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The ‘War On Thanksgiving’ Has Already Begun; Retailers Have Stolen Thanksgiving

The holiday season is about to begin. On Wednesday at sundown Hanukkah begins (Hanukkah Sameach). Then on Thursday the Black Friday sales begin!  Did I miss something? Oh that’s right, Thursday is also Thanksgiving Day.  Or at least it used to be. The events of Black Friday are quickly taking over Thanksgiving and soon there will be nothing left.

Sarah Palin says there is a ‘War on Christmas’.  She is wrong; the ‘war’ is on Thanksgiving and the American worker.  The difference is that Black Friday is ‘free-market capitalism’ in action, so that makes it suitable in their book.

I would expect this trend to continue and next year Walmart, and other terrible retailers, will be opening at 12pm (noon) on Thanksgiving.  If we do not do something to stop these greedy retailers from opening earlier and earlier, it will not be long before they do not even bother to close for Thanksgiving.

This year millions of workers are being forced to work on Thanksgiving to feed the greed of their corporate owners.  This action absolutely disgusts me.  There are some jobs like police, fire, doctors, nurses, and emergency staff that works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, holidays included.  These jobs are necessary for public safety and are usually paid a hefty bonus for working the holiday.  These are not the people I am complaining about.

I am disgusted at the retail stores who continue to steal the Thanksgiving holiday from their employees.  Last year stores opened at Midnight on Friday morning, or 10pm on Thursday night.  Now stores are opening at 6 or 7 pm.  Utterly disgusting!

Forced to work on Thanksgiving, for what, $7.25 an hour.  Walmart makes $25 billion dollars in profits every year and yet workers are living in poverty due to low wages.

Recently MIT created the living wage calculator.  The living wage calculator is chart that shows how much you would have to earn to have a ‘living wage’.

Screen shot 2013-11-24 at 9.35.03 AM

Living Wage Calculator Southern NH

As you can see in New Hampshire a single person would need to make a little more than $10 an hour to meet the living wage standard.  The numbers go up dramatically when you start to include children in the mix.  A single parent with two children would need to make almost $30.00 to meet the living wage standards.

This year thousands of Walmart workers will be walking out on Black Friday.  They are trying to make national attention to the low-wages that Walmart is paying.  They are striking for a living wage.  The organizers of the group Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) is asking for a few simple things.

  • Respect workers as individuals.
  • Schedule workers for full time- 40 hours a week- positions.
  • Pay workers a living wage, $25,000 per year (full time work) or $13 per hour.
  • Expand their healthcare options to make it affordable to workers.
  • End the retaliation against workers who speak up about problems.

Click here to find a Black Friday protest near you.

This year (and every year) I vow not to shop at Walmart until they begin to give their workers respect and start paying works a living wage.  I know I am only one man, and my family will not make a difference in the billions of dollars in revenue that Walmart brings in.   That is not going to stop me.  The more of us that take a stand against Walmart and their evil greedy mentality we will start to make a difference.

We are already making a difference. Since last year’s strikes, Walmart has lost 2% in overall sales. We need to keep the pressure on Walmart to show them we value the workers more than their low-priced Chinese crap.

(Please take a moment to read and sign OUR Walmart’s declaration for respect.)

Related posts: The Outrageous Truth About A $12 Minimum Wage And Your Grocery Bill

Reclaim The Promise To Public Education; Stop Starving Our Schools

Community groups are working to ‘Reclaim The Promise’ we made to future generations to provide a strong, well funded, high quality public education. 

public school sign brick building The national debate on education reform rages on everyday, in every school district, in every state across the country.  Some say that schools are failing our children, while others say the schools are failing our children.  No that is not a typo, both sides are essentially saying the same thing; we need to fix our broken education system to provide a better education for our future generations.

The major differences erupt when both sides offer their solutions to fixing our broken education system.  Those ‘fiscally conservative’ politicians on the right blame teachers unions and bad teachers, and suggest we eliminate public schools for private charter schools. Proponents of public schools see the problem stems from a lack of community support.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, has been outspoken about the attacks on public schools and this idea that privatization is the only option to help our public schools.  In recent phone interview Weingarten stated, “Austerity cuts are starving our public schools.”

Karen Schow is special education teacher working in Boise, Idaho.  She has seen these austerity cuts directly affecting her students.  Due to budget cuts, Schow is now the only special education teacher in her entire school.  She works with multiple special needs students including students with Down’s syndrome, all alone.  Just last year the school had two full time special education teachers, but the school cut that down to one.  “These cuts are hurting my kids,” Schow told me in a phone interview. “Politicians are short changing not only my students but students across the state.”

Kia Hinton is parent and outspoken public school advocate from Philadelphia.  Hinton highlighted how “Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Corbett, cut over one billion dollars from the state’s education budget”.  This forced dozens of school closures, mostly in areas that directly effect children of color.  Areas that are already struggling to fight poverty, violence, and other community issues.

Closing public schools makes it harder for working families.  Schools are farther away, underfunded, and overcrowded.  These cuts hurt the children the most.

Hinton talked about how some of the schools in her area no longer have a school librarian if they are still lucky enough to have a library at all.  They have also cut art programs and music classes, which are necessary for a well-rounded education.

Weingarten said that, “politicians are pushing to ensure that public schools are failing to open the door to their alternative ideas”.  Their alternatives include; charter schools, privatized schools, or to just close the school entirely. Politicians have been pushing for privatized for-profit charter schools, yet these charter schools are failing to meet the needs of their communities.

Just like in Philadelphia, Chicago and Kansas City as closing public schools to open private for-profit charter schools.  John Jackson President and CEO of The Schott Foundation for Public Education said, “Corporations are making profits on the backs of our students.” Not only are they making money on our children, they are taking your tax dollars to bolster their profits.  Yet there these for-profit charter schools are not preforming any better than their public counterparts in the same area.

Lora McDonald a social worker and the Executive Director of More2 said these for-profit schools failing in Kansas City.  McDonald said that four of these for-profit charter schools have closed in the last year.  McDonald said that not only are the charter schools failing, “kids in public schools have continually out-preformed those in charter schools.”

The American Federation of Teachers, The National Education Association, other unions and community groups are working to ‘Reclaim the Promise’ that we have made to our future generation by provide a high quality public education.

Everyone deserves his or her chance to reach the American Dream.  For many this dream has become more of a myth, completely unattainable. Weingarten spoke to how a strong public education is crucial to reaching the American Dream.  Weingarten stated, “This is a movement to reclaim public education.”

Talking about ‘Reclaiming the Promise,’ John Jackson stated, “Public education is strong at and it works. Want to make sure it works for all children. Public education is the foundation for economic prosperity for millions of Americans.”

This is why communities are rallying behind the need to ‘Reclaim The Promise’.

  • Reclaiming the promise is about fighting for neighborhood public schools that are safe, welcoming places for teaching and learning.
  • Reclaiming the promise is about ensuring that teachers and school staff are well prepared, are supported, have manageable class sizes and have time to collaborate so they can meet the individual needs of every child.
  • Reclaiming the promise is about making sure our children have an engaging curriculum that focuses on teaching and learning, not testing, and includes art, music and the sciences.

Communities throughout the country will be standing together to on December 9th in a national day of action. Over 100 community groups and unions have signed up to take part in this event.  Weingarten stated that this is a “bottom up event.” Unlike other union lead events this one is coming up from parents, and community organizations that want to make real change in their communities.

Everyone deserves to be able to get a high quality education, and public schools can provide that.  We need to invest in our future by investing in our public school system.  A strong public school is the bedrock of our society.  When your son or daughter says they want grow up to be President, it is a strong public school system that can make their dream a reality.   Just as President Clinton, a graduate of Hot Springs High School, a public magnet high school in Arkansas.

 

 

RTP_banner-2Click here for more information about the National Day of Action.

If you are interested in hosting your own event as part of this national day of action, click here and tell AFT about it.

 

Fosters Editorial Board Puts Workers After The Almighty Dollar!

Workers vs greedI am sick to my stomach of this anti-union rhetoric that puts worker’s safety and financial security against a corporation’s freedom (or should I say greed).  This idea that workers should be paid the least amount possible to maximize company profits, is fed by the right wing ‘free-market’ idealists.  It is corporate greed and nothing more.

Take for example this recent editorial (Don’t just whine, compete) from Fosters Daily Democrat, one of the biggest right-wing loudmouths in a very small state.

The editorial is about how Boeing and the International Association of Machinists (IAM), are unable to come to an agreement for a new contract for building the new Boeing 777X.

The editor writes, “That term — compete — is what unions conveniently tend to overlook.”

The editor also explains a little about what the ‘deals’ Boeing is being offered by the state, and what Boeing is offering to their workers.

From the state, Boeing is looking for tax breaks and infrastructure spending.”  What Fosters is not telling you is the details of the deal with the state.  According to Reuters, the package on the table in Washington state is: $8 billion in tax incentives plus another $10 billion in transportation infrastructure.

Why would the State of Washington pony up $18 billion dollars in incentives to Boeing?  Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!  The state understands that if you have high paying jobs in your community the local economy will benefit the most.  High paid workers have more disposable income and that means more money at local shops, restaurants, and businesses.

The problem is that Boeing is trying to push their unionized workers down yet again.  They want more and more from the workers, so Boeing can put more and more in their greedy pockets.  Fosters puts it very mildly:

From the union, Boeing wants to restructure health care coverage and move from a defined-benefit pension system to a 401(k)-style defined-contribution plan.”

Workers sent a very strong message to both Boeing and their elected leaders that this type of deal is unacceptable.

You would expect this type of demand for concessions from companies that are just scrapping by or even upside down.  Boeing is not even close to that.

Boeing’s third-quarter sales increased by 13 percent to $20 billion from $17.7 billion a year earlier.” (NY Times)

Boeing reported net income of $3.9 billion for 2012, down 3% from a net profit of $4.02 billion in 2011 [due to a $2 billion dollar income tax change], on an 18.9% rise in revenue to $81.7 billion.” (Air Transport World)

Why should workers be forced to pay more for healthcare and more towards their retirement as the corporation rakes in billions in profits from an 18% increase in revenue? Who benefits from the $4 billion dollars in profits? Wall Street, and the corporate executives.  The problem is that Wall Street does not buy clothes, or go out to dinner on Main Street.  The rich get richer, while Main Street goes bankrupt from a lack of consumers.

Fosters also punches at unions by stating: “Construction of the Manchester Jobs Corp Center was held up for years due to demands the project be bid out under terms favorable to unions and which would siphon off more taxpayer money.”

I think that Fosters has conveniently forgotten the fact that the project was held up for two years by the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and our former Republican Congressman Frank Guinta.  It is an easy mistake to make, blame the entire unionized workforce for wanting better working conditions and fair pay, or blame one Congressman for holding up the entire project.

It was Congressman Guinta who through a ‘hissy fit’ in Washington about the Project Labor Agreement (Read NHLN post). Without his objections, the project would have been completed by now, and workers would already be benefiting from their new training center.  The ABC was so happy with then Congressman Guinta’s anti-union, anti-Project Labor Agreement positions that ABC gave him their highest award of the year.

For the Fosters editors, workers do not matter, the truth does not matter, and the only thing that matters is their insatiable lust for money.

Workers At The Union Leader Deserve A Fair Contract

Every worker deserves a voice in the workplace, even if your voice is your workplace.  Over the last few years workers from the NH Union Leader have continued to be pushed down by their employer.  Workers have fought through contract disputes that forced workers to lose pay and increase their cost for benefits.

Now the NH Union Leader want the Manchester Newspaper Guild (CWA-TNG) to accept even more cuts to their already plummeting pay.

Members of the Guild, which represents employees in the accounting, advertising, circulation, data processing and news departments, have done more than their share of sacrificing to help the Union Leader Corp. through tough times, and are frustrated that company management has not shared equally in that sacrifice. (WFT-UL.com)

The NH Union Leader does not seem to care about the workers or their families.  In the video below you will hear from Matt McSorley, a copy editor at the NH Union Leader.   Matt and his wife are raising four children, and all he wants is a fair contract. A contract that benefits the company, and the workers.

(Video from the MNG picket)

That is not what the NH Union Leader is proposing right now.  They are offering to slash workers pay by over 20%, while increasing their healthcare contributions.  This is assuming that they are one of the lucky workers who are not going to be laid off entirely.

It would be fairer if everyone had to take massive pay cuts like these workers.  That would make this bitter pill a little easier to swallow.  That is not the case at the NH Union Leader, management continues to get bonuses and pay raises.

In 2010 and 2011, upper management was treated to base pay raises, with the company’s two officials receiving pay raises of roughly 2 percent each year, before accepting about a 4 percent cut in 2012. Over the 2009-2012 period, the top official received almost $12,000 more in base pay than if his pay had remained at the 2009 rate.” (MNG-NHLN)

When will the NH Union Leader wake up and see that without the dedicated staff from the Newspaper Guild, they would not be able to fill their newspaper with stories.  The workers have given back nearly $30,000 over the last few years and now the NH Union Leader wants more.

Enough is enough!  Workers deserve a fair contract!

Follow the NH Labor News and WTF-UL.COM for updates on the contract dispute.

Senators Push The Race To The Bottom With Legislation To End Federal Defined Benefits

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Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)

Federal workers have been the redheaded stepchildren to the GOP in Congress for many years.  First there was the Sequester that forced hundreds of thousands of federal worker to endure unpaid furloughs.  Then federal workers had to endure the forced government shutdown caused by extremists in the House of Representatives in opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

Now Senators want to kick federal workers once again.

Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) have reintroduced legislation that would end the defined benefit pension portion of the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) for new federal government hires starting six months after enactment.” (FedSmith.com)

Say what? This group of Senators wants to completely end the defined benefit portion of federal workers retirement.  The bill named the Public-Private Employee Retirement Parity Act is being pushed as a way to cut costs.

Once again Republican are trying to balance their budgets on the backs of the dedicated federal workers.  This is a monsters push in the race to the bottom.

The reason they say that federal workers should not be getting a defined pension plan is because the average worker does not have a defined pension plan anymore.  The Senators explained in their press release.

Federal workers enjoy both a defined benefit pension and a Thrift Savings Plan (equivalent to a 401(k)) with up to a 5% match, paid for by the taxpayers. The average private sector employee gets a 401(k) with a 3% employer match and no pension.”

Senator Burr said, “We cannot ask taxpayers to continue to foot the bill for public employee benefits that are far more generous than their own.”

What they should be asking is, why doesn’t the private sector have what federal employees have?  For too long the GOP has pushed this idea that because you a private sector worker got screwed out of your pension it is not fair for anyone else to have one.
If I cannot have it, nobody can.

The Senators are correct that the private sector has continued to reduce pensions plans over the last 30 years.

Hedrick Smith, noted author and journalist, explained the decline in pension plans in a recent lecture in New Hampshire.

“By 1980, 84% of all companies with 100+ employees had a full pension for their retired workers; 70% of them had full healthcare coverage for retirees as well.

Now that ‘retirement security’ has all but disappeared.  Only 30% of companies with 100+ employees offer a pension; and only 18% offer retiree healthcare.  Those numbers go down every year, as workers who retired with these ‘outdated’ pensions are passing away.”

Workers have been shifted from a defined benefit plan to a 401(k) style plan. This puts their entire retirement in the hands of Wall Street gamblers.  This has created many other problems.

Many workers lost their defined pension plan for a 401(k) when they were within a few years of retirement.  This does not leave workers any time to build up their retirement savings plan to have adequate funds to retire.  Others lost their entire retirement when their employer filed for bankruptcy, ie ENRON, even through workers retirements are supposed to be protected.

All of this is making retirees more and more dependent on Social Security.

The Social Security Administration released some staggering facts about how much seniors rely on Social Security.

  • Among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, 53% of married couples and 74% of unmarried persons receive 50% or more of their income from Social Security.
  • Among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, 23% of married couples and about 46% of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.

With proposed cuts to Social Security the need for a defined pension becomes even more important.  With less money from retirements and less money in Social Security benefits that forces more seniors to live in poverty.

What’s next, cuts to food assistance programs? Oh wait they already did that!

 

The Courts could destroy even MORE of our rights while we wait for Congress to fix Taft-Hartly

1947 CIO rally at Madison Square Garden

1947 Rally at Madison Square Garden

As I promised in yesterday’s post, here are a few examples of how things are getting worse, the longer we wait for Congress to fix (or repeal) the Taft-Hartley Act.

More states have passed so-called “Right to Work” laws. Nevermind what they’re called, RTW laws restrict employers’ rights: they prohibit employers from voluntarily agreeing to “agency fee” clauses in their union contracts. Last year, Indiana and Michigan joined the list of states that restrict employers’ rights; and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is clearly still trying to spread their “model legislation” nationwide.

The Supreme Court will soon decide two cases that could further limit employers’ rights in their dealings with employee unions. Read the New York Times article here.

  • The first case will decide whether employers have the right to agree to remain neutral during a union organizing drive. (Shouldn’t employers be able to allow their employees to make their own decisions about union representation? In many worksites, unions and employers work cooperatively because they share the same goals. Why should federal law require the employer-union relationship to be adversarial, rather than cooperative?)
  • The second case attempts to impose “Right to Work” on the whole country through a court decision — rather than leaving it up to each state to decide for itself whether to limit employers’ rights.  (What happened to that old Tenth Amendment/states’ rights principle?)
  • The second case also challenges whether a state government has the right to allow union representation of home-care workers who are paid by Medicaid.  (Again: are we about to see the federal court system restrict a state government’s exercise of reserved powers?)

Taft-HartleyAnd then there’s Boeing. Just my personal opinion, but… it sure seems to me like Boeing is setting up another chance to litigate all those legal theories it came up with in 2011, back before the Machinists asked the NLRB to drop its complaint about Dreamliner production. The basic question at issue: whether a company has the right to relocate jobs in retaliation for (legally protected) union activity. That 2011 complaint was part of “a very long line of cases that the NLRB has been pressing since the 1940s, when employers began moving work from unionized workplaces in the industrial Northeast to non-unionized workplaces in the Southeast and later the Southwest.” Just think what the impact on unions could be, if Boeing persuades the courts to agree with its legal theories. (Read more NHLN coverage of Boeing here.)

Why am I so concerned about these Court cases (and potential court cases) ?  Well… because the Supreme Court is now headed up by Bush appointee John Roberts.  Back in 2005, he was described as one of the “three possible nominees that big business would cheer” — in part because they thought Roberts might “influence the court to decide more cases deemed critical to business.”  Quoting one observer of that nomination process: “Roberts has spent his career as a mind-for-hire on behalf of the rightwing Republican agenda.”  Quoting another: “if Roberts feels free to overturn precedent… Of particular concern is a return to the Lochner era, a time when free-market capitalists read their ideology into the Constitution by striking down statutes aimed at protecting workers’ health and safety.”

I guess we’re about to find out whether those observers were as accurate in their predictions as President Harry Truman was, in his.

(If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, to read Truman’s prognostications from 1947, click here.)

————

Sen. Edward M.KennedyAnd, in a sad epitaph for Sen. Ted Kennedy… as far as I can tell, no-one has re-filed the Employee Free Choice Act since he died.

(Read yesterday’s post to learn more about the economic and social problems caused by Taft-Hartley, and one possible reason why Sen. Kennedy filed EFCA to fix them.)

The Manchester Newspaper Guild Pickets The NH UNION LEADER Calling For A Fair Contract

MANCHESTER TNG

By the Manchester Newspaper Guild

MANCHESTER — Manchester Newspaper Guild workers, joined by union members from around New England, picketed a major fundraising event for the owner of the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday in an effort to secure a fair contract.

Flanked by a 15-foot inflatable rat, members of Manchester Newspaper Guild Local 31167 denounced company “fat cats” and chanted for a fair contract outside the Executive Court Banquet Facility, where ABC “Good Morning America” co-host George Stephanopoulos was speaking at a First Amendment Awards luncheon sponsored by the Nackey Loeb School of Communications, which owns the newspaper.

After suffering double-digit percentage wage cuts in recent years, employees are being asked either to accept changes in the contract that would allow the company to move or lay off employees without respecting seniority, or to accept another 20 percent cut.

Health insurance deductibles would at least double under the company’s proposals.

The Guild represents about 90 employees in the accounting, advertising, circulation, data processing and news departments at New Hampshire’s largest newspaper.

In 2009, Guild members agreed to waive a 2 percent raise that had been negotiated for that year. In 2010, Guild members agreed to an effective 12 percent pay cut. Both of these employee sacrifices were made to help the company through harsh times, and to help protect jobs across the company. Guild members also made concessions on health insurance, sick time, personal time off and a longer work week.

In concrete terms, an employee at the senior reporter level, given those concessions, has given back more than $35,000 to the Union Leader Corp. since 2009.

In 2010 and 2011, upper management was treated to base pay raises, with the company’s two officials receiving pay raises of roughly 2 percent each year, before accepting about a 4 percent cut in 2012. Over the 2009-2012 period, the top official received almost $12,000 more in base pay than if his pay had remained at the 2009 rate.

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Image of Manchester Newspaper Guild Members and NH AFLCIO President Mark MacKenzie.

Still Waiting for Congress to fix Taft-Hartley By Passing EFCA

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

It has been a decade since Sen. Ted Kennedy first filed the Employee Free Choice Act.

He filed the bill on Friday, November 21, 2003 – almost exactly 40 years after the death of President John F. Kennedy.

A coincidence? Not likely. Here’s the back story:

The Employee Free Choice Act would restore union organizing rights that were taken away by the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act. John F. Kennedy was a member of the Congress that passed Taft-Hartley.

“The first thing I did in Congress was to become the junior Democrat on the labor committee. At the time we were considering the Taft-Hartley Bill. I was against it, and one day in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I debated the bill with a junior Republican on that committee who was for it . . . his name was Richard Nixon.” [from a 1960 recording of President Kennedy reflecting on his career]

Both Kennedy and Nixon believed that Nixon won that debate. And just weeks later, Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, overriding a veto by President Harry Truman.

President Truman was eerily accurate in his predictions of what the Taft-Hartley Act would do.

Photo from Kheel Center, Cornell University via Flikr/Creative Commons

Photo from Kheel Center, Cornell University via Flikr/Creative Commons

From his radio address to the country:

“The Taft-Hartley bill is a shocking piece of legislation. It is unfair to the working people of this country. It clearly abuses the right, which millions of our citizens now enjoy, to join together and bargain with their employers for fair wages and fair working conditions. …”

“I fear that this type of legislation would cause the people of our country to divide into opposing groups. If conflict is created, as this bill would create it—if the seeds of discord are sown, as this bill would sow them—our unity will suffer and our strength will be impaired.”

From his veto message to Congress:

“When one penetrates the complex, interwoven provisions of this omnibus bill, and understands the real meaning of its various parts, the result is startling. … the National Labor Relations Act would be converted from an instrument with the major purpose of protecting the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively into a maze of pitfalls and complex procedures. … The bill would deprive workers of vital protection which they now have under the law…. This bill is perhaps the most serious economic and social legislation of the past decade. Its effects–for good or ill–would be felt for decades to come.”

Fast-forward through those decades, and read the testimony of former National Relations Labor Board Hearing Officer Nancy Schiffer:

“At some point in my career… I could no longer tell workers that the [National Labor Relations] Act protects their right to form a union. … Over the years, the law has been perverted. It now acts as a sword which is used by employers to frustrate employee freedom of choice and deny them their right to collective bargaining. When workers want to form a union to bargain with their employer, the NLRB election process, which was originally established as their means to this end, now provides a virtually insurmountable series of practical, procedural, and legal obstacles.”

Read this report by researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago:

“Each year in the United States, more than 23,000 workers are fired or penalized for union activity. Aided by a weak labor law system that fails to protect workers’ rights, employers manipulate the current process of establishing union representation in a manner that undemocratically gives them the power to significantly influence the outcome of union representation elections. … Union membership in the United States is not declining because workers no longer want or need unions. Instead, falling union density is directly related to employers’ near universal and systematic use of legal and illegal tactics to stymie workers’ union organizing.”

Read the report by Cornell University Professor Kate Bronfenbrenner:

“Our findings suggest that the aspirations for representation are being thwarted by a coercive and punitive climate for organizing that goes unrestrained due to a fundamentally flawed regulatory regime … many of the employer tactics that create a punitive and coercive atmosphere are, in fact, legal. Unless serious labor law reform with real penalties is enacted, only a fraction of the workers who seek representation under the National Labor Relations Act will be successful. If recent trends continue, then there will no longer be a functioning legal mechanism to effectively protect the right of private-sector workers to organize and collectively bargain.”

Now, go back and consider President Truman’s most serious prediction from 66 years ago: that the Taft-Hartley Act “would cause the people of our country to divide into opposing groups. If conflict is created, as this bill would create it—if the seeds of discord are sown, as this bill would sow them—our unity will suffer and our strength will be impaired.”

President John F. Kennedy

Think about our national politics.  Isn’t our country divided enough? Isn’t it time to reverse the process started by the Taft-Hartley Act?

It’s been a decade since Sen. Kennedy first filed the Employee Free Choice Act.  Next week, we will mark a half-century since President John F. Kennedy died.

 

Isn’t it time to yank the roots of discord, start ending the conflict, and heal the division that was created by the Taft-Hartley Act?

————

To my long-time readers: apologies if this sounds familiar.  Once again, I have just updated last year’s post to reflect the passage of time; there was no reason to write a new post, because things haven’t changed.  So instead of trying to reword things I’ve already said, I’m just going to start using a new hashtag: #dejavu. (You can see all my repeats in one place!)

Actually, it’s not exactly true that “things haven’t changed.”  In this case they are changing — they’re getting worse.  But more on that, tomorrow.

Labor Pushes To End Discrimination Against The LBGT Community In The Workplace

There is no doubt that labor unions have always been pushing for equality in the workplace.  Labor was instrumental in pushing for the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, and the American Disabilities Act.  Now these same unions are pushing to end workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Yesterday the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that would make it illegal for an employer to fire a worker based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This is very similar to discrimination laws that protect workers from discrimination based on age or race.

After the vote the Communication Workers of America released a statement praising the Senate for passing ENDA.

“After a nearly four-decade journey, ENDA has finally made it out of the Senate with bipartisan support and creates what no other law currently does: Express protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the workplace.

“CWA has worked to enshrine these protections in our union contracts, so that workers do not have to hide who they are out of fear of losing their jobs and livelihoods. But not everyone has the protection of a strong union contract. Every year, discrimination occurs in many forms, as American workers aren’t hired, are fired, do not receive job promotions, or deal with verbal and physical abuse from co-workers and supervisors simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

“ENDA is an important step in recognizing that employment decisions should be made on the basis of an individual’s ability to perform a job.  People that work hard and perform well should not be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The bill has the overwhelming support of the American people, businesses and faith communities. It’s time to remind our lawmakers of that fact, as the bill moves to the House, where Speaker John Boehner has vowed to kill this critical legislation.

“CWA is proud to stand with our LGBT members and the LGBT community in the fight for full equality for all Americans.”

CWA is not alone in their efforts to push for equality in the workplace.  One of the more vocal advocates for equality is the American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.  In her statement you can see this has special meaning to President Weingarten.

“Today, members of the U.S. Senate joined together across aisles and ideologies, and took a giant step toward eliminating discrimination for LGBTQI working Americans. In the American psyche, it has become common sense that all workers—gay or straight, transgender or not—should be judged based on the quality of their work, not on who they love or who they are.

“The final passage of ENDA is vital for our nation. As an educator, I know that our schools will be safer and more welcoming places for students to thrive and for teachers not to have to hide. As a labor leader, I know that fairness in the workplace and dignity for all workers are essential for a thriving middle class. As a lesbian, I know that future generations should never experience the discrimination that my generation and generations before mine had to endure.”

The unfortunate problem of course the House of Representatives, and their leader Speaker John Boehner.  He is adamantly opposed to ENDA and has no intention of bringing it to the floor of the house.

The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement.

An aide to the Speaker told the Huffington PostWe have always believed this is covered by existing law.” This is completely untrue.  Only 21 states have existing laws that protect LBGT workers from discrimination, leaving 29 states the ability to fire a worker because they are gay.

This is just another example of the Republican Party in the House letting their personal religious ideologies against homosexuals dictate their actions.

“The Speaker, of all people, should certainly know what it’s like to go to work every day afraid of being fired,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “Instead of letting the far right trample him again, it’s time for Speaker Boehner to stand with the majority of everyday Republican voters and support ENDA.”

Both New Hampshire Representatives in the House call on Speaker Boehner to bring this vital legislation to the floor of the House.

(Rep Carol Shea-Porter) “The Senate has, in a bipartisan manner, voted for equality and fairness for all citizens by passing ENDA. Speaker Boehner needs to bring ENDA to a vote in the House.”

(Rep Annie Kuster) “Now that the Senate has passed ENDA with bipartisan support, the House should immediately follow suit and do the same. No one should ever fear being fired from their job or harassed in the workplace because of who they are or who they love – period. As a proud original cosponsor of this vital legislation, I am hopeful that the House will finally pass ENDA and reaffirm one of our nation’s bedrock principles: that every American deserves equal treatment under the law.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Darren Phelps the Executive Director of Pride at Work (AFL-CIO) pushed for the passage of ENDA in the AFL-CIO Now blog.

The AFL-CIO will redouble our support for the passage of ENDA and continue this work until every worker—gay or straight, transgender or not—is treated with dignity and respect on the job. We urge all national and international unions to join in the effort to pass ENDA and to use their influence to sway those members of Congress who will be instrumental in the bill’s passage. As we did in 2009, let us commit to doing ‘all in our power to see that it passes.’

Hopefully common sense will prevail in the House of Representatives and they will bring ENDA to the floor for a vote.  Millions of workers deserve to work without the fear of discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

AFL-CIO Pushes For Immigration Reform With New Ad

Labor Federation mobilizes workers to pressure House Republicans to pass immigration reform with roadmap to citizenship and workers’ rights

Efforts tie into coalition “Cost of Inaction” mobilizations

Today the AFL-CIO announced the release of new, hard hitting television ads that call out Republicans for obstructing comprehensive immigration reform, citing anti-immigrant statements by Republican lawmakers.  In addition to the ads, labor will launch in-district mobilizations to increase pressure on House Republicans to support immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship and protection of workers’ rights. Providing 11 million aspiring Americans with the chance to come out of the shadows and contribute to our communities will protect the rights of all workers, the AFL-CIO has said.

These ads represent the next step of the labor movement’s unprecedented nationwide campaign to reform the nation’s broken immigration system and create equal access to the American Dream. The ads will run in Spanish and target districts with large Latino constituencies in Bakersfield, Calif.; Denver, Colo.; Atlanta, Ga.; and Orlando, Fla. The ads will also be broadcast in English in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

“The time for acting on immigration reform is now, and the labor movement has decided to throw down in a big way to make it happen,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.  “Every day, over 1,000 people are deported, while House Republicans refuse to act on immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship and workers’ rights.  We won’t stop until the deportation crisis ends and aspiring Americans have the roadmap to citizenship they deserve.”

Online actions and mobilization by the labor movement will tie into coalition actions targeting nine key House Republicans as part of the “Cost of Inaction” campaign.

“I have been working on this since the days of Governor Pete Wilson in California when he tried to demonize immigrants back in the early 1990s,” said AFL-CIO Los Angeles Labor Federation head Maria Elena Durazo. “We know what happened. We saw how that worked out.  The time to act is now. Or the Republican Party may never again be able to get support from immigrant communities.”

 

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