Worker Wins Update: Increased Wages and Organizing Successes Highlight Banner Month

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WASHINGTON, DC – From increases in the minimum wage to successful organizing efforts at some of America’s largest companies, workers have led notable wins over the recent months.

The following are a sample of victories won by workers:

Organizing Victories

AFSCME Sets Organizing Goal, Almost Doubles It: AFSCME President Lee Saunders announced that the union has organized more than 90,000 workers this year, nearly doubling its 2014 goal of 50,000.

Tennessee Auto Workers to Create New Local Union at VW PlantAuto workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee announced the formation of UAW Local 42, a new local that will give workers an increased voice in the operation of the German car maker’s US facility. UAW organizers continue gain momentum, as the union has the support of nearly half of the plant’s 1,500 workers, which would make the union the facility’s exclusive collective bargaining agent.

California Casino Workers Organize: Workers at the new Graton Resort & Casino voted to join Unite HERE Local 2850 of Oakland, providing job security for 600 gambling, maintenance, and food and beverage workers.

Virgin America Flight Attendants Vote to Join TWU: Flight attendants at Virgin America voted to join the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), citing the success of TWU in bargaining fair contracts for Southwest Airlines flight attendants.

Maryland Cab Drivers Join National Taxi Workers Alliance: Cab drivers in Montgomery County, Maryland announced their affiliation with the National Taxi Workers Alliance, citing low wages and unethical behavior by employers as their reason to affiliate with the national union.

Retail and Restaurant Workers Win Big, Organize Small: Small groups of workers made big strides as over a dozen employees at a Subway restaurant in Bloomsbury, NJ voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Meanwhile, Cosmetics and Fragrance workers at a Macy’s store in Massachusetts won an NLRB ruling that will allow them to vote on forming a union.

Minnesota Home Care Workers Take Key Step to Organize: Home health care workers in Minnesota presented a petition to state officials that would allow a vote on whether they will form a union for more than 26,000 eligible workers.

New York Television Writers-Producers Join Writers Guild: Writers and producers from Original Media, a New York City-based production company, voted to join the Writers Guild of America, citing low wages, long work schedules, and no health care.

Raising Wages Victories

Fast Food Workers Win in New NLRB Ruling: The National Labor Relations Board ruled that McDonald’s could be held jointly responsible with its franchises for labor violations and wage disputes. The NLRB ruling makes it easier for workers to organize individual McDonald’s locations, and could result in better pay and conditions for workers.

Workers Increasingly Have Access to Paid Sick Leave: Cities such as San Diego, CA and Eugene, OR have passed measures mandating paid sick leave, providing workers with needed flexibility and making workplaces safer for all.

Student Athletes See Success, Improved Conditions: College athletic programs are strengthening financial security measuresfor student athletes in the wake of organizing efforts by Northwestern University football players. In addition, the future is bright as the majority of incoming college football players support forming a union.

San Diego Approves Minimum Wage Hike, Portland, ME Starts Process: Even as Congress has failed to raise the minimum wage, localities throughout the country have delivered action. San Diego will raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2017, and the Portland, MEMinimum Wage Advisory Committee will consider an increase to their minimum wage which would take effect in 2015.

The NH AFL-CIO Make Endorsement Announcement for U.S. Senate, NH Governor, Congress

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New Hampshire AFL-CIO endorses Shaheen, Hassan, Shea-Porter and Kuster in November elections

The New Hampshire AFL-CIO announced its top slate of candidates for the 2014 elections today, pledging to support the reelection bids of Senator Shaheen, Governor Hassan, and Congresswomen Shea-Porter and Kuster. The state’s largest labor federation is prepared to roll out an aggressive field campaign to turn out voters in support of these working family champions.

“As our economy recovers, we need leaders who will commit to creating economic opportunity for New Hampshire families,” said New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie. “Governor Hassan has worked across party lines to support job creation for middle class families. Our representatives in Congress successfully protected thousands of jobs at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard from furloughs under sequestration. This is the kind of bold leadership that will ensure that New Hampshire’s economic recovery will translate into more opportunities for working families.”

“Working people know how critical this election is. In the last year, we’ve seen what can happen in New Hampshire when we work together to solve big problems. Yet too many people are still struggling and living paycheck to paycheck. We need to protect the leaders who care about the struggles of working people, deliver on their promises to us, and are willing to work together to expand opportunity for all.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Summit

Image via WikiCommon

In response to Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Summit, which convenes today in Denver, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement:

“It’s about time Walmart figured out that America’s workers are the most qualified and the best skilled at getting the job done. For decades, Walmart has led the charge on outsourcing and a global race to the bottom.

But workers will not benefit from a Walmart-ification of our manufacturing sector. Jobs in the Walmart model won’t restore America’s middle class or build shared prosperity given the company’s obsession with low labor costs and undermining American labor standards. And the company’s ‘commitment’ to American manufacturing is meaningless unless it actually increases the proportion of its products that are American-made.

This initiative seems like an attempt to change the conversation from the need for Walmart to improve jobs for its 1.4 million retail workers in the United States. If Walmart is truly committed to rebuilding the American middle class, it can start with its own workers, most of whom make less than $25,000/year and struggle to make ends meet.

Walmart should use its two-day summit to prove the company is committed to real and substantive change and an end to corporate whitewashing.”

AFL-CIO Presents Resolution at Ralph Lauren Shareholders’ Meeting

Hasan Raza/Associated Press

Unions, joined by religious organizations, demand Ralph Lauren
Respect the human rights of Bangladeshi Garment Workers

August 7th, 2014 (New York, NY) –This morning, unions and religious organizations rallied outside Ralph Lauren Shareholders’ meeting while inside, the AFL-CIO sponsored a shareholder resolution calling on Ralph Lauren to conduct a human rights risk assessment. The AFL-CIO resolution was seconded by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

The AFL-CIO sponsored shareholder resolution was presented by Nazma Akter, President, Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation. Akter, who worked at the Tazreen Fashions factory that had a tragic fire in 2012, pushed for Ralph Lauren to explain why it has refused to join the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which would help protect the safety of garment workers who produce Ralph Lauren apparel.

Akter called on Ralph Lauren to conduct a human rights risk assessment.

“It is all the more important because Ralph Lauren—an iconic brand in the world of fashion—sources garments produced by women like me in Bangladesh. Human rights risks for companies doing business in Bangladesh have become a central concern after the tragedy at the Rana Plaza on April 24, 2013. On that fateful day, 1,138 garment workers were killed and 2,515 more were injured.”

Akter continued, “Companies and trade unions came together to create the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. More than 180 apparel companies have signed the Accord, a binding and enforceable agreement that represents a new model in supply chain accountability and risk management… But Ralph Lauren—a company that has always stood for the highest quality—has not joined the Accord… I urge you to improve Ralph Lauren’s reporting on human rights risks wherever the company sources goods, and to take steps to mitigate human rights abuses in Bangladesh by signing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety.”

The Rev. David Schilling, Senior Program Director, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, spoke at the rally in support of the AFL-CIO resolution and the broader campaign for international human rights for all workers. Rev. Schilling noted that,

“The Accord on Fire and Building Safety is the best solution to help prevent future workplace disasters in Bangladesh and to foster a culture of compliance and respect for international human rights norms.  The Accord guarantees that global brands and retailers can source apparel manufactured in factories with adequate health and safety standards and where international labor rights are respected.”

Richard Trumka on Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports

Richard Trumka (The Nation / AP-Photo)

Today’s reports from the Social Security and Medicare Trustees have good news for all Americans: Social Security and Medicare will be there for us and our families if elected leaders listen to the American people and reject calls to cut benefits.  Instead of undermining these crucial programs, we must build on their success and adopt measures to strengthen and expand them.

The Trustees’ reported improvements for Medicare are a positive development for anyone who pays for health care, because they are driven by expected slower growth in health spending in the short run. This reminds us that we have a health care cost problem, not a Medicare problem.  Strengthening Medicare for the long run means bringing health care cost growth under control throughout our economy.

America’s most important retirement program will remain strong for many more years to come, unchanged from last year’s report.  It has become increasingly clear, however, that strengthening Social Security for the future must include improvements in benefits.  Social Security remains the sole retirement income plan that is broadly available and that Americans can count on to provide secure lifetime benefits.

The Social Security Trustees reported once again that the Disability Trust Fund can pay full benefits until 2016, with enough revenue after that time to cover about 80 percent of promised benefits.  Congress should act soon to ensure disabled workers and their families will continue to receive the benefits they have earned.  This can be done by allocating a larger share of current payroll tax contributions to the Disability program, as has been done many times before.  Congress should reject calls to misuse this opportunity to undermine the sole source of disability income protection that is working well for America’s families.

AFL-CIO President Trumka On The 5th Anniversary of Last Minimum Wage Increase

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Today is a reminder of what is possible with just an ounce of political will.  If our leaders have the courage, they can lift millions of hardworking Americans out of poverty by raising the minimum wage. It’s a tragedy that workers have been trapped in a poverty-level minimum wage for five years. It must not go a day longer.

We are working harder than ever, while our wages are flat or falling. Over the past five years, the cost of living has continued to increase across the country, while the federal minimum wage has stayed flat. Raising the minimum wage is a critical and simple way to address a crucial underlying weakness in our economy. It will create jobs, grow our economy and increase the purchasing power of millions of workers.

The movement to raise wages is happening all around us. States are doing it. Cities, counties and little towns are doing it. Smart business owners are doing it. It’s time for Congress to get it done.

AFL-CIO Statement On Obama’s Executive Order To Protect Employees From Gender Discrimination

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Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on President Obama’s Executive Order Protecting Federal Employees from Gender Identity Discrimination

Working people believe in equality and fairness. That’s why we are happy to stand with President Obama in supporting protections for workers who are discriminated against on the basis of gender identity.

It is wrong for any employer to discriminate against or fire a worker based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination in the workplace has no place in the United States. That’s why it’s difficult to believe that in many parts of the country, it’s legal to fire workers for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

America’s unions and working families are dedicated to bringing fairness and dignity to the workplace—and will continue this work until every worker is treated with dignity and respect on the job.

We are proud to come together for a more just America.

AFL-CIO President Trumka On The Humanitarian Crisis At The Border

Richard Trumka (The Nation / AP-Photo)

The humanitarian crisis of families and children fleeing violence in Central America and turning themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents has brought out both the best and the worst in our nation.

Alarmingly, in places like Murrieta, California and Vassar, Michigan, we have seen ugly reminders of racism and hatred directed toward children. The spewing of nativist venom, the taking up of arms and the fear-mongering about crime and disease harken back to dark periods in our history and have no business taking place under the banner of our flag.

On the other hand, around the country we have also seen a tremendous outpouring of compassion and concern for the plight of these women and children.  We are proud to say that local unions have joined with faith and community groups to collect needed supplies, provide shelter and support, and call for humane treatment.

The situation along the border is a refugee crisis that requires a humane, lawful response and must not be politicized.  The labor movement calls upon national and community leaders to respond to the crisis in a manner that meets our obligations under U.S. and international law, and comports with basic human rights and American values.  This means ensuring full due process and providing the additional resources necessary to ensure the well-being and fair treatment of children and refugees.  It also requires taking an honest assessment of the root causes of the crisis, including the long-term impact of U.S. policies on immigration, trade, and foreign affairs.

We cannot lend credibility to Republican assertions that a refugee crisis is proof that we should continue to deport hard working people who have been contributing members of our society for years.  These are simply new excuses to justify failed policies. Lifting the pressure on immigrant workers was needed before the child refugee story developed, and it is no less urgent today.  The Administration must act now to keep all families together, uphold our standards as a humanitarian nation, and advance the decent work agenda necessary to improve conditions both at home and abroad.

Working People Score Major Victories Throughout The Country

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Working people scored major victories over the last several months, organizing new workplaces and winning fights to raise wages.

The following are a sample of some these victories:

Organizing Victories

Texas Machinists Win Back-to-Back Organizing Drives: Union growth continues in Texas as members from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers successfully organized their second consecutive workplace in Texas this month adding nearly 1,000 new members.

Point Park University Faculty Organize Hundreds to Gain Benefits: Over 300 part-time faculty members at Point Park University in Pittsburgh now have access to essential benefits and protections thanks to a successful vote to join the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers (AFA-USW).

Missouri EMS Workers Win Organizing Fight: An overwhelming majority of Emergency Medical Service (EMS) professionals in Independence, Missouri voted to join EMS Workers United-AFSCME, strengthening the local union and providing essential protections for Missouri workers.

Raising Wages Victories

Massachusetts Workers Help Push Minimum Wage Hike: Working people in Massachusetts scored a big win as Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation that will increase the state’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017.

Newark, NJ Paid Sick-Leave Ordinance Goes Into Effect: A new paid sick-leave law in Newark, NJ will allow full and part-time employees to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick-leave per year. Similar paid sick-leave laws have passed in cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Momentum Builds for Minimum Wage Hike in Nebraska: Workers in Nebraska put a measure on the 2014 ballot to raise the minimum wage to $9 and hour by 2016.

California Workers Benefit from Minimum Wage Increase: An increase in California’s minimum wage to $9 an hour has taken effect, with the wage set to increase again in 2016 to $10 an hour. Meanwhile, efforts continue in Los Angeles to increase the minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour.

Community Victories

Philadelphia Building-Trades Go to Work with New Housing Deal: A deal between Philadelphia building-trades unions and the Philadelphia Housing Authority will put people to work in union jobs while creating new affordable housing for Pennsylvanians.

Letter Carriers Complete Successful Food Drive: Members of the National Association of Letter Carriers completed their annual food drive, collecting more than 72 million pounds of food for families in need.

Union Volunteers Help Aspiring Americans Earn Citizenship: On June 28th at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, DC, volunteers helped nearly 100 people through the U.S. citizenship process, enabling them to file paperwork with the help of legal and immigration experts.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: Harris v. Quinn an assault on wages, middle class

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June 30, 2014

Richard_TrumkaThe extreme views of today’s Supreme Court aimed at home care workers aren’t just bad for unions – they’re bad for all workers and the middle class. But the attacks on the freedom of workers to come together are nothing new. They are part of an onslaught from anti-worker organizations hostile to raising wages or improving benefits for millions of people.  These attacks are a direct cause of an economy in which middle class families can’t get a break because their wages have stagnated and their incomes have declined.

Home care is one of the fastest growing industries. Its workers do backbreaking, thankless work, often for low wages. By forming a union these workers are helping to combat income inequality and the rise of low wage jobs, ensuring that these are good jobs with good benefits.

Make no mistake: the fate of workers cannot and will not be decided by one Supreme Court decision. The Court upheld the right of public employees to have strong unions and workers will vigorously build on that foundation.