• Advertisement

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.

AFL-CIO President Trumka On The 5th Anniversary of Last Minimum Wage Increase

Richard_Trumka

Today is a reminder of what is possible with just an ounce of political will.  If our leaders have the courage, they can lift millions of hardworking Americans out of poverty by raising the minimum wage. It’s a tragedy that workers have been trapped in a poverty-level minimum wage for five years. It must not go a day longer.

We are working harder than ever, while our wages are flat or falling. Over the past five years, the cost of living has continued to increase across the country, while the federal minimum wage has stayed flat. Raising the minimum wage is a critical and simple way to address a crucial underlying weakness in our economy. It will create jobs, grow our economy and increase the purchasing power of millions of workers.

The movement to raise wages is happening all around us. States are doing it. Cities, counties and little towns are doing it. Smart business owners are doing it. It’s time for Congress to get it done.

AFL-CIO Statement On Obama’s Executive Order To Protect Employees From Gender Discrimination

Richard_Trumka

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on President Obama’s Executive Order Protecting Federal Employees from Gender Identity Discrimination

Working people believe in equality and fairness. That’s why we are happy to stand with President Obama in supporting protections for workers who are discriminated against on the basis of gender identity.

It is wrong for any employer to discriminate against or fire a worker based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination in the workplace has no place in the United States. That’s why it’s difficult to believe that in many parts of the country, it’s legal to fire workers for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

America’s unions and working families are dedicated to bringing fairness and dignity to the workplace—and will continue this work until every worker is treated with dignity and respect on the job.

We are proud to come together for a more just America.

AFL-CIO President Trumka On The Humanitarian Crisis At The Border

Richard Trumka (The Nation / AP-Photo)

The humanitarian crisis of families and children fleeing violence in Central America and turning themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents has brought out both the best and the worst in our nation.

Alarmingly, in places like Murrieta, California and Vassar, Michigan, we have seen ugly reminders of racism and hatred directed toward children. The spewing of nativist venom, the taking up of arms and the fear-mongering about crime and disease harken back to dark periods in our history and have no business taking place under the banner of our flag.

On the other hand, around the country we have also seen a tremendous outpouring of compassion and concern for the plight of these women and children.  We are proud to say that local unions have joined with faith and community groups to collect needed supplies, provide shelter and support, and call for humane treatment.

The situation along the border is a refugee crisis that requires a humane, lawful response and must not be politicized.  The labor movement calls upon national and community leaders to respond to the crisis in a manner that meets our obligations under U.S. and international law, and comports with basic human rights and American values.  This means ensuring full due process and providing the additional resources necessary to ensure the well-being and fair treatment of children and refugees.  It also requires taking an honest assessment of the root causes of the crisis, including the long-term impact of U.S. policies on immigration, trade, and foreign affairs.

We cannot lend credibility to Republican assertions that a refugee crisis is proof that we should continue to deport hard working people who have been contributing members of our society for years.  These are simply new excuses to justify failed policies. Lifting the pressure on immigrant workers was needed before the child refugee story developed, and it is no less urgent today.  The Administration must act now to keep all families together, uphold our standards as a humanitarian nation, and advance the decent work agenda necessary to improve conditions both at home and abroad.

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement