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Working on Labor Day to Recover from Harvey

Watching helplessly as flood waters rose was not an option for Brandon Parker. This Texas refinery worker and member of the United Steelworkers (USW) union has a jacked-up Suburban and a friend with a boat. There was no way he was going to let family members, neighbors or strangers drown.

Like Brandon, many union members couldn’t sit still through the storm. One drove her high-riding pickup truck two hours to find baby formula for co-workers rescued from their roof with a newborn. Another used his pickup truck to rescue people whose cars got caught in fast-moving water.

These are among the many workers across Texas and across the United States whose sense of community drove them to respond to the crisis created by Hurricane Harvey.

Brandon’s most harrowing rescues occurred on Sunday, Aug. 27, when he joined the citizens armada, the flotilla of boats owned by civilians who drafted themselves to serve as first responders when the catastrophic size of the emergency overwhelmed professionals.

The crew on Brandon’s boat was all union. His longtime friend, Kenneth Yates, a member of Plumbers Local Union 68 in Houston, owned the Bay Stealth craft. Yates’ stepfather, Robert Young, a retired member of the American Federation of Teachers, joined them on the expedition through engulfed Dickinson, Texas.

A home in Dickinson, Texas, on Aug. 27 as seen from Brandon Parker’s rescue boat.

The crew on Brandon’s boat was all union. His longtime friend, Kenneth Yates, a member of Plumbers Local Union 68 in Houston, owned the Bay Stealth craft. Yates’ stepfather, Robert Young, a retired member of the American Federation of Teachers, joined them on the expedition through engulfed Dickinson, Texas.

They launched the boat into deep water on Interstate 45. Bands of storm clouds pelted them with rain, paused, then resumed. The flood water was about six feet deep, not quite over the front door of most homes they passed. The current was strong, making it hard to maneuver the boat.

Kenneth Yates and Robert Young on Yates’ Bay Stealth boat in Dickinson, Texas, on Aug. 27 as they set out to rescue people.

At one point, Brandon saw – just two inches below the water’s surface – an iron fence topped by arrow-shaped finials. He quickly shoved the boat away with an oar, preventing the metal points from puncturing the hull and sinking the craft. They were lucky. They saw rescue boats that were flipped over and one wrapped around a light pole. Ultimately, though, both the hull and propeller of Kenneth Yates’ boat were damaged from striking unseen underwater objects.

They picked up nine people. One family came from a second-story deck. They climbed down the deck’s steps and got into the boat. Another group was on the second story of an apartment building and descended its exterior staircase to the boat.

This was before evacuation was ordered, and Brandon was frightened for the people who chose to remain in their homes. He said he urged everyone he saw to leave while they could but many refused. “Because all the professional resources were being used, it might be hours before they could be rescued in an emergency,” Brandon told me last week.

When it got dark, Brandon, Kenneth and Robert went home. They didn’t have lights on the boat, so it wasn’t safe to continue.

Brandon wasn’t done though. That night, a family in his neighborhood needed to get out of their house after water had risen four feet inside. It was a young boy, a friend of Brandon’s 11-year-old son, and the boy’s uncle. Brandon drove as close as he could to the house, then got a guy in a boat to go in and bring them out to where the car was.

Brandon’s neighborhood in League City, Texas, on Aug. 29.

That is how Brandon started rescuing people – with his car, which would end up with damage to the steering system, differentials and wheel bearings from driving in high water. He first put his car into service Saturday night, Aug. 26. He was headed home from his brother-in-law’s house where he’d watched boxer Floyd Mayweather defeat Conor McGregor. Rain was pouring down and lightning flashing. He saw people walking along the swamped road, drenched.

Some had lost their cars in the rising water. Some had parked, afraid to drive further. Brandon picked up about a dozen in his high-riding, 1990 Suburban and drove them to their homes, most to the neighborhood where his brother-in-law lived.

By Sunday, Aug. 27, the roof of Brandon’s house in League City, Texas, was leaking, and he and his wife and three children had taken in flooded out in-laws. Still, he told his wife that he wanted to go out and help people. “She wasn’t too happy, but she understood that I needed to do that,” Brandon recounted. “I have been in situations where people have helped me. Why wouldn’t I go and help other people?”

That morning, he drove to a neighborhood in hard-hit Dickinson, where nearly every house was flooded. He found hurricane refugees walking through deep water carrying plastic garbage bags of belongings over their heads. This is dangerous because people can step in the wrong place and suddenly slip under water. That’s because there were deep ditches on both sides of the road and floods push manhole covers off.

He piled people into his Suburban and drove them to a bar that was still on dry ground. Other volunteers ferried them to shelters from there.

The 1990 Suburban Brandon Parker used to rescue people.

On Monday, Aug. 28, Brandon drove his truck through high water to get to a donation center in Galveston. He picked up cases of water, food, toiletries and other supplies. He distributed them in his neighborhood because many elderly residents had refused to leave their homes. “I went door to door giving out water and food. A lot of people turned me down. They said they didn’t want to take what others needed.”

The supplies were crucial because even when people with high vehicles like Brandon could get out, they found stores closed and gas stations out of fuel. Brandon continued checking on his neighbors and handing out provisions through Wednesday, when water started receding and he had to go to work at the LyondellBasell refinery in Houston.

Like Brandon, Felicia Weir of Santa Fe, Texas, is a USW refinery worker with a high-riding truck. Even after her home flooded, she drove for hours on Wednesday, backing up constantly to circumvent flood-closed roads, to get baby formula and clothes for a couple who had been plucked from their rooftop with an infant granddaughter and two other young grand kids.

Felicia Weir of Santa Fe, Texas, with supplies to distribute from her union hall.

Marcos Velez, a USW staff member from Pasadena, Texas, drove his pickup truck through flood waters to rescue a refinery worker whose car was inundated by three feet of fast moving water in Baytown, Texas, as he tried to drive to his job before dawn. Then Velez turned around and, despite blinding rain, rescued another dozen people whose cars were bobbing in the fast-rising water in that same neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the Texas AFL-CIO set up a charitable organization, the Texas Workers Relief Fund to aid working families, and local unions from across the country began donating. The National Nurses United Registered Nurse Response Network, an organization of volunteer unionized nurses, deployed its first unit to Houston on Thursday. Three Texas USW local unions handed out food and water to first responders and the public.

These efforts won’t stop when the rain does. This Labor Day, workers from across the country will be volunteering. They’ll be helping victims of Hurricane Harvey recover. And they’ll continue donating their services for months.

Labor Speaks Out Against Ending DACA

“President Donald Trump’s move to terminate DACA and strip work authorization away from 800,000 productive members of our society is cruel and wrong,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Ending DACA will increase the pool of vulnerable workers in our country and embolden employers to retaliate against working men and women who dare to organize on the job or speak out against abusive working conditions. This indefensible act will make our workplaces less fair and less safe and will undermine our freedom to join together and fight to raise wages and standards.”

“This direct attack on union members and union values only strengthens our resolve to overcome racial divisions and demand changes to a system rigged to benefit the wealthiest and corporations. The eyes of history are upon us. The labor movement will stand with these brave young workers and fight for legislation so that the contributions they make are celebrated, rather than assaulted. We will push for a pathway to citizenship and continue to oppose enforcement policies that discriminate and generate fear in our workplaces and communities. We will not give up the struggle until all working people have rights on the job, regardless of where they were born,” Trumka added.

“President Trump has left 800,000 lives in limbo by rescinding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). We condemn this appalling and counterproductive action,” said United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez. “Donald Trump is scapegoating immigrants who were already vetted by the federal government and who are not a threat to our country. Trump taking DACA away from Dreamers so that he can try to deport them is heartless and immoral.”

“Many Dreamers are farm workers who feed this nation or their sons and daughters. They are also doctors, lawyers, researchers, students—all of them supporting America. This is the only home most of them have known,” Rodriguez added.

“Donald Trump’s announcement today that Deferred Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA) will be terminated in six months barring congressional intervention is an astounding act of political cowardice, and a missed opportunity to make a significant step towards comprehensive immigration reform,” said UNITE HERE International President D. Taylor and General Vice President Maria Elena Durazo in a joint statement. “Donald Trump has passed the buck to Congress on what even he has acknowledged is a humanitarian crisis, because of his lack of political courage. Donald Trump, by failing to perform as a leader, has placed the fates of the 800,000 law abiding, tax-paying immigrant workers with DACA status in the hands of a dysfunctional Congress.”

“Because of Trump’s refusal to show political courage, it is now incumbent upon the American Congress to take immediate action to save DACA. The American hospitality industry relies heavily on DACA and Temporary Protective Status (TPS) workers to run, and the termination of DACA will have serious negative consequences for the tourism industry because of this. Under DACA, 800,000 immigrants have received work authorizations, including many hospitality workers and their families. Through this program, young people have been able to fulfill their dreams to live, work, study, and contribute legally to America without fear of deportation. Elimination of legal worker status will not result in immigrants self-deporting.  It will result in preventing hospitality industry workers from working lawfully and force them into the underground economy of undocumented workers exploited by bad businesses.

“Because of Donald Trump, 800,000 legal workers are now facing loss of their ability to work legally, and face deportation and loss of their families. It is imperative that the Congress act immediately to protect the 800,000 DACA workers whose fate is now in their hands. It is now up to Congress whether these nearly one million immigrants, who contribute to the American economy, live productive and meaningful lives, and attain education and employment at higher levels than natural born Americans, lose their most basic rights to live in a country they were brought to as children. UNITE HERE resoundingly condemns termination of DACA, as well as Trump’s lack of political courage, and will work tirelessly to advocate to the Republican-controlled Congress for justice for DACA workers,” UNITE HERE concluded.

“The young people covered by DACA are woven into our communities—learning in, working in, defending and contributing to the country that is their home,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “Offering protection to DACAmented immigrants was done based on the understanding that America is stronger when we value people and create opportunity to achieve the American dream, regardless of demography or geography.”

“President Trump made a promise that he would treat Dreamers with ‘great heart.’ Now, for seemingly political reasons, he is breaking his promise to students, teachers, doctors, nurses and lawyers who took him at his word. This is not the America I know—an America that says one thing to its citizens and then does another. Betraying DACA Dreamers is betraying the values of our diverse and welcoming nation. America will not be stronger or more secure when these young people are torn away from the country they love and call their own. America will be diminished—and the toll will be measured by families ripped apart, people cast into the shadows and into poverty, businesses upended, economies weakened and dreams shattered.”

“As children return to school, many carry with them constant, crippling terror and uncertainty because of their immigration status. Children should be free to learn and live without fear. Inhumane immigration policies deprive them of that freedom.”

“The AFT will continue to fight to protect undocumented students, refugees, individuals with temporary protective status, and their families from the threat of deportation. A nation built by immigrants should welcome those in pursuit of the American dream, not pull up the ladder behind us,” Weingarten concluded.

Chris Shelton, President of the Communication Workers of America called the move “cruel and mean-spirited.”

“These young people were brought here by their parents at a very young age. They know no other home than the United States, and have made productive, successful lives here, contributing to their communities and looking to be full participants in our nation.  The United States is their home country.

Democrats and Republicans, including the Republican leadership, have urged the President not to eliminate DACA. It’s now up to Congress to focus on passing legislation to protect these innocent young people. DACA should not be eliminated until Congress passes a replacement,” Shelton concluded.

“The Teamsters are disappointed by this decision, as the union has long supported immigration reform and a path to citizenship for our nation’s ‘dreamers’. These young people are already citizens in every way that matters and deserve to have all of the same rights and opportunities enjoyed by U.S.-born children,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “The Teamsters Union supports comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.  Today’s action by the Administration makes the need for congressional action all the more urgent. It is time to pass legislation that will ensure the futures of these children and young adults so that they may pursue the American dream as millions of immigrants have done before them.”

“Many of the young people covered by DACA are young professionals, working as teachers, doctors, nurses, and lawyers, who contribute greatly to the American economy,” said Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) President Paul E. Almeida. “By eliminating the DACA program, President Trump is ripping over 800,000 hard-working young people from their communities, jobs, and families. DPE stands with the young professionals and union members affected by the termination of DACA and will work to help these young people stay in the place that they call home.”

“President Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) today is a disgrace. This is not what the United States of America represents, nor is it who we are. This policy is another clear example of White Supremacy strategies and tactics and we denounce it,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer of the Culinary Union Local 226 (Las Vegas). “This action is shameful and completely stains the Republican party. We call on Republican legislators in the Senate and Congress to support young immigrants and work with Democrats to pass a clean, stand-alone DREAM Act. We call on our Las Vegas employers on the Las Vegas Strip and in Downtown Las Vegas to stand with your workforce and to not let this immoral decision pass quietly. ”

“Instead of putting young people on a pathway to citizenship, the administration’s heartless act today forces immigrant children into the shadows of our society based solely on their immigrant status,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Reversing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program renders undocumented people targets for unscrupulous employers, wage theft, and other abuses in the workplace, limits educational opportunities, and weakens the economic well-being of their families, including their citizen spouses, siblings and offspring.  It is also a cruel example of how the current Administration’s advancement of policies that promote racial and ethnic profiling and xenophobia have further emboldened white nationalists, who have a history of contributing to a climate of fear and hate.”

“Even after the departure of Steve Bannon, the Trump Administration continues to signal that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is brimming with white nationalist-fueled policies,” said Jobs With Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta. “Rather than going after greedy CEOs and corporations that depress wages, offshore jobs, fuel economic insecurity, and make workplaces worse, President Trump has decided to scapegoat young immigrants who are working hard, contributing to the U.S. economy, and making a better life for themselves and their families.”

United We Dream is organizing support rallies for Dreamers all across the country.  Click here to find an event near you. 

Below is an infographic from United We Dream of the 5 thinks to know about the end of DACA.

(Featured image from  Not 1 More rally in 2014. Image by the LBJ Foundation FLIKR)

This Labor Day, Working Families Join Together to Change a Rigged System

New AFL-CIO Labor Day Report Shows Working People are Working More and Taking Fewer Vacation Days  

View Report Here: https://aflcio.org/reports/laboring-labor-day

(Washington, DC) – This Labor Day working families across the nation are participating in hundreds of events to commemorate the achievements of workers and to confront a rigged system that has favored CEOs and corporations for decades.

More than 200 events are taking place today, from barbecues to parades, where thousands of working people are massing to celebrate work, and urge elected officials to restore the freedom to join together and negotiate for better wages, benefits and time to spend with their families.

In Cleveland, families are gathering in a parade and picnic. In downtown Philadelphia, more than 5,000 people are expected to attend the 30th Annual Tri-State Labor Day Parade and Family Celebration, while across the state in Pittsburgh, working families are marching through the downtown area and in nearby northwestern Pennsylvania towns. Working people in Detroit are joining in the “Rise Up Unions—Fight for Your Rights” parade.

In addition, in Milwaukee more than 4,000 working people and their families will join under the theme “Stand Together, Stand Strong: Join the Fight for Workers’ Rights.” The day’s activities include a Labor Day parade followed by a festival (Laborfest), with local labor and community leaders on the bill.

“Labor Day is an opportunity to both recognize the achievements of working people and identify areas for improvement,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Today, work and time off are badly out of balance. More people are working more holidays, taking fewer vacations and bringing more work home at night. This means less freedom—freedom to take time off when you or a loved one gets sick, rest and recharge after giving birth, attend your child’s recital or sporting event, or just catch up on some household chores.”

A poll released by Gallup last week showed 61% of adults surveyed approved of labor unions—the highest percentage since 2003. According to this poll, most respondents would like unions to have greater influence. This could be the result of the continuous erosion of wages and rights, including paid time off, as outlined in a Labor Day report commissioned by the AFL-CIO.

The federation’s report found that while 78% of workers say they have the day off on Labor Day, more than a quarter of those people expect to do some work, and more than half of those working will not receive overtime benefits. More than half of Americans surveyed said they were working more holidays and weekends than ever, and 43% said they brought work home at least one night a week.

Union members are more likely to receive Labor Day off and overtime pay compared with their nonunion counterparts. Sixty-six percent of union members receive overtime pay on Labor Day, compared with 38% of nonunion members. Women, often the primary caregivers in their families, are less likely than men to report access to paid time off—68% vs. 74%.

“Whether it’s raising wages, paid leave, gender and racial equality or simply the freedom to negotiate for a better life, unions are needed now more than ever,” Trumka said. “We can help deliver the economic rules working people are hungry for. That’s our focus and mission this Labor Day and beyond.”

Labor Day 2017: Remembering All That Labor Has Done For America

New York Labor Parade 1882

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
Department of Labor, History of Labor Day

Today, we celebrate Labor Day: A day to honor all that the labor movement has done to help working people. Over the past 140 years, labor unions have fought and died to improve the working conditions and the lives of all workers.  Without labor unions we would not have things like weekends, vacations, retirement plans, and overtime.

It was also the labor movement that help to bring forth major social and economic changes like the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 & 2011, Social Security, and the Age Discrimination Act.  These are just of the dozens of laws that were proposed, pushed through, and ultimately passed with major help from labor unions.

Today, as was done in the first Labor Day parade in 1882, I will proudly march down main street flanked by my union brothers and sisters.  A smiling and waving reminder of all that labor has done for working people.

Some say the unions have become obsolete. They say that unions did a lot of good but we now have laws to protect us and that unions are no longer needed.

I say that could not be farther from the truth.

Yes, we have workplace safety protections and laws governed by OSHA, a program that unions helped to create, but every year politicians attack OSHA.  They slashed OSHA’s budget and told us that “industry” can regulate themselves.  The entire reason OSHA was created was because greedy corporate executives could not “regulate themselves” and put profits over the health and safety of their employees.

Even with OSHA, workers are still pushed to bend or outright break these safety regulations.  In 2016, OSHA sent out over 35,000 violations.  Failure to abide by fall protection regulations is once again at the top of the list with over 6,900 citations issued.

It is not just worker safety regulations that are rolling back. Just a few days ago the Republican led Legislature in Missouri pushed through a new law to lower the minimum wage in St Louis from $10 an hour to the state minimum of $7.70 an hour.  That’s right, the local city government raised the minimum wage and the state government passed a new law to make it illegal for cities within the state to raise the minimum wage in their area.  This new law is literally stealing $2.30 an hour from the hard working low-wage workers in St Louis.

Over the past few years, support for labor unions has continued to grow.  Working people are still suffering and struggling to pay their bills as wages have become stagnant.  Jobs are being shipped overseas and income inequality has grown to a point that rivals The Great Depression.  Working people are beginning  to realize the unions have been there fighting back all of this time and now labor unions’ approval rating exceeds 60%.  Support for unions has gained 13 points in the last ten years alone.

Personally, I am glad to see the labor movement doing more to get back to their roots, fighting for social and economic justice.  Labor unions are on the front lines of many of the major issues facing our country right now including:  Systemic racism, income inequality, climate change, access to the ballot box, LBGTQ rights, and women’s reproductive rights.

Every one of these issues affects the lives of working people and that is why labor unions are joining the fight. Should an employer be able to fire a worker for getting pregnant?  What are the health risks to all workers as the Trump administration rolls back environmental protections and allows companies to put more carbon into the air we breathe?  Should a worker be fired because they are gay or transgender?

These may not be what people think of as traditional union issues but are these any different from when labor helped push through an end to segregation?

So today,  as we celebrate Labor Day, let us remember all of the things that labor has done to help make America a better place for everyone.

If You’re Surprised By America’s Wage Stagnation, Then You’re Not Paying Attention

By Larry Willis, President of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the economy and how well it’s doing. The unemployment rate has steadily fallen for years now, and jobs are being created.

But wages? Not so much.

The latest jobs report shows that while the unemployment rate remains low, wages aren’t keeping up with inflation. Instead, they are falling flat.

Some economists and policymakers seem baffled — but TTD and our affiliated unions aren’t.

Yes, there are a number of reasons for this trend. But, as we reflect ahead of Labor Day, it is clear that anti-union policies, like so-called “right to work” laws, and failure to invest in our crumbling infrastructure are contributing factors that need to be called out and addressed.

Unions act as a check against corporate power, making union representation one of the most reliable ways for working people to improve their quality of life and secure a living wage. In fact, data shows a direct correlation between high union density and higher wages and better benefits. And while union members are more likely to have a pension, employer-paid health insurance, and earn an average of 13.2 percent more than their non-union counterparts, the union difference doesn’t just affect those covered by collective bargaining agreements. Strong union contracts influence competition, driving up wages, benefits, and standards of living for non-union workers too.

So what happens when working people don’t have access to unions? Take a look around – we’re seeing it right now. While millions of Americans struggle just to get by, the average CEO makes nearly $14 million annually – 200 times what an average employee earns. This is not a coincidence. It is the result of ruthless, decades-long attacks on the rights of working people to demand better for themselves and their families.

As for all those jobs being created, it is time we ask ourselves what kind of jobs they are. Based on an analysis from MIT’s living wage calculator, it takes a typical family of four (two adults, two children) more than $58,000 annually to have their basic needs met. A minimum-wage, non-union job just won’t cut it.

This country needs more good jobs — the kind that allow people to own a car, buy a house, and put their kids through college. Attacks on the rights of working people to negotiate together for better wages and benefits are not the only reasons these jobs are lacking. Failure by political leaders to invest in our nation’s transportation system hasn’t just left us with infrastructure that’s crumbling and dangerous — this inaction has also resulted in missed opportunities to create as many as 900,000 long-term, good paying jobs, annually.

Thanks to high union density in transportation and infrastructure industries, people working in these sectors — including frontline workers who build, operate, and maintain our transportation system — earn higher pay, better benefits, and more job security than their low-wage counterparts. In fact, at $38,480, the median annual wage paid by occupations in infrastructure is nearly $4,000 higher than the national median wage.

When Congress considers transportation and infrastructure spending, TTD and our affiliated unions will fight for policies that ensure these investments will continue to create the type of jobs we know our country needs. We cannot support an infrastructure plan that threatens long-standing labor standards or undermines the collective bargaining rights of working people.

There are ways to turn things around and make our economy work for everyone. But doing so requires taking a stand against the rich and powerful — something working people cannot do alone. America needs a commitment from political leaders on both sides of the aisle, not only to invest boldly in infrastructure, but to end attacks on the rights of working families, and understand that strong unions aren’t part of the problem — they are part of the solution.

Federal Union Calls for Pay Parity in Response to Trump’s Minimal Pay Increase

AFGE says the 1.9% increase ‘isn’t enough,’ and that federal workers deserve pay parity

WASHINGTON – In response to the Office of Management and Budget’s announced 1.9 percent pay increase for federal workers in 2018, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement:

“After seven years of pay freezes and minuscule increases that have left federal workers worse off than they were to start the decade, it’s good to see a modest boost in pay. But it isn’t enough.

“Federal working people make 6.5 percent less today than they did in 2010, and that is unjust. They need and deserve more. And while the 1.9 percent increase does not make up for years of earning less, it will certainly help employees put food on the table, pay their bills, reduce their debts, and cover everyday costs facing working-class America.

“In the years after the Great Recession, no other group sacrificed more for the American public than federal employees. They have given up more than $182 billion in wages and benefits – totaling $91,000 per career civil servant. That’s why we at AFGE call on the Administration to offer pay parity equal to the military by offering public servants a 2.1 percent increase next year.

“It’s not going to make up for the losses these hard-working men and women have already endured, but it is a start.

“At a time when federal workers are front and center in disaster relief in Texas, it’s vital for the American public to recognize their dedication and work. And it’s beyond time for them to be fairly compensated for the jobs they do.

“For years we have called for fair pay for civil servants, and will continue to press the Administration and Congress to take care of those who helped pull us out of the Great Recession. Today is a nice first step, but much more must be done.”

New Report Shows Non-Union Workers Are Less Likely To Have Paid Time Off

New AFL-CIO Labor Day Report Finds Americans’ Freedom to Spend Time with Family Eroding

Majority Think Unions Key to More Benefits on the Job

The majority of people agree that unions are the key to more benefits at work according to a new poll released today by the AFL-CIO, the Economic Policy Institute and GQRR.  The poll shows some startling results that fewer workers are getting paid time off for holidays and vacations, resulting in less time with their families. The poll also shows strong support for labor unions and that people want the ability to join a union.

Over the last twenty years research has shown that Americans are working more and more every year.  Productivity has gone up exponentially while wages have remained relatively flat.  For some, workers are working longer because they are forced to work two or three jobs, others because their employers expect them to work from home on their weekends.  63% of a people reported that they are taking fewer vacations and have less time off than they ever did in the past.
As workers face longer and longer workdays spending time with their families is becoming harder as many do not have access to paid time off for holidays or vacations.  The report shows that overall 23% of the workforce do not have paid holidays and 24% do not have paid vacations.  Access to paid time off even harder in low wage jobs.  “Among the bottom 10% of earners, 59% do not have access to paid holidays, while among the top 10% of earners, 7% do not have access to paid holidays.”

Share of private-sector workers without paid holidays, by wage group, 2017.

The report shows that if you want to have paid vacations, paid holidays, and overtime when you do work a holiday, it pays to be a union member.

The report showed: “While 78% of all working people polled have Labor Day off, 85% of union members do. Furthermore, 66% of union members receive overtime for working on Labor Day, compared with 38% of nonunion members. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of union members enjoy access to paid vacation, compared with 68% of nonunion members. Finally, 75% of union members have access to paid sick leave, compared with only 64% of nonunion members.”

The majority of American workers credit labor unions for many of the benefits they receive.
“Union workers empowered by the freedom to negotiate with employers do better on every single economic benchmark,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Union workers earn substantially more money, union contracts help achieve equal pay and protection from discrimination, union workplaces are safer, and union workers have better access to health care and a pension.”

The report goes on to talk about how very few working people have access to paid family leave. This is paid time off to take your child to the doctor or stay home when they are ill. “Only a paltry 14% of private-sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employers.” the report stated.

This means that “37 million private-sector workers have no access to paid sick leave at all.”

Union Have Been Good for People by Raising Wages and Helping People Enter the Middle Class

Labor unions continue to push for more working people to have access to paid sick leave and family medical leave.  “Recently, in New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C., respectively, the AFL-CIO has played lead roles in the fights to expand access to paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave for all working people. Elsewhere, individual unions have been at the forefront of new and ongoing fights in Arizona, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington.”

These ongoing efforts have helped revitalize the labor movement.  The report found that “72% of Americans think unions help people enter the middle class.” They also understand the direct connection between unions and paid holidays and paid time off.

That is probably why 54% said that they would join a union today, IF they had the opportunity.

“This Labor Day, the AFL-CIO will continue to push for an economy that supports work-life balance and ensures every worker has the freedom to spend time with loved ones. Whether it’s strengthening the right to form a union and negotiate for paid time off, expanding paid leave nationwide or rewarding employers that do the right thing, we are committed to advancing commonsense solutions that allow more Americans to enjoy full and happy lives.”


Click here for the transcript of Richard Trumka talking to the Christian Science Monitor about the new report, “Laboring on Labor Day.”

The full “Laboring on Labor Day” report is included below.

17126_Report5-fin_1

Executive Councilors To Hold Public Hearings On Proposed 10 Year Transportation Plan

This is your chance to tell the Executive Council loud and clear that New Hampshire must expand passenger rail service.

The condition of our roads and bridges has been a red hot topic over the past few years.  Overall New Hampshire has hundreds of “red” listed bridges which means they are in dire need of repairs. Tens of thousands of miles of roads that new to be repaved.

What roads should the state prioritize in their 1o year infrastructure plan?

What about new projects like expanding the Everett Turnpike or widening Route 3 through Concord?What new projects should the prioritize in their next 10 year plan?

And the million dollar question: Will the State finally get on board with expanding commuter rail service to New Hampshire?  If so, how far should the rail line go? Nashua? Manchester? Concord?

Past reports showed that expanded rail service would create over 5,000 new permanent jobs boosting our local economy.

Over the next two months Executive Councilors will be holding in-district meetings to hear directly from the people on what they State should prioritize in their 10 year transportation plan.  This is your chance to tell your elected representative that you support expanded rail.

They are asking to hear from you and now is your chance to tell them exactly how you feel.  Below is a printable PDF of all the scheduled public hearings and the Executive Councilor for that district.

Be sure to share this message and invite all your friends and family to attend.  It is time we make our voices loud and clear. We want RAIL!

( For more information on the benefits of expanding rail, click here)

GACIT Public Notice and Schedule

Women’s Groups Are Outraged Over Roll Back Of Obama-Era Equal Pay Data Collection Rule

Image by Michael Vadon

Women’s Group Slams Ivanka Trump and Trump Administration for Stay of Obama-Era Equal Pay Data Collection Rule

Yesterday, the White House announced a “review and immediate stay” of an Obama-era rule that would have required businesses to collect data on how much they pay their workers based on race, gender, and ethnicity. Companies would have been required to report this pay data to the Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) beginning 2018.

Jenny Yang, was chairwoman of the EEOC said when the rules were drafted. At a press conference in June she praised the data collection by saying, “Having pay data in summary form will also help us identify patterns that may warrant further investigation.”

In a statement, Ivanka Trump, who regularly claims to advocate for policies that advance equal pay for women, said that she supports her father’s policy change.

In reaction to the news, Nita Chaudhary, Co-founder of UltraViolet issued the following statement:

“The Trump administration’s announcement that it has stayed the equal pay data collection rule makes it abundantly clear that white supremacy and sexism are  alive and well in the White House. Equal pay for women and people of color  should be a non-controversial issue, and yet the Trump administration is dead-set on taking away our basic protections. Women lose over $400,000 throughout their lifetime because of the gender pay gap, and that number is more than double for women of color.

“The Trump administration’s announcement is a setback for equality and will worsen this country’s pay gap. The very purpose of pay data collection is to ensure against wage discrimination targeting women and people of color. This administration is either too incompetent to understand this or is deliberately trying to sabotage women and people of color’s right to equal pay for equal work. Let’s call this  policy change for what it is—a thinly-veiled attempt to give corporations license to discriminate against their employees.

“We wonder how much moral integrity Ivanka Trump has left. By backing her father’s policy change, she has revealed the emptiness of her claim as a champion for working women. From exploiting poor women who make her brand’s products abroad in sweatshop conditions, to uplifting her father’s anti-woman policies, Ivanka has shown her true colors as a farcical ‘ally’ for working women.”

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO and executive director of MomsRising, an online and on-the-ground organization of more than one million mothers and their families blasted Trumps roll back of fair pay regulations.

“Last night, in another shameful action, the Trump administration halted an initiative designed to advance fair pay for women and workers of color. The pay data the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was about to begin collecting was designed to help uncover discrimination by requiring employers to collect and report wages by job category, sex, race and ethnicity. Ending this data collection is an assault on fair pay and will undercut efforts to close the wage gap and advance women and minorities in the workplace.

“Even though it has been more than 50 years since the Equal Pay Act became law, women are only paid, on average, 80 cents for every dollar paid to white men. Mothers face an even greater wage gap of 71 cents for every dollar paid to fathers, and the gap for moms of color and single moms is even more punishing. The administration’s action will undermine efforts to close the wages gap, denying relief to tens of millions of women, many of whom are the sole breadwinners for their families. It also will perpetuate the damage the wage gap causes to our economy.

“The Office of Management and Budget’s claim that this change is meant only to ease the burden on employers and will not impede efforts to boost equal pay is insulting. This commonsense rule resulted from a years-long effort to bolster economic opportunity for women and people of color. We call on the Trump administration to reverse this decision, support the Paycheck Fairness Act, and commit to ending the wage gap once and for all.”

Labor Speaks Out Against Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Presidential Pardon

Image by Gage Skidmore

Yesterday, President Trump pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio who was convicted for violating people’s civil rights in his anti-immigrant crusade.

“The criminal conviction grew out of a lawsuit filed a decade ago charging that the sheriff’s office regularly violated the rights of Latinos, stopping people based on racial profiling, detaining them based solely on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally and turning them over to the immigration authorities”, reported the New York Times.

“Joe Arpaio terrorized and harassed Hispanic workers, regardless of immigration status, for the six terms he served as Sheriff,” said UNITE HERE in a written statement. “Under him, illegal racial profiling of law abiding citizens ran rampant in the most populated county in Arizona, and he institutionalized systematic discrimination against Hispanic workers across Phoenix that included frequent violations of the U.S. constitution.  UNITE HERE is proud to have challenged his election multiple cycles with the “Adios Arpaio” campaign focused around activating Hispanic voters in Maricopa County – voters who ultimately threw Arpaio out of public office last November.”

UNITE HERE’s represents 270,000 workers mainly in the hotel, restaurant, gaming industry. Their membership is quite diverse and includes some “undocumented” immigrants.  UNITE HERE negotiates into their contracts some protections for workers who are waiting to gain legal citizenship.

“Donald Trump’s pardon of convicted criminal Joe Arpaio is an attack on immigrants writ large, and shows Trump’s support for Arpaio’s illegal practices. With a dozen TPS expirations looming in the next year and the fate of DACA at imminent risk, we are deeply troubled that Trump is pardoning criminals and sympathizing with racial bigots instead of protecting the law abiding, tax-paying immigrant workers on those programs who make the American economy run, and make this country truly great,” UNITE HERE added.

The United Farm Workers, were quick to condemn Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio.

“We are extremely disappointed with President Trump. He has consistently shown no respect for the hardworking immigrants of this nation,” said the United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez. “His pardoning of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio is shameful. Time and again, immigrants have demonstrated that they are the backbone of agriculture and many other industries. The President should not be pardoning someone who has been so vicious towards immigrants and who has openly flouted a federal judge’s order to stop his racial discrimination.”

“President Trump didn’t just pardon a thug and a criminal, he undermined the rule of law and betrayed the basic norms of our democracy just to hype up his base. Democrats and Republicans alike, including Sen. John McCain and even right-wing members of Congress, have condemned this action because Trump’s blatant abuse of power undermines the dignity of the office of the presidency and tears at the fabric of a just and fair democracy built on the rule of law for all,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson and Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker in a written statement.

Even Arizona Senator John McCain (R-AZ) blasted Trump for using his Presidential Pardon authority to pardon Arpaio.

“No one is above the law and the individuals entrusted with the privilege of being sworn law officers should always seek to be beyond reproach in their commitment to fairly enforcing the laws they swore to uphold. Mr. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for continuing to illegally profile Latinos living in Arizona based on their perceived immigration status in violation of a judge’s orders. The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.”

Ray Buckley, Chair of the NH Democratic Party summed it up perfectly by saying:

“His pardon is a wink and a nod to law enforcement around the country that, if you discriminate against and abuse people unlawfully, you will be rescued from prison by the President of the United States. There is no justification for Trump’s pardon and anyone who tries to defend it is defending criminal discrimination with clear eyes.”

This pardon is just political payback for all that Arpaio has done for Trump during his campaign, adding another notch in his already corrupt administration.

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