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AFL-CIO Urges Navient To Do Business Legally

Richard_Trumka

Institutional investor draws attention to company’s alleged abuse of student loan borrowers

(Washington, D.C.) AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sent a letter to Navient yesterday questioning whether the mammoth student loan servicer has the necessary internal controls to prevent it from violating the law and losing lucrative government contracts.

“As a long-term institutional investor in Navient and its predecessor Sallie Mae, the AFL-CIO has a profound interest in the company’s performance. We are concerned by Navient’s alleged legal violations involving student loan borrowers. Since government investigations are still ongoing, we are asking those responsible for keeping Navient on the right side of the law to discuss our concerns as soon as possible,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Over the past year, Navient has had legal troubles involving their treatment of military members. In May, it was part of a settlement that agreed to pay $97 million over allegations from the Department of Justice and the FDIC that it overcharged 60,000 active duty military members on their student loans and that it mishandled their payments to maximize late fees in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is also investigating the company’s servicing practices and the Department of Education is reviewing whether the company breached its contract.

“While the men and women of our armed forces were protecting our country, Navient mishandled their loan payments. These types of business practices are unacceptable,” added James Gilbert, Director of the AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council and a veteran of the US Navy.

“Navient’s alleged servicing violations are significantly harming its reputation and are jeopardizing its role as a government contractor,” said Heather Slavkin Corzo, Director of the AFL-CIO’s Office of Investment. “Taking financial advantage of soldiers is horrifyingly wrong. The allegations that Navient failed to comply with regulations, if true, pose a real risk to the larger business.”

A copy of the letter can be found at the link below:https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7WDMtzVyAYQSVpjNDBZNVhDYzQ/edit

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On Immigration Accountability Executive Action

Immigration rally Nashua 4-6-13 (credit Arnie Alpert)

Today is an important step toward rational and humane enforcement of immigration law. On behalf of America’s workers, we applaud the Administration’s willingness to act.  We have been calling upon the White House to halt unnecessary deportations since Spring 2013 because our broken immigration system is an invitation for employer manipulation and abuse, and U.S.-born workers as well as immigrant workers are paying the price.

By extending relief and work authorization to an estimated 4 million people, the Obama Administration will help prevent unscrupulous employers from using unprotected workers to drive down wages and conditions for all workers in our country.  Although this fix will be temporary, it will allow millions of people to live and work without fear, and afford them the status to assert their rights on the job.

The Administration is operating within its authority to advance the moral and economic interests of our country, and while we stand ready to defend this program, we must also be clear that it is only a first step.  Unfortunately, more than half of those who currently lack legal protections will remain vulnerable to wage theft, retaliation, and other forms of exploitation.

In addition, we are concerned by the President’s concession to corporate demands for even greater access to temporary visas that will allow the continued suppression of wages in the tech sector.  We will actively engage in the rulemaking process to ensure that new workers will be hired based on real labor market need and afforded full rights and protections.

But this announcement does move us forward – progress that is attributable to the courage and determination of immigrants who rallied, petitioned, fasted and blocked streets to make it happen.  Implementation of the executive action should begin immediately, before further delays open the door for legislative obstruction. Starting tomorrow, the administration should focus enforcement attention on high level targets, stop the community raids and leave workers, grandmothers, and schoolchildren in peace.

Going forward, we renew our call for comprehensive reform that provides a path to citizenship and real protections for workers.  We will continue to stand with all workers, regardless of status, to ensure that their voices are heard and their rights are protected.  Working together, we know that we will ultimately achieve a more just immigration system that promotes shared prosperity and respects the dignity of all workers.

Statement By AFL-CIO Pres. Trumka On OUR Walmart Black Friday Protests

Image via WikiCommon

www.BlackFridayProtests.org

As the Walton family indulges in their own Thanksgiving meal, many Walmart workers who help keep them rich can’t afford food for their families. On Black Friday, the entire labor movement will proudly stand with the brave workers at Walmart as they lead the largest mobilization to date for better wages and schedules. Their courage is inspiring and powerful in the fight for all workers.

The low-down, low-cost, low-wage, low-road Walmart model is wrecking America, causing real pain for workers, and it’s wrong. In an economy where too many people who work still can’t make ends meet, it’s the economic and moral responsibility of businesses to step up. Walmart can continue its dangerous business model or it can lead the way to family-sustaining jobs.

The Walton family is worth $150 billion, but that isn’t enough to silence working people or keep us from fighting for what’s right. Local labor movements across the country join with community groups and allies to amplify Walmart workers’ call for the company to publicly commit to $15 an hour and full-time, consistent hours. There comes a time when we’ve got to stand for justice, for good pay, for good jobs, for our future, for our families and for each other. And that time is now, so all Americans can have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Pending State Legislative Battles

Richard_Trumka

In the wake of last Tuesday’s elections, many state and local politicians have already begun to signal their intent to wage assaults on working people in their states. While national political pundits debate outcomes, the AFL-CIO and its allies also have a keen eye on the developments at state and local levels.

We have no illusions there are radical politicians who are far more concerned with appeasing their corporate donors and being a tool for groups like ALEC than standing for working family issues. This is despite the fact that the Raising Wages agenda remain of upmost important to most Americans. A majority of the electorate are struggling economically and sixty-eight percent of voters agree that raising wages is good for workers and the economy. The majority of people want rights at work. We want the ability to stay home if we’re sick. We want fair and equal pay. And we believe if you work for and earn a pension, you should get it.

Make no mistake that the labor movement is more prepared and ready to combat these attacks than ever before.

We also know that this fight will not be the labor movement’s alone. We are fully engaged with our allies in the community and more importantly know that the values we stand for are in complete sync with the majority of Americans. It will take a collective effort to preserve and expand our values, and we are up to the task.

The American Immigration Council And The AFL-CIO Push For An Executive Order On Immigration

Immigration reform for america
(Image by Sasha Kimel)

(Image by Sasha Kimel)

From the perspective of immigration reformers, Tuesday’s election is unlikely to change the gridlock that has stymied immigration reform for more than 15 years. Since at least 1998, there has been bipartisan agreement that our current immigration system is broken and that Congress must act to fix it. Since then, regardless of who has controlled Congress or the White House, the country has been waiting for the political stars to align in such a way as to make immigration reform a reality. In the meantime, families have been torn apart and our economy has been denied a powerful tool for innovation and entrepreneurship. The reason is clear. Too few of America’s lawmakers have the courage to lead on immigration and too many are content to play politics with this critical issue.

Despite the threat (and likelihood) of political tantrums from those who have consistently blocked reform, the most likely catalyst for change on immigration at this point is bold, decisive leadership by the President of the United States, who re-affirmed yesterday that he would “take whatever lawful actions I can take” by the end of the year.

President Obama can and must show the way forward by using the tools at his disposal to fix as much of our broken immigration system as he can, and to protect millions of unauthorized immigrants who have built their lives here and contribute to our society and economy, but have no means of attaining legal status under our outdated immigration system.

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, also made a call for the President to take executive action on immigration reforms:

The President needs to take executive action to support immigrant rights.  But he also needs to take action on immigration to ensure the rights of all of us.

You see, in our country today, nearly 12 million people, and 8 million workers, are struggling to support their families without the protection of law.  That is unacceptable.  And it doesn’t just put immigrants at risk, it puts all people who work for a living at risk by driving down the standards that protect every one of us.

The AFL-CIO has been calling on the White House to halt unnecessary deportations since the spring of 2013 because we know that we are stronger when all workers stand together.  And we know that executive action on immigration is connected to our larger struggle to ensure that all work has dignity.

So today I am here to renew our call for the executive branch to provide work authorization to, at minimum, all those who would be on a pathway to citizenship now if House Republicans had allowed a vote on the bipartisan Senate bill.  In structuring his announcement, we believe that the President must include much-needed worker protections.  And we know that now is not the time to expand guest worker programs that stifle wages and create a captive workforce.

It is well established that the President has the legal authority to end this crisis by granting temporary relief to a broad class of workers. It is also equally established that current enforcement of immigration law is at odds with our American vision of a just society and our values of family, hard work and fairness.

The America that the labor movement believes in does not criminalize people or deny them basic due process rights based upon their country of birth.  We stand united here today because we know that we are all better off when we have fewer people behind bars, and because we find it disgraceful for private detention centers to profit from locking up our neighbors.

How the President implements immigration laws will be a major part of his legacy.  The President’s job is to implement laws effectively, and the deportation crisis demonstrates that our immigration enforcement system is broken.  When given a chance to fix it, Republican extremists refused.  Now the President must act.

Executive action will be good for families and communities, good for workers and the economy, and good for the country.  There has been enough consideration.  The time for discussion, debate, and delay is over.  Now, it is time to act.

In taking executive action on immigration, President Obama would be following in the footsteps of every U.S. president since 1956. Since Dwight D. Eisenhower, every president has granted temporary immigration relief to one or more groups in need of assistance. There are at least 39 such examples, including the family fairness policy of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, which protected the spouses and children of unauthorized immigrants who qualified for legal status under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). Soon after the implementation of family fairness, Congress updated the law to keep families together.

If the elected House and Senate leaders who have been handed the gavel in 2015 are serious about breaking the 15-year log jam on immigration, then they won’t let the excuse of executive action stand in their way. There is no action that the President can take that will trump the need and opportunity for lasting, permanent reforms to our broken immigration system. After more than 15 years, the nation has waited long enough. It is time for courage and leadership. It is time to act.

For additional resources, visit the Immigration Policy Council’s resource page on Executive Action and Prosecutorial Discretion.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on October 10th $10.10 Minimum Wage Push

Minimum Wage 101

Raising wages will be a driving force at the polls in the approaching midterm elections. Working people will turn out for candidates who support solutions that will make a difference in the real world – from raising the minimum wage to ensuring that all workers can bargain collectively and make a livable wage. The labor movement stands in strong support of the broad campaign to bring attention to raising wages leading up to and following October 10, and it’s our responsibility to keep it going.

Labor is perfectly positioned to unite a massive movement, to raise wages and to lift up our communities. We have an opportunity to show every elected leader, from the White House on down, that those who stand proudly with working families will win in November. It’s that simple.

  • As of October 2, 2014, 22 states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage.
  • Ten states have passed legislation to increase wages since January 2014.
  • Four more states — Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland and West Virginia — will increase their minimum wage on January 1, 2015.
  • Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota, Illinois and Nebraska have ballot measures to raise or set wage minimums that will go to voters in November 2014.
  • Fifteen municipalities have increased the minimum wage over the last five years.

Statement By Richard Trumka On American Airlines And US Airways Unionization Vote

Richard Trumka (The Nation / AP-Photo)
Richard Trumka (The Nation / AP-Photo)

Richard Trumka (The Nation / AP-Photo)

“Today, thousands of workers embraced a union future. The hardworking men and women of American Airlines and US Airways voted for union representation and a legally binding contract. Their collective skill has built successful airlines, and their collective voice will build successful workplaces.

“It should not be lost on the pundits that most of the nearly 14,500 new union members work in southern states. The right to a voice at work doesn’t have a geographic predisposition, and this victory will energize ongoing organizing efforts in the South.

“I want to thank all parties involved, including elected officials, for enabling workers to have a free and fair election. And I especially want to congratulate CWA and the Teamsters on helping give these workers a voice.

“Clearly, one of the largest labor organizing victories in the South in decades is a historic day. But it also shows that the future of the U.S. labor movement is alive, as these workers can be found at airports, call centers, even working from home. The right to collectively bargain will always be what our working family fights for.”

Think US Manufacturing Is In Trouble Now? Wait Till WALMART Jumps In

photo 0f 2007 Northcross Mall Wal-Mart protest by Kristin Hillery, via flikr
photo of 2007 Northcross Mall Wal-Mart protest by Kristin Hillery, via flikr

Photo by Kristin Hillery, via flikr

Hey, Richard Trumka! You didn’t need to be so darn diplomatic yesterday. My take: Wal-Mart getting into in US manufacturing is pretty much the LAST thing America’s economy needs right now.

Unless, of course, somebody’s had an attack of conscience and they’ve completely changed their business model.

Really quick, let’s look at Walmart’s business model:

The retailer has a clear policy for suppliers: On basic products that don’t change, the price Wal-Mart will pay, and will charge shoppers, must drop year after year.

Yep, it’s that old ratcheting-down thing. Works the same way as chained-CPI for Social Security benefits. Or, what’s been happening to the middle-class for the last 40 years. Death by a thousand cuts (also known as “creeping normality”). They take a little bit this year, and a little bit more next year, and a little bit more the year after that.  Wal-Mart’s business model:

Wal-Mart also clearly does not hesitate to use its power, magnifying the Darwinian forces already at work in modern global capitalism. …The Wal-Mart squeeze means vendors have to be as relentless and as microscopic as Wal-Mart is at managing their own costs. …Wal-Mart has also lulled shoppers into ignoring the difference between the price of something and the cost. Its unending focus on price underscores something that Americans are only starting to realize: Ever-cheaper prices have consequences.

Why would anybody in their right mind want to apply this business model to US manufacturing? (Other than, of course, the Walton family. But maybe having a bigger fortune than the bottom 42% of Americans, combined, isn’t enough for some people…?)

Isn’t it time to start ratcheting things UP again?

Mr. Trumka, please… save the diplomacy for elsewhere. We gotta stop this Race to the Bottom.

—–

made in prison labelAnd, oh yeah… something else about “Made in the USA.”

If you haven’t noticed, we’ve got a lot of prisons here in the US. And inmates work for really cheap wages.

That USA-grown organic produce sold at Walmart? Yep.

Stuff that gets returned to Walmart? Yep.

And that may just be the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to ALEC pushing “prison industries enhancement” laws for the past 20 years, there’s now lots and lots of stuff “Made in the USA” behind prison bars. And no way to tell how much of it ends up for sale on retail store shelves. Apparently, in some states, it’s legal to sell prison-made stuff in local stores… as long as it’s not transported across state lines.

Myself, I’m thinking it’s about time for another nationwide product-labeling campaign. So consumers will know exactly where in the USA these products are made.

H/T to the Teamsters for the really great graphic above… and to Dennis Trainor, Jr. and Acronym TV for the video below.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Summit

Image via WikiCommon

In response to Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Summit, which convenes today in Denver, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement:

“It’s about time Walmart figured out that America’s workers are the most qualified and the best skilled at getting the job done. For decades, Walmart has led the charge on outsourcing and a global race to the bottom.

But workers will not benefit from a Walmart-ification of our manufacturing sector. Jobs in the Walmart model won’t restore America’s middle class or build shared prosperity given the company’s obsession with low labor costs and undermining American labor standards. And the company’s ‘commitment’ to American manufacturing is meaningless unless it actually increases the proportion of its products that are American-made.

This initiative seems like an attempt to change the conversation from the need for Walmart to improve jobs for its 1.4 million retail workers in the United States. If Walmart is truly committed to rebuilding the American middle class, it can start with its own workers, most of whom make less than $25,000/year and struggle to make ends meet.

Walmart should use its two-day summit to prove the company is committed to real and substantive change and an end to corporate whitewashing.”

Richard Trumka on Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports

Richard Trumka (The Nation / AP-Photo)

Today’s reports from the Social Security and Medicare Trustees have good news for all Americans: Social Security and Medicare will be there for us and our families if elected leaders listen to the American people and reject calls to cut benefits.  Instead of undermining these crucial programs, we must build on their success and adopt measures to strengthen and expand them.

The Trustees’ reported improvements for Medicare are a positive development for anyone who pays for health care, because they are driven by expected slower growth in health spending in the short run. This reminds us that we have a health care cost problem, not a Medicare problem.  Strengthening Medicare for the long run means bringing health care cost growth under control throughout our economy.

America’s most important retirement program will remain strong for many more years to come, unchanged from last year’s report.  It has become increasingly clear, however, that strengthening Social Security for the future must include improvements in benefits.  Social Security remains the sole retirement income plan that is broadly available and that Americans can count on to provide secure lifetime benefits.

The Social Security Trustees reported once again that the Disability Trust Fund can pay full benefits until 2016, with enough revenue after that time to cover about 80 percent of promised benefits.  Congress should act soon to ensure disabled workers and their families will continue to receive the benefits they have earned.  This can be done by allocating a larger share of current payroll tax contributions to the Disability program, as has been done many times before.  Congress should reject calls to misuse this opportunity to undermine the sole source of disability income protection that is working well for America’s families.

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