Unions Say Cuts Will Further Erode Service Quality
AUGUSTA, ME — FairPoint Communications announced today that it will lay off 219 employees in its northern New England operations, which represents more than 10% of its workforce in the region. Members of both the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont will be affected.
Union leaders expressed disappointment at the news and said that the cuts will further erode already severely compromised service quality for the region’s telecommunications customers. “FairPoint has failed to meet service quality benchmarks for years, and cutting its skilled workforce by more than 10% will only make matters worse,” said Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2327 in Maine. “We are disgusted by this company’s total disregard for its employees and customers.”
FairPoint has consistently sought to avoid being held accountable for service quality failures in the region. The company is supporting bills in the Maine legislature that would eliminate its obligation to provide service to customers who rely solely on a landline, or Provider of Last Resort (POLR) customers. It also supports an amendment that would eliminate the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s ability to investigate service quality failures or to enforce standards. An investigation of the company’s service quality failures is ongoing in Vermont.
“This announcement is deeply disappointing and illustrates yet again that FairPoint executives are beholden to the greedy Wall Street hedge funds who own the company, not to our customers,” said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400.
Union leaders assured members that they would meet with the company immediately to ensure that the layoff process is implemented according to the collective bargaining agreements. “We will continue to fight these cuts and support our members and their families through this difficult time,” said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in New Hampshire.
“Our hearts go out to the hard-working men and women who will lose their jobs because of FairPoint’s mismanagement and greed,” said Mike Spillane, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Vermont. “Many of these folks have devoted years to a career with the phone company and they are proud of it. They are valued members of our communities who were willing to make incredible sacrifices during our historic strike. They fought not just for their own jobs, but for the quality service that our customers deserve. They don’t deserve this.”
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T-9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 represents nearly 300 FairPoint employees in the three states. For more information, visit www.FairnessAtFairpoint.com.
WASHINGTON, DC– Workers across the country have stood up in the past month to fight for better wages and working conditions.
Philadelphia Charter School Teachers Organize with AFT: Teachers and other staff members at Olney Charter High School voted to organize a union earlier this week, becoming the largest charter school in Philadelphia to organize. The teachers and staff will be represented by the Alliance of Charter School Employees, which is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.
Aircraft Mechanics Flying High After Organizing Win: Over 100 aircraft mechanics and other technicians at the Beechcraft Service Center in Wichita, KS joined International Association of Machinists District 70 last month. IAM’s organizing efforts took off recently with several thousand workers organizing at Textron Aviation, which includes Cessna and Beechcraft aircraft.
UConn Graduate Teaching Assistants Win Big with First Contract: Approximately 2,300 graduate teaching assistants at the University of Connecticut represented by the Graduate Employee Union, a branch of the United Auto Workers, reached a tentative agreement on a first contract with the university, ensuring an increase in stipends, a break in university fees, and greater health benefits.
Major Health Insurer Ensures Healthy Relations with Workers by Raising Wages: In the wake of national calls by workers to raise wages, Fortune 100 health insurance company Aetna increased pay for their lowest paid workers to $16 an hour last month, raising wages for 5,700 employees. Aetna executives cited evidence that a higher-paid workforce provides better customer service and decreases turnover as reasons for the pay hike.
New York Workers Press Lawmakers to Pass Landmark Equal Pay Law: Workers in New York secured a major win last month as the New York State legislature passed a slate of equal pay protection laws, including legislation that prohibits employers from telling workers they cannot discuss pay at work, and strengthening prohibitions on paying women and men separately.
Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
on Senate Trade Negotiations
“America’s workers have lost millions of jobs and billions in wages over the last two decades as a result of currency manipulation—all with little to no response other than talk from various administrations, regardless of party. If Congress is serious about ‘trade done right,’ enforceable currency provisions—both in U.S. law and in our trade deals—are needed.
Currency legislation, and indeed the entire enforcement bill (S. 1015) reported from the Senate Finance Committee, cannot be left behind as Senate Republicans attempt to advance Fast Track authority. Yesterday, Senate Democrats insisted that all four bills passed by the Senate Finance Committee—Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority, Trade Adjustment Assistance, Preferences, and Customs—must be bundled and considered as a single package. What they demanded yesterday, they should continue to demand today. Those who want to get trade right must demand that Fast Track doesn’t move unless currency and other enforcement tools are included in the package. Anything less leaves America’s workers, domestic producers, and communities behind.”
Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
on Failed Senate Vote on TPA
“The Hatch-Wyden-Ryan Fast Track bill is halted – for now. That’s good news for America’s working families, domestic producers, and communities. We appreciate those senators who stood with working people today against a bill that would have led to undemocratic trade deals that lower wages and eliminate jobs. This vote sends a message loud and clear.
If Congress is serious about creating jobs, reviving U.S. manufacturing, and raising wages, it needs to use its leverage to reshape the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It must remove special legal privileges for foreign investors, add enforceable rules to prevent currency manipulation, strengthen rules of origin, and redouble efforts to ensure workers everywhere — from Hannibal, Missouri, to Hanoi, Vietnam — can organize and bargain collectively.”
LIUNA Joins Elected and Business Leaders in Call for Congress to Invest in Critical Infrastructure and Save Lives, Create Jobs
“It’s Time to Stop Kicking the Can Down the Road and Fix the Road”
Washington, D.C. — At a news conference with elected officials, business leaders and infrastructure advocates, Terry O’Sullivan, the General President of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), called on Congress to quickly develop a long-term solution for America’s deteriorating roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.
LIUNA represents a half-million workers, predominantly in the construction industry, and is a longtime advocate for greater infrastructure investment.
Noting that poor roads contribute to more than 10,000 U.S. traffic fatalities each year, that bridges are literally falling down, and that potholes are damaging vehicles and making roads unsafe, O’Sullivan called on Congress to stop “dodging the issue, and playing political games.”
“The proud men and women of LIUNA, and of all the building trades, are ready to do our job: rebuilding America’s infrastructure,” O’Sullivan said. “We call on Congress today to do its job: pass a long-term, well-funded highway bill; invest in our great nation’s infrastructure; and develop strategies to fund these projects for decades to come.”
Since 2009, Congress has failed to reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund to address the transportation infrastructure crisis, and has instead passed more than 30 short-term patches. The fund is on course to begin running dry again this summer.
O’Sullivan urged Congress to act quickly so that transportation and other infrastructure projects can get off the ground. “The responsibility for every stalled infrastructure project, and every worker trapped in jobless despair, rests with Congress until it acts,” he said.
According to the Associated Equipment Distributors, every dollar spent on infrastructure construction results in nearly $2 of growth elsewhere in the economy. And for every three construction jobs created, five are created in other sectors.
In all, about 14.5 million workers, or 11 percent of the workforce, are employed in infrastructure jobs; most with good benefits and family-supporting pay, which quickly spreads through local communities.
Those are jobs, O’Sullivan said, “that can put food on the table of blue-collar, working families, and create a road to prosperity for unemployed construction workers. It’s about transforming not only the lives of these workers, but the future of our country, and our economy.”
Also joining the news conference were Ray LaHood, former U.S. Transportation Secretary and Co-Chair of Building America’s Future; Salt Lake City, Utah Mayor and National League of Cities President Ralph Becker; Anaheim, California Mayor Tom Tait; and National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons.
The event was part of “Infrastructure Week,” which includes hundreds of participating leaders and organizations fighting to increase investment in the nation’s critical infrastructure.
“Ordinary Americans can’t get away from the crumbling state of our infrastructure; we’re here today to make sure that members of Congress can’t get away from their responsibility to do something about it,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road, and fix the road.”
Legislation Would Help Businesses and Job Seekers Through
Highly Successful Workforce Development Programs
Image from Senator Shaheen’s Website 2014
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) today introduced bipartisan legislation that would help Americans find new jobs and update their skills through on-the-job training (OJT) programs. The On-the-Job Training Act of 2015 authorizes the Department of Labor to award competitive grants to establish and support local OJT programs, which have been demonstrated to be the most effective training model to help people gain the skills they need to get and keep jobs.
“This legislation is about getting Americans back to work with the skills they need in today’s economy,” said Shaheen. “On-the-job training programs are a highly effective way to boost local economies and help the long-term unemployed get their careers back on-track. These programs have been a success in New Hampshire and across the country and this legislation would expand them to keep America’s workforce competitive.”
“In times of economic uncertainty, we should focus on programs with a proven track record of helping businesses and creating jobs. On-the-job training programs work. They connect employers with future employees and ensure that they have the skills needed for career advancement in many fields,” Cochran said. “I’m pleased to join with Senator Shaheen to promote this important, bipartisan legislation.”
In on-the-job training programs, participating employers sign a contract with a local workforce board agreeing to hire workers that need training. In exchange, the employers are reimbursed for a percentage of the wages they pay the employees undergoing training, until the workers gain the skills they need for the new occupation. The participating businesses are expected to keep the newly trained employees on after their on-the-job training has completed.
Last year, Senator Shaheen secured passage of two on-the-job training provisions as part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that became law. The first increased the amount that businesses participating in on-the-job training can be reimbursed for wages they pay employees hired under the program and the second would enable more young people to participate in on-the-job training programs.
On-the-Job Training has the best results of all training programsthat are part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. In 2013, 88 percent of OJT participants were still employed at their training sites or in other jobs three months after having finished the program, and 79 percent were still employed one year later.
On-the-job training programs have already demonstrated success helping the unemployed launch into new careers in New Hampshire, as demonstrated in this video made by New Hampshire Works featuring employers and employees who have used the program.
America is in an abusive relationship with trade-obsessed politicians and corporations.
Despite their long history of battering the U.S. middle class with bad trade deal after bad trade deal, these lawmakers and CEOs contend workers should believe that their new proposal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), will be different. President Obama and the CEO of Nike, a company that doesn’t manufacture one shoe in the United States, got together in Oregon on Friday to urge Americans to fall once again for a trade deal.
The trade fanatics say everything will be different under the TPP – even though it is based on deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that lured American factories across the border, destroyed good-paying jobs and devastated communities. They plead: “Just come back for one more deal and see how great it will be this time!” And, like all batterers, they say: “Sorry about the terrible past; trust me about the future.”
This is trade abuse.
At the Nike world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., the chief executive officer of Air Jordans told the chief executive passenger of Air Force One that Americans should believe in the TPP because it’ll be like Santa Claus stuffing jobs down chimneys across America.
The thing is, Nike could easily create 10,000 manufacturing and engineering jobs in the United States right now. No TPP required. It employs 1 million overseas, the vast majority in low-wage, high-worker-abuse countries like Vietnam, China and Indonesia. To bring 1 percent of those jobs – 10,000 – to the United States doesn’t seem like such a Herculean, TPP-requiring task, especially considering Nike’s massive profit margin.
Instead of manufacturing in America, Nike chooses to “just do it” in countries where it knows workers are abused. In the 1990s, the media slammed the corporation for sweatshop conditions in its foreign factories. Like a typical abuser, Nike promised to reform its ways. It said in a news release last week, “Our past lessons have fundamentally changed the way we do business.”
Promises, promises. Why doesn’t Nike simply insist on higher standards at its factories? What exactly is there in a trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim nations that is essential to Nike establishing higher standards and stopping the abuse of workers in factories making its shoes?
Oh, yeah, the American middle class, which has suffered most from past trade deals, is not allowed to know that. The TPP is secret. Well, except to the privileged corporate CEOs who helped write the thing.
In pushing for “Fast Track” authority to shove the deal through a Congress that has abdicated its Constitutional responsibility to oversee foreign trade, President Obama admitted “past deals did not always live up to the hype.”
Just three years ago, trade fanatics promised that the Korean deal, called KORUS, would definitely provide more exports and more jobs. Instead, U.S. goods exports to Korea dropped 6 percent, while imports from Korea surged 19 percent. So the U.S. goods trade deficit with Korea swelled 104 percent. That means the loss of 93,000 America jobs in just the first three years of KORUS.
What this means is that instead of exporting goods, America is exporting jobs. Foreign workers get the jobs making the stuff Americans buy. And they’re often employed by factories producing products for so-called American corporations like Nike. They’re employed by factories that collapse and kill hundreds. Factories that catch on fire and immolate workers trapped inside. Factories where workers are ill-paid, overworked and slapped when they can’t meet unrealistic production quotas. Factories that pollute grievously.
American workers no longer are willing to engage in this abusive relationship with trade fanatics. They no longer believe the promises of change. They don’t want the federal money TPP fanatics promise them to pay for retraining as underpaid burger flippers after their middle class-supporting factory jobs are shipped overseas. They’re over trade pacts that benefit only multi-national corporations like Nike.
To Fast Track and the TPP, they say, “Just Don’t Do It!”
Enforcement Provisions to Protect American Workers Need to be Included
(WASHINGTON, DC) – After voting against cloture on the motion to proceed to Trade Promotion Authority legislation, Senator Shaheen made the following statement:
“The Senate Finance Committee passed a package of trade bills that included provisions to level the playing field for American workers and businesses, including measures to address currency manipulation and properly enforce trade agreements. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership in the Senate did not bring the entire Finance Committee package to the floor for consideration. It’s critical that these measures be included in the trade package before I can agree to vote for cloture on the motion to proceed to the bill.”
Fight for 15 New York (The All-Nite Images FLIKR CC)
By Barbara Kestenbaum
On April 15, as I looked along 59th Street in Midtown Manhattan, there was electricity in the air. I saw thousands of union and non-union workers marching together in solidarity toward Columbus Circle, holding signs that read “Fight for $15 and a Union.” The demonstration was backed by many unions, including SEIU and the UFCW. These unions were there from the historic beginning of the Fast Food Forward movement in 2012, standing with men and women who had walked off their jobs for one day at McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, and other stores. I participated in this first demonstration and did so again on April 15. As I saw proud determination on the faces of the marchers, it reminded me of the line from James Sloan Gibbons’ Civil War poem about the enthusiastic response to Abraham Lincoln’s call for Union volunteers: “We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more.”
Fight For $15 – Rally and March – 04/15/15 Image by Barry Solow FLIKR CC
As a DC37 union member (Ret.), it filled me with pride to march with my union brothers and sisters, members of the IBT, UAW, USW, CWA, CSEA and more. All were protesting the unlivable wages so many non-unionized workers are paid as they toil at backbreaking jobs in restaurants, car washes, laundries, and as home care attendants. The marchers also included adjunct professors at universities who also work long hours for shamefully low pay. People young and older were marching because they feel intensely that in this rich nation of ours, all working people should be able to afford good homes, nutritious food, adequate health care, and not be forced to work two or more jobs just to squeeze by. I very much agree with Mary Kay Henry, president of SEIU who said about the demonstration:
“Workers proved that by joining together, they can improve their lives.” She emphasized that McDonald’s deciding to raise wages at the stores it owns “is not nearly enough….The overwhelming majority of McDonald’s workers [those at franchisee-owned stores] will still be paid wages so low that they can’t afford basics like rent and groceries.” She stated that SEIU remained “more committed than ever…” to securing for “all workers…the right to join together in a union to improve the lives of all working families.”
(Image byThe All-Nite Images FLIKR CC)
All Americans need to know what Eli Siegel, founder of the education Aesthetic Realism, explained about America’s profit economy in a series of landmark lectures beginning in 1970. I was fortunate to hear many of these talks, in which he provided solid evidence from history, economics, literature, and current events, showing that contempt—“the addition to self through the lessening of something else”—is at the basis of America’s economy, the profit system. Contempt includes the seeing of one’s fellow human beings in terms of how much profit can be made from their labor, while paying them as little as possible. Further, he showed that ethics, working throughout history, had culminated in the failure of profit economics. A current sign of this, among others, is that in February, 2015 McDonald’s sales fell “by a startling 4 percent in the United States and by 1.7 percent globally” (New York Times 3/9/15). And, according to a later article (NYT 5/05/15), the “sales slump”’ continues.
In recent years, as a result of our failed economy, there have been waves of fierce union-busting efforts by corporate America and some state governments, including taking away a union’s ability to sustain itself and its membership through dues. Every dollar paid to a union worker in wages diminishes an employer’s ability to line his own pockets. In fact, I’ve learned that the one way profit economics can continue at all is by making working people poorer. That is what’s behind the attacks on unions, and it explains the constant suffering by millions of families, including the shameful fact that one out of five children in America is not getting sufficient food.
“The Fight for $15 and a Union” movement has given a voice to millions of low-paid workers. In over 200 cities—New York, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, and more—they are being heard loud and clear as they say “Hell No” to poverty wages. On April 15, there were mass demonstrations and sit-ins. Many fast food restaurants were unable to serve their customers and had to shut their doors. All this sent a powerful message to corporations such as McDonald’s and Walmart that workers will fight to end the abuses they are suffering at the hands of corporate America.
The people of America, including union officials, have a right to know what Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, has been describing for many years about the failure of profit economics and the importance of unions. In a recent issue of the international periodical The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, she writes with clarity and feeling about the huge meaning of the Fast Food Workers movement and how it’s been reported on by the major media. She presents four key points, three of which are quoted here:
“1) There has been an effort to indicate that the Fight for $15 movement is admirable—but to have it seen as apart from unions. In fact, the central slogan of the demonstrators is: “$15 an Hour and a Union.” But in so many media accounts, the second phrase is just left out.
“Unions—in particular the Service Employees International Union and United Food and Commercial Workers—have done much to have this movement exist; they, chiefly, have organized and funded it. Yet a lot of the media coverage gives the impression that low-wage workers somehow just got together in some vague grassroots way. And the reason is: if the reporting let Americans see how much unions are working to bring justice to these employees, and how much the employees know they need a union, Americans would love and value unions and want them–even more than many, many Americans now do.
“2) Then there are the persons, sometimes quoted in the media, who are blatantly against this new ‘Social-Justice Movement’: the persons who present a wage increase for fast-food workers as ruinous to business and therefore to America. They say: The demonstrations are taking place only because Big Bad unions are trying to get money into their coffers! The fast-food workers would be satisfied with their situation if unions didn’t stir them up (as slaves would have been satisfied in the 1850s, were it not for those awful abolitionists).
“4) Then, there are the media reports which admit that unions have been useful in the ‘Fight for $15’ movement—but which say that the unions are engaging in a new method: that unions have been dying off and had to come to something new to keep alive. This angle is ridiculous. Unions are doing what they have always done, what they created themselves to do: fighting for economic justice to workers; showing workers that in joining together, each person can take care of oneself by taking care that others get what they deserve. Unions have used different techniques over the years. But what they are doing in the ‘Fight for $15’ movement is utterly in keeping with their history: for instance, fighting for justice for garment workers in New York City; textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts; auto workers in Detroit, Michigan; coal miners in West Virginia; teachers in American classrooms; truck drivers on the many and long American roads. American unions are as American as our Declaration of Independence, and they stand for the same justice. ”
Ms. Reiss concludes: “Beginning as early as age 18, Eli Siegel wrote with passion and logic about the fact that economics should be based on the answer to this question: “What does a person deserve by being alive?” This is the question that must be answered if working men and women—and their families—are to get the economic and social justice that is rightfully theirs.”
President Obama pushing for his flagship trade agreement at the headquarters of one of the largest abusers of cheap foreign labor is more than ironic. Rachel Maddow said, “It’s like going to approve the Keystone pipeline at the site of an oil spill.”
Politico reported: “Nike pledged earlier Friday that it would create 10,000 jobs over the next decade if the trade deal passes, a small part of the global company’s more than 1 million contract factory workers, most of which are based in Asian countries.”
Yea, 10,000 jobs but how many new jobs will Nike create in foreign factories thanks to the TPP?
The major issue with the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not that we do not want to have fair trade with these countries, it is that we as American workers want to know that the TPP will level the playing field not encourage more offshoring of US jobs.
Another major sticking point in this agreement is the lack of transparency. The entire agreement is being negotiated in secret. The White House is assuring us that this agreement will help American workers and force better wages and labor conditions overseas.
We need our elected leaders to stand up and be the representatives we elected them to be. I recommend you call at tell them how you feel about the TPP and the Fast Track legislation at 1-855-712-8441.
I reached out to my Senator’s office through the press connections I have made. I asked if Senator Shaheen supports the Fast Track legislation and the TPP as a whole?
“Senator Shaheen plans to carefully review the final Trade Promotion Authority legislation as it makes its way through the committee process in the coming months,” said Senator Shaheen’s Deputy Press Secretary, Nick Brown.
I asked the same of Congresswoman Annie Kuster’s office. Her press secretary Rosie Hilmer responded with some more a more promising response. “
“Congresswoman Kuster has raised concerns with draft legislation to grant the President trade promotion authority, also known as fast-track authority, and there are ongoing efforts to change and improve this legislation.”
“Congresswoman Kuster supports fair trade policies that protect U.S. jobs and reflect American values. She believes Congress must play a leading role in setting our nation’s trade agenda, and she has raised concerns with the flawed process that has been used to pass earlier trade agreements. She continues to have concerns about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership could affect Granite State workers and, as Congress debates these issues, she will continue to advocate for Granite State priorities and will judge any trade legislation by its impact on New Hampshire.”
We need to keep pressuring all of our elected leaders and make your voices heard. We want good paying American jobs, not more false promises of mythical jobs that come from these trade agreements.
CALL YOUR CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVE AND YOUR SENATORS AT 1-855-712-8441.
For more information on the TPP and Fast Track go to StopTheTPP.org and watch this short video from Robert Reich
As the creator of the NH Labor News I always say that we should buy union and buy American. That is why I support local New Hampshire businesses like Keystone Press. They have been around for 100 years and they are the largest union print shop in all of New Hampshire.
What could be better than getting all of your printing done right here in New Hampshire by dedicated union members? Shopping local helps boost our local economy.
“Keystone Press has just acquired a new Impressia printing press that can print letters, envelopes, and all of you business letterhead in full color,” said Dan Biron, owner of Keystone Press. “This new printing press will create a faster turn around, allow smaller runs and the ability to print more color items right from our Manchester plant.”
With this new printing press Keystone can put your full color logo on a variety of envelopes in various sizes as you can see from the flyer below!
Dan also told me that Keystone was venturing into a new area of printing as well.