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SENATOR SHAHEEN STATEMENT ON PASSAGE OF TRADE LEGISLATION

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Tonight, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) released the following statement on her vote for passage of trade legislation:

 

“I voted yes on the trade bill tonight because it’s an opportunity to set high standards for future trade agreements, which can help New Hampshire businesses compete and increase their exports. The bill directs that future trade agreements should secure strong environmental, labor and human rights protections from our trading partners, and a recently passed enforcement measure will ensure that they live up to their commitments. In addition, this bill incorporated robust funding for Trade Adjustment Assistance, which provides displaced workers with the training they need. I’m also very encouraged that an agreement was reached that will allow a vote on reauthorizing the Export-Import bank which has assisted numerous Granite State businesses in accessing new customers. Overall, I believe this package of trade bills will create a more level playing field for U.S. businesses and workers.”

Head of Largest Federal Employee Union Calls for $15 an hour minimum wage

AFGE President: Tens of thousands of federal, D.C. government workers don’t earn living wage

AFGE Fight For 15WASHINGTON – The head of the largest union representing federal and D.C. government employees says the federal government should follow the lead of Los Angeles and other cities by raising the minimum wage for federal and D.C. government employees to $15 an hour.

“There are tens of thousands of federal and D.C. government employees who work full-time yet earn less than $15 an hour,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “The federal government should serve as an example for other employers to follow by providing its own employees with a living wage.”

This week, city leaders in Los Angeles voted to increase the minimum wage for municipal employees to $15 an hour over the next five years, joining three other cities that have enacted a $15 minimum wage in the past year. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

“Minimum wage workers today earn less than they did in 1950, when accounting for inflation. Employees who put in an honest day’s work should be able to feed their family and put a roof over their head without having to rely on government programs that are intended for the poor and indigent,” Cox said.

Last year, President Obama issued an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour, yet the administration has resisted calls to support even that modest increase for the government’s own workers. AFGE and other labor unions on the Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Committee made a proposal that the White House support increasing the minimum wage for hourly federal employees to $10.10 an hour. But the proposal died due to opposition from management representatives on the committee.

“The workers performing these low-paid jobs are just as vital to the mission of their agencies as everyone else. They are licensed practical nurses at our veterans’ hospitals, food service workers at our commissaries, and maintenance workers at our military bases. They are supporting our country, yet they are unable to support themselves and their families on the paltry wages they earn from the government,” Cox said.

Worker Wins Update: Workers Score Victories In Pay and Organizing, Help Others in Community

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

LA City Council Approves Wage Win: The Los Angeles City Council approved a measure this week that would raise the citywide minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, a raise from the current $9 minimum wage. Once implemented, LA will join cities such as Seattle and San Francisco in raising the minimum wage to $15.

DoubleTree Workers Outsmart Harvard Union Opposition: Thanks to a major organizing win last month, approximately 130 workers at the Hilton DoubleTree Suites Hotel in Cambridge, MA will become members of UNITE HERE! Local 26.  The hard-fought, two-year campaign was opposed by Hilton and Harvard University. The workers, many of them immigrant housekeepers, cited unfair hours and unsafe conditions as reasons for voting to form a union.

Union Brothers and Sisters Win in ‘City of Brotherly Love’: Workers for the Philadelphia-based manufacturing company Chemson voted to join ICWUC/UFCW after uniting over issues with poor pay and unfair hours. Workers also pointed to lack of respect on the job and unsafe working conditions as reasons to form a union.

Facebook ‘Shares’ Wealth, Workers Give Move a ‘Like’: Facebook announced earlier this month that it will require U.S. contractors and vendors to pay their employees at least $15 an hour and offer paid-time-off for sick days and vacation. The tech giant will also mandate that contractors take steps to ensure paid parental leave.

Workers Reach Out to Help Aspiring Americans Apply for Citizenship: Earlier this month, members of the Pennsylvania-based UFCW Local 1776 held an immigration workshop where trained members assisted aspiring Americans in filling out their applications to apply for citizenship. The workshop, part of UFCW’s Union Citizenship Action Network program, helped workers at local JBS and Cargill plants, and is part of a nationwide effort to help those seeking citizenship.

Big Easy Teachers Work Hard to Form Union: Last month, teachers belonging to the United Teachers of New Orleans, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, secured its first collective-bargaining contract in the past decade at Benjamin Franklin High School. The teachers began to organize in 2014, citing issues with pay inequality.

NYC Mayor de Blasio to Launch ‘Day-of-Action’ for Workers Following Report: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that his office will launch a ‘day-of-action’ to address reports that workers in the nail salon industry are facing ‘deplorable conditions’ including unsafe workspaces and pay less than minimum wage.

New AFL-CIO Report Highlights Reasons Why TPP Is Not the Answer to Trade Issues with China

Read the report here

(Washington, DC) – On a conference call today, AFL-CIO Policy Director and Special Counsel Damon Silvers and Roosevelt Institute Senior Economist Adam Hersh described the reasons why the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is not the solution to improving China’s trade policies.

The U.S.-China Economic Relationship: The TPP is Not the Answer,” report explains why the TPP will have no effect on the way China sets its trade policy. It debunks claims that failure to pass TPP will allow China to set the rules of international trade.

“From what we know about the TPP, it’s a low-standards agreement from the perspective of working people.  It would solidify a model of globalization that drives wages and public interest policies down, it wouldn’t address job killing currency manipulation, and it could allow China to reap the benefits of the agreement without joining,” said Silvers. “It would undermine efforts to raise wages in China and to revive U.S. manufacturing. Congress must reject the notion that ‘TPP at any cost’ is worth it.  A corporate-driven TPP cedes important American values and hurts working families in the process.”

“The argument that TPP can counterbalance China’s rising economic power in the region holds no water,” said Hersh.  “In fact, Chinese policymakers are eager to see TPP completed for the opportunity to expand their economic footprint across Asia.”

A digitized replay of the call is available from today at 12:30 pm to 5/21/15 at 12:30 pm EST.

Telephone:   (USA) (800) 475-6701     (International) (320) 365-3844        Access Code: 360686

Read the report here.

FairPoint Announces Layoff of More Than 10% of Northern New England Workforce

Fairness at Fairpoint Banner
Unions Say Cuts Will Further Erode Service Quality

AUGUSTA, ME — FairPoint Communications announced today that it will lay off 219 employees in its northern New England operations, which represents more than 10% of its workforce in the region. Members of both the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont will be affected.

Union leaders expressed disappointment at the news and said that the cuts will further erode already severely compromised service quality for the region’s telecommunications customers. “FairPoint has failed to meet service quality benchmarks for years, and cutting its skilled workforce by more than 10% will only make matters worse,” said Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2327 in Maine. “We are disgusted by this company’s total disregard for its employees and customers.”

FairPoint has consistently sought to avoid being held accountable for service quality failures in the region. The company is supporting bills in the Maine legislature that would eliminate its obligation to provide service to customers who rely solely on a landline, or Provider of Last Resort (POLR) customers. It also supports an amendment that would eliminate the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s ability to investigate service quality failures or to enforce standards. An investigation of the company’s service quality failures is ongoing in Vermont.

“This announcement is deeply disappointing and illustrates yet again that FairPoint executives are beholden to the greedy Wall Street hedge funds who own the company, not to our customers,” said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400.

Union leaders assured members that they would meet with the company immediately to ensure that the layoff process is implemented according to the collective bargaining agreements. “We will continue to fight these cuts and support our members and their families through this difficult time,” said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in New Hampshire.

“Our hearts go out to the hard-working men and women who will lose their jobs because of FairPoint’s mismanagement and greed,” said Mike Spillane, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Vermont. “Many of these folks have devoted years to a career with the phone company and they are proud of it. They are valued members of our communities who were willing to make incredible sacrifices during our historic strike. They fought not just for their own jobs, but for the quality service that our customers deserve. They don’t deserve this.”

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T-9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 represents nearly 300 FairPoint employees in the three states. For more information, visit www.FairnessAtFairpoint.com.

Worker Wins Update: Workers Fly High, Win Big Through Major Organizing Efforts

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

Philadelphia Charter School Teachers Organize with AFT: Teachers and other staff members at Olney Charter High School voted to organize a union earlier this week, becoming the largest charter school in Philadelphia to organize. The teachers and staff will be represented by the Alliance of Charter School Employees, which is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

Sheet Metal Workers Hammer Out Major Victories Across the Country: Earlier this spring, transportation workers in South Florida voted overwhelmingly to join the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation (SMART) union. SMART workers have also organized in Buffalo, NY, and secured a major Project Labor Agreement in Long Beach, CA.

Aircraft Mechanics Flying High After Organizing Win: Over 100 aircraft mechanics and other technicians at the Beechcraft Service Center in Wichita, KS joined International Association of Machinists District 70 last month. IAM’s organizing efforts took off recently with several thousand workers organizing at Textron Aviation, which includes Cessna and Beechcraft aircraft.

Ohio Nurse Wins Justice, $2 Million After She’s Targeted by Hospital: After suffering through a campaign of intimidation and abuse, Ann Wayt, a Cleveland-area nurse won a $2 million award against Affinity Medical Center after their attempts to fire her and ruin her reputation in retaliation for Wayt’s efforts to organize workers.

UConn Graduate Teaching Assistants Win Big with First Contract: Approximately 2,300 graduate teaching assistants at the University of Connecticut represented by the Graduate Employee Union, a branch of the United Auto Workers, reached a tentative agreement on a first contract with the university, ensuring an increase in stipends, a break in university fees, and greater health benefits.

Major Health Insurer Ensures Healthy Relations with Workers by Raising Wages: In the wake of national calls by workers to raise wages, Fortune 100 health insurance company Aetna increased pay for their lowest paid workers to $16 an hour last month, raising wages for 5,700 employees. Aetna executives cited evidence that a higher-paid workforce provides better customer service and decreases turnover as reasons for the pay hike.

New York Workers Press Lawmakers to Pass Landmark Equal Pay Law: Workers in New York secured a major win last month as the New York State legislature passed a slate of equal pay protection laws, including legislation that prohibits employers from telling workers they cannot discuss pay at work, and strengthening prohibitions on paying women and men separately.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On Senate Actions On TPP

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
on Senate Trade Negotiations

Richard_Trumka“America’s workers have lost millions of jobs and billions in wages over the last two decades as a result of currency manipulation—all with little to no response other than talk from various administrations, regardless of party.  If Congress is serious about ‘trade done right,’ enforceable currency provisions—both in U.S. law and in our trade deals—are needed.

Currency legislation, and indeed the entire enforcement bill (S. 1015) reported from the Senate Finance Committee, cannot be left behind as Senate Republicans attempt to advance Fast Track authority.  Yesterday, Senate Democrats insisted that all four bills passed by the Senate Finance Committee—Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority, Trade Adjustment Assistance, Preferences, and Customs—must be bundled and considered as a single package.  What they demanded yesterday, they should continue to demand today.  Those who want to get trade right must demand that Fast Track doesn’t move unless currency and other enforcement tools are included in the package.  Anything less leaves America’s workers, domestic producers, and communities behind.”

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
on Failed Senate Vote on TPA

“The Hatch-Wyden-Ryan Fast Track bill is halted – for now.  That’s good news for America’s working families, domestic producers, and communities.  We appreciate those senators who stood with working people today against a bill that would have led to undemocratic trade deals that lower wages and eliminate jobs.  This vote sends a message loud and clear.

If Congress is serious about creating jobs, reviving U.S. manufacturing, and raising wages, it needs to use its leverage to reshape the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  It must remove special legal privileges for foreign investors, add enforceable rules to prevent currency manipulation, strengthen rules of origin, and redouble efforts to ensure workers everywhere — from Hannibal, Missouri, to Hanoi, Vietnam — can organize and bargain collectively.”

LiUNA Calls On Congress To Stop Kicking The Can Down The Road When It Comes To Infrastructure Repairs

Image from LIUNA

Image from LIUNA

LIUNA Joins Elected and Business Leaders in Call for Congress to Invest in Critical Infrastructure and Save Lives, Create Jobs

 “It’s Time to Stop Kicking the Can Down the Road and Fix the Road”

LIUNA BannerWashington, D.C. — At a news conference with elected officials, business leaders and infrastructure advocates, Terry O’Sullivan, the General President of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), called on Congress to quickly develop a long-term solution for America’s deteriorating roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.

 LIUNA represents a half-million workers, predominantly in the construction industry, and is a longtime advocate for greater infrastructure investment.

 Noting that poor roads contribute to more than 10,000 U.S. traffic fatalities each year, that bridges are literally falling down, and that potholes are damaging vehicles and making roads unsafe, O’Sullivan called on Congress to stop “dodging the issue, and playing political games.”

 “The proud men and women of LIUNA, and of all the building trades, are ready to do our job: rebuilding America’s infrastructure,” O’Sullivan said. “We call on Congress today to do its job: pass a long-term, well-funded highway bill; invest in our great nation’s infrastructure; and develop strategies to fund these projects for decades to come.”

 Since 2009, Congress has failed to reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund to address the transportation infrastructure crisis, and has instead passed more than 30 short-term patches. The fund is on course to begin running dry again this summer.

 O’Sullivan urged Congress to act quickly so that transportation and other infrastructure projects can get off the ground. “The responsibility for every stalled infrastructure project, and every worker trapped in jobless despair, rests with Congress until it acts,” he said.

 According to the Associated Equipment Distributors, every dollar spent on infrastructure construction results in nearly $2 of growth elsewhere in the economy. And for every three construction jobs created, five are created in other sectors.

 In all, about 14.5 million workers, or 11 percent of the workforce, are employed in infrastructure jobs; most with good benefits and family-supporting pay, which quickly spreads through local communities.

 Those are jobs, O’Sullivan said, “that can put food on the table of blue-collar, working families, and create a road to prosperity for unemployed construction workers. It’s about transforming not only the lives of these workers, but the future of our country, and our economy.”

 Also joining the news conference were Ray LaHood, former U.S. Transportation Secretary and Co-Chair of Building America’s Future; Salt Lake City, Utah Mayor and National League of Cities President Ralph Becker; Anaheim, California Mayor Tom Tait; and National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons.

 The event was part of “Infrastructure Week,” which includes hundreds of participating leaders and organizations fighting to increase investment in the nation’s critical infrastructure.

 “Ordinary Americans can’t get away from the crumbling state of our infrastructure; we’re here today to make sure that members of Congress can’t get away from their responsibility to do something about it,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road, and fix the road.”

Senators Shaheen & Cochran Introduce New On-The-Job Training Bill

Legislation Would Help Businesses and Job Seekers Through

Highly Successful Workforce Development Programs

Image from Senator Shaheen's Website

Image from Senator Shaheen’s Website 2014

(Washington, DC) ­– U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) today introduced bipartisan legislation that would help Americans find new jobs and update their skills through on-the-job training (OJT) programs. The On-the-Job Training Act of 2015 authorizes the Department of Labor to award competitive grants to establish and support local OJT programs, which have been demonstrated to be the most effective training model to help people gain the skills they need to get and keep jobs.

“This legislation is about getting Americans back to work with the skills they need in today’s economy,” said Shaheen. “On-the-job training programs are a highly effective way to boost local economies and help the long-term unemployed get their careers back on-track. These programs have been a success in New Hampshire and across the country and this legislation would expand them to keep America’s workforce competitive.”

“In times of economic uncertainty, we should focus on programs with a proven track record of helping businesses and creating jobs. On-the-job training programs work.  They connect employers with future employees and ensure that they have the skills needed for career advancement in many fields,” Cochran said.  “I’m pleased to join with Senator Shaheen to promote this important, bipartisan legislation.”

In on-the-job training programs, participating employers sign a contract with a local workforce board agreeing to hire workers that need training. In exchange, the employers are reimbursed for a percentage of the wages they pay the employees undergoing training, until the workers gain the skills they need for the new occupation. The participating businesses are expected to keep the newly trained employees on after their on-the-job training has completed.

Last year, Senator Shaheen secured passage of two on-the-job training provisions as part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that became law. The first increased the amount that businesses participating in on-the-job training can be reimbursed for wages they pay employees hired under the program and the second would enable more young people to participate in on-the-job training programs.

On-the-Job Training has the best results of all training programs that are part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity ActIn 2013, 88 percent of OJT participants were still employed at their training sites or in other jobs three months after having finished the program, and 79 percent were still employed one year later.

On-the-job training programs have already demonstrated success helping the unemployed launch into new careers in New Hampshire, as demonstrated in this video made by New Hampshire Works featuring employers and employees who have used the program.

The bill text can be found here.

Leo W Gerard: Trade Abuse

America is in an abusive relationship with trade-obsessed politicians and corporations.

Despite their long history of battering the U.S. middle class with bad trade deal after bad trade deal, these lawmakers and CEOs contend workers should believe that their new proposal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), will be different. President Obama and the CEO of Nike, a company that doesn’t manufacture one shoe in the United States, got together in Oregon on Friday to urge Americans to fall once again for a trade deal.

The trade fanatics say everything will be different under the TPP – even though it is based on deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that lured American factories across the border, destroyed good-paying jobs and devastated communities. They plead: “Just come back for one more deal and see how great it will be this time!” And, like all batterers, they say: “Sorry about the terrible past; trust me about the future.”

This is trade abuse.

2015-05-10-1431274691-5818652-JustDontDoIt.jpg

At the Nike world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., the chief executive officer of Air Jordans told the chief executive passenger of Air Force One that Americans should believe in the TPP because it’ll be like Santa Claus stuffing jobs down chimneys across America.

CEO Mark Parker promised that the TPP would miraculously prompt Nike, the brand that is the icon for shipping production overseas, to create 10,000 U.S. manufacturing and engineering jobs – over a decade, that is.  Not only that, Parker pronounced, the TPP will generate thousands of construction jobs and as many as 40,000 indirect positions with suppliers and service companies – again, over a decade.

Now those are some great-sounding promises! Nike employs 26,000 American workers now, a few of whom make soles in Oregon and Missouri. But presto, Parker says, the TPP will increase that number by nearly 40 percent!

The thing is, Nike could easily create 10,000 manufacturing and engineering jobs in the United States right now. No TPP required. It employs 1 million overseas, the vast majority in low-wage, high-worker-abuse countries like Vietnam, China and Indonesia. To bring 1 percent of those jobs – 10,000 – to the United States doesn’t seem like such a Herculean, TPP-requiring task, especially considering Nike’s massive profit margin.

The average cost to make a pair of Nike shoes is $30. The American sneaker consumer, who may pay $130 to swoosh, is certainly not getting the benefit of low prices from Nike’s cheap overseas production.

Instead of manufacturing in America, Nike chooses to “just do it” in countries where it knows workers are abused. In the 1990s, the media slammed the corporation for sweatshop conditions in its foreign factories. Like a typical abuser, Nike promised to reform its ways. It said in a news release last week, “Our past lessons have fundamentally changed the way we do business.”

Well, not really. The company admitted in 2011 that two Indonesian factories making its shoes subjected workers to “serious and egregious” physical and verbal abuse. Nike told the San Francisco Chronicle then that there was “little it could do to stop” the cruelty.

And it accomplished exactly that – little. Just last month, a three-part series in the Modesto Bee described sickening conditions in Indonesian factories producing Nike shoes: Workers paid $212 a month for six-day, 55-hour work weeks. Workers denied the country’s minimum wage and overtime pay. Workers paid so little they couldn’t afford to care for their children. Workers fired for trying to improve conditions.

Last week, the world’s largest athletic gear maker said, “Nike fully supports the inclusion of strong labor provisions (in the TPP) because we believe that will drive higher industry standards and create economic growth that benefits everyone.”

Promises, promises. Why doesn’t Nike simply insist on higher standards at its factories? What exactly is there in a trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim nations that is essential to Nike establishing higher standards and stopping the abuse of workers in factories making its shoes?

Oh, yeah, the American middle class, which has suffered most from past trade deals, is not allowed to know that.  The TPP is secret. Well, except to the privileged corporate CEOs who helped write the thing.

In pushing for “Fast Track” authority to shove the deal through a Congress that has abdicated its Constitutional responsibility to oversee foreign trade, President Obama admitted “past deals did not always live up to the hype.”

That’s not quite right. It’s actually way worse than that. Past deals killed U.S. factories and jobs. Since NAFTA, they’ve cost Americans 57,000 factories and 5 million good, family-supporting jobs.

Just three years ago, trade fanatics promised that the Korean deal, called KORUS, would definitely provide more exports and more jobs. Instead, U.S. goods exports to Korea dropped 6 percent, while imports from Korea surged 19 percent. So the U.S. goods trade deficit with Korea swelled 104 percent. That means the loss of 93,000 America jobs in just the first three years of KORUS.

It’s the same story with the other trade deals that followed NAFTA, including the agreements that enabled China to enter the World Trade Organization. The Commerce Department announced just last week the largest monthly expansion in the trade deficit in 19 years. The deficit with China for March was the biggest ever.

What this means is that instead of exporting goods, America is exporting jobs. Foreign workers get the jobs making the stuff Americans buy. And they’re often employed by factories producing products for so-called American corporations like Nike. They’re employed by factories that collapse and kill hundreds. Factories that catch on fire and immolate workers trapped inside. Factories where workers are ill-paid, overworked and slapped when they can’t meet unrealistic production quotas. Factories that pollute grievously.

American workers no longer are willing to engage in this abusive relationship with trade fanatics. They no longer believe the promises of change. They don’t want the federal money TPP fanatics promise them to pay for retraining as underpaid burger flippers after their middle class-supporting factory jobs are shipped overseas. They’re over trade pacts that benefit only multi-national corporations like Nike.

To Fast Track and the TPP, they say, “Just Don’t Do It!”

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