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Senators Shaheen and Hassan Speak Out Against Latest ACA Repeal Bill

Republicans in the U.S. Senate are doing their best to rip healthcare away from millions of working families and put insurance companies back in control of your healthcare where they can deny care, charge more to women, and drop coverage when you get sick.

The Graham-Cassidy bill is just the latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the Republicans are moving quickly to pass it.  The Republicans are using legislative tricks to force this bill through but those tricks have a time limit too. They must get their bill passed by September 30th or they will not have enough votes to pass it.

The bill has not had any hearings and has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office to see what the impact of this legislation would be to working families and our national debt.  Current estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities show that the Graham-Cassidy bill would kick 32 million Americans off their healthcare.

The bill hits working families the hardest by eliminated subsidies to purchase healthcare from the “Exchange” and completely eliminates the funding for Medicaid Expansion programs.  The $229 billion dollar cuts to the Medicaid Expansion program would strip healthcare from 11 million Americans alone.

New Hampshire’s senior Senator, Jeanne Shaheen, spoke with CNN yesterday about the devastating cuts facing New Hampshire families if this bill goes through. She highlighted the $410 million in federal funding that New Hampshire would lose forcing 30,000 hard-working Granite Staters off their healthcare.

Senator Maggie Hassan, the former Governor of New Hampshire, who worked with both parties to expand Medicaid and help 50,000 NH families get coverage, took to the Senate floor to speak out against the disastrous legislation.

Speaking on the Graham-Cassidy bill, Senator Hassan said the bill is “every bit as dangerous as the Trumpcare plans we saw this summer – if not worse.’

We must not let the Republicans take us back to when greedy insurance companies do whatever they want. Denying care when you get sick, charging more for women than men, and denying coverage because of a “pre-existing conditions.”

We all know the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but we need to build on it, not destroy it.  We need to keep what is right and fix what is wrong.

Please take a moment to call your Senator and tell them to oppose this disastrous piece of legislation. Pick up the phone and dial, (202) 224-3121 to be connected to the Senate switchboard.

If your Senator has already come out against the Graham-Cassidy bill, call them and thank them for standing up for working families and let them know you support their decision.

It is vitally important that people from Maine, Ohio, Alaska and Arizona make calls to their Senators.  Sen Collins from Maine, Senator McCain of Arizona, and Senator Murkowski of Alaska all voted against the previous attempts to repeal the ACA and are said to be “on the fence” about the Graham-Cassidy bill.  Call them. Thank them for voting against the repeal efforts before and tell them to vote “No” on the Graham-Cassidy bill. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities research shows how much each state will lose under this new plan.

Millions of hard-working Americans will lose access to care and people will die because insurance companies will be allowed to deny care to people with pre-existing conditions.

Call your Senator now, (202) 224-3121.

TTD Urges Senate Commerce Committee to Exempt Commercial Vehicles from New Self-Driving Car Bill

Big Rig Truck-SafetyDriver FLIKR CC

On Wednesday, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Larry Willis urged the Senate Commerce Committee to exempt commercial vehicles from a new driverless car bill after they held an open hearing on the matter.

While Willis thanked the committee for providing the hearing, he also cautioned against “moving too hastily and putting millions of jobs and lives at risk.”

With millions of Americans employed in commercial driving jobs, Congress would be foolish not to heed Willis’ warning. Automation could revolutionize commercial driving in a way that benefits both employers and working people, but only if applied thoughtfully and regulated deliberately. Anything less will violently disrupt one of the largest employment sectors in the country, putting millions out of work at a time when many families are still recovering from the Great Recession and the economy is still fragile.

We need only look around the country for examples of what happens when industries collapse. We have seen the devastation of closed mines and relocated factories, and the communities that suffer when working people lose their livelihoods. The upending of the commercial driving industry would have the same effect, but on a grand scale.

Commercial drivers are integral members of communities across America, in big cities and small towns, red and blue states. Rushing through new legislation without considering the effects on the commercial driving workforce will not just rattle one community; it will rattle the entire country. It is a dangerous game, one that will not be played out on the floor of Congress but in households from from Boston to Boise, from Los Angeles to Louisiana. Willis’ calls for care and caution are not protectionism, as some might argue, but a call to reason.

The Senate Commerce Committee has an imperative to work in the best interest of the American people, and until there has been a full dialogue between industry leaders, working people and lawmakers, new legislation concerning commercial vehicles and driverless technology will prove to be irresponsibly inadequate. Congress ought to reexamine the issue once the implications are clear, but until then Larry Willis and TTD are right: for the sake of working people and the economy, commercial vehicles must be exempt from its driverless car bill. The threat of disrupting the commercial driving industry is currently too great, and too unknown, to risk.

 

 

Workplace Safety Groups Head To Houston To Train Reconstruction Workers

After Harvey, Immigrant and Labor Rights Groups Team Up to Provide Ongoing Health and Safety Training for Reconstruction Workers 

Harvey Flood and Damage by Jill Carlson (jillcarlson.org) FLIKR CC

Fe y Justicia Worker Center, National COSH, Chemical Workers Union and National Day Laborer Organizing Network deliver “Train-the-Trainers” sessions and prepare Reconstruction Works campaign to support recovery workers facing severe toxic health and safety hazards in the workplace 

HOUSTON, TX:  With recovery efforts underway from the devastating effect of Hurricane Harvey – and new storm damage now confronting Puerto Rico, Florida and the Caribbean – health and safety trainers as well as workers and immigrant rights advocates from local and national safety groups will be in Houston this week to train workers and community members on safe clean up procedures and their rights to a safe workplace.

Ongoing efforts are currently underway to expand and build upon past “Reconstruction Works” campaigns that have played a critical role in supporting reconstruction workers after Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Rita and other disasters.

During previous cleanup efforts recovery workers exposed to flood waters suffered skin infections, lesions, asthma attacks, allergic reactions and other conditions. Workers are also exposed to the risk of lead poisoning and asbestos exposure when working in damaged or collapsed buildings.

This week, experienced health and safety trainers from National COSH and other COSH affiliates from around the country will join local advocates from the Houston-based COSH affiliate Fe y Justicia (Faith and Justice) Worker Center to provide “Train-the-Trainer” classes for workers and advocates, who will in turn provide awareness training in workplaces and communities throughout Houston.

“The response from COSH groups and our allies to the emergency on the Gulf Coast has been amazing,” said National COSH co-executive director Jessica Martinez, who is joining the “Train-the-Trainer” session in Houston. “Groups are sending people, sharing information and resources and helping to raise funds so that recovery workers can stay safe while rebuilding their communities.”

“Most Houston neighborhoods were somehow impacted, so workers and neighbors are cleaning up a wide range of water and wind damage that can get people seriously hurt,” said Marianela Acuña Arreaza, executive director of Faith and Justice Worker Center (Centro de Trabajadores Fe y Justicia), the premier worker center in the Houston area coordinating local efforts.

“Day laborers, construction workers, utility workers, domestic workers, as well as neighbors and volunteers, are already going into flooded and damaged buildings, where they will encounter mold, sewage, and air and water that may have been contaminated with toxic pollutants,” said Acuña Arreaza. “Our goal is to equip them with the tools and information they need to reduce the risk of getting sick, injured or killed while taking on these difficult assignments.”

“Gulf Coast communities face a massive, urgent rebuilding job, as will Florida, Puerto Rico and Caribbean islands,” said Frank Cyphers, President of the Akron, Ohio-based International Chemical Workers Union Council (ICWUC). The ICWUC, a council of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, is assisting the worker and community training effort in Houston, with support from federal grants from the National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences (NIEHS).

“This is no time to cut corners on worker safety,” said Cyphers. “We need to build on lessons learned during recovery from 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy and other disasters: Workers must know their rights – and know how to assess and prevent potential hazards.”

BACKGROUND: The three-day, bilingual “Train-the-Trainer” sessions, in English and Spanish, begins today, September 13th at the Dominican Sisters of Houston campus. The curriculum will develop trainers to teach safety awareness, workplace safety rights, and information about mold, sewage, airborne and waterborne contaminants, and other hazards associated with disaster recovery.

In addition to upcoming training sessions, National COSH has partnered with NYCOSH to provide a series of fact sheets on safe clean up procedures. The fact sheets describe known hazards experienced during previous recovery efforts, including asphyxiation, building collapse, electrocution, explosion, mold, sewage, toxic contaminants and other conditions.

As recovery efforts continue in the coming weeks and months, Fe y Justicia Worker Center will operate a hotline for affected workers and provide ongoing safety awareness training at worksites and community centers.  A donation page at youcaring.com gives concerned citizens a way to support safe and sustainable recovery efforts.


Fe y Justicia (Faith and Justice) Worker Center, based in Houston, campaigns for justice and dignity for day laborers, domestic workers and other vulnerable workers.

National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org

The International Chemical Workers Union Council (ICWUC), based in Akron, Ohio, represents workers in the chemical industry and other occupations in the U.S. The ICWUC has six worker health and safety federal grants and collaborates with 10 other union partners, including National COSH, to conduct a range of worker safety and health programs and develop rank and file worker trainers.

The National Day Laborer Organizing Network works to improve the lives of day laborers in the United States. NDLON works to unify and strengthen its member organizations to be more strategic and effective in their efforts to develop leadership, mobilize and organize day laborers.

Workers Fail To See Gains As Healthcare Sector Grows

Washington, DC ― The healthcare sector is one of the most important sources of jobs in the economy. Healthcare spending reached $3.2 trillion in 2015, or 17.8 percent of GDP, and accounted for 12.8 percent of private sector jobs. It was also the only industry that consistently added jobs during the Great Recession, and grew 20 percent between 2005 and 2015. Despite this growth, wages have either declined or been stagnant over the past decade for healthcare workers in hospitals and outpatient centers.

new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation with additional funding provided by the Nathan Cummings Foundation, describes the changing patterns of jobs and wages for healthcare workers, specifically in hospitals and outpatient clinics over the decade from 2005 to 2015. The healthcare sector has become more demographically diverse over the decade, but as jobs shift from hospitals to outpatient centers, wages are declining or stagnating, and inequality is increasing. (See healthcareworkers.us for more info and related blog posts.)

The report, “Organizational Restructuring in U.S. Healthcare Systems: Implications for Jobs, Wages, and Inequality,” provides a detailed breakdown of which groups of workers are experiencing stagnant or declining wages. For instance, the report finds that employment in outpatient centers has grown six times the rate of hospitals, but the only demographic group in these facilities to see wage gains is white men ― and these are modest. Some other highlights include:

  • Job growth in outpatient facilities was disproportionately high for black workers (65 percent growth rate), Hispanic workers (103 percent), and Asian/others (82 percent), and within these groups, women’s job growth outpaced that of men.
  • Overall median real hourly wages rose very modestly in hospitals, increasing by 75 cents over the decade from $23.79 to $24.54. This was an increase of 3.2 percent over the decade, or less than a third of a percent a year on average.
  • The findings in this report show that the unraveling of hospital-based employment systems is associated with greater wage inequality. Wages have declined over the decade in outpatient care facilities, with notable declines in the pay of black men employed as medical technicians or as health aides and assistants.  In hospitals, the rise in real wages among healthcare professionals and the modest fall in wages for non-professional groups suggest that inequality has increased within hospital settings.

Eileen Appelbaum, co-author of the report and Senior Economist at CEPR, stated: “Declining real wages in outpatient services cannot be explained by factors that often influence wage determination: educational level, age, or the share of workers who are part-time or foreign-born. Educational attainment rose for virtually every occupational group ― in some cases, substantially ― and is higher in outpatient care centers than in hospitals.”

Rosemary Batt, co-author and Cornell University professor, points to institutional explanations such as changes in union density. “While union density increased among professional employees between 2005 and 2015, union density has fallen among non-professional employees, particularly in outpatient settings. This may have contributed to the decline in median real wages for these workers.”

For more on the report’s findings, including blog posts and related materials, see healthcareworkers.us.

Millions Of Workers Are Still In Danger From Asbestos

  Mesothelioma Awareness Day Is September 26th

Nearly 20 million people will develop Mesothelioma in their lifetime due to exposure to asbestos

 

For over forty years workers’ health and safety groups have been fighting to ban asbestos in the United States and throughout the world. Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, has been proven to cause substantial harm, even death to workers. Only 30% of countries have outright banned asbestos even after it was proven to cause mesothelioma, a deadly disease that has a one year mortality rate of nearly 64%.

History of Asbestos

For many years, asbestos was used in building construction mainly for its fire retardant properties. Internal structures were coated with asbestos fibers making them almost fire proof. It was not until many years later that the dangers of using asbestos began to surface. Materials containing asbestos are easily damaged and causes the microscopic, fibers to become airborne. Inhaling or ingesting these fibers, cause serious damage to the body, eventually developing into cancer or other diseases.

Though the first official case of a worker’s death stemming from asbestos exposure was in 1924, it would not be until 1976 before Congress would take action by passing the Toxic Substances Control Act to reduce asbestos exposure. In 1989, Congress went one step further and outright banned the use of asbestos. The ban was subsequently overturned, but asbestos use has been limited to less than 1% of the overall product. In spite of their good intentions, workers are still at risk from asbestos and an estimated 20 million people will develop mesothelioma within their lifetime.

Asbestos Exposure At Work

Though the United States has limited asbestos use, those in the construction industry are especially still at risk for exposure. Asbestos is still commonly used in cement, insulation, caulking, and roofing shingles. It’s estimated that over 1 million construction workers are exposed to asbestos-containing materials each year and according to the NIOSH work-related lung disease report, nearly 15% of all malignant mesothelioma deaths in 1999 were workers in the construction industry.

Shipyard workers are also at high risk for developing mesothelioma due to a high exposure to asbestos. During WWII as America was building warships as fast as they could, asbestos became a key ingredient, finding use in gaskets and within boiler components. Nearly 4 million individuals working in naval yards or on ships during World War II were exposed to asbestos. However, construction and shipyard workers are not the only ones with an elevated risk of developing mesothelioma. Others include firefighters, mechanics, plant workers, railroad workers, sheet metal workers, hairdressers and many more. More information on what industries pose a greater risk for mesothelioma and occupational asbestos exposure can be found here.

Recently, reconstruction was halted at the Schiller Power Plant in Portsmouth, NH when OSHA received an anonymous tip that workers exposure to asbestos and mercury. OSHA quickly responded to the Manaford Brothers Inc employee who tipped them off. Manaford was then required to “immediately investigate the allegations and make any necessary correction.” Unscrupulous employers do not care about the health and welfare of their employees, they only care about reducing their costs and increasing their profits. Therefore, it is up to us to ensure that our employers are following OSHA regulations for asbestos exposure.

Mesothelioma

This year, September 26th has been designated as Mesothelioma Awareness Day.

On Mesothelioma Awareness Day, groups like the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) are working to get people involved in the discussion, hosting a Twitter Chat on September 26th to discuss asbestos and raise awareness of this rare disease. Join in and spread the word to help advocate for a ban on asbestos in the United States and around the world.

Please use the Twitter hashtag #ENDmeso 

Leo W Gerard: Canadian Mounties to the Rescue of American Workers

The Canadian Royal Mounties have offered to ride to the rescue of beleaguered American workers.

It doesn’t sound right. Americans perceive themselves to be the heroes. They are, after all, the country whose intervention won World War II, the country whose symbol, the Statue of Liberty, lifts her lamp to light the way, as the poem at the statue’s base says, for the yearning masses and wretched refuse, for the homeless and tempest-tossed.

America loves the underdog and champions the little guy. The United States is doing that, for example, by demanding in the negotiations to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that Mexico raise its miserable work standards and wages. Now, though, here comes Canada, the third party in the NAFTA triad, insisting that the United States fortify its workers’ collective bargaining rights. That’s the Mounties to the rescue of downtrodden U.S. workers.

This NAFTA demand from the Great White North arrives amid relentless attacks on labor rights in the United States, declining union membership and stagnant wages. To prevent Mexico’s poverty wages from sucking U.S. factories south of the border, the United States is insisting that Mexico eliminate company-controlled fake labor unions. Similarly, to prevent the United States and Mexico from luring Canadian companies away, Canada is stipulating that the United States eliminate laws that empower corporations and weaken workers.

The most infamous of these laws is referred to, bogusly, as right-to-work. Really, it’s right-to-bankrupt labor unions and right-to-cut workers’ pay. These laws forbid corporations and labor unions from negotiating collective bargaining agreements that require payments in lieu of dues from workers who choose not to join the union. These payments, which are typically less than full dues, cover the costs that unions incur to bargain contracts and pursue worker grievances.

Lawmakers that pass right-to-bankrupt legislation know that federal law requires labor unions to represent everyone in their unit at a workplace, even if those employees don’t join the union and don’t make any payments. These dues-shirkers still get the higher wages and better benefits guaranteed in the labor contract. And they still get the labor union to advocate for them, even hire lawyers for them, if they want to file grievances against the company.

The allure of getting something for nothing, a sham created by right-wing politicians who prostrate themselves to corporations, ultimately can bankrupt unions forced to serve freeloaders. Which is exactly what the right-wingers and corporations want. It’s much easier for corporations to ignore the feeble pleas of individual workers for better pay and safer working conditions than to negotiate with unions that wield the power of concerted action.

Canada is particularly sensitive about America’s right-to-bankrupt laws because they’ve now crept up to the border. Among the handful of states that in recent years joined the right-to-bankrupt gang are Wisconsin and Michigan, both at the doorstep of a highly industrial region in Ontario, Canada.

So now, the governors of Wisconsin and Michigan can whisper in the ears of CEOs, “Come south, and we’ll help you break the unions. Instead of paying union wages, you can take all that money as profit and get yourself even fatter pay packages and bonuses!”

Then those governors will make American workers pay for the move with shocking tax breaks for corporations, like the $3 billion Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker promised electronics manufacturer Foxconn to locate a factory there. That’s $1 million in tax money for each of the 3,000 jobs that Foxconn said would be the minimum it would create with the $10 billion project.

Right-wing lawmakers like Walker and U.S. CEOs have been union busting for decades. And it’s been successful.  In the heyday of unions in the 1950s and 1960s, nearly 30 percent of all U.S. workers belonged. Wage rates rose as productivity did. And they climbed consistently. Then, one wage-earner could support a middle-class family.

That’s not true anymore. For decades now, as union membership waned, wages stagnated for the middle class and poor, and compensation for CEOs skyrocketed. And this occurred even while productivity rose. By January of 2016, the most recent date for which the statistics are available, union membership had declined to 10.7 percent. The number of workers in unions dropped by nearly a quarter million from the previous year.

This is despite the fact that union workers earn more and are more likely to have pensions and employer-paid health insurance. The median weekly earnings for non-union workers in 2016 was $802. For union members, it was $1,004.

It’s not that labor unions don’t work. It’s that right-wing U.S. politicians are working against them. They pass legislation and regulations that make it hard for unions to represent workers.

It’s very different for unions in Canada. For example, union membership in Canada is growing, not dwindling like in the United States. In Canada, 31.8 percent of workers were represented by union in 2015, up 0.3 percentage points from 2014. That is higher than the all-time peak in the United States.

And it’s because Canadian legislation encourages unionization to counterbalance powerful corporations. In some Canadian provinces, for example, corporations are prohibited from hiring replacements when workers strike; striking workers are permitted to picket the companies that sell to and buy from their employer; labor agreements must contain “successorship” rights requiring a corporation that buys the employer to recognize the union and abide by its labor agreement; and employers must submit to binding arbitration if they fail to come to a first labor agreement with a newly formed union within a specific amount of time.

The second round of negotiations to rewrite NAFTA ended in Mexico this week. The third is scheduled for later this month in Canada. That’s a good opportunity for the northernmost member of the NAFTA triad to showcase its labor laws and explain why they are crucial to defending worker rights and raising wages.

Getting language protecting workers’ union rights into NAFTA is not enough, however. The trade deal must also contain penalties for countries that fail to meet the standards. This could be, for example, border adjustment taxes on exports from recalcitrant countries.

Canada’s nearly 20,000 Royal Canadian Mounted Police only recently filed papers to unionize. That occurred after the Canadian Supreme Court overturned a 1960s era federal law that barred them from organizing.

Canada’s Supreme Court said the law violated the Mounties’ freedom of association, a right guaranteed to Americans in the U.S. Constitution. Now, Canada is riding to the rescue of U.S. and Mexican workers’ freedom of association by demanding the new NAFTA include specific protections for collective bargaining.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter Works To Address NH’s Manufacturing Woes

Shea-Porter Announces UNH Project to Address State’s Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Needs

Rep Shea-Porter at the 2016 NH AFL-CIO Labor Day Breakfast showing her support for working families.

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today announced that the University of New Hampshire has been awarded a $300,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to launch a pilot project in collaboration with the state’s community colleges and advanced manufacturing partners. The partnership will work to address the workforce needs of New Hampshire’s advanced manufacturing sector.

“This innovative project will leverage New Hampshire’s strengths to address the pressing need for in-state advanced manufacturing workers,” said Shea-Porter. “I congratulate UNH on launching this unique partnership, which will also support low-income students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs at our community colleges.”

UNH’s pilot project will be a collaborative effort with the Community College System of New Hampshire, local advanced manufacturing businesses, and the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs to address workforce development in the advanced manufacturing sector in the state. The grant will provide mentorship, paid internships and job placement for students as well as work with businesses throughout the state. Advanced manufacturing is the use of innovative technology to improve manufacturing products or processes. It’s a leading industry in the Granite State and a $1.7 trillion industry nationwide.

“We are grateful for the support we have received from NSF and Congresswoman Shea-Porter,” said P.T. Vasudevan, senior vice provost for academic affairs at UNH and the principal investigator on the $300,000 grant. “We believe working to support and retain low-income students currently in the degree programs that will help us to grow the pipeline of advance manufacturing workers will benefit not only students and industry leaders in the state, but the state as a whole.”

UNH received one of 27 new awards through NSF’s INCLUDES program, aimed at enhancing U.S. leadership in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) discoveries and innovations through a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

In 2009, Shea-Porter helped initiate New Hampshire’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership in Education (AMPEd), which was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and has successfully helped New Hampshire businesses and colleges partner to invest in the state’s manufacturing workforce.

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.”

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