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Labor Praises Supreme Court Ruling On ‘Friedrichs’ And Offer A Warning For The Future

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Today, the assault on working families came to an abrupt halt as we received news that the Supreme Court could not come to a decision in the Friedrichs v California Teachers Association. The court ended in a 4-4 tie. This means that the California Supreme Court decision to uphold agency fees will stand.

After the decision labor groups across the country rejoiced and applauded the decision that could have made it illegal to charge non union member an agency fee, essential pushing Right To Work nationwide without legislative approval.

“Today, working people have persevered in the face of another attack on our rights,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “All over the country working people are showing that we won’t allow wealthy special interests or their politicians to stand in our way to join collectively and make workplaces better all across America. In the face of these attacks we are more committed than ever to ensuring that everyone has the right to speak up together for a better life.”

“At the Supreme Court today, working people won a huge victory,” wrote Rudy Lopez, Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice. “Fighting back against powerful anti-worker interests that spent millions of dollars and many years to manufacture a Supreme Court challenge of collective bargaining, workers stuck together and prevailed, defending the right of unions to collect dues to all who benefit from its membership.”

“But while today’s victory is a milestone for working people and their right to collectively bargain, the fight for worker justice is far from over,” added Lopez. “The Freidrichs case was a carefully planned campaign to break unions and decentralize worker power and the wealthy interests behind it are not going to simply give up because they lost today.”

“Today’s Friedrichs decision by the Supreme Court was a big win for anyone who believes in the promise of America,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “Unions are about giving workers and their families a voice on the job and a fair shot to get ahead, and today’s decision enables those aspirations. And as the Center for Individual Rights’ legal maneuver this afternoon suggests, this decision, affirming four decades of precedent, was a blow to the right-wing special interests who are trying to rig the economy and our democracy in their own favor.”

“It’s no surprise that the Center for Individual Rights is continuing its assault on working people and the unions that represent them. By refusing to accept the court’s ruling and petitioning for a rehearing, they expose their agenda for what it is—a brazen political assault on working people. This Koch-backed think tank plotted to fast-track this case to the Supreme Court, and we know the wealthy few behind these efforts will continue doing everything they can to undermine the voice of working people in America,” added Weingarten.

Public sector workers will continue to benefit from the collective voice of union representation under a decision by the Supreme Court today that affirms nearly 40 years of constitutional law, the head of the largest federal employee union said today.

“The Supreme Court has kept in place a 1977 ruling that ensures public sector employee unions will be able to continue fighting for better pay, benefits, and working conditions for all represented workers, whether or not they choose to join the union,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

“When the union negotiates a contract for workers, everyone who’s covered by that contract takes home higher pay and benefits, has greater job security, enjoys improved health and safety standards, and gets help in settling workplace disputes. It is only fair that all employees share in the cost of securing those benefits,” added Cox.

“A decision by the Supreme Court to overturn its 1977 ruling would have made it grossly unfair to place the burden of paying for the level of representation that all employees need and deserve on only some public employees as opposed to asking each to pay a fair share,” concluded Cox.

“Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association case safeguards, at least for now, the right of public workers to engage in meaningful collective bargaining,” wrote the Communication Workers of America.

CWA highlighted the connection between Friedrichs and the union busting, anti-worker firms that have been pushing Right to Work in states all across the country.

“The case had been financed by anti-worker and corporate education supporters who have been working for years to stifle the voices of teachers and other public workers and weaken their collective bargaining rights. It clearly shows how extreme the right-wing assault on workers and their right to bargain, whether public or private sector, has become,” stated CWA.

For many years now CWA has been on the front lines fighting to end the obstructionism in Washington, specifically the US Senate. They used the considerable influence and membership to help secure five members to the National Labor Relations Board as well as worked to change the “filibuster rule” that Senate Republicans used to block every major Presidential nominee in the past few years.

Now they are calling out the Senate and the same right-wing, anti-worker organizations that are holding up hearings to replace Justice Scalia in the Supreme Court.

“These same right-wing interests want to block any consideration of President Obama’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s time for senators to do their job and take up the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, not continue the “politics as usual” that ignores the voice of the American people,” CWA said.

There is no doubt this decision will have an impact on the upcoming elections as Republicans in the Senate are continuing to refuse to even meet with Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court’s 4-4 decision on the Friedrichs case is no doubt an important win for organized labor,” said International Union of Painters and Allied Trades General President Kenneth Rigmaiden.  “However, it should also serve as a significant wake up call for working families who are not convinced that their vote in the political process matters in this upcoming election.”

“Anti-union special interests succeeded in bringing their tactics to the Supreme Court in an effort to stop workers from deciding their collective fate on the job by a vote.  We won this one, but the fight is far from over.  It is time to get to work on putting pro-union candidates in local, state and federal offices.  The leaders we successfully fight for on the campaign trail will be our line of defense in Washington to keep our unions strong,” added Rigmaiden.

As Republicans continue to obstruct filling the vacant seat in the Supreme Court, this election is proving to be the most important in history. This election could be the difference between a progressive Justice like Merrick Garland or another right-wing ideolog like Justice Scalia. As more and more attacks to our collective bargaining rights make it to the Supreme Court confirming a nominee that will uphold our rights is of the utmost importance.

Labor Leaders Applaud Supreme Court Nomination, Demand Senators #DoYourJob

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)

Today, President Obama announced Merrick Garland as his nominee to replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court.

“Merrick Garland, the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, has more federal judicial experience than any other Supreme Court nominee in history. No one is better suited to immediately serve on the Supreme Court,” said Obama.

Chief Judge Garland was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit 76-23, with majority support from both Republicans and Democrats. He has served for 19 years on that court – often considered the most important appellate court in the nation.

Labor leaders were quick to applaud Obama’s nomination and condemn the Republican senators who have vowed to block this nomination for eleven months until a new President is inaugurated.

“Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit brings impeccable credentials and deep experience to this nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “Judge Garland’s career shows a deep commitment to public service and to the rule of law. These qualities are why he was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit 19 years ago by a bipartisan majority and with the strong support of then Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch. Judge Garland is a superbly qualified nominee who deserves prompt consideration and confirmation by the United States Senate. Working people deserve and expect no less.”

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. is also calling on the Senate to hold a nomination hearing and vote on President Obama’s selection for the U.S. Supreme Court.

“President Obama has done his job by nominating his choice to fill the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Now the U.S. Senate needs to do its job and fulfill its Constitutional responsibility by swiftly holding a hearing and vote on the nomination,” Cox said.

“There are too many pressing issues facing the court to allow a vacancy to linger until after the November presidential election. President Obama is the commander in chief until Jan. 20, 2017, and he is responsible for carrying out the duties of the office until his successor has been elected and sworn in.”

“Likewise, the 100 members of the U.S. Senate have a responsibility to do the job that the American people elected them to do. And that includes considering all of the president’s nominations to vacant positions in the executive and judicial branches.”

“The American people expect our elected leaders to do their job. Anything less is obstructionist and a miscarriage of justice.”

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, also had some harsh words for these Senators who plan to obstruct Garland’s nomination.

“As we teach high school government students, the Constitution is crystal clear about what to do when there’s a Supreme Court vacancy: The president of the United States nominates a candidate for the bench, and the Senate provides advice and consent.

“The Constitution does not say the president shall nominate a justice—unless it is the fourth year of his term. Six times since 1900, the president has put forth a nominee during the final year of his term. All six—as well as Anthony Kennedy, who was nominated in November 1987 and confirmed in 1988—were given hearings and nearly all received an up-or-down vote.

“For the last seven years, Senate Republicans have attempted to block President Obama at every turn, with no regard for the damage they inflicted on American families. Their stubborn refusal to consider a nominee puts politics over responsibility and, in so doing, dishonors our Constitution. The people of their states elected them to do a job. They swore an oath to uphold the Constitution. They are doing neither of those things.

“So I have a simple message to Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley, and other senators who say they will not even schedule a hearing. Working people across America get up every day and do our jobs. We expect the same from our United States senators. Do. Your. Job.”

Every case that is heard by the Supreme Court could have long lasting effects on our judicial system. It is imperative that we have nine justice’s sitting in the Supreme Court.

Demand that all of our elected representatives in the Senate do their job.

#DoYourJob

Building Racial Equality In Our Schools

Some people say “racism is dead,” however that is a lie.

The outright discrimination of African-Americans is now illegal but that does not mean that racial discrimination does not still exist.  Just look at our public school system.  Do you think it is an accident that rich, white, sub-urban schools are better funded than the inner-city, mostly poor, where they majority of students are people of color?  No, it is not an accident.

Nationally we have seen states tightening their belts and squeezing their school budgets, forcing deep cuts and even school closures.  Class sizes in the inner-city schools are larger, the teachers – fresh out of college – are paid less, a large percentage students live in poverty, and people wonder why they are under-performing.

This week, the American Federation of Teachers released a report focusing on ways to bring racial equality to our public school system.

“Separate but equal is no longer the law of the land, but systemic inequity in education has relegated millions of children of color to under-resourced, struggling schools,” said AFT’s Executive Board.

Inequality in our schools leads to severe economic problems for the individual as well as the community.  Without a good education, individuals are forced to work in low-wage unskilled jobs that continue to keep them in, or on the edge of, poverty for their entire lives.  African-Americans earn on average “$224 a month less” than their white counterparts.

Robert Putnam, a Harvard University professor, talked about this in his book “Our Kids,” where he refers to it as the “opportunity gap.”  This means lower incomes for workers, lower tax revenues for cities and towns, and less spending in the economy.  Research shows that this leads to a societal loss of $529,030 per person (lifetime).  If nothing is done, this will lead to over $4 trillion dollars in lost revenue and lost economic opportunity.

AFT’s new report, Reclaiming the Promise of Racial Equity in Education, Economics and Our Criminal Justice System, highlights some possible ways to directly address racial inequality in our schools.

We envision an equitable education system that guarantees world-class, properly resourced public schools that provide wraparound services in every neighborhood, where young black male students have the opportunity to achieve by:

  • Ensuring the fair enforcement of discipline policies and practices to create supportive learning environments for black males.
  • Guaranteeing that all schools provide safe, welcoming and caring spaces for students and educators.
  • Working for policies and practices that favor education over incarceration and that decrease the disproportionately high number of black males dropping out of schools into jails.
  • Radically increasing the percentage of young black male high school graduates who are ready for college, career and citizenship.
  • Ensuring a diverse teaching force that includes black male educators as role models for African-American male students.

African-American’s face a 10% unemployment rate and a growing opportunity gap.  Before we can talk about closing the opportunity gap and getting more African-Americans into college, we first must help them graduate from high school.

Getting a good paying job and being a productive member of our economy begins with a strong public education.

Republicans Are The Reason Our Public Schools Are Hurting

Jeb Bush on Education

The Republican Primary is always fun to watch as the candidates try to outdo each other the issues. Recently it was what to do about the problems facing our public school systems.

Our public education system is in rough shape and the majority of the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of Republican politicians who are starving our schools for money, forcing more and more standardized testing, and funneling our tax dollars to for-profit private and religious schools.

When you add all of these programs together it creates a disastrous ticking time bomb of epic failure.

The problems continue to feed themselves. It begins with cuts to the budget that lead to cuts teacher pay. This results in good teachers leaving the district and then bringing in new inexperienced teachers to replace them.

Then they test every student over and over, and reward high performing schools and make more cuts to low performing schools. (Can you see the problem yet?)

Then they give our tax dollars to traveling medicine men, selling snake oil to fix all of our problems by opening charter schools, stealing more money from struggling schools. Some of these schools take millions in federal, state, and local budgets to build new schools and then file for bankruptcy before they even open their doors.

Then they have to make more cuts to teachers and para-professionals starting the austerity cycle all over again.

The American Federation of Teachers thought it would be good to inform all of you of what a few of the Presidential candidates are saying our teachers and our schools.

Video

Our children deserve better than a schools system that is all test and drill. We need more arts, more music, more science, and more teachers. We need pay our teachers better so that we can retain the best teachers with the pay they deserve. We need to fund our schools properly and stop forcing cuts to staff and services. We need to stop this cycle of austerity that is strangling our public schools.  Our children deserve better!

 

AFT Members Voice Their Support For Hillary Clinton In Latest AFT VIDEO

 (image Keith Kissel FLIKR)

(image Keith Kissel FLIKR)

A few weeks back, the American Federation of Teachers announced their overwhelming support of Secretary Hillary Clinton for President of United States.

“In vision, in experience and in leadership, Hillary Clinton is the champion working families need in the White House,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Hillary Clinton is a tested leader who shares our values, is supported by our members, and is prepared for a tough fight on behalf of students, families and communities. That fight defines her campaign and her career. In Arkansas, Hillary fought to expand access to early childhood education and care. As first lady, she fought for the right to affordable, high-quality healthcare and helped win that right for our youngest citizens. As senator, she fought for education funding and workers’ rights, and she defended public service workers who came to our nation’s defense on Sept. 11. And as secretary of state, she promoted democracy throughout the world, lifting up the worth and dignity of all people—men and women, gay and straight.”

Upon learning of the union’s endorsement, Clinton said, “For nearly a century, the American Federation of Teachers has worked to expand opportunity for the people and communities they serve. I’m honored to have the support of AFT’s members and leaders, and proud to stand with them to unleash the potential of every American.”

On the heels of the American Federation of Teachers’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president, she addressed nearly 2,000 educators via video at the AFT’s biennial TEACH conference in Washington, D.C.

Click here to watch the video on Youtube.

“Together, I know we can build a stronger, fairer, more inclusive America—an America where parents can give their kids real opportunities,” said Clinton in a two-minute address that outlined her agenda for expanding early childhood education, ensuring college affordability, and working with teachers to improve public education.

There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton will make a great President and can see why the American Federation of Teachers would endorse such a strong, passionate, dedicated woman to be their candidate.

Though some have criticized AFT’s early endorsement, the process was highly democratic.  AFT used scientific polling, online and over the phone, to connect with over 1 million of their 1.7 million members.  79% of the one million members reached wanted AFT to endorse Hillary Clinton.

Yesterday, AFT released this video highlighting real members at their recent TEACH convention personally endorsing Hillary Clinton for President.  Each member points to a specific moment of event that helped them decide that they were “ready for Hillary.”

All of the members highlighted Hillary Clinton’s strong understand of the issues facing teachers in the classroom, their rights as union members, and helping to rebuild a strong middle class.

Unions Speak Out Against Supreme Court’s Decision To Hear Friedrichs v. CTA

Joint Statement on Public Service Workers
on Supreme Court Grant of Cert in Friedrichs v. CTA

Lawsuit Seeks to Curtail Freedom of Firefighters, Teachers, Nurses, First-Responders to Stick Together and Advocate for Better Public Services, Better Communities

WASHINGTON—NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, AFT President Randi Weingarten, CTA President Eric C. Heins, AFSCME President Lee Saunders, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry issued the following joint statement today in response to U.S. Supreme Court granting cert to Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association:

“We are disappointed that at a time when big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off-balance, the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America—that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a decent life.

“The Supreme Court is revisiting decisions that have made it possible for people to stick together for a voice at work and in their communities—decisions that have stood for more than 35 years—and that have allowed people to work together for better public services and vibrant communities.

“When people come together in a union, they can help make sure that our communities have jobs that support our families. It means teachers can stand up for their students. First responders can push for critical equipment to protect us. And social workers can advocate effectively for children’s safety.

“America can’t build a strong future if people can’t come together to improve their work and their families’ futures. Moms and dads across the country have been standing up in the thousands to call for higher wages and unions. We hope the Supreme Court heeds their voices.”

And public servants are speaking out, too, about how Friedrichs v. CTA would undermine their ability to provide vital services the public depends on. In their own words:

“As a school campus monitor, my job is to be on the front lines to make sure our students are safe. Both parents and students count on me—it’s a responsibility that I take very seriously. It’s important for me to have the right to voice concerns over anything that might impede the safety of my students, and jeopardizing my ability to speak up for them is a risk for everyone.”
Carol Peek, a school campus security guard from Ventura, Calif.

“I love my students, and I want them to have everything they need to get a high-quality public education. When educators come together, we can speak with the district about class size, about adequate staffing, about the need for counselors, nurses, media specialists and librarians in schools. And we can advocate for better practices that serve our kids. With that collective voice, we can have conversations with the district that we probably wouldn’t be able to have otherwise―and do it while engaging our communities, our parents and our students.”
Kimberly Colbert, a classroom teacher from St. Paul, Minn.

“As a mental health worker, my colleagues and I see clients who are getting younger and more physical. Every day we do our best work to serve them and keep them safe, but the risk of injury and attack is a sad, scary reality of the job. But if my coworkers and I come together and have a collective voice on the job, we can advocate for better patient care, better training and equipment, and safe staffing levels. This is about all of us. We all deserve safety and dignity on the job, because we work incredibly hard every day and it’s certainly not glamorous.”
Kelly Druskis-Abreu, a mental health worker from Worcester, Mass.

“Our number one job is to protect at-risk children. Working together, front-line social workers and investigators have raised standards and improved policies that keep kids safe from abuse and neglect. I can’t understand why the Supreme Court would consider a case that could make it harder for us to advocate for the children and families we serve—this work is just too important.”
Ethel Everett, a child protection worker from Springfield, Mass.

 


About the National Education Association
The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing nearly 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at www.nea.org and follow on Twitter at @NEAmedia.

About the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
The American Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, was founded in 1916 and today represents 1.6 million members in more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide. AFT represents pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; and nurses and other healthcare professionals. Go online to www.aft.orgor @AFTunion to find out more.

About the California Teachers Association (CTA)
The 325,000-member California Teachers Association is affiliated with the 3 million-member National Education Association. Find out more at www.cta.org and follow CTA on Twitter at @CATeachersAssoc.

About the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
AFSCME is the nation’s largest and fastest growing public service employees union with more than 1.6 million working and retired members. AFSCME’s members provide the vital services that make America happen. We are nurses, corrections officers, child care providers, EMTs, sanitation workers and more. Read more online at www.afscme.org and @AFSCME.

About the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) unites 2 million diverse members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The nation’s largest health care union, SEIU represents nurses, LPNs, doctors, lab technicians, nursing home workers, and home care workers in addition to building cleaning and security industries, including janitors, security officers, superintendents, maintenance workers, window cleaners, and doormen and women. SEIU also represents public workers including local and state government workers, public school employees, bus drivers, and child care providers. Learn more at www.seiu.org and @SEIU.


 

Labor Praises The Supreme Court’s Marriage Equality Decision And Recognizes That There Is More To Be Done

Gay-Couple-from-back-Holding-Hands Square

For over thirty years organized labor and the LGBT have been walking hand-in-hand to push for equality.

Last year I wrote a labor history story called “Labor of Love: How The American Labor Movement Is Securing LBGT Equality” which focused on the role that labor unions played in pushing for equality.

“The UAW was the first union to get same sex couple benefits into labor contract,” said Roland Leggett, the Michigan State Director for Working America.  After the UAW successfully got domestic partner benefits into their contracts in 1982, more and more Fortune 500 companies started to adopt similar policies.  By 2006, 49% of all Fortune 500 companies offered domestic partner benefits.

As you are already well aware, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. This ruling will force states like Texas, to accept and recognize all marriages.

Labor unions from across the country applauded this decision and reminded us of their role in helping to make the dream of equality, a reality.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision marks a truly historic day in America. While there is still work to do to secure economic and social justice for LGBT Americans, the court’s ruling is a major victory for everyone who believes in equality,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. “Same-sex couples will now have equal access to marriage licenses like any other couple. This ruling is a win for children, families, workers and our entire country.”

“The United Steelworkers applaud the court for upholding the 14th Amendment of the U.S Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law,” said The United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard and International Vice President Fred Redmond. “This is a historic day, and we are proud especially for our LGBT members. This victory confirms the principles of our union that regardless of the color of a person’s skin, regardless of religion or nationality, and no matter who a person loves, discrimination has no place in our union or in our society.”

“Today is a momentous day. Together as a nation we took a dramatic step toward the ideals of equality and freedom. Today, brave Americans who were unafraid to stand up and organize for their basic rights proved once again the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice,” stated Lee Saunders, President of the American Federation of County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

“AFGE applauds today’s Supreme Court ruling declaring that same-sex couples across the country have a Constitutional right to marry,” said American Federation of Government Employees National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Augusta Y. Thomas. “This was the right decision for the country and the right decision for everyone who believes in the principles of fairness, equality, and basic human dignity.

“As the largest union representing federal and D.C. government employees, AFGE represents people across the social and political spectrum, including many LGBT members. Just two weeks ago, AFGE was proud to march for the first time in the 2015 Capital Pride Parade – the only labor union to participate. For years, our AFGE Pride Program has been working toward fair treatment and equality for LGBT employees in the government workplace,” concluded Thomas.

The National Education Association and its 22 state-level affiliates, were a part of a broad-based labor coalition with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Change to Win, filed an amicus brief, arguing that state discrimination against same sex couples deprives such couples of an array of economic benefits and legal rights, and deprives them and their children of fundamental dignity, benefits and rights that other couples and their families enjoy.

“Today the Supreme Court has taken a monumental step forward in our national journey toward a more perfect union by making marriage equality the law in every state of our great nation,” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García. “On behalf of our members—and the students they serve—we applaud the court’s historic decision, which will end discrimination against same sex couples, place them on equal footing with other families and safeguard all of our children.”

“We know that today’s ruling will make a tremendous difference both to the dignity and personal and economic well-being of same sex families and to the dignity and personal well-being of their children as well as others who have been bullied and fearful due to their sexual identity. We applaud the Supreme Court and the many advocates whose work resulted in today’s historic decision,” concluded Eskelsen García.

For some this decision hit very close to home. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers is also one of the few openly gay, national union leaders.

“From Loving to Windsor to today, love has won. As people start seeing one another’s real aspirations and dreams for all our families and our communities, as well as for ourselves, we see that the arc of history does bend toward justice,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

“And while this is a day of celebration, there is more work to do in our fight for full equality. As a gay woman and union leader, I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my union—an ally in the struggle for rights and a shield from unfair discrimination in the workplace,” said Weingarten.

The freedom to marry does not mean that the LGBT community has reached full equality. The persecution and discrimination of LGBT members still runs rampant in many parts of our great nation.

While I celebrated this decision, in solidarity with the dozens of my personal friends and family who are gay, I know that we still have a long way to go. The suicide rate of LBGT teens is almost 30% higher than non-LGBT teens. This is in large part to the persecution and bullying that LGBT teens must endure as they grow and find themselves. Most states have protections from bullying based on race or ethnicity, but very few have protections for the LGBT members.

We also have work to do to ensure that LGBT workers cannot be discriminated against in applying for a job, and cannot be arbitrarily fired just for being gay. Unfortunately too few states have protections for LGBT members from workplace discrimination.

“From talking with LGBT members throughout the country, I know the importance of ensuring that there are comprehensive federal nondiscrimination protections in place. Without these protections, same-sex couples who have the right to marry in their home state will still be at risk of being fired from their jobs or evicted from their apartments based simply on who they are. We will continue the fight forward,” concluded Weingarten.

 

Olney Charter Teachers Vote Overwhelmingly to Join Teachers Union

AFT_Logo-2

Teachers Cite Need for a Voice to Advocate for Students and Their Profession at
Philadelphia High School that’s Part of National ASPIRA Charter Chain

PHILADELPHIA—Last night, teachers and support staff at Olney Charter High School in Philadelphia voted overwhelmingly to form a union. They voted by a near three-to-one margin to join with the Philadelphia Alliance of Charter School Employees to gain a voice in how classrooms are resourced and school decisions are made. They also sought greater input into teacher evaluations and professional development.

Olney Charter High School (located on West Duncannon Ave.) is one of five charters run by ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania within the Philadelphia School District. It was carved out of the public system following the state takeover of public city schools in 2001, which handed control of public schools to private operators under a corporate education reform model.

ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania is an affiliate of the national ASPIRA Association, a nonprofit organization focused on education for Latino and other underserved youth. ASPIRA Association operates in eight states and Puerto Rico.

As Olney teachers and staff began organizing, management hired a union-avoidance firm, National Consultants Associated, which has a history of questionable ties to organized crime and individuals charged with federal corruption and racketeering. In the days leading up to the union vote, National Consultants Associated held mandatory anti-union meetings, costing parents face time with teachers, students hours of instruction during annual exam prep, and untold dollars that could have been put to use in classrooms.

The victory for teachers and support staff at Olney is the latest in a string of successful organizing efforts. Teachers at charter schools across the country increasingly are uniting to challenge the conditions that lead to incredibly high turnover in their schools and to improve education for their students. Often, in spite of aggressive anti-union tactics from their employers, teachers vote to join together in a union when given the choice.

“Teachers at charter schools want what other teachers want: respect for the job they do and a real voice in their schools,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6-million member American Federation of Teachers. “Increasingly, they see how joining a union of professionals is the vehicle to do that. That’s what today’s overwhelming vote was about.”

A total of 172 teachers and support staff are now represented by the union and will soon begin negotiating a first collective bargaining agreement. They also are calling for organizing and collective bargaining rights for teachers and staff at all ASPIRA Inc. schools. On May 12, teachers and staff at John B. Stetson Charter School, another ASPIRA school, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board requesting a union vote. The Board has yet to rule on the request.

“We look forward to forging a new relationship with ASPIRA of Pennsylvania,” said Ted Kirsch, president of AFT Pennsylvania and an AFT vice president. “By opening its planning and decision-making process to teachers, staff and parents, ASPIRA has an opportunity to make its schools a model for innovation and collaboration in K-12 charter schools.”

The AFT represents teachers and support staff in more than 120 public charter schools in 12 states.

Tell Congress NO To Fast Track: A Special Message From AFT

This is a special message from AFT Secretary Treasurer Loretta Johnson.

AFT_Logo-2

Yesterday, I spoke at a rally here in D.C., where hundreds gathered to urge Congress to put the brakes on “fast-track” trade deals that will hurt American workers. I don’t need to convince you that transparency is important when it comes to making decisions about our economy, jobs, safety and the environment. Unfortunately, just a few hours ago, the Senate introduced legislation that undercuts the public’s voice on free trade agreements through this fast-track legislation.

Click here to tell Congress NO to fast-track.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a free trade agreement that is currently being negotiated in secret between the United States and 11 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. And legislation granting fast-track authority would enable corporate power-grabs like the TPP to be rushed through Congress, circumventing ordinary review, amendment and debate procedures.

The TPP will create rules and obligations that govern an estimated 40 percent of the world’s economy, yet few Americans are aware of its impact or even its existence. Unfortunately, the last 20 years of corporate-driven free trade policy have created a downward spiral in which jobs have been shipped overseas and worker, environmental and consumer protections have been eroded.

We cannot allow corporate interests to determine trade policy like the TPP. We must urge Congress to fend off the corporate call for fast-track.

Smart trade policy has the potential to promote shared global prosperity, which is why our communities—NOT multinational corporations—must be the driving force in shaping trade policy.

Please urge your members of Congress to protect our economy, jobs, environment and public health by opposing fast-track legislation.

In unity,

Lorretta Johnson

AFT Secretary-Treasurer

One more thing: Would you help us by sending this tweet?: To preserve & protect US jobs Congress must stop Fast Track for the TPP! #StopFastTrack

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.

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