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With New NAFTA Recommendations, Labor Leaders Outline ‘Bold, Necessary’ Changes to Trade

During a teleconference on Monday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, joined by USW President Leo Girard and CWA President Christopher Shelton, announced the AFL-CIO’s comprehensive recommendations for reworking NAFTA to benefit working people. Pointing to staggering job losses and flat wage growth, Trumka minced no words in calling current U.S. trade policy “a bipartisan disaster,” with NAFTA being a particularly egregious failure.

Donald Trump has been highly critical of NAFTA in the past, constantly decrying it on the campaign trail and appealing to the millions of working people whose livelihoods have been affected by the deal. “It’s no secret working people voted for Trump,” said Shelton, “largely because of the promises he made [on NAFTA].” Now that he is in office, labor leaders expect him to make good on those promises to rework the deal, or face the consequences.

If [the new deal] further rigs the rules for the wealthiest few, we will fight him,” Trumka warned. “And if he breaks his promise, workers will never forget it.”

In addition to the recommendations outlined by the AFL-CIO, Edward Wytkind, President of Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, released a statement calling for stronger protections for the transportation workforce, including prohibiting bus and truck traffic from Mexico that violates U.S. safety rules and requiring participating nations to make minimum investments in infrastructure.

Our trade agreements should be designed to put money in the pockets of America’s working families, not large, multi-national corporations or foreign governments,” said Wytkind.

However, leaders have made clear that the goal of this new framework is not to pit workers in different countries against each other. When asked whether there was a middle ground for protecting both U.S. and Mexican workers, Trumka answered, “Mexican and Canadian workers are not our enemy. It’s the trade agreements that are our enemy.”

Both Girard and Shelton agreed that trade agreements should not put workers against each other. Girard said in a closing statement,“It’s not one country’s workers against another’s, it’s all workers rising together.”  Shelton advocated for policies that raise wages and encourage collective bargaining specifically in Mexico.

One thing is certain: a few small tweaks will not fix NAFTA. The recommendations put forth by labor leaders are far-reaching, comprehensive and necessary in order to protect working people from further devastation. And labor leaders have made clear that they will not sit quietly if the administration’s changes are insufficient.

This is bigger than trade itself; it’s about the system of democracy,” said Trumka. “We’re gonna fight and fight hard so that workers can have a fair shot.”

Mine Workers and Graduate Workers Win Big Victories

(Washington, D.C., June 2, 2017) Graduate workers who earn low pay but do the same work as tenured professors are leading the charge to achieve equal pay and benefits on college campuses. These workers are not deterred by aggressive university administrators or archaic labor law—they are forging ahead. And they are just one of many groups of working people who understand that there’s power in numbers when working people come together. Here are some highlights of victories won:

Yale Graduate Students on Hunger Strike for Union Recognition

Yale University graduate teachers have been fasting since April 27 to bring the administration to the bargaining table with Local 33 UNITE HERE. The teaching assistants voted in February to join UNITE HERE, becoming the latest group of graduate students at private universities to unionize. The administration has failed to acknowledge the union and begin contract negotiations

UPenn Graduate Workers Vote to Join AFT

Graduate student workers at the University of Pennsylvania filed a petition May 30 to affiliate with the American Federation of Teachers. The unit could include as many as 2,300 teaching and research assistants. The organizing drive began in March, and students hope to negotiate together to address funding insecurity, health care benefits, family leave and inadequate mental health resources.

Northwestern University Nontenure-Faculty Union Vote Certified

Nontenure-track faculty members at Northwestern University are finally free to negotiate together after the National Labor Relations Board certified a July 2016 union election. The unit, organized under SEIU as Local 73, will include both full-time and part-time faculty.

Mine Workers Win Health Care Battle in Congress

Mine workers won the fight to secure health care for 22,600 retired coal miners, their dependents and widows in the 2017 congressional budget. This hard-fought victory was made possible by the thousands of United Mine Workers of America members and supporters who marched, rallied, made phone calls and wrote letters to their representatives.

Disney/ABC, AT&T, Cooling and Heating Workers Win Contract Fights
Communications Workers of America recently ratified several contracts that improved working conditions for its members. A deal was reached at Momentive Performance Materials in Waterford, N.Y., ending a 15-week strike. The 700 IUE-CWA members successfully fought back against management demands for drastic wage cuts and cuts to retiree benefits. At AT&T Southwest, 20,000 CWA telecom workers won an agreement that calls for AT&T to bring 3,000 new jobs, the majority of which now are offshore, to the five-state region. Also, 3,000 broadcast employees and technicians at Disney/ABC ratified a new contract, along with 3,000 technicians, customer service representatives and warehouse/administrative workers at DIRECTV, and 570 workers at New Flyer in St. Cloud, Minn., the country’s biggest bus manufacturer.

Thrillist Staff Joins Writers Guild of America, East
Ninety-five percent of Thrillist’s staff can negotiate together for more transparent communication from management, greater workplace diversity and better entry-level pay after voting to join the Writers Guild of America, East union. The 65 staff members include editorial, video and distribution workers.

IBEW Helps Rail-Car Construction Return to Chicago’s South Side
Electrical Workers members will account for the majority of full-time manufacturing employees when a new rail-car manufacturing facility opens on Chicago’s South Side in 2020. IBEW will represent about 110 of the plant’s 170 full-time manufacturing employees. Construction could provide work for another 150 members. The plant will construct up to 846 of the new 7000 series subway cars for the Chicago light-rail system.

NFLPA Welcomes New Players and Partnership
More than 250 new players guaranteed their right to negotiate together after joining the National Football League Players Association during the weekend of the NFL draft, April 27-29. At the NFLPA Debut event, the union hosted 50 of the top prospects to educate them about its mission and resources. NFLPA also announced a partnership with wearable device company WHOOP on April 24. Each player will receive a device so they can track and own their biometric data, including sleep, recovery and training, as a way to advance their safety and athletic performance.

BRS Welcomes Denver Transit Operators
Fifty-three workers from the Denver Transit Operators exercised their freedom to join together with the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen. The maintenance of way and dispatching department employees voted, by an overwhelming majority, to join the union. BRS will start working right away on an agreement that addresses many of the issues it learned of through the organizing meetings. A new local will be chartered for the DTO members. DTO is a private company with a 29-year contract to operate and maintain the new commuter rail system in and around Denver for Colorado’s Regional Transportation District.

Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO Says “Congress Should Reject The President’s Budget”

Washington, DC – Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement on the President’s budget released yesterday:

“President Trump contradicted his own calls for a $1 trillion investment in our infrastructure by releasing a budget yesterday that proposes significant cuts to critical transportation programs.

“Plain and simple, this budget would idle major infrastructure upgrades, saddle businesses with an aging and ineffective freight and passenger network, and ignore the needs of weary commuters and travelers. At the same time, this budget would impose severe and unwarranted cuts to vital programs that protect and support working people and their families.

“While the President’s budget vaguely commits $200 billion in new federal support for infrastructure, it simultaneously cuts $95 billion from the already financially stressed Highway Trust Fund. The budget slashes in half the Capital Investment Grant program, which supports critical transit and rail capital projects, service expansions and middle-class job creation. Most ominously, the budget also seems to end this entire program moving forward, effectively canceling 50 projects currently in the pipeline.

“The budget cuts Amtrak funding by 50 percent, despite the company’s continued popularity and ridership growth across all major business lines. It also drastically cuts the Maritime Security Program (MSP), which boosts the U.S.-flag sealift capacity of our Armed Forces during military and humanitarian missions, and supports thousands of skilled mariner jobs. The budget hollows out TIGER grants, which direct investments to multi-jurisdictional, multi-modal projects in both rural and urban communities. Furthermore, drastic cuts to the Essential Air Service Program proposed in this budget would harm rural and underserved communities that rely on subsidized air transportation services or face further isolation from the broader economy.

“It is also disturbing that the budget scapegoats active and retired federal employees. Slashing take-home pay, retirement and other benefits, and job security is a terrible way to treat the civil servants who care for our veterans, guard our borders, safeguard our security, support our military, and ensure our health.

“Congressional leaders and appropriators should reject this damaging spending proposal and should instead stay on the bipartisan path they chose in the FY 17 omnibus appropriations bill. We urge the President to work with Congress to fully fund a major expansion in infrastructure spending that puts millions to work.”


The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), provides a bold voice for workers in every mode of transportation and is devoted to protecting middle-class jobs, expanding collective bargaining and ensuring modern, safe and secure transportation operations and infrastructure. For more information visit us at www.ttd.org.

Income Inequality Grows As CEO Pay Jumps 6 Percent To 347 The Average Worker

Image courtesy of the AFL-CIO

A new report and searchable database from the AFL-CIO’s Executive Pay Watch highlights the lavish compensation executives receive while workers wage remain stagnant.

Income inequality has become one of the largest economic issues facing America.  As workers wages remain stagnant, corporations continue to rake in massive profits and pay their executives lavish salaries.

According to the new AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch, the average CEO of an S&P 500 company made $13.1 million per year in 2016 – 347 times more money than the average rank-and-file worker. CEO pay for major U.S. companies has risen nearly 6 percent, as income inequality and outsourcing of good-paying American jobs have increased.

“This year’s report provides further proof that the greed of corporate CEOs is driving America’s income inequality crisis,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Big corporations continually find ways to rig the economy in their favor and line their CEOs’ pockets at the expense of the workers who make their businesses run. Too often, corporations see workers as costs to be cut, rather than assets to be invested in. It’s shameful that CEOs can make tens of millions of dollars and still destroy the livelihoods of the hard-working people who make their companies profitable.”

The Executive PayWatch website showed that in 2016, the average production and nonsupervisory worker earned approximately $37,600 per year. When adjusted for inflation, the average wage has remained stagnant for 50 years.

Take for example, Raymond Barrette, CEO of White Mountain Insurance Group LTD of Hanover, NH.  Barrette raked in $8.1 million in salary and stock options.  That is 270 times the average rank and file worker.

Another example comes from Patrick T. Ryan, CEP of Press Ganey Holdings in Wakefield, Massachusetts. He collected a whopping $28.9 million in compensation, 769 times the average worker.

The report allows viewers to search their comprehensive database of CEO pay by industry or state.

Screenshot from Executive Pay Watch

The PayWatch site also highlights U.S. corporations that don’t pay taxes on their offshore profits. By “permanently reinvesting” these profits overseas, they can forever defer paying federal income taxes and reinvesting back into the community.

According to the report, Massachusetts based General Electric is holding $82 billion in “Unrepatriated Profits” overseas in tax havens.  That is only one-third of the amount of money Apple is shielding overseas ($230 billion).

The report also highlights the growing trend of corporations offshoring good American jobs at the expense of hard working people.

“Avoiding corporate income taxes is one way CEOs boost their companies’ profits and thereby increase their own pay. This corporate tax avoidance reduces the amount of money that is available for public goods like roads and schools. As a result, our economy increasingly has become out of balance,” wrote the AFL-CIO in their report.

Image courtesy of the AFL-CIO

Mondelēz International, highlighted in this year’s PayWatch, represents one of the most egregious examples of CEO-to-worker pay inequality. The company, which makes Nabisco products, including Oreos, Chips Ahoy and Ritz Crackers, is leading the race to the bottom. Last year, it closed the Oreo cookie line at the iconic Nabisco factory in Chicago, sending 600 family-sustaining jobs to Mexico, where workers face poor labor and safety standards. Mondelēz CEO Irene Rosenfeld made more than $16.7 million in 2016 – about $8,000 per hour.

“Greedy CEOs are continuing to get rich off the backs of working people,” said Michael Smith, who was among hundreds of Nabisco workers from the South Side of Chicago laid off in March of 2016. “I loved working at Nabisco, and I took pride in the work I did to make a quality product. It’s not as if the company isn’t profitable. The Oreo alone brings in $2 billion in annual revenue, and the CEO makes more in a day than most of us made in a year. I just don’t understand the disrespectful attitude toward working people.”

While companies are continuing to put profits over people, working people are fighting back. The AFL-CIO has endorsed the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union (BCTGM) boycott of Nabisco products made in Mexico.

These corporations are just examples of the insatiable greed that has taken over Corporate America.  The never ending race to the bottom continues to punish worker, shipping their jobs overseas.  To begin to address the growing income inequality in America, we must first address the outrageous pay ratios between CEO’s and rank and file workers.

Mixed Reactions To 5 Month Government Funding Bill

The Senate passed the Omnibus Spending bill that will keep the government open for another five months.  The bill moves to the White House where President Trump is expected to sign it.   Before and after the bill’s passage advocacy groups were split on whether to support or oppose the bill.

Prior to the vote, the Transportation Trades Department (TTD-AFLCIO) urged Congress to support the legislation highlighting some of the funding gains for our nation’s infrastructure.

“We applaud Congress for coming together to complete an omnibus appropriations bill that funds critical transportation investments, rejects anti-worker riders, and avoids a needless government shutdown. We urge lawmakers to swiftly pass this legislation.

“This bill lives up to the authorized funding commitments in the FAST Act for mass transit and highway programs funded out of the Highway Trust Fund. And we applaud appropriators for funding a series of key projects with Capital Investments Grants (CIGs), which play an important role in meeting transportation challenges around the country.

“Congress is also reaffirming its support for Amtrak by funding the company’s needs at near-authorized levels as directed by the FAST Act. This decision by appropriators sends a clear, bipartisan signal that Congress supports a national passenger rail network that serves both rural and urban communities.

“This legislation also endorses full funding for the Maritime Security Program (MSP), which is vital to maintaining our military’s sealift capability during times of war and humanitarian missions. Adequate funding for MSP ensures the Department of Defense does not have to rely on foreign-flag ships, keeps taxpayer costs down, and supports thousands of middle-class U.S. mariner jobs.

“We also applaud the robust funding levels in this bill for FAA operations, Next-Gen improvements to our air traffic control system, and airport improvement grants. These funds support the safest and most efficient air system in the world, and the workers who make it possible.

“With the passage of this bill, over 22,000 retired coal miners and their families will maintain critical health care that was promised to them by mining corporations that exploited bankruptcy laws in order to avoid their moral obligation.”

David J Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) also praised the legislation and urged its passage to avoid another government shutdown.

“I applaud Congress for coming together on a bipartisan bill that will keep the people’s government open for business through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. I urge lawmakers to quickly pass this budget and avoid a government shutdown at the end of the week.

“In reaching this agreement, lawmakers wisely rejected billions of dollars in harmful cuts to medical research, education programs, housing grants, and other domestic programs that were proposed by the Trump administration. Those who need our help the most would have been hit the hardest by these cuts, and Congress was right to reject them.

“This budget provides needed funding to strengthen our military, improve border security, and boost cancer research. It also permanently extends health care benefits to 22,000 retired coal miners who were in danger of losing their coverage.

“I also thank Congress for retaining the longstanding ban on contracting out federal jobs using the flawed A-76 outsourcing process. Taxpayers benefit when federal jobs are performed by civil service employees, who are less costly and more accountable than private-sector workers.”

After the bill passed the Senate, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) praised the bill’s additional funding to combat the growing opioid epidemic.

“More help is on the way for those on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic,” said Shaheen. “This funding can’t come soon enough to states like New Hampshire that are reeling from the opioid epidemic. Treatment providers and first responders are in desperate need of these additional resources and until we get control of this crisis, I’ll continue to fight for funding to support their life-saving efforts. I’m relieved that Congress continues to build on bipartisan progress made over the last year to address this epidemic. However, I continue to be very concerned that efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act will undo this progress. As our state battles one of the worst public health crises in its history, we cannot afford to lose the mental health and substance misuse treatment provided through this law, which is why I intend to work across the aisle to stop this repeal effort in its tracks in the Senate.”

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO was quick to condemn the bill as a giveaway to the Washington “special interests”.

“While the funding bill does provide assurance that we will have functioning government for the next five months, it undermines programs that help and empower working families. Our elected leaders have settled for a budget that underfunds our priorities and deepens austerity, setting the bar low. America’s working people deserve better.

Every time politicians take America to the edge of a government shutdown, working families pay the consequences. This irresponsible and dangerous political maneuvering should not be the norm.

Thankfully, House Democrats held the line against almost all of the poison-pill amendments and restored much of the funding that would have been cut under the administration’s original draconian budget proposal. As work begins on the 2018 budget, we call on politicians from both parties to put the needs of working families above the special interests.”

Paul Rinaldi, President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), has been outspoken about Congress’s inability to provide steady funding for the National Airspace System.

“NATCA is pleased Congress has passed an omnibus spending bill that will fund the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through the end of the current fiscal year. NATCA is especially appreciative that the FAA has received an increase in its operations budget. It should enable the FAA to move forward on key issues such as improving air traffic controller staffing and continuing to plan, develop, and implement the myriad of ongoing NextGen modernization projects.

“However, this bill only provides a short-term fix to a long-term problem – the unstable, unpredictable, stop-and-go nature of the current funding stream. The mere threat of a government shutdown causes agencies like the FAA to suspend and delay critical projects in preparation for a shutdown. That means progress is slowed, meetings are postponed, plans are put on hold, and the system suffers. It takes significant time and effort to bring a large agency to a halt, so that must begin before a shutdown even occurs, and it takes even more time to restart it again once a shutdown threat subsides.

“We believe the efficiency of the National Airspace System and the livelihoods of the men and women safeguarding it should not be negatively affected by disagreements over issues unrelated to aviation.

“We thank members of Congress for passing the omnibus funding bill and ask that they continue to address the need for long-term stability of the funding stream.”

Government Executive highlighted some of the other winners and losers in the omnibus spending plan including additional funding to the Defense Department and Transportation Department, and deep cuts to the Department of Education and the State Department.

The Hill highlighted a few other areas where Democrats preserved funding for key agencies and programs like Planned Parenthood, funding for Sanctuary Cities, and environmental protections.  While funding for Planned Parenthood was protected in the Onmibus spending bill, the US House passed their “repeal and replace” Obamacare bill that blocks funding for Parenthood.

#WomensWorkersRising Coalition Issues Call for Stories of Women Workers in Solidarity with International Workers Day

Coalition Strengthens Call to End Workplace Violence, Pay Inequality, Unfair Labor practices and paid leave policies, and for a livable wage for all through stories of women from around the country

Washington, DC — In solidarity with International Workers’ Day, #WomensWorkersRising is sending out a call to women workers to share their own personal stories of not only violence, pay inequity and unfair labor practices but also victory, celebration and joy — to continue the momentum created by hundreds of thousands of workers who took to the streets and marched across the country on May 1st. The coalition is calling for broad-based solidarity with women workers who are fighting for an end to workplace violence and harassment and to promote pay equity, one fair living wage, paid leave, and labor rights at work  Already the coalition has collected stories from women across the country as we continue to create a living archive of the voices of women workers.

These stories include a women from OUR Walmart who had to leave her special needs son with a friend for fear of losing her a job and an employee at Comcast who lost her benefits after taking a leave to take care of her child who suffered a stroke.

The hallmark of the #WomensWorkersRising rally in Washington D.C. on International Women’s Day demonstrated a collective energy, solidarity, and interconnectivity in the face of massive deregulations, continued rampant abuse, deportations, economic hardship and cutbacks to services and programs. That spirit is urgently needed to push forward a platform for and by women workers, and by collecting these stories, #WomenWorkersRising is broadening the scope of their undertaking – remaining vigilant in lifting up women workers across the wider resistance narrative and continuing to build their alliance by showing up for one another in actions online and in the streets.

“Sexual harassment and violence against women workers, including trans women and gender nonconforming individuals, takes place every day at workplaces across the country, in every occupation and industry. From restaurant workers, teachers, retail workers, domestic workers, and at-home mothers to nurses, farmworkers, factory workers, workers with disabilities, federal workers, actors, office workers, company executives, and more, workplace violence is part of making a living for many women. In many cases, women don’t or can’t speak out or seek justice for fear of losing their jobs. All of this is happening in a global economic reality where it is increasingly difficult for women to earn a livable wage” states the Women Workers Rising Coalition.

In her story, which is already featured on the site, Regina Mays of OUR Walmart states,“We shouldn’t have to choose between our jobs and our families. We need paid leave and sick time. I want to let my voice be heard so people know what is happening at Walmart. What gives me hope: I know with time and effort it can be changed. Even if it isn’t for me – it will change for others so they aren’t making choices between families and job. That is the worst feeling in the world,”

#WomenWorkersRising coalition includes: One Billion Rising in Coalition with Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, the African American Policy Forum, American Federation of Teachers, Family Values @ Work, International Labor Rights Forum, Jobs with Justice, National Nurses United, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Organization for Women, OUR Walmart, Good Jobs Nation (List in formation).

For more information please go to: http://www.womenworkersrising.org/workers-stories/

150 People A Day Die On The Job: AFL-CIO Releases Blistering New Report

(Washington, D.C.) In 2015, 150 workers died from preventable work-related injuries and illnesses every day in the United States, on average, according to a report released today by the AFL-CIO. 4,836 workers died due to workplace injuries, and another 50,000-60,000 died from occupational diseases. The number of immigrant workers killed on the job reached a nearly 10-year high.

“Corporate negligence and weak safety laws have resulted in tragedy for an astonishing and unacceptable number of working families,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Instead of working for stronger protections, too many Republican politicians in Washington, including the Trump administration, are trying to roll back commonsense regulations that enable workers to return home safely to their families. These are more than numbers; they are our brothers and sisters, and a reminder of the need to continue our fight for every worker to be safe on the job every day.”

The report, titled Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, marks the 26th year the AFL-CIO has reported on the state of safety and health protections for workers in the United States. The report shows the highest workplace fatality rates are in North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Nebraska and West Virginia.

According to the report, Latino workers have an 18% higher fatality rate than the national average. Deaths among Latino workers increased to 903, compared with 804 in 2014. Overall, 943 immigrant workers were killed on the job in 2015—the highest number since 2007.

The report also finds that construction, transportation and agriculture remain among the most dangerous sectors. 937 construction workers were killed in 2015—the highest in any sector. Older workers also are at high risk, with those 65 or older 2.5 times more likely to die on the job. Workplace violence continues to be a growing problem for workers, resulting in 703 deaths.

The report also highlights the fact that OSHA is underfunded and understaffed to handle the 8 million workplaces across the country.

  • There are only 1,838 inspectors (815 federal and 1,023 state) to inspect the 8 million workplaces under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s jurisdiction.
  • Federal OSHA has enough inspectors to inspect workplaces once every 159 years.
  • State OSHA plans have enough inspectors to inspect workplaces once every 99 years.
  • There is one inspector for every 76,402 workers.
  • The current OSHA budget amounts to $3.65 to protect the safety and health of each worker in America.

Not only is OSHA unable to keep up with growing number of workplaces, the penalties are too weak.

The federal penalty average for the death of a worker on the job is $6,500 dollars.  The state penalties are even worse. The state penalty average for the death of a worker on the job is only $2,500.  Serious OSHA violations carry an average penalty of $2,402 for federal and $1,747 from the state.

Instead of working to strengthen worker protections the Trump administration is rolling back regulations and slashing funding to the Department of Labor.

  • Executive Order 13771, issued Jan. 24, 2017, requires that for every new regulatory protection issued, two existing safeguards must be repealed.
  • Repeal of OSHA’s rule clarifying an employer’s obligation to keep accurate injury and illness records.
  • Repeal of a rule that would have required companies to disclose safety and health and labor violations in order to qualify for federal contracts.
  • Delay in the effective date of OSHA’s new beryllium standard and delay in the enforcement of OSHA’s silica standard in the construction industry. The delay in the silica rule will allow continued high exposures that will lead to 160 worker deaths.
  • Budget proposals to slash the Department of Labor’s budget by 21%, eliminate worker safety and health training programs, eliminate the Chemical Safety Board and cut the job safety research budget by $100 million.

After decades of work, OSHA has helped to save the lives of countless workers and yet there is so much more we can do.  We need the President to take strong and swift actions to strengthen OSHA protections, increase the penalties, hire additional inspectors, and address the growing problems facing workers today.

Read the AFL-CIO’s full report here

 

US House Passes Bill To Arbitrarily Fire Workers At The VA, Bypassing The Union’s Due Process

Yesterday, in a largely party line vote of 237-178, the U.S. House passed, “H.R.1259 – VA Accountability First Act of 2017.” A bill that would allow the Secretary of the VA to arbitrarily fire workers without any due process. HR 1259 was written and sponsored by Tennessee Republican, Rep David Roe (R-TN-1) who also cosponsored legislation to revoke the Department of Labor’s new rule mandating employers keep records on all workplace injuries.

The Hill explains:

The bill would give the VA secretary expedited removal authority, meaning any employee fired by the secretary would be out of a job and off the department’s rolls that day.

…One point of conflict in the legislation was the elimination of the union grievance process available to represented employees as a means to appeal negative personnel actions. About 76 percent of VA’s workforce is represented by a union, and Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and author of the accountability bill, has complained the grievance process takes an average of 350 days to complete. The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 230,000 VA employees, called the legislation ‘a union-busting bill, plain and simple.

…A spokeswoman for Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said the senator is still “exploring options” for a bill that can pass the Senate. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has introduced companion legislation for Roe’s House-backed measure. Isakson himself said he is committed to working with his House colleagues and Democrats on his committee to move accountability legislation forward.

“I’m committed to moving legislation that gives Secretary Shulkin the tools to discipline bad employees,” Isakson said. “Accountability reform is a top priority.” The senator authored bipartisan legislation in the last Congress to expedite the firing process at VA, but it stalled in the Senate after clearing his committee.

This bill is designed to bypass the American Federation of Government Employees grievance procedures and weaken the union’s ability to represent workers.  David Cox Sr., National President of AFGE released the following after the bill passed the House.

“The House has passed a venomous piece of legislation from Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee that would undermine the government’s sacred obligation to serve our veterans by gutting frontline employees’ basic worker rights at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Make no mistake – this legislation is not about improving accountability at the VA, and it certainly won’t improve veterans’ access to quality care and earned benefits. This is part of an orchestrated attack on the rights of federal workers and employee unions that’s ripped from the playbook of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

“While we are deterred by the House’s action, we are not defeated. We will fight this bill when it goes before the Senate, and we will continue to make the case to lawmakers and the public that attacking the rights of working-class men and women at the VA and across government is counterproductive to our shared goal of providing the best service to the American taxpayers.”

The AFl-CIO was also displeased with the passage of this legislation calling it a “slap in the face” to the workers at the VA.

“Yesterday, instead of standing up for working families, 10 Democrats in Congress joined with Republicans in attacking workers at the VA. Their support of this anti-worker legislation is not only a slap in the face to the 120,000 VA employees who are themselves veterans, but a betrayal of the promise to treat all VA workers fairly,” said Bill Samuel, AFL-CIO Director of Government Affairs. 

Everyone agrees that the VA needs help.  They are understaffed, overloaded, and underfunded, but the ability to arbitrarily fire hard working people at the VA will do nothing to solve any of these problems.

The reforms Congress should be looking for would include ones like the amendment submitted by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH01) to improve VA hiring of mental health professionals.

Congress must also accept that additional resources are necessary to hire more doctors and nurses at VA health centers and to reduce the delays many veterans face in getting the care they need.  This would include spending money to merge the DOD’s and the VA health records system.

Another major issue facing the VA is that 20 veterans commit suicide every day.  Many of these vets are suffering from PTSD and are unable to get the care they need. NH Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH-1), a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, is working with the newly appointed Secretary of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin, to address this ongoing epidemic.

“The men and women who have served our nation in uniform cannot be cast aside once they have returned home,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “The suicide rate among veterans is a tragedy and it’s long past time we came together to address this challenge.”

“The president and I have made it clear that suicide prevention is one of our top priorities,” Secretary Shulkin said in a statement. “We know the rate of death by suicide among Veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a greater rate than Veterans who use VA care. This is a national emergency that requires bold action. We must and we will do all that we can to help former service members who may be at risk. When we say even one Veteran suicide is one too many, we mean it.”

So while 20 veterans a day commit suicide and the thousands that die every year awaiting care should be the top priority of the President and Congress, but instead they are choosing to attack the very workers who are trying to help fix this broken system and get care to those who desperately need it.

Trump’s Budget Is A Disaster

NH Elected Leaders Along With National Labor And
Environmental Leaders Respond To Trump’s Proposed Cuts.

President Trump unveiled his $1.1 trillion dollar budget for discretionary spending yesterday. Elected leaders, labor unions, environmental groups, and advocates for working people are outraged at the massive cuts.

The Hill reports:

The 54-page “America First” document, focused primarily on fiscal 2018, would boost the Defense Department and related programs at Energy by $54 billion, and Homeland Security by $2.8 billion. It would offset such increases by cutting the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development by $10.1 billion (28 percent) and the Environmental Protection Agency by $2.6 billion (31 percent). The latter cut would eliminate approximately 3,200 positions, according to the document.

The agency-by-agency plans include eliminating dozens of grant programs at the Education and Commerce departments—many of them related to climate change. And Trump would eliminate the following agencies:

The African Development Foundation; the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Chemical Safety Board; the Corporation for National and Community Service; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Inter-American Foundation; the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; the Legal Services Corporation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; the Northern Border Regional Commission; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; the United States Institute of Peace; the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness; and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“The Trump administration should immediately go back to the drawing board,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). “This budget is a blueprint for undermining the health and well-being of Granite Staters and would be particularly devastating for seniors. It’s needless and cruel to drastically cut programs that so many people in New Hampshire depend on like Meals on Wheels and heating assistance. It also makes no sense to cut clean air and water programs, coastal protection, and economic development to struggling rural communities.

“President Trump’s budget is built for corporate special interests, not hard-working families and small businesses. The Trump budget makes indiscriminate cuts that will make it harder for entrepreneurs to grow job-creating small businesses, harder for children to access a high-quality public education, and harder for seniors to stay in their own homes and live independently,” said Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH).  “President Trump’s budget would undermine efforts to strengthen our health care workforce, making it more difficult to combat the heroin, fentanyl and opioid crisis. It would slash funding for life-saving medical research. And it would cripple our ability to fight climate change, which threatens New Hampshire’s economy and our way of life.”

“A budget is a moral document. As an American, I’m deeply concerned about the drastic cuts President Trump has proposed in this budget blueprint, which fail to reflect our shared morals and values. As your representative in Congress, I will fight to stop this budget, which would hurt New Hampshire in so many ways,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH01). “As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I’m particularly concerned that this budget reflects an incomplete understanding of how we keep our nation safe. Since World War II, our international affairs budget has been key to maintaining stability around the globe, and cutting critical international aid and diplomatic funding would be disastrous for our national security.”

“Today’s budget would even eliminate programs that feed the hungry, including after-school nutrition assistance and Meals on Wheels. Contrary to the Administration’s outrageous statements at this afternoon’s press briefing, these programs do work, and cutting them is the exact opposite of ‘compassionate.’ I will not stand by while this Administration uses falsehoods to justify destroying vital support systems for our most vulnerable citizens. Today I will be sending the Trump administration just a few of the dozens of peer-reviewed studies that show Meals on Wheels improves seniors’ overall health and nutritional intake and reduces social isolation. This budget is yet one more example of President Trump turning his back on the very people he claimed he was there to help,” Shea-Porter added. 

“President Trump’s preliminary budget proposal is simply a disaster for our economy, environment, seniors, and hardworking families in New Hampshire and across the country,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH02). “This budget proposal should raise red flags for anyone who wants to grow our middle class, create good paying jobs, protect human health and our environment, and fight climate change. We can’t turn back the clock on the progress we’ve made in recent years to get our economy pointed in the right direction and this budget is little more than a return to the same failed policies of the past. President Trump needs to seriously reconsider this approach and focus on crafting a budget proposal that benefits all Americans, not just those at the very top.”

Kuster also highlighted cuts to programs that directly impact New Hampshire working families.

“In New Hampshire, we know the serious impact toxic contamination can have on drinking water, public health, and quality of life. Slashing thirty one percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget will only make defending public health and our environment more difficult. Cutting the Department of Health and Human Services by thirteen percent will eliminate the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and harm programs like Meals on Wheels and home visits that our seniors and low-income families rely on.”

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO called this budget proposal “destructive and dangerous.”

“Working people in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin didn’t vote for a budget that slashes workforce training and fails to invest in our nation’s infrastructure. President Trump’s proposed budget attempts to balance the budget on the backs of working families. The $54 billion cut to programs that benefit working families is dangerous and destructive. Huge cuts to the departments of Labor, Education and Transportation will make workplaces less safe, put more children at risk and make improving our failing infrastructure much more difficult. The administration can and should do better.”

David Cox Sr., National President of the American Federation of Government Employees warned that this budget would lead to massive layoffs. 

“This budget shirks our nation’s responsibility to care for its citizens and ensure the public’s health and safety, help our struggling neighbors secure better jobs and safe housing, and promote democracy around the world,” Cox stated. “The severity of the budget cuts proposed by President Trump could require mass layoffs of employees at federal departments and agencies, although the budget blueprint released by the White House does not detail how many federal employees could lose their jobs.

“This cuts, if implemented, would have devastating and lasting consequences on the nation. Every American should study the facts, reject the rhetoric, and decide for themselves if they share the bleak vision of America that President Trump is promoting,” Cox added. 

Ed Wytkind, President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), said these cuts take our transportation infrastructure in the wrong direction. 

“The austerity measures offered for transportation in the President’s budget blueprint go in the wrong direction and must be rejected. We cannot cut our way to a better and more modern transportation system. The President has rightfully called for a historic $1 trillion investment in our transportation system and infrastructure. But the budget released today does not advance that vision and instead would deal a severe blow to many key investment programs that are critical to our passenger and freight transportation network.”  

“This budget proposal makes it even more clear that Trump has no intention of protecting our communities or preserving our future,” said 350.org Executive Director May Boeve. “Slashing the EPA’s funding only helps make fossil fuel executives richer while wrecking the climate and leaving workers and families by the wayside. What we really need is investment in a 100% renewable energy economy that creates jobs and curbs the climate crisis, and our movements will keep fighting until we get it.”

Transportation Unions Roll Out Strategies to Move $1 Trillion Transportation Infrastructure Package

Labor Leader Release List Of Priorities For 2017 And Beyond 

San Antonio, TX – Transportation labor leaders laid out an aggressive strategy yesterday focused on shaping the President’s $1 trillion transportation infrastructure package and tackling unprecedented challenges faced by frontline transportation workers. Some of those challenges include the looming transportation automation wave, risks to jobs and safety, and reckless political forces taking aim at workers’ rights to bargain collectively for good wages and benefits.

“We committed to rally behind a $1 trillion infrastructure package that doesn’t rely mostly on tax incentives but instead includes an infusion of billions in new federal funding and embraces high labor standards,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD). “We cannot toll our way to modernizing and expanding our transportation system and creating millions of new jobs.”

TTD hosted Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) for a discussion on the pressing issues affecting America’s transportation workers, including the need to advance a robust infrastructure package. Denham is a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.

“Our nation’s transportation system, and the men and women who build, operate and maintain it, play a crucial role in keeping our economy strong,” Denham said. “I look forward to working with transportation labor leaders to advance strategic infrastructure investments that will rebuild our vast transportation network and, in the process, drive middle-class job creation in California and throughout the nation.” 

Transportation labor leaders laid out key issues for 2017 and beyond, including:

 Responding to the Wave of Transportation Automation

  • Automated technologies will drastically change the nature of work in transportation industries, will put millions of jobs at risk and pose new safety and security threats requiring rigorous federal regulations.

Views on President Trump’s Call for a $1 Trillion Infrastructure Investment Initiative

  • Any transportation infrastructure plan advanced by the President and Congress must include a significant infusion of new federal funds and embrace strong worker protections, labor standards and Buy America requirements.

Mobilization Against Job-Killing Right-to-Work Laws

  • Transportation labor will engage in an aggressive effort to stop national right-to-work legislation, which is part of an orchestrated, deliberate attempt by extremists to crush the wages and benefits of working Americans.

Protecting Airline Customer Service Agents from Assault

  • Too many airline customer service agents are verbally or physically assaulted on the job. Federal legislation must mitigate the problem by providing clear protocols for violent situations, preventing violent travelers from boarding planes and subjecting those who assault customer service agents to arrest and prosecution.

Strengthening Transportation Buy America Rules

  • Billions in new transportation investments must be used to not only grow the economy, but to maximize middle-class job creation through vigorous and strongly enforced Buy America policies.

Protecting and Expanding Middle Class Freight Rail Jobs

  • Transportation unions are committed to policies that strengthen and expand freight rail and will oppose reforms that would weaken the freight rail sector’s ability to expand business, invest in its network and workforce, and support middle-class job creation.

Supporting Cargo Preference Laws that Strengthen Our National Defense

  • The Trump Administration and Congress must uphold cargo preference laws that ensure a viable U.S. merchant marine, strengthen our national defense and support mariner jobs.

Protecting Official Time for Federal Employees

  • Transportation unions will mobilize against the Official Time Reform Act, which is a thinly veiled attack on public sector unions and federal employees.

The Executive Committee heard a presentation from Wytkind, who was appointed to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s federal advisory committee on transportation automation, on the safety and security challenges as well as massive job impacts from emerging automation technologies.

“Every sector of the transportation industry faces massive change and significant job loss from the development and deployment of automated technologies,” said Wytkind. “Our priority going forward is to ensure that these technologies are tools for frontline workers to enhance safety, security and service, rather than enablers of massive job and wage destruction.”

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