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Coalition Builds Around Infrastructure Week May 11-15

Infrastructure Week 2015 to be Held May 11-15, 2015 With a Growing Coalition of More than 60 Organizations

Nearly 30 Events Planned in Washington, D.C. and Around the Country to Promote Investment in America’s Economy and Future

Washington, D.C.— April 22, 2015 – Today, the nation’s largest infrastructure and transportation groups announced that more than 60 national and regional infrastructure and transportation advocacy groups are set to participate inInfrastructure Week 2015, to be held the week of May 11-15th, 2015.Infrastructure Week 2015 is a series of events in Washington, D.C. and around the country that will raise awareness of the lack of investment in America’s infrastructure – from surface and air transportation to broadband networks— which has left the United States less globally competitive and riddled with potholes, aging water pipes bursting once every two minutes, outdated transit and lengthening travel delays.

During Infrastructure Week, business executives, labor leaders, and elected officials from around America will make the case that America’s neglected infrastructure negatively impacts our lives and livelihoods, and that we must invest in our economic future through comprehensive investments in agile, efficient and secure infrastructure systems. See the most-updated list of events here:http://infrastructureweek.org/

Infrastructure Week is coordinated by America’s business, labor and policymaking leadership, and will convene an unprecedented non-partisan coalition united around the importance of investing in America’s infrastructure future. Infrastructure Week challenges policymakers and the public to directly address the needs facing America’s deteriorating infrastructure, and to move beyond short-term fixes and deferred maintenance, in order to envision innovative solutions, technologies, policies and investments that will bring America’s infrastructure and transportation systems into the 21stcentury and lay the groundwork for future generations. The organizations affiliated with Infrastructure Week envision a future in which America will have a more robust, opportunity-rich and competitive economy.

Infrastructure Week 2015 is led by a steering committee consisting of the AFL-CIO, the American Society of Civil Engineers, Building America’s Future, Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, the Council on Competitiveness, the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In addition to these organizations, the steering committee is joined by nearly 60 national and local affiliate organizations from all sectors of the economy and communities, and from all corners of the United States. See the full list of affiliates here:http://infrastructureweek.org/affiliates/

“Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure isn’t a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, it’s an American issue, and it’s one that we should all come together to support,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “With so many Americans ready to get back to work, the time is now to create good paying jobs and better roads, bridges, communications, and transit systems we can all be proud of.”

Find out more about Infrastructure Week – including our calendar of dozens of events in Washington, D.C and around America – atwww.infrastructureweek.org, and follow on Twitter at @RebuildRenewand#RebuildRenew.

Find us at http://infrastructureweek.org      /      Follow us on Twitter at @RebuildRenew

Worker Wins Update: April Showers Bring Big Wins For Workers

WASHINGTON, DC– Workers across the country have stood up in the past month to fight for better wages and working conditions.

Harvard Hotel Workers Make Smart Choice to Organize: Following a two year campaign, workers at the Soldiers Field Road DoubleTree Hotel, located in a building owned by Harvard, voted to organize with UNITE HERE! Local 26. The workers will join Harvard dining hall workers as well as Boston-area hotel staff in the local union.

Next Stop for Double Decker Bus Tour Guides: A Union: Workers at a double decker bus tour company in New York City have voted to join Transport Workers Union Local 100, fighting back against poor working conditions and pay cuts. TWU Local 100 currently represents approximately 40,000 transit workers throughout New York City.

Casino Workers Go ‘All-In’ on Union: The cards at the Horseshoe Baltimore Casino will be dealt by union members after workers voted to join the National Gaming Workers Coalition, which includes UNITE HERE!, United Auto Workers, and Operating Engineers.

Toady’s Lesson at Detroit Charter Schools: Forming a Union: Teachers from three Detroit charter schools have come together to file petitions to be represented by the Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers & Staff, a local union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.

Gawker Writers Submit Stories and Union Cards: Workers at Gawker Media announced that they will be forming a union with the Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO in New York City. Gawker writers cited need for a fair salary and stated clearly that ‘every workplace could use a union’.

Alaska Nurses Find the Right Prescription, Affiliate with AFT: In a move to strengthen the voices of nurses in Alaska, the Alaska Nurses Association Labor Program agreed to affiliate with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Nurses and Health Professionals. With this affiliation, AFT now represents 113,000 healthcare professionals across the country.

Rutgers Faculty Win Big in Classroom and at Bargaining Table: Nearly 4,700 full-time faculty and graduate teaching assistants signed a new contract protecting members from salary freezes, health care rate hikes, and promising a raise in wages throughout the life of the contract. The contract, fought for by members of the American Association of University Professors – American Federation of Teachers, will also provide protections for approximately 7,000 graduate teaching assistants.

Howard University Physicians On-Call for Better Pay, Benefits: Resident physicians at Howard University Hospital in Washington DC have asked hospital officials to negotiate a new contract with their newly formed union after the NLRB upheld the results of its January election last week.

AFL-CIO Warns Congress of the Dangers of Fast Track in a Wave of Actions Across the Country

Over 10,000 Calls and Nearly 7,000 People at Events Against Bad Trade

(Washington, DC) – Last week, the AFL-CIO and its allies placed 10,000 calls to 49 House Members and 2 Senators, with an additional 1,000 calls occurring on Saturday’s National Day of Action from Virginia alone.

Since Fast Track legislation was introduced last Thursday, nearly 7,000 union members, environmentalists, faith leaders and other community partners went to Capitol Hill and canvassed the streets in over 50 Congressional districts and states to warn about the dangers of the Fast Track trade deals. Current proposals would roll back state and local laws safeguarding food and the environment as well as laws that protect working people from wage theft, predatory lending, and consumer fraud. Click here for a list of the events in the DC metro area and across the country. Highlights include:

  • In St. Louis, MO, 400 hand written letters were drafted to Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, and to Missouri Members of Congress. In addition, 26 Missouri State Representatives wrote to Sen. McCaskill in opposition to Fast Track.
  • In Nebraska, nearly 100 people endured thunderstorms and pouring rain to rally in front of Brad Ashford’s district office. They then waited an additional half hour to personally go into the Congressman’s office one by one to express their opposition to Fast Track.
  • In Portland, Bend, Salem, Eugene, Medford and Coos Bay, OR, over 1,000 people protested the Pacific Rim Trade Deals.
  • In Washington, DC last Thursday, Members of Congress, labor and environmental leaders spoke to a crowd of 1,200 people. On Monday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Sen. Bernie Sanders, CWA President Larry Cohen, and commentator Jim Hightower, spoke to a 1,000 person crowd of community allies from National People’s Action, USAction, Campaign for America’s Future, and Alliance for a Just Society.
  • At a Springfield, MA panel discussion, 50 students, union members, environmentalists and other community activists concerned about our food supply pulled out their phones to call Congressman Neil and express their views.
  • Also last Thursday, the AFL-CIO launched a six figure digital ad buy in 34 targeted House Districts and 16 Senate states.

Last week’s wave of action across the country builds on the grassroots activity in the month of March when union members, environmentalists, small business owners, progressives and community allies made more than 86,000 phone calls to Members of Congress, gathered more than 40,000 petition signatures, and organized more than 400 events across the country.

The “Fast Track” Bill For The Trans-Pacific Partnership Hit The Floor Of Congress Today, Labor Responds

It was only a matter of time until the multi-national corporations who helped fund the campaigns of many of the politician’s in Washington pushed for another trade agreement that will make them billions of dollars, and leave millions of American workers without a job.

Today the “Senate’s Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015” hit the Congressional floor. The deal was brokered by Senator Orin Hatch (R-Utah), Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), and Chairman of House Ways and Means Committee Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).

The New York Times spelled it out pretty well:

“It would give Congress the power to vote on the more encompassing 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership once it is completed, but would deny lawmakers the chance to amend what would be the largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994, which President Bill Clinton pushed through Congress despite opposition from labor and other Democratic constituencies.”

President Obama has already said he will oppose the unions — who help him win two elections — and his fellow democrats to get this trade agreement passed.

Richard_Trumka“At a time when workers all over the country are standing up for higher wages, Congress is considering legislation that will speed through corporate-driven trade deals,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “For decades, we’ve seen how fast-tracked trade deals devastated our communities through lost jobs and eroded public services. We can’t afford another bad deal that lowers wages and outsources jobs. That’s why Congress must reject Fast Track (TPA-2015) and maintain its constitutional authority and leverage to improve the TPP and other trade deals.”

Trumka continued, “Trade deals have wide-ranging impacts and shouldn’t be negotiated behind closed doors and then rubber-stamped. The current Trans-Pacific Partnership deal under discussion would cover 40 percent of the world’s GDP. A deal this big should be debated in a full and open manner like every other piece of legislation. Working people are showing tremendous courage standing up to the low-wage, corporate agenda. It’s time for politicians to do the same.”

Labor unions and progressive advocates have been calling for more transparency in this ginormous trade agreement. The White House has been negotiating this deal in secret, while assuring everyone that this will not be another NAFTA. The problem is that every time new information about the trade agreement is leaked, it shows exactly the opposite. More gifts to Wall Street and Corporations while the American people suffer.

“The proposed Fast Track bill fails all the tests that Senator Ron Wyden said were critical: Trade Adjustment Assistance, transparency, action to combat currency manipulation, real enforcement of environmental and worker standards, and procedures to enable Congress ‘to right the ship if trade negotiators get off course,’ as Wyden put it. Since this legislation requires a supermajority, or 60 votes, for the Senate to remove the TPP or any subsequent deal from Fast Track consideration, this provision is virtually meaningless,” wrote the Communication Workers of America in a statement late this afternoon.

Larry Cohen CWA“We need to put the brakes on Fast Track or Trade Promotion Authority. Just like the TPP itself, there has been no transparency around Trade Promotion Authority. We’ve had the start of a Senate hearing even before a bill was finalized and introduced. Now, that legislation is headed to mark up and a floor vote in just days. Trade Promotion Authority pretends to be about trade, but in reality it is about protecting corporate profits above all else and defining our national security in terms of giving away our jobs, depressing our wages and then rewarding the responsible multinational corporations, often U.S. based, with guaranteed profits in the nations where they invest,” said CWA President Larry Cohen.

Leo W Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers union wrote in his weekly column about how “illegally subsidized steel” is coming into the United States and forcing more workers out on the streets. “American steel producers laid off thousands of workers in bedrock communities from Ohio and Illinois to Texas and Alabama. That’s in just the past three months.”

“NAFTA has led to the loss of 1 million American jobs,” said Senator Bernie Sanders on the floor of the US Senate in late February. “Since we signed NAFTA the United States has cumulative trade deficit of 8.8 trillion dollars. That is wealth that has left the U.S. and gone overseas.”

It is not just the manufacturing unions who are speaking out against the Fast Track and the TPP.

The UFCW supported the last major trade agreement with Korea because of its improved labor standards and potential to create 20,000 jobs in the meat sector. But in his op-ed, Perrone makes clear that this time is different.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is not the Korea free trade agreement,” he writes. “It is neither free nor fair. And the UFCW is determined to see it defeated.”

AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

AFT President Weingarten (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers and an outspoken progressive also spoke out against the agreement.

“At a time when we need to be focused on creating and sustaining good jobs for American workers, fast track would undermine these efforts, leading to trade deals that hurt everyday working people and stack the deck in favor of corporations. And it would do this in a secretive way, with limited public and congressional oversight and no effective enforcement,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

She continued, “Our nation’s trade policy should help put us on a path toward lifting all Americans’ quality of life—ensuring rights for workers, protections for consumers and safeguards for the environments. That’s why we need a democratic and transparent trade process that offers a fair shake for American workers. This bill is over-reaching and will fail to keep working families and our economy strong.”

“We send our elected leaders to Washington to be our voice,” said AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson. “Under fast track, Congress will have no say in selecting our trade partners, negotiating trade terms, or debating and amending trade agreements. This bill panders to corporate profiteers, while ignoring the voices of everyday American workers, who are fighting to oppose it.”

Now we need everyone to stand up and put an end to this monumental race to the bottom.

10492525_10153211806206153_8036817465541163150_nUses your cell phone to text TPP to 877877 and you can be connected directly to your Congressman or Senators office to tell them to vote no on this legislation. Or call the Senate directly at 1-855-790-8815 and tell them that “Fast Track means bad trade deals that ship American jobs overseas.”

Then take part in a National Day of Action to Stop Fast Track this Saturday, April 18th. Click here to find an event near you.

The AFL-CIO has more information on the TPP and “Fast Track” legislation on their website.

AFL-CIO Worker Wins Update: Wages and Numbers Rise for Working Families

WASHINGTON, DC– Workers across the country have stood up in the past month to fight for better wages and working conditions.

Worker Voices Raise Worker Wages: Under pressure from workers, major corporations such as Walmart, Target, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and McDonald’s have raised their minimum wage over the past months, addressing America’s national wage stagnation crisis. From coast to coast workers have held actions calling on employers to raise wages, and national leaders have echoed calls in favor of a raising wages agenda.

37,000 Workers Get a Raise as Seattle Minimum Wage Hike Begins: Seattle’s minimum wage rose to $11 on April 1stas part of a multi-step process that will eventually result in a $15 minimum wage throughout the city by 2021.  This raise comes as over two dozen stateshave minimum wages above the federal minimum wages.

The Union Difference in Mining: Safety and Efficiency: According to a March report by SNL Energy, underground coalmines with union workers are safer and more productive than their non-union counterparts. Of the 16 miners who died on the job in 2014, only one was at a union mine, while union miners were found to be nearly 20 percent more productive per hour.

Workers Rev Up Organizing Efforts as UAW Membership Climbs: The United Auto Workers added more than 12,000 members in 2014 according to its Labor Organizing Annual Report released in March. UAW membership has grown for five consecutive years with nearly 50,000 new members since 2009.

NYU and UAW’s graduate teaching assistants reach “A+” agreement:  Last month, New York University (NYU) and GSOC-UAW Local 2110, which represents graduate teaching and research assistants, reached a tentative agreement that provides improved wages and benefits among other improvements. This week, GSOC members overwhelmingly ratified the agreement making it the only contract covering graduate teaching and research assistants at a private university.

Workers Fight For Schedule Stability in California: Workers in California ramped up a fight last month to ensure that service industry employers give their workers at least two weeks’ notice before scheduling shifts. This law seeks to provide predictable work schedules to millions of workers in industries such as fast food and retail, where workers often have no notice of hours they’re expected to work.

President Obama Says ‘No’ To GOP Efforts to Weaken Union Rules: President Obama blocked Congressional GOP efforts last month to overturn NLRB rulings to streamline the union election process, making it easier for workers to have a voice. The NLRB regulations were issued last December and take effect on April 14th.

 

AFL-CIO Mobilizes Tens of Thousands Against Fast Track

Over 86,000 Calls, 40,000 Petitioners and 400 Events Against Bad Trade Deals

(Washington, DC, April 6, 2015) – As Congress prepares to consider Trade Promotion Authority, also known as Fast Track, the AFL-CIO, community allies and their members including leaders like former Labor Secretary Robert Reich are taking action to stop this legislation. Working families have been holding local events, writing their Members of Congress, making phone calls and signing petitions. The level of grassroots activity around giving the President fast track authority shows workers’ fear of yet another set of bad trade deals that lower wages and send jobs overseas while undermining labor, health and environmental standards.

  • Over the last few months, tens of thousands raised their collective voices in opposition to Fast Track: over 86,000 calls were made to Members of Congress while over 40,000 people signed onto a national petition to stop Fast Track. Around the country over 400 events were organized in Congressional districts.

In the month of March alone there has been tremendous activity. Actions will continue to ramp up during the week of April 13 leading to a National Day of Action on April 18.

  • On March 2, 60 unions united and sent a letter to all Members of Congress urging them to stand for higher wages, more jobs, and greater opportunities for America’s hardworking families by opposing Fast Track legislation.
  • On March 4, over 400 hundred union members, labor leaders and other working Americans met with more than 120 Senators, members of Congress and their staff to discuss how bad trade policy has harmed their communities.
  • On March 9, 250 Oregonians rallied in Portland to put pressure onto Senator Wyden to stand against Fast Track.
  • On March 25, 200 people from AFL-CIO, CWA, SEIU, Sierra Club, Common Cause, Working America, ARA, and others joined together to in Ohio to write letters to Senator Rob Portman to stop Fast Track legislation.  Current US Senate candidate and former Governor Ted Strickland joined the group and penned his own letter to his opponent.
  • Also on March 25, a radio advertisement was launched in Oregon to put pressure onto Senator Wyden to stand against Fast Track.
  • On March 28, 250 Ohio union members heard Sen. Sherrod Brown and Congressman Tim Ryan talk about the impact of bad trade agreements.
  • On March 30, 300 union members, elected officials, and community partners rallied in Toledo, OH with U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur against Fast Track legislation and the TPP.
  • On March 26, Seattle and Bellingham City Councils passed anti-TPP resolutions, and hundreds of union members, community activist and working families circulated a public sign-on letter against Fast Track representing 60 organizations.

New AFL-CIO Report Exposes Walmart’s Abuse of H-1B Visas

As the annual H-1B visa lottery opens, report shows Walmart’s obsession with cheap labor

http://go.aflcio.org/Walmart-H1B

(Washington, DC) – To mark the opening of the annual H-1B visa lottery, the AFL-CIO released a new report documenting Walmart’s abuse of the visa program.

The report “After Decimating U.S. Manufacturing, Wal-Mart Takes Aim at the Information Technology Sector” contains strong evidence that Walmart and its contractors rely on the H-1B work visa program to meet the company’s routine needs for information technology (IT) labor, potentially displacing U.S. workers. Yet, many of the IT guest workers are denied a path to citizenship. The findings undermine the arguments advanced by corporate lobbyists pushing to expand the program.

“At a time when we face unprecedented levels of inequality and decades of wage stagnation, it is irresponsible to expand access to employment-based temporary work programs that will continue to hold down wages, increase worker vulnerability, and reduce social mobility for deserving workers,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

The report also reveals how Walmart has quietly backed corporate lobbying groups pushing to expand the program and increase the number of H-1B visas that are available. In the meantime, the number of H-1B applications for IT workers in Bentonville, Ark., where Walmart’s headquarters are located, continues to grow—suggesting that local Science, Technology, Math and Engineering (STEM) recent graduates lose out on IT jobs.

Among the most important findings:

• Between 2007 and 2014, IT contractors have filed almost 15,000 petitions (certified LCAs) for H-1B visas for work placed in Bentonville, Arkansas, home to Walmart’s headquarters and information technology center. Walmart is a known client of these controversial outsourcing contractors, including Infosys, Cognizant and Wipro.

• Walmart is driving down standards in the tech industry in the U.S. by using H-1Bs visas and contractors excessively, and violating the spirit, if not the letter of the visa program. This keeps costs low and allows for IT guest workers to be paid less.

• Walmart and its outsourced IT operations at contractors do not hold up their end of the immigration bargain: they rarely apply for green cards for H-1B visa workers. In some years, they submit no green card applications at all.

The H-1B program allows U.S. companies to bring high-skill “guest workers” to the U.S. for up to 6 years. However, the requirement for companies to search for American workers before turning to foreign labor in the H-1B program is not effectively enforced.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, AFL-CIO President Trumka testified that the current H-1B visa program “allows employers to stifle wages, create a captive workforce, and make previously full time jobs insecure and temporary.”

The AFL-CIO has been an outspoken advocate for comprehensive immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship that fixes our broken immigration system.

“As Congress resumes the debate on immigration reform, we hope the Senate will focus on the core flaws in our immigration system that contribute to economic inequality and wage stagnation, rather than advancing low-road employment models that have contributed to the erosion of the middle class,” said Trumka.

The report can be viewed here: http://go.aflcio.org/Walmart-H1B

AFL-CIO Launches Historic Campaign to Assist Workers with Immigration Executive Action and Citizenship Assistance

We Rise! national immigration initiative will build worker and community power and assist eligible immigrants with the DACA, DAPA and with U.S. Citizenship

(Washington, DC) – Today, the AFL-CIO officially launched “We Rise!,” a national immigration initiative to reach, mobilize, and organize immigrant workers to build power on the job and in the community. We Rise! will train union members and equip union halls around the country to empower immigrant workers and their families to gain rights on the job by applying for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs. The program will also encourage qualified Legal Permanent Residents to become U.S. Citizens.

“President Obama’s executive actions were the right thing to do, but we’re not done yet. This progress can be stalled but it cannot be stopped. With the launching of the We Rise! initiative we are moving forward,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

The “We Rise!” national immigration initiative was launched with a three day training where more than 200 union members, leaders and staff from 23 different unions and activists from 27 states gathered in Washington, DC to receive practical, hands-on training that will enable them to return to their communities with plans to assist qualified applicants with the DAPA, DACA programs and U.S. Citizenship.

“We learned a lot in the workshops and trainings, from how DACA and DAPA will protect and advance workers’ rights, to how to identify eligible recipients and assist them with the application process,” said Ildefonso Magaña, an International Union of Painters and Allied Trades organizer from Phoenix, AZ. “You could feel the energy in all the sessions. There is a lot of excitement and we are all looking forward to returning to our communities to hit the ground running.”

In February, a Texas judge issued a preliminary injunction on both immigration executive actions. The 5th Court Circuit has set a hearing for April 17. AFL-CIO President Trumka has stated that “this temporary setback will not deter the AFL-CIO’s work on the ground to ensure that as many workers as possible are eventually able to gain protections and work authorization under the new deferred action programs.”

As part of this commitment, unions in key states will open their halls to eligible workers, where they will learn more about their rights on the job and meet trained volunteers and legal experts who will assist them with filling out their applications and answer any questions in regards to both programs and the citizenship process.

In addition, Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, will launch “Working America We Rise!”, a project offering immigrant workers the opportunity to join the labor movement and receive benefits including legal services, credit counseling, prepaid cards with a feature for remittances, and access to dental and vision discounts. Dues-paying Working America We Rise! members are also eligible to apply for a $250 “We Rise! Grant” to help fund deferred action application fees.

“It is great to know there is assistance out there for workers who will benefit from citizenship, and the DACA and DAPA programs,” said Maria Dominguez, an American Federation of Teachers member who benefited from DACA, and now works as teacher in Austin, TX. “With these programs workers will finally be able to claim our rights at work and parents of our students will stop being deported. This is just the beginning.”

During the past year, the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions have organized citizenship workshops in several cities in the country.  The UFCW has been at the forefront of building a robust program that has helped to guide the federation’s work. The We Rise! initiative is a continuation of the labor movement’s efforts to empower all workers by pushing for comprehensive immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship.

American And Canadian Unions Come Together Over Proposed Trade Deals

AFL-CIO_Headquarters_by_Matthew_Bisanz2AFL-CIO and Canadian Labour Congress joint statement on promoting trade deals that work for people over profits

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), support and welcome trade and economic policies that create good, family-wage jobs, strengthen protection for internationally-recognized labor rights (including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining), protect our environment, and promote shared prosperity and a virtuous cycle of rising wages and rising demand.

Having lived through NAFTA and its progeny for 20 years, we also know the danger of destructive economic rules that expand the rights and privileges of multinational corporations at the expense of working families, communities, and the environment.  Neoliberal economic policies, including many of the rules enshrined in NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, have promoted a race to the bottom in terms of wages, labor rights, environmental protection, and public interest regulation.

That is why we join together today to announce our unrelenting support for different rules in three pending trade deals involving either the United States or Canada or both: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Comprehensive Trade and Economic Agreement (CETA), and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Of the rules tilted against labor and for global capital in these proposed agreements, one of the most egregious is investor-to-state dispute settlement, or ISDS.  ISDS provides extraordinary legal rights to foreign investors so that they can seek taxpayer reimbursement for losses to expected profits from laws, regulations, administrative decisions or virtually any other government measure.  The rights protected go far beyond traditional property rights and its private tribunals are staffed not by professional jurists sworn to promote the public interest, but by for-profit attorneys, many of whom represent investors when they are not sitting in judgment.

The U.S. and Canada first incorporated this separate but unequal system into a comprehensive trade deal in NAFTA, and today, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are each in the top eleven most-challenged nations under the ISDS system.  Such extreme rights to challenge democracy are not good for domestic businesses (which cannot use this private justice mechanism), not good for citizens (who may see popular policies withdrawn by governments in order to avoid adverse judgments), and not good for rule of law (which is undermined by the separate parallel system for foreign investors only).

We are pleased to reaffirm cross-border cooperation in the struggle for people and planet centered trade and will not cease in our efforts to promote good jobs, rising wages, strong social safety nets, state-of-the-art public services and infrastructure, and an end to corporate power grabs like ISDS in all pending trade and investment agreements.

Congress Votes To Block New Rules Mandated By The NLRB

Yesterday, Congressional Republicans continued their all out assault on working families by passing a law that would limit workers rights to organize and block new rules from the National Labor Relations Board that would allow for faster union elections, slated to take effect in April.

The NLRB said in a December statement that the new rules would allow unions to use electronic means to file for an election and would allow unions to hold elections just 14 days after filing.

“I am heartened that the Board has chosen to enact amendments that will modernize the representation case process and fulfill the promise of the National Labor Relations Act. Simplifying and streamlining the process will result in improvements for all parties. With these changes, the Board strives to ensure that its representation process remains a model of fairness and efficiency for all,” said NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Peirce.

Congressman Frank Guinta receiving an award from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)

Congressman Frank Guinta receiving an award from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)

The bill passed 232-186, almost straight down party lines. The bill was opposed by all of the House Democrats (thank you Congresswoman Annie Kuster [NH-02]) and three lone Republicans. Congressman Frank Guinta, the Republican representing the first district in New Hampshire, was among the Republican majority who voted to pass the bill.

“Today’s vote by House Republicans against the NLRB’s common-sense modernization of its election rules is a direct attack on workers and their right to be heard in the workplace,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Working men and women want an agenda from their Congressional leaders that raises wages and grows our middle class. Instead, they have gotten Republican policies that roll back progress and silence workers while protecting their biggest donors.”

Listening to the debate on the House floor shows exactly how much the Republicans really care about workers and their rights.   These Republicans are putting corporations above working men and women.

“Today, Congress voted to stop an unelected board of bureaucrats from trampling on the rights of America’s workers and job creators,” said Congressman John Kline (R-MN) in a written statement after the vote. “The board’s ambush election rule will stifle employer free speech, cripple worker free choice, and jeopardize the privacy of workers and their families.

Rep. Kline’s statement is nearly identical to the statement released by the US Chamber of Commerce who has worked tirelessly to oppose unionizing efforts and push anti-worker legislation in dozens of states.

“The Chamber applauds Congress for passing legislation to stop the ‘ambush election’ rule issued by the NLRB,” stated U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits Randel K. Johnson. “This rule infringes upon an employer’s free speech right by virtually eliminating an employer’s opportunity to communicate his or her views regarding unionization with employees.

What they should have said was that this vote stifles a workers right to organize and gives more time for employers to hire union busting firms and lie to their employees about how unions operate.

President Obama has already said he will veto this totally partisan bill. This would be Obama’s fourth veto, and second in the last two months.

“President Obama is right in his commitment to vetoing this harmful legislation, and Congressional Republicans should focus their efforts on lifting workers up instead of shutting them out,” said Trumka.

Whether you support unions or not should not matter, that is why we hold elections. If workers freely choose to support a union, the union will win the election. If workers freely choose to reject the union, the union will lose. That is freedom and the choice that workers are guaranteed under the National Labor Relation Act.

Organizing and holding a union election is hard enough, and Republicans in Washington want to block workers from organizing. Working families need to understand that these Republicans are not looking out for them and are only looking out for the wealthy businesses and groups like the US Chamber of Commerce that fund their campaigns.

 

 

Click here for more information about the NLRB’s rule changes

 

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    Please #VoteForMatt to win a scholarship to attend Netroots Nation #NN15

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