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Labor Continues Fight for Justice for all Immigrant Working Families

(Photo by Bill Burke, Page One Photography)

(Photo by Bill Burke, Page One Photography)

A year after the executive action on immigration,
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement:

Today should have been a day of celebration for working families across the nation. Instead, thanks to partisan legal obstructionism of the DAPA and expanded DACA policies, millions of people continue to live and work in fear in our country. Nonetheless, we continue to press forward.

This year working people have been standing together to fight for just wages and fair treatment in communities across the country. Millions of workers of all immigration statuses have been negotiating with a collective voice for a better life; and we have seen how labor unions have embraced the Adelante! We Rise! campaign by opening their halls to empower immigrant working families.  Our movement, including community allies and worker centers, is more energized than ever.

Right now, the Texas AFL-CIO and the Workers Defense Project are holding a three day pilgrimage to Austin to remind the nation that in Texas immigrant families are a vibrant part of the community and that they refuse to remain in the shadows. Our movement has been at the forefront of a wide range of issues related to bettering conditions for workers and their families. Last week the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, the National Day Labor Organizing Network and community groups gathered outside Los Angeles’ downtown immigrant detention center to honor all the families that have suffered unnecessary separations as a result of our nation’s broken immigration system. 

The AFL-CIO was pleased to see the Administration file a formal request today for the Supreme Court to hear the case on DAPA and expanded DACA.  We remain deeply committed to ensuring that the promise of these programs to improve the lives of millions of working people is realized, and we intend to make our support clear in the streets, at the polls, and to the Court directly.

Meanwhile, we will press forward in the struggle for equal rights for all working people. Roadblocks test our determination, but we will not rest until families can remain united and all working people are treated with respect and dignity.

Public Workers Advance Common Good

As Supreme Court Prepares for Friedrichs v. CTA,
Public-Sector Workers Advance the Common Good  

WASHINGTON, DC – America’s working families are under attack from big corporate CEOs and wealthy special interests. These anti-worker attacks are designed to protect those at the very top who yield greater influence and profit, while hard-working families scrape by. One such attack is being led by corporate-funded groups at the US Supreme Court. These groups want to take away workers’ ability to speak up together.

The following are examples of public-sector workers using their voice on the job to help advance the common good in the face of these well-funded, extreme attacks.

Seattle Teachers Take a Stand for Class Size: Earlier this summer, thousands of teachers in Seattle, WA walked out of their classrooms in a series of protests, standing with parents against larger class sizes that would negatively impact students. Area teachers, who also stood up for good pay and benefits, received the support of Seattle area parents who cited solidarity with teachers on key issues.

West Virginia Teachers Lead the Way to Improve Local Schools: Beginning in 2011, teachers belonging to the American Federation of Teachers have organized an effort called ‘Reconnecting McDowell’, which focuses on improving education in McDowell County, WV. McDowell County, one of the poorest in the nation, has benefitted from a broad coalition of business, non-profits, government, and working people to bring new resources and expertise to West Virginia’s children.

Nurses Push for Higher Safety Standards in Midst of Health Crisis: During last year’s international Ebola crisis, nurses and first responders throughout the United States led the call for higher safety standards and better training. The calls, which included walkouts and protests, resulted in an advanced awareness among the general public of the dangers facing public servants, and efforts to improve conditions and preparation.

Working Families Step Up and Give Back in the Face of Disaster: From hurricanes to tornados, working families have stepped up over the years to rally their communities and give back in the wake of natural disasters. For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, working people belonging to AFSCME, AFT, and other unions joined together to raise funds and awareness for those in need.  Beyond financial assistance, union members also pitched-in to assist with cleanup and rebuilding efforts throughout the impacted region.

Study Shows Teachers Spending Hard-Earned Money to Help Their Own Students: An August study by Public Opinion Strategies and Communities in Schools showed that over 90 percent of teachers reported spending their own money on school supplies for students in 2014. The study shows that teachers are going above-and-beyond at a time when families spend approximately $1,284 per high school student per year for supplies and extracurricular activities.

Postal Workers Offer Critical Services for Those In Need: The thousands of working people who make up our postal service don’t only deliver your packages and letters; they also play a significant role in standing up for those who need it most. Postal workers are leading an effort to provide an alternative to predatory payday lenders by expanding key services at US Postal Service locations such as payroll check cashing and bill payment. In addition, America’s letter carriers have collected more than 1.4 billion pounds of food in the last 24 years for needy families through their annual food drive.

Coalition Tests The Strength Of Labor Protections In International Trade Agreements

Testing Labor Protections Within International Trade Agreements, Coalition Files Complaints Against Multinational Supermarket Chain 

Coalition of Labor and Consumer Groups File NAFTA and OECD complaints to Halt Worker Abuse at Mexican Retail Giant Chedraui Commercial Group 

WASHINGTON— As the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) debate intensifies, a coalition of U.S. and Mexican labor and civil society groups are taking an unprecedented legal approach to protect workers’ rights that will test the strength of labor protections in international trade agreements.

The coalition filed “double barrel” complaints today under the NAFTA labor agreement and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines to challenge workers’ rights abuses in both Mexico and the United States by Mexican retail giant Chedraui Commercial Group. The groups were led by the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 770 (UFCW) union in the United States and the Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT) union in Mexico.                                          

“Chedraui is a multinational firm that should live up to the labor standards set by NAFTA and the OECD guidelines,” said UFCW Local 770 President Ricardo Icaza. “In both Mexico and the United States, the company has silenced employees’ voices and trampled their rights, and we believe an international solution is necessary to this international problem.”

Chedraui is Mexico’s third-largest retail chain with 35,000 employees in more than 200 stores throughout the country.  Through its 83 percent ownership stake, Chedraui controls California-based Bodega Latina Corporation, which does business as the El Super grocery chain. El Super has 50 supermarkets employing more than 5,000 workers in California, Arizona and Nevada. 

The joint complaint has implications for the upcoming Congressional review of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“President Obama is pushing for TPP approval in the face of strong opposition from unions and others who see it as a giveaway to multinational companies that will only intensify inequality and downward pressure on jobs and wages,” said University of Maryland international labor law professor Marley Weiss, who was formerly chair of the U.S. National Advisory Committee on the NAFTA labor agreement.  “If the administration fails to take strong action in this Chedraui case, critics will see it as a signal that the United States is falling short on linking trade, investment and labor rights.” 

The OECD complaint calls for a halt to El Super’s aggressive, multi-year campaign of coercion against workers seeking a living wage, adequate sick days and affordable health insurance. After a series of unfair labor practice charges, the U.S. federal government sought a rare injunction to force the company to rehire a wrongfully fired union activist and reinstate unlawfully changed benefits, and return to the bargaining table.  The Federal Court issued injunctive relief and as a result of the government’s actions the company agreed to return to union contract negotiations with the UFCW.  However, the company has continued to ignore its obligations under the National Labor Relations Act and the two sides remain far apart in bargaining.

The NAFTA complaint alleges that Chedraui has cultivated dozens of sham unions in Mexico through so-called “protection contracts” that represent the interests of management, not workers, and prevent the formation of independent unions. Union officials said they are examining additional claims related to the NAFTA labor agreement’s strictures against child labor, discrimination, health and safety hazards, and wage and hour violations. 

This filing is the first time complaints about a company’s international labor abuses have been simultaneously submitted under both the OECD and NAFTA complaint mechanisms. The groups filing the complaints believe this approach will produce results tailored to the situation in each country. The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) and the Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER) in Mexico co-filed the complaints with the UFCW and FAT.


About the organizations

The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers in retail food, drug stores, packinghouses, food processing plants and other industries. Local 770 has been representing the interests of retail workers in Los Angeles County for 76 years and has 33,000 members, including El Super employees.

The FAT (Authentic Labor Front in English) is an independent confederation of labor unions in Mexico. 

The LAANE is a national leader in the effort to address the challenges of working poverty, inadequate health care and polluted communities.  

The PODER is a regional non-governmental organization whose mission is to improve corporate transparency and accountability in Latin America and to strengthen civil society stakeholders of corporations as long-term accountability guarantors. 

Additional information on the filing process 

The UFCW, FAT, LAANE and PODER filed the NAFTA complaint with U.S. Department of Labor. The NAFTA complaint seeks an investigation into Chedraui’s practices in Mexico and an evaluation of what the unions say is ineffective labor law enforcement by the Mexican government. The U.S. labor department has 60 days to decide whether to accept the NAFTA complaint for review, and it could ultimately lead to fines and other penalties.

Information on the NAFTA labor agreement (formally the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation or NAALC) and its complaint mechanisms is available at the website of the Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) at http://www.dol.gov/ilab/trade/agreements/naalcgd.htm 

The same coalition filed a complaint against El Super in the United States under the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises of the 34-nation OECD. The organization adopted the guidelines in 2011 to promote good corporate citizenship by firms investing in other member countries. On industrial relations, the guidelines require good faith collective bargaining, respect for workers’ organizing rights, and fair pay and conditions. 

Each OECD country maintains a National Contact Point (NCP) to receive complaints about labor abuses by foreign investors.  Based in the State Department, the U.S. NCP has three months to decide whether to act on the unions’ complaint against Chedraui’s El Super chain. It can offer a mediation process that aims at resolving the dispute within six months.

Information on the OECD Guidelines and the U.S. National Contact Point is available at the US NCP website at http://www.state.gov/e/eb/oecd/usncp/index.htm. U.S. NCP confidentiality rules do not allow disclosure of the text of the unions’ complaint. However, information on El Super’s conduct is available on the union website at http://www.ufcw770.org/content/contractupdate-el-super


AFL-CIO President Trumka Addresses The NH Raising Wages Summit

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka NH Raising Wages Summit Image by Matt Murray

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
NH Raising Wages Summit
Image by Matt Murray

We are going to stand united and defeat the TPP so we can start investing in working men and women again,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka at the Raising Wages Summit in Concord, NH.

The New Hampshire Raising Wages Summit is the second of four planned summits to bring attention to the fact that working families have not seen a real raise in years, if not decades.  The minimum wage has been stagnant for far to long, and the median wage in this country continues to fall.

“Raising wages is what we’re all about. It’s good for working families and the nation. And it comes from activism and the collective voice. This agenda is about much more than wages, though. It’s about—the opportunity to work for a better life. It’s a philosophy, a vision, and a plan all rolled into one. It starts with the absolute truth that we should be decently paid for the work we do. No one should make less than the minimum wage, everyone should make a living wage, and collective bargaining should be available for all workers,” said Trumka.

The AFL-CIO chose New Hampshire because we have a very unique opportunity to meet and talk with the next President of the United States.  Being the First in the Nation primary state allows us unprecedented access to candidates and the media following them around like lap dogs.

We have a responsibility to put real pressure on these candidates and ask them, “What are you going to do to raise the wages for working families?”

The Raising Wages Summit was not only about raising the minimum wage but for pushing back against policies like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that will harm working families.

“On Thursday, after six long years, the Obama Administration finally released the text of the TPP. To our disappointment but not our surprise, it is a bad deal for workers. It would drive down wages, kill jobs, give corporations special rights, hurt consumers, and jeopardize the public health,” said Trumka.

The fight over the TPP was almost over when labor activist came within three votes of killing the “fast-track authority” in Congress.  Now the text of the TPP has been released and Congress must decide to accept or reject it once and for all.

“The release of the TPP text confirmed our worst suspicions—this deal would be a disaster for America. So brothers and sisters, we are going to continue to make our voices heard. We are going to fight like hell against the TPP. And when it comes up for a vote, we are going to kill this bad trade deal once and for all,” Trumka stated.

“We are going to stand united and defeat the TPP so we can start investing in working men and women again,” said Trumka

Below is the full video of President Trumka’s speech and the text as prepared.


Full Remarks by Richard Trumka, as prepared for delivery

Good morning brothers and sisters. It is great to be back in New Hampshire. There is something extra special about coming here during the political season. There is a buzz in the air. Fall, football, and the New Hampshire primary. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Voters in New Hampshire don’t rely on debates or television interviews to get to know the presidential candidates. You interact with them one on one—in town halls and diners and often in your own living room. New Hampshire plays a unique role in choosing our next president. What an awesome responsibility.

So I thought I’d talk today about the state of the labor movement, the role we are playing in this election, and why that role is so important.

In January, the AFL-CIO hosted a national summit to launch an agenda for shared prosperity called Raising Wages.

Raising wages is what we’re all about. It’s good for working families and the nation. And it comes from activism and the collective voice.

This agenda is about much more than wages, though. It’s about—the opportunity to work for a better life. It’s a philosophy, a vision, and a plan all rolled into one. It starts with the absolute truth that we should be decently paid for the work we do. No one should make less than the minimum wage, everyone should make a living wage, and collective bargaining should be available for all workers. But it goes far broader and deeper than that.

Raising wages means trade policies that lift incomes in America and around the world. It means modern labor laws that give everyone who works a real opportunity to bargain for higher wages without fear. It means allowing workers to demand and win paid time off and fair schedules so we can sustain healthy families.

Now those of you who have worked in Washington know that summits and conferences happen all the time. More often than not, after the last speech is given and the lights are turned off, people go back to business as usual. Not this time. Our national summit was a beginning, not an end. We created an agenda—a standard by which all things would be measured. We also scheduled 4 regional summits in the early campaign states. We previously had one in Iowa and will bring our message to Nevada and South Carolina in the coming months.

We knew this time had to be different for two important reasons.

First, labor is under attack like never before. The corporate right-wing and their allies are waging the most sophisticated anti-worker campaign we have ever seen. They are holding down our pay. On purpose. They are coming after us in all 50 states. In city halls and state legislatures. In Congress and even at the Supreme Court.

So we need allies. Allies like Governor Maggie Hassan. The 2014 election was a tough one for working families. But we were proud to come together and re-elect Governor Hassan. Under her leadership, New Hampshire had more economic growth last year than any other state in New England. Governor Hassan understands that we must invest in infrastructure, education, and most of all, working men and women. She pushed through the Paycheck Fairness Act to guarantee women equal pay for equal work. She successfully worked to freeze college tuition for New Hampshire students. She has been a champion of a living wage. And she has stood strong against efforts to pass right to work in New Hampshire.

Governor Hassan also knows that our trade policies should export American products, not American jobs.

That brings me to the second reason we couldn’t settle for the status quo after our national summit: fast track.

The truth is unfair trade deals have ripped apart the fabric of our nation. You know it and I know it. We’ve seen the shuttered factories. We’ve visited the towns that look like they are stuck in the 1970s. We’ve talked to the workers who lost everything, only to be told they should retrain in another field. That’s why we fought so hard against fast track. We were fighting for the future of the American Dream.

The work you did and the solidarity you showed was an inspiration. Your letters, your phone calls, your e-mails, and most of all your energy, helped moved the dial. It was a sight to see.

In the end we came up just a few votes short, but we changed the trade debate forever. The Wall Street and Washington elite thought the Trans-Pacific Partnership was a slam dunk, but we have slowed down the entire process.

On Thursday, after six long years, the Obama Administration finally released the text of the TPP. To our disappointment but not our surprise, it is a bad deal for workers. It would drive down wages, kill jobs, give corporations special rights, hurt consumers, and jeopardize the public health.

The release of the TPP text confirmed our worst suspicions—this deal would be a disaster for America. So brothers and sisters, we are going to continue to make our voices heard. We are going to fight like hell against the TPP. And when it comes up for a vote, we are going to kill this bad trade deal once and for all.

Just as the Raising Wages agenda is about more than wages, the fast track fight was about more than trade.

Fast track was a symbol of an economy out of balance—a set of rules written by and for big corporations.

So the debate raised a fundamental question: do we want to be a nation that values work, community, investment, and productivity?

Or will we continue to reward wealth, profit, monopoly, and inequality?

Brothers and sisters, we may have lost the vote. But we won the debate. We changed the conversation in America. We can raise wages!

We see it in new worker organizing in manufacturing, construction, retail, and fast food.

We see it in 5 million union workers are speaking up together, the biggest year for collective bargaining in American history.

We see it in a recent Gallup poll that shows support for unions at a 7-year high. And we see it in the 2016 presidential campaign.

I don’t know about you but I thought the first Democratic debate was one of the best I have ever seen. Here are just a few of the highlights.

Hillary Clinton came out against the TPP and emphasized the words “raising wages.”

Bernie Sanders decried the “casino capitalist process.”

Martin O’Malley talked about passing a living wage and investing in infrastructure in Maryland.

Make no mistake, labor is influencing the debate. We are setting the terms and conditions of this election.

We have said all along that the presidential candidates must explain what they will do to make our economy fairer for working families. That’s what we insisted on at our national summit in January, and that’s what you are demanding here in New Hampshire today.

We have also been crystal clear that we do not work for any political party or candidate. We work for working people, plain and simple, because we want the freedom to live better lives, to take care of our families and to improve our jobs and our communities.

Brothers and sisters, for too long we’ve worked for the Democratic Party. In this election, we’re making the Democratic Party work for us.

Heck, even last week’s Republican debate included a discussion about inequality.

It is clear we are part of a powerful movement at an historic time and you are on the front lines. It starts with us and it starts here in New Hampshire.

We’re building collective power in the workplace, in the economy and in politics.

From now until the New Hampshire primary and beyond, we need to keep up the pressure.

We need to keep shaping the debate and making our voices heard.

We have a message for all the presidential candidates and anyone else who will listen.

We are going to do everything in our power to raise wages.

We are going to join together for good pay, great benefits and safe workplaces.

We are going to fight to guarantee women are paid one hundred cents on the dollar.

We are going to push for policies that make it easier to form a union and bargain collectively, and harder for employers to deny us those rights.

We are going to stand united and defeat the TPP so we can start investing in working men and women again.

And we are going to spend every single day building an America of shared prosperity that gives every one of us the opportunity for a better life.

Thank you! God bless you, and the work you do!

AFL-CIO President “Deeply Disappointed” In Text Of Newly Released TPP

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka made the following statement after
the release of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) text:

Richard_TrumkaAfter six long years, the secrecy is over.  The public finally has a chance to scrutinize the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for themselves instead of having to rely on characterizations made by the agreement’s supporters.  America’s voters can now make their own judgment  about whether it meets their high standards for a 21st Century agreement that will raise wages, protect our democracy, and promote sustainable growth and development.

From what we have reviewed so far, we are deeply disappointed that our policy recommendations and those of our trade reform allies in the environmental, consumer, public health, global development, and business sectors were largely ignored.  The investment rules still provide expansive new legal rights and powers to foreign businesses to challenge legitimate government actions, the labor enforcement provisions are still inadequate to address the enormous challenges posed by this deal, and the lack of enforceable currency rules subject to trade sanctions mean the promised new export markets may never materialize.

We will be examining the text line by line in the coming days to understand the deal’s full implications for working people in every sector from manufacturing and agriculture to public and private services.  But from what we have already seen, it is clear that the threats of this expansive new agreement outweigh its benefits —  for good jobs, for democracy, for affordable medicines, for consumer safety, and for the environment. The hardworking families of the AFL-CIO will join with our allies to defeat the TPP. 

Transportation Trades Department And Lawmakers Collaborate on Transportation Policy Concerns

Transportation Trade Department Logo

TTD Executive Committee Takes Aim at Pending Bills

WASHINGTON, DC — Transportation labor leaders — gathered today at the fall Executive Committee meeting of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) — met with key members of Congress to seek solutions to a woefully underfunded transportation system and to boost job creation in what remains a slow recovery that TTD’s leader said is “leaving too many working people behind.”

“The need for long-term investments in our transportation system and infrastructure will not ‘just go away,’” said Edward Wytkind, president of TTD, who added that the dialogue with congressional guests “focused like a laser” on ending the stalemate on crucial investment bills. “With the recent progress on a surface transportation bill and strong bipartisan display of support for the U.S. Merchant Marine, we may be witnessing a brief but important timeout from senseless partisanship.”

TTD hosted roundtable discussions with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the ranking Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

The high priorities during the discussion with lawmakers included keeping aviation and maritime issues out of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP); fighting legislative assaults on longshore employees’ bargaining rights; passing Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reauthorization; boosting the Maritime Security Program; and rejecting emerging hair specimen drug testing legislation.

“As Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, I value input from my friends in the transportation labor community who bring a critically needed front-line employee perspective to our work,” Diaz-Balart said. “By seeking the views of both labor and business, community leaders and other important partners, we can develop real, long-term solutions to our nation’s transportation infrastructure challenges.”

“We need to increase investments in our infrastructure and focus on the areas that will truly help create jobs and support our economy,” Nelson said. “We also need to protect the men and women who are out there every day making our transportation systems work.”

“Transportation infrastructure is at the heart of the U.S. economy. Our economic competitiveness, our businesses and millions of American jobs depend on robust investments in our crumbling network of roads, bridges, highways and transit systems,” DeFazio said. “We must continue to push for legislation that will modernize our nation’s transportation infrastructure, create good jobs and enhance the rights and working conditions of the men and women who keep America moving. I thank TTD for joining in that effort.”

The Executive Committee also held a discussion about plans for member education in the 2016 presidential election.

TTD, which represents some 2 million workers in every sector of transportation, has been working with its affiliates on a flurry of key issues. Just today TTD and its maritime and aviation affiliates sent a letter to President Obama urging his Administration to keep maritime and aviation out of any TTIP negotiations. TTD has aggressively countered the trucking lobby’s agenda to bring “unscientific” hair specimen drug testing to front line bus and truck drivers. And TTD coordinated efforts with its member unions to advance a surface transportation bill out of committee last week that awaits House floor consideration.

“When you’re talking about transportation jobs, you’re talking about middle-class jobs — the types of jobs that elude too many Americans,” Wytkind added. “The policies that affect our sector have a real impact on working families, and that’s something Congress can’t forget despite working in the Washington bubble.”

Congress Pushes Budget Deal To Avoid Shutdown, Delays Sequester, And Partially Preserve Social Security

Today the White House and congressional leadership announced a budget agreement that sets government funding levels for two years and extends the nation’s borrowing limit through 2017. The agreement provides the defense and domestic discretionary budgets with equal relief from mandatory spending cuts.

“This budget agreement provides a balanced approach to funding the federal government over the next two years,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “I’m very encouraged that leadership in Congress and the White House were able to find a bipartisan compromise that lifts the debt ceiling and provides much needed relief from across the board budget cuts known as sequestration. More blind budget cutting would be disastrous for New Hampshire families and our state’s economy. It’s my hope that Congress can quickly approve this legislation and avoid any last-minute brinkmanship that could threaten the full faith and credit of the United States.”

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. praised the deal as it relieved workers from the fear of another government shutdown and forced unpaid furloughs. 

“This budget deal is an exceedingly rare example of what can be accomplished when elected leaders put aside their partisan bickering and govern in a responsible way that benefits working families.

The bipartisan budget deal announced by congressional leaders and the White House would suspend sequestration for the next two years and provide much-needed increases in military and domestic spending.

Federal workers have endured $159 billion in cuts under the guise of fiscal restraint, and our members were united in opposing any budget that would target them for additional sacrifice.

The budget also is good news for federal retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System, who will no longer be facing a 53% increase in their premiums under Medicare Part B.

Federal employees are relieved that they will no longer be facing the threat of another government shutdown or unpaid furloughs. We urge the Congress to repeal the Budget Control Act altogether so that these manufactured crises will no longer occur.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka appeared to be more relieved than joyful over the deal.

“Congressional leaders and the President successfully eluded the traps set by a conservative faction in Congress who have tried to hold our economy hostage to achieve their radical agenda.

The full faith and credit of the United States will be preserved as we pay our bills on time – preventing brinksmanship over the debt until 2017.

Tight budget caps on defense and non-defense spending will be eased, restoring funding for vital programs and stimulating the economy. While it fails to provide Medicare beneficiaries with full relief from higher costs, it reduces a spike in deductibles for everyone and avoids a sharp increase in premiums for many. It ensures that 11 million Americans on Social Security Disability Insurance continue to receive full benefits through 2022. It avoids across-the-board benefit cuts of nearly 20 percent starting in 2016. 

While it does not offer long-term solutions for these problems, it provides relief without yielding to the conservatives’ extreme “entitlement reform” approaches that would have done real harm.

Now that we have again kept our country from going over the edge, we hope lawmakers will work on a raising wages agenda that can bring better lives to working families.”

Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans was pleased that Congress avoided massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare and vowed to continue pushing for a more accurate way to calculate the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly. 

“Movement to prevent a default and avert a government shutdown is welcome news for all Americans, but the deal is not perfect.

The Alliance for Retired Americans is relieved that this budget deal would protect millions of seniors from significant increases to their Medicare Part B deductibles while preventing a 20% cut to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in 2016.

The reallocation between the Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and SSDI trust funds would prevent a massive cut in benefits for the disabled. The transfer would not impact the long-term solvency of Social Security.

We would have preferred no increase to Medicare Part B premiums; however, limiting the increases of those who are not ‘held harmless’ is a step in the right direction. In early October, Virginia Alliance President Ron Thompson of Ivor, Virginia spoke at a Capitol Hill press conference on how the increase would financially harm him. Over the last two weeks more than 30,000 Alliance members contacted their Members of Congress saying that a 52% premium hike was unfair and unwarranted. Our voices were heard.

While it appears a crisis has been averted, we have not improved retirement security for our nation’s seniors by expanding their earned Social Security benefits. We will continue to fight to make that a reality by urging Congress to implement a more accurate way to calculate cost-of-living adjustments: the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).”

Working Women Need A Voice On The Job

Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, On Challenges Facing Women In The Workplace

National Women’s Law Center Hosted Speech Titled “Our Days, Our Lives: Working Women Need a Voice on the Job” 

This image © 2009 Jay Mallin. All rights reserved.

Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer –This image © 2009 Jay Mallin. All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today at the historic Whittemore House, the National Women’s Law Center hosted Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, for a speech about some of the often-overlooked issues women face on the job—especially those in low-wage jobs.

Over the past 40+ years, women in the workplace have gained a great deal—laws meant to protect their rights, new freedoms, and career opportunities that were once thought unimaginable. “Even as we celebrate the advancement of women in work, the harsh reality is too many of us continue to struggle when we shouldn’t have to,” Shuler said in her speech. “Sheryl Sandberg asked us to “lean in.” But most working women are already leaning in so hard we are practically falling over. We are being forced to hang on, scrape by, and make do.”

Shuler noted that minority women workers bear the brunt of the wage gap between men and women:

“Women of color experience lower median weekly earnings, higher rates of poverty, and greater unemployment. While women overall make 79 cents on the dollar, black women and Hispanic women only make 63 cents and 54 cents, respectively. Yet the women’s movement—and yes, the labor movement—have been slow to address these issues. We cannot outsource this work to others. As feminists, we must stand up for all working women—regardless of their race and class.”

Shuler went on to announce two new AFL-CIO programs aimed at helping working women gain more control over their jobs and their futures. The AFL-CIO will be launching a national survey designed to better understand the needs and concerns of working women. “Studying the intersection of work and life will help women thrive at our jobs, with our families, and in our communities,” said Shuler. “It will help us reclaim the days of our lives” Additionally, the AFL-CIO will be developing and launching a new negotiation training program designed to help women negotiate for better wages and working conditions regardless of where they work.

“The AFL-CIO is at the forefront of helping working people live better lives and these new initiatives are an example of that leadership,” said Marcia Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center. “I applaud Liz for her efforts to raise awareness of the day-to-day challenges low-wage women face, and to put forward concrete proposals for leveling the playing field.” 

Shuler is the first woman to be elected as Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO and the youngest officer to sit on the Executive Council. She got her start in the labor movement after noticing the disparities between union and non-union counterparts in the workplace during a summer job. She joined the staff of IBEW Local 125 and worked her way up the ranks at IBEW.

The link to the full text of the speech can be found here.

AFL-CIO National Survey to Examine the Lives of Working Women

(Washington, DC) Today, the AFL-CIO released the National Survey of Working Women to capture a multifaceted picture of the lives of working women across the country, both union and nonunion.

The survey, developed under the guidance of the AFL-CIO Executive Council Committee on Working Women will ask women about their economic interests, family and work life, along with their experiences balancing their responsibilities.

“Today, with the economy in slow recovery, a new wave of attacks on collective bargaining and a presidential election on the horizon, working women’s voices are more important than ever,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and Chair of the AFL-CIO Women’s Committee.

“Working women need to stand together to let employers know what we need on the job. Our survey will reach out to working women from all different walks of life, both inside and outside the labor movement and will provide a much needed look into the daily lives of working women and how they struggle to achieve the ever-elusive work-life balance,” said Diann Woodard, President of the American Federation of School Administrators and Vice-Chair of the AFL-CIO Women’s Committee.

The survey will be open from October 27 – December 4, 2015, and results will be available in March 2016 during Women’s History Month.

The survey can be accessed online at go.aflcio.org/WomensSurvey.

AFL-CIO Worker Wins Update: Scheduling Victories Edition

WASHINGTON, DC – Workers in retail, union members, and unorganized workers have stood up in the past year to fight for scheduling reform that leads to a better life for working families.

“Our retail scheduling system is broken, and working families deserve better,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. “Over the last year, big corporations and politicians have heard working people demanding a path to a better life through scheduling reform and some have even taken steps to create a more balanced approach.  However, there are still far too many who are subject to the whims of their employer in order to pay their bills. Americans need decisive action to create a scheduling system that works for working families.”

Some examples of scheduling victories over the last year include:

Abercrombie & Fitch Makes Scheduling Reform Fashionable: In early August, Abercrombie and Fitch, with 799 U.S. stores, announced the end of their on-call shift practice after New York State Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman started an investigation into the scheduling practices of 13 large retailers. Abercrombie & Fitch stores will now alert workers to their schedules a week in advance and provide email alerts about unexpected scheduling needs.

Gap Recognizes Worker Demands, Ends ‘On-Call Scheduling: Gap, Inc., which includes its five brands – Athleta, Gap, Old Navy, Intermix and Banana Republic – made an agreement to end on-call scheduling by the end of September, 2015. Gap cited the importance of ‘work-life integration’ to their employees and committed itself to ensuring ‘consistent and reliable scheduling.’

Walmart Workers Win Progress in Scheduling: Earlier this year, Walmart announced it would make significant changes to its scheduling system, including instituting fixed scheduling for some workers. The changes, advocated for by working people and worker advocates, would ensure some Walmart workers will know their schedules at least 2.5 weeks in advance, and workers will have more control over the hours and days they work.

Victoria’s Secret is Better Scheduling Practices: Victoria’s Secret ended its use of ‘on-call’ scheduling after workers spoke out to Buzzfeed earlier this summer, calling on the end to predatory and abusive practices. Workers told Buzzfeed that they were often required to be available for shifts that were cancelled at the last minute with no compensation. Victoria Secret’s parent company, L Brands, was also sued in California last year for the same anti-worker practices. 

San Francisco Takes Lead in Enacting Serious Schedule Reform: Late last year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a law requiring major retail chains to provide two weeks’ notice for any change in a worker’s schedule, while providing penalties for companies that fail to provide such notice. The Board’s decision came after UFCW-organized workers at San Francisco-based Macy’s stores fought back against efforts by the retail giant to cut notice time for schedules by two-thirds.

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