled by the right-wing PAN party, has issued a warning to the workers threatening sanctions against of those who participate in the “illegal” work stoppages. There are reports that 25 workers at the Cepillos de Matamoros factory were fired for this reason.

The Federal government has made no statements about the work stoppages. The local employer association has asserted that the work stoppages have cost its members $100 million in lost production and has predicted that factories will relocate to other cities if the protests continue.

There has been no coverage so far in mainstream English language media. Within Mexico, the workers have received solidarity from the National Mine and Steelworkers’ Union - Los Mineros – led by Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, which represents two plants in Matamoros. Los Mineros, along with the USW and UNITE in the UK and Ireland, make up the global union Workers Uniting.

It is unclear whether the stoppages have had any impact on auto assembly or other plants in the U.S. Within Mexico, there have been similar walkouts at a few factories in Tamaulipas, specifically Aptiv (formerly Delphi) in Ciudad Victoria and Reynosa, Kemet in Ciudad Victoria, and three plants in Sonora (IGB, Levolor, and Stewart Connector Systems) – but no other widespread work stoppages.

Tamara Lefcowitz Appointed New HCWC Coordinator

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 07:33

The Health Care Workers’ Council (HCWC) will soon be under the guidance of a new coordinator. Effective Feb. 5, Tamara Lefcowitz will be taking over for Mandy Hartz in working with the USW’s health care locals.

“Our health care workers’ council is making outstanding strides in bargaining strong contracts, organizing new units, and strengthening the bonds of solidarity across the sector,” said International President Leo W. Gerard. “We are confident that Tamara will help the council continue to flourish.”

Lefcowitz, who will be based at the International headquarters in Pittsburgh, has ten years of experience working with health care locals.

In addition to extensive work in organizing, she also led the fight against several efforts to privatize government-owned, not-for-profit nursing homes and chaired bargaining committees to negotiate non-concessionary agreements where privatization occurred.

“I’m incredibly proud of everything the health care workers’ council has accomplished,” said Hartz, “and I feel privileged to have been able to work with so many amazing union activists, who are also unbelievably talented, dedicated health care professionals. The council’s future is bright.”

In the past ten years, health care has become one of the USW’s fastest growing sectors, and the union has bargained industry-setting contracts for thousands of workers.

“Mandy did amazing work, and we’re all grateful for her energy, her enthusiasm and her devotion to the success of the council,” said International Vice President Fred Redmond, who oversees bargaining in the health care sector. “We wish her all the best moving forward.”

Health Care Workers Council Welcomes 120 New Members

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 08:47

The Health Care Workers Council (HCWC) will soon be welcoming 120 new members as the result of successful organizing drives at two Alberta retirement homes.

Workers at Chartwell St. Albert Retirement Residence, who work as LPNs, aides, dietary technicians, and more, received their union certification last month after overwhelming support for the organizing effort.

Recent changes to the province’s labor code, instituted by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP, allowed them to bypass a union election by collecting cards from more than 65 percent of the unit. 

Workers at another Chartwell residence in Sherwood Park, Alberta, did the same last week.

Health care organizers

The new members will join Local 1-207, which now has 11 health care units.

Local 1-207 President Ray White credits the speed and success of both drives to the two organizers on the ground, both of whom are health care workers. 

“The difference between these two drives and ones in the past is that here the organizers were health care workers. Maybe they didn’t know as much about organizing as others, but they know the industry,” White said.

“They speak health care. They know the acronyms,” said White. “They also know the issues facing people at work and can empathize because they’ve lived it.”

Workers at both facilities intend to bargain to improve wages and working conditions, White said, particularly focusing on concerns over scheduling and seniority.

Alberta law requires the two sides to meet within 30 days after the union certificate is issued.

USW letter regarding shutdown of U.S. government

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 12:27

Click here to download a printable version of this letter. 

USW International President Leo W. Gerard this week sent a letter to Washington, D.C., leaders about the shutdown of the United States government. Text of the letter is as follows:

President Trump, Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, and Leader McCarthy:

On behalf of the 850,000 members of the United Steelworkers (USW) and in solidarity with the more than 800,000 workers impacted by this unnecessary shutdown in nine of fifteen federal departments, I urge you to reach an agreement that will allow critical agencies to conduct the necessary tasks to move our economy forward.

In addition to the significant economic impact this shutdown is having on workers and families across this country, our union is deeply concerned with the erosion of our trade enforcement regime with the idling of the Department of Commerce’s (DOC) International Trade Administration (ITA) and the International Trade Commission (ITC).

Oversight of the implementation of the steel and aluminum 232 relief measures, including the exclusion process, has effectively halted. Our union, a strong supporter of 232 relief to protect our economic and defense security, is concerned that inadequate staffing is undermining the relief. In order for tariff relief to work, our country needs effective oversight and DOC staff doing their job with pay.

Anti-dumping and countervailing duty trade cases have stalled because of the furlough of the ITC. USW members at Maxion in Ohio, a producer facing an onslaught of dumped and subsidized steel wheels from China, have seen their enforcement case get needlessly delayed.

Another trade enforcement case on Cast Iron Soil pipe from China also faces a delay next week if there is no resolution of the shutdown. Tyler Pipe a division of McWane in Tyler, Texas provides good family-sustaining jobs in a mostly rural part of East Texas. Our union. represents close to 300 workers at Tyler Pipe, and soil pipe is a critical product for the company. Continuing imports of unfairly traded products will only further jeopardize their jobs and the company’s viability.

Workers and their employers need their federal government to analyze and determine if dumped and subsidized goods are impacting their jobs and to take corrective action. Without the Enforcement and Compliance units working at the Department of Commerce and the ITC to determine the impact of imports on U.S. industries and direct actions against unfair trade practices, we allow unfair trade practices to continue and ravage domestic production and employment.

The ITC also is responsible for reviewing and submitting their report on the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA). The shutdown throws uncertainty on the timeliness of the report. While the union believes the ITC report is only one component of the evaluation process to ensure that the agreements is in the interest of working people, senseless delays only complicate the critical work needed to improve labor standards, stop outsourcing, and ensure our country does not make the same trade agreement mistakes again.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) furlough also delays project improvements in water systems. The Drinking Water and Clean water state revolving loan funds support thousands of jobs through the use of domestically-sourced iron and steel products in communities across the country that benefit from the program. These funds should be quickly deployed buying American pipe and employing workers throughout the supply chain of water infrastructure. Instead, EPA employees now worry about making rent, or filing unemployment benefits while workers who make the products that would be purchased with the funds these government employees oversee are facing pink slips and looking for other work.

Our union urges action to get the men and women working again at all impacted federal agencies. Government workers should not be pawns in a policy debate far removed from the day-to-day of their jobs, nor should Americans who rely on them pay the price for this political fight. End this senseless shutdown.

Sincerely,

Leo W. Gerard

International President

Union Hall Local Union Websites January & February Training Announcement

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 11:57

We're happy to announce the Union Hall training dates for January and February! Remember everyone who manages a Union Hall site must take level 1 training. Level 2 trainings are optional for those admins who would like help with advanced features.

Click a link to RSVP.

Union Hall Level 1 Training
Wed, Jan 16, 2019 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM EST
https://actionnetwork.org/events/jan-16-union-hall-basic-training/

Union Hall Level 2 Training
Thu, Jan 24, 2019 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM EST
https://actionnetwork.org/events/jan-24-union-hall-level-2-training/

Union Hall Level 1 Training
Mon, Jan 28, 2019 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM EST
https://actionnetwork.org/events/jan-28-union-hall-basic-training/

Union Hall Level 1 Training
Thu, Feb 7, 2019 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM EST
https://actionnetwork.org/events/feb-7-union-hall-basic-training/

Union Hall Level 2 Training
Mon, Feb 11, 2019 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM EST
https://actionnetwork.org/events/feb-11-union-hall-level-2-training/

Union Hall Level 1 Training
Fri, Feb 22, 2019 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM EST
https://actionnetwork.org/events/feb-22-union-hall-basic-training/

The case for unionizing doctors

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 11:17

Check out this article about why physicians should seriously consider joining unions. The article appeared in the December 2018 issue of the Minnesota Physician journal, which also includes an article written by health care members Dr. Emily Onello and Louise Curnow, PA-C about their experience organizing their union. 

***

“Hospital administrators easily manipulated physicians, treating them as if they were hired hands. Insurance companies were dealing with them as if they were employees. Government programs … controlled key aspects of doctors’ work, told them how much they would be paid, and what procedures they would be paid for.”

—Sanford A. Marcus, MD, founding physician of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (AFL-CIO)

Dr. Marcus’s reflection on why he spearheaded his physician’s union with the AFL-CIO in 1973 resonates today. As the health care industry has grown and consolidated into fewer large players, physicians face ever-increasing challenges to retain decision-making power over their schedules, their personal economics, and even their patient care practices. In the current environment of corporate mega-mergers, physicians are hired as employees, and pay is dictated by unstable and unfair reimbursement practices. It’s no wonder that as private practicing physicians and those employed by larger systems alike are struggling to meet their moral and professional obligation to deliver the best care to their patients, some are turning to organized labor to regain control over their professional environments.

“Large corporations are stripping physicians of professionalism and belittling our management role,” said Niran Al-Agba, MD and pediatrician in Washington State, who sees collaboration between unions and physicians as a path forward.

This diminished role in decision-making is taking a toll on our country’s physicians. According to this year’s edition of Medscape’s National Physician Burnout and Depression Report, an alarming 42 percent of respondents reported burnout, affecting physicians across a wide variety of specialties. The reasons for this turmoil run deep. The top seven factors cited by survey respondents: too many bureaucratic tasks such as charting and paperwork (56 percent); spending too many hours at work (39 percent); lack of respect from administrators/employees, colleagues, or staff (26 percent); increasing computerization of practice (24 percent); insufficient compensation (24 percent); lack of control/autonomy (21 percent); and feeling like just a cog in a wheel (20 percent).

Physicians won’t be surprised to see that 56 percent of their colleagues report having too many bureaucratic tasks like charting and paperwork, 39 percent think they spend too many hours at work, or 26 percent feel disrespected by employers and administrators. However, they may be surprised that solutions to these issues can be found in union contracts covering the wages, benefits, and working conditions of union physicians and other health care workers.

Niran Al-Agba, MD, ventured, “Physicians certainly qualify as an industry sector whose bargaining power has fallen below the value of their effort. That’s where a physicians’ union could come in.”

A labor union is a group of workers who come together to use their collective strength to achieve common objectives such as safer working conditions, higher pay and benefits, and decision-making power over the practices that govern their work. Generally speaking, individual employees—even those with exceptional educational and personal backgrounds, like physicians—have less bargaining power and fewer opportunities to negotiate and enforce fair working conditions than their union-represented counterparts.

Enforceable collective bargaining agreements

A collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is an agreement between a single employer and the union on behalf of a group of employees, or “bargaining unit.” The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which decided in 1974 that non-supervisory physicians were eligible to organize labor unions, determines and defines individual bargaining units by considering whether that group of employees has a “community of interest,” or common characteristics such as: skills and education; supervisors or human resources; and wages, benefits, and other terms of employment.

Once a majority of employees elects to form their union, leaders chosen by their physician peers bargain alongside professional union negotiators with hospital administrators in order to reach the terms and conditions of the CBA. In this way, frontline physicians identify the issues impacting their workplace and utilize their expertise to negotiate an agreement that is uniquely tailored to meet the needs of a particular group of health care professionals.

The unionized health professionals at Lake Superior Community Health Center (LSCHC), including physicians, went through this process when they joined the United Steelworkers Union in Minnesota. Emily Onello, MD, and Louise Curnow, PA-C, were strong advocates during the organizing campaign and served as frontline representatives on the bargaining committee, and entered union contract negotiations in 2013.

“We were already highly motivated to make improvements for our colleagues and patients,” said Curnow, “but knowing that it was illegal for the employer to retaliate against us for union activity gave us an extra boost.”

They worked with their fellow health care professionals (MDs, NPs, PAs, RNs, LICSWs) to bargain an agreement that addressed, among other things, a more fair pay system that better reflected the needs and insurance status of the clinic’s patient population and a scheduling system that recognized the negative effects on providers when the patient schedule overflows and provider admin time is minimal.

According to Curnow, “We were also able to have some small but meaningful impact on scheduling meetings during regular work hours and not during charting time, which provided us with better work-life balance.”

The ability of union physicians and practitioners at LSCHC to influence policies contrasts sharply with an experience earlier this year of Anh Le, MD, an internal medicine and pediatric trained physician practicing in California.

Without consulting physicians, Dr. Le’s employer implemented a new scheduling policy which, among other things, replaced already limited administrative time with additional patient visits. This is the time that “we often use to answer patient messages, review lab results, or even just to catch up on seeing patients,” Dr. Le said. Frustrated with the changes, she and her colleagues met with administration. Despite the well-reasoned data for why the new policy did not make sense for physicians or for patients, Dr. Le and her colleagues simply did not have the bargaining power to force administrators to adjust the policy.

If Dr. Le and her colleagues had been protected by a union contract, such a policy would have been a “mandatory subject of bargaining” under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the administration would have had to bargain with doctors before implementing a policy that so clearly changed their working conditions.

Dr. Le expands, “Physicians are highly driven and when we do not have enough time to achieve at the level we want to achieve for our patients, we burn out. If this trend continues, physicians are going to leave medicine.”

Beyond the bargaining table

The sphere of potential influence of physician unions extends far beyond the bargaining table and into state and federal governments, where lawmakers make many decisions impacting physicians. Long-established labor unions have proven programs with policy specialists, relationships with lawmakers, and grassroots mobilization capacity. Health care employers and industry associations already utilize their power to influence government. A formal relationship between physicians and unions could help reinstate physicians’ voices into debates about health care and advance pro-physician and pro-patient policies.

Private practice physicians

Since private practitioners, unlike physicians working for health care systems, are not employees, they are currently ineligible to organize unions under the NLRA. However, physicians in private practice could collaborate with unions on strategic initiatives.

One example of such collaboration might be for private practice physicians in a particular market to band together to negotiate with insurance companies for better reimbursement rates, as well as a procedure to challenge denied payments. In this scope, a partnership between a physician collective and unions could provide a necessary check to the unilateral power of insurance companies to deny reimbursement payments.

Unions as the future

Public support for unions is growing. According to a January 2017 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of Americans view unionization favorably, the highest indicators in more than a decade. 

The confluence of public support, physician burnout, and the fractured state of our country’s health care system could signal an approaching surge in organizing for physicians. Union organizers, negotiators, and policy experts stand at the ready. The next step is one physicians must take:

"We are already strong. We have resiliency, " says Dr. Le. "However, we are not used to standing up for ourselves. I would like to believe that if we could stand together, we would be better able to reclaim our positions as the drivers of healthcare delivery in this country.”

Individual physicians may be reluctant to consider unionization, perhaps out of fear of retaliation or a sense that such a move would be inconsistent with their professional status. At the same time, the law is clear on their rights to seek union status. For health care professionals concerned about preserving their ability to deliver optimal patient care, devote adequate time to exercise professional judgment, and practice to the top of their license in the face of consolidation or evolving reimbursement structures, unionization may be a path worth considering.

For a step-by-step guide on how to organize a union within your organization, see Figure 1.

Summary

As physicians face increasing challenges to retain decision-making power over their schedules, personal economics, and even patient care practices, forming unions is an effective way to regain professional and personal control. Standard collective bargaining agreements address the staffing, scheduling, financial, and quality-of-life issues that physicians commonly name as contributing factors to burnout. Long-established lobbying and policy programs within unions can also provide physicians with political access and power they need to reclaim their places as the primary decision makers in patient care policies.

There is a clear path forward for physicians who want to form unions.

Mandy Rae Hartz, MA, leads the United Steelworkers Health Care Workers Council, which coordinates collective bargaining, education, policy, and communications for more than 50,000 union health care workers in the United States and Canada. For more than a decade, Ms. Hartz has empowered union health care workers in a wide variety of professional settings to win and enforce market leading collective bargaining agreements. She believes health care workers know best the challenges—and solutions—to improving health care delivery and that building strong, patient care-focused unions is the most effective way for health care professionals to make meaningful advancements in their work and personal lives. She holds a master’s degree in political science from American University and is a graduate of the Trade Union Program at Harvard Law School.

Figure 1. A step-by-step guide to organize your union

1

Build Interest: Once physicians talk to their colleagues and conclude there is an interest among the group to form their union, they call the Organizing Department of a trusted labor union to assist building the organizing campaign.

2

Membership Organizing Campaign: Member leaders and union organizers speak with employees about their concerns regarding their working conditions and indicate their interest by signing “union authorization cards.”

3

Petition for Election: Once a majority of employees have completed authorization cards, union staff will contact the NLRB and file for an election. (The NLRB requires a minimum of 30 percent of employees to indicate interest before scheduling an election, but many unions require a stronger showing before moving forward).

4

NLRB Sets a Date for the Election: After verifying the 30 percent minimum interest, the NLRB will schedule an election.

5

NLRB Election: During the election, all employees in the bargaining unit have the opportunity to vote “Yes” to form their union or “No.” When a simple majority (50 percent + one) vote “Yes,” physicians have won their union. 

6

Frontline Physicians and Union Negotiators Prepare for Negotiations: Members of the unit choose their bargaining committee, set priorities, and write proposals to meet them. 

7

Negotiations for the First Contract: Negotiations begin when the union and employer trade proposals until they agree on a comprehensive “Tentative Agreement.”

8

Bargaining Unit Members Review and Vote: Members vote on the proposed contract. When a majority of the members vote to ratify the Agreement, the contract setting wages, benefits, and working conditions is implemented.

9

Ratification: After physicians ratify the contract, they become union members and begin paying dues

 

The Oilworker January 2019: Update from the NOBP Chair

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 11:16
FROM THE UNION NOBP Chair Update

I hope everyone had a joyous holiday and was able to spend some time with family and friends.

As we move closer to the expiration of many of our oil contracts I would ask everyone to remain focused on our everyday obligations at work. 

Many sites have begun discussions on local issues, and need to engage each other on what the pressing issues will encompass. Councils need to maintain communication with the member locals and be sure everyone is aligned throughout negotiations. There is power in unity and the best opportunity for a positive outcome will come from being united in our demands.

Bargaining on National Oil Bargaining Program (NOBP) issues will begin the middle of this month, and we will keep the membership informed on issues through communication from each NOBP region’s policy board member and text messages. Anyone who has not signed up for NOBP text messages can do so by texting ‘OIL’ to 47486.

The USW is looking to achieve an agreement that is beneficial to our members and is cognizant to the needs of our employers. Our members want to be engaged with managing the risks we face at work, and no one is better equipped to do that than the people who are in the units every day and night. Our members’ objective is to make sure that our employers’ facilities are operated in a manner that makes them as profitable as possible and ensures we have a place to continue working.

As we move through this month, watch for flyers and stickers to coincide with events related to the bargaining process. Talk with local leadership and fellow members to be sure everyone understands what is trying to be accomplished at the negotiating table. Remember, there is strength in unity. Happy 2019.

In Solidarity,

Kim Nibarger
NOBP Chair
knibarger@usw.org
(Office) 412-562-2403

IN THE NEWS Exxon Becomes Permian Drill Chief

Exxon Mobil Corp.’s low oil production figures prompted it to start drilling in the Permian Basin, the world’s premier shale field. Now, the company is the basin’s most active driller because it can obtain low-cost oil in months rather than the years required for megaprojects to start producing crude. Other oil companies are following suite. Exxon says its shale wells can make double-digit returns with oil at only $35 a barrel.

Click to read more on Rigzone.

The U.S. Oil Industry's Dirty Little Secret

A New York Times (NYT) investigation revealed that Marathon Petroleum engaged in a stealth public relations campaign to undermine U.S. fuel economy standards so that more fuel could be sold to the public. According to the NYT, Marathon teamed up with the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council to tell the public that there is plenty of American oil and no need for fuel standards.

However, as the author writes, record-breaking U.S. oil production did nothing to lower consumers’ gasoline costs in the third quarter of 2018, and eliminating fuel economy standards as a way to limit demand is self-destructive. Consumers will look for other alternatives—like electric cars.

Click to read more from oilprice.org. 

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Has your local organized a group of workers, won an award, participated in a community event, won an arbitration, helped achieve a legislative victory, settled a safety issue, etc.?

Please contact Lynne Hancock at lhancock@usw.org, (Office) 412-562-2442 or (cell) 615-828-6169.

Get bargaining updates via text! Text OIL to the phone number 47486.  

By opting-in, you agree to receive recurring messages from the USW; message and data rates may apply. To opt out, text STOP. For help, text HELP. Full terms and conditions at usw.org/text. No purchase necessary.

USW Local 134L & Farrel Corporation Toy Drive Helps Families in Connecticut Community

Wed, 01/02/2019 - 09:39

Members of USW Local Union 134L showed they have big hearts by facilitating a toy drive to benefit their local St. Vincent dePaul. John Kostick, Jesse Philippi and Tyrell Knighton coordinated the drive, helping raise more than $1,000 in donations and gifts that would go toward the organization's Derby Shelter. The donations helped 20 families and came from members of Local 134L, Unit 20, Farrel Corp. salary employees, and from the local which was matched by the company.

Click here to share your #USWCares story.

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