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Leo W Gerard: There’s Always Money for the Boss

Businesses always find big bucks for the boss. He wants a raise; he gets it. No problem. For workers whose sweat of the brow produces profits, well, somehow there’s never a cent for them.

In fact, last week when President Obama proposed making more workers eligible for overtime pay, fat cats and CEO sycophants expressed abject horror that companies may have to pay employees more when they work more.

No way could they pay, they protested! The proposed rule would bankrupt America, they raged. It’s not humanly possible, they fumed, for corporations that pad CEO paychecks with millions in bonuses to also manage to pay time and a half when workers labor more than 40 hours a week. Can’t be done, they cried! Well, except that it has been done since 1938.

Fix Overtime Image

That’s when the Fair Labor Standards Act passed. It created the 40-hour work week and overtime rules. It required that businesses pay time and a half to all hourly workers for each hour of labor after 40 in a week. It also required employers to pay time and a half to all salaried workers who were not highly compensated professionals, executives or administrators.

President Obama proposed setting the salary threshold under which employers would have to pay overtime to salaried workers at $50,440 a year. Taking inflation into account, that is the level at which it was set in 1975.

Somehow, corporations managed to pay time and a half for overtime worked by employees in that salary range in 1975. Maybe those CEOs were smarter than today’s crew caterwauling that they can’t do it.

President Obama estimated that 5 million workers would benefit from increasing the threshold. What that really means is that right now, corporations are cheating 5 million workers out of overtime pay they deserve because they labor more than 40 hours. These are salaried workers, so corporations can demand 50, 60, even 70 hours a week out of them for not a cent in additional compensation.

Though inflation rose each year in the 40 since 1975, the threshold was raised only once in that time. That was in 2004, during the Bush administration, so of course it was a paltry increase. The threshold now stands at $23,660, moribund for 11 years. The result is that only 8 percent of full-time salaried workers qualify for overtime. Even under the proposed rule, not even half ­– 40 percent – would qualify.

Still, highly profitable corporations are complaining. The National Retail Federation, the group that opposes all minimum wage increases, said “there’s no magic pot of money,” from which to pay overtime.

There is, however, always a big fat magic pot load of money to pay CEOs.

In 1965, CEOs at the nation’s 350 largest public firms made 20 times the pay of a typical worker employed by those companies. After the 1970s, however, worker pay stalled while CEO pay supersized. Since 1979, the compensation of the top 1 percentgrew 138 percent while the wages of the bottom 90 percent rose just 15 percent. Now those CEOs get 300 times the typical worker’s pay. CEOs at the top 350 companies in 2013 pulled down an average of $15.2 million a year, up 21.7 percent since 2010.

CEOs have long argued that they are so great and so valuable and so special that they deserve to get in a day what a worker earns in a year. But a 2013 report by the Institute for Policy Studies smacks that down. The researchers found that nearly 40 percent of the highest paid CEOs over the past 20 years were eventually bailed out, booted or busted.

That is, taxpayers came to the rescue of their companies, corporate boards fired the CEOs or investigators charged them.

Even when CEOs mess up, they clean up. For example, when Hewlett-Packard fired Carly Fiorina as CEO, she walked away with a golden parachute worth $40 millionand left behind a corporation hobbled by an ill-advised merger and plunging stock value. There were no golden parachutes for the 30,000 workers she laid off.

CEOs contended their corporations are too poor to pay overtime, but on their next quarterly call with shareholders, they’ll brag about record profits.

In 2013, corporate profits were at their highest level in 85 years. But workers whose labor created those bonanzas didn’t benefit. That same year, employee compensation was at its lowest level in 65 years.

And it’s not getting any better. Average hourly earnings continued to remain flat in May.  While the unemployment rate has steadily declined and the stock market climbed to new heights, corporations have failed to respond by raising wages for workers.

They’ve also failed to reward productivity. For three decades after World War II, hourly compensation for the vast majority of workers grew at a rate very close to productivity growth. But from 1973 to 2013, pay for the typical worker rose just 9 percent while productivity increased 74 percent.

Overtime explains part of that discrepancy. As an increasing number of salaried employees worked overtime and businesses paid them nothing at all for it, their productivity increased and corporations took all of the benefits from that.

In announcing the proposed overtime rule, President Obama said, “We’ve got to keep making sure hard work is rewarded. Right now too many Americans are working long days for less pay than they deserve . . . Let’s commit to an economy that rewards hard work, generates rising incomes, and allows everyone to share in the prosperity of a growing America . . . That’s how America should do business. In this country, a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.”

That’s exactly right. Businesses lavish CEOs with fat paychecks and perks whether they do a good job or not. A well-run firm could find money to properly compensate employees who devote extra hours to ensure the place keeps humming.

Unions Matter: “Solidarity Means Something”

From http://www.ilwu.org

From http://www.ilwu.org

By Steven Weiner for Unions Matters

As a union member who cares for the rights of working people, both here in the USA and abroad, I deplore the fact that the so-called “fast-track” bill was signed into law paving the way for approval of a new trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  I was proud to join the many thousands of union members all across the nation who fought hard to defeat this anti-worker, anti-democratic legislation. Despite an initial victory, corporations that will profit massively from TPP spent millions to insure that the votes were there for the “fast-track” bill’s final passage.

This is an agreement that was negotiated in secrecy; few of its details were released to unions and to others who made repeated requests to review the documents. A statement by the AFL-CIO explains succinctly why there was such concealment:

“TPP…is about increasing opportunities for U.S. companies to invest offshore and then export back to the United States with favorable tariff rates. This model enriches global companies, but does little for the workers in the U.S. who were laid off or foreign workers who toil in sweatshop conditions, denied fundamental rights.”

Teamster General President James Hoffa said that TPP, like an earlier trade agreement NAFTA, “will only ship jobs overseas and lower wages in the U.S. Yet again, workers have been tossed aside by some lawmakers who are more interested in pleasing their corporate cronies than doing what’s best for their constituents.”

Meanwhile, in the struggle to defeat TPP something happened in the labor movement that I believe is new and has big meaning for the future of organized labor in America. There was a huge coming together of many unions and thousands of workers to defeat this terrible bill. Said Mark MacKenzie, NH AFL-CIO President: “This fight demonstrated that when we unite in a common purpose anything is possible.” I’ve learned from Aesthetic Realism, founded by educator and critic Eli Siegel, that the one purpose that strengthens us is impelled by ethics, by the conviction that: “Justice to all people is the same as justice to oneself. ”

An example of this “common purpose” is in the fact that private sector unions whose members are likely to be badly impacted—including by huge job losses—were joined by public sector unions, whose members’ jobs would not be at stake.   In a New York Times article (6/13/15) entitled “Labor’s Might Seen in Failure of Trade Deal as Unions Allied to Thwart It,” Noam Scheiber writes:

“While a broad coalition of unions and liberal activists can claim credit for beating back the…legislation, the key to labor’s display of force in Congress, according to supporters and opponents of the trade deal, was the movement’s unusual cohesion across various sectors of the economy—including public employees and service workers not directly affected by foreign competition.”

As the article points out, unions not seemingly directly affected by TPP, saw its defeat as their fight. John Murphy, senior VP for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was quoted as saying “None of these workers are in any way negatively affected by competition with imports. Yet [they] will be there, showing solidarity.”

I am very encouraged that individual unions are seeing clearly that when one union is under attack and weakened, it’s easier to attack and weaken the next. I believe there’s a reinvigorated belief in the motto of the IWW: “An injury to one is an injury to all,” and it’s a cause for celebration!

Why There Are Increasing Attacks on Unions

In an important issue of the periodical The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, describes what has gone on as to unions in these last years, resulting in incalculable harm to millions of Americans. She writes:

In 1970 Eli Siegel explained that the profit system had reached the point at which it was no longer able to succeed. Though it might struggle on for a while, it would do so with increasing pain to humanity. And that is what has occurred. As production has been taking place in more and more nations, it has become harder and harder for US companies to haul in big profits for stockholders. They can do so now only by making the people who actually do the work become poorer and poorer—be paid less and less. That means crushing unions, because it is unions that have enabled working people to earn a dignified wage and be treated with respect.

… As big a fight as any going on in the world—indeed, as big a fight as any in the history of humanity—is the fight now taking place between the profit system and unions….The fight is really a sheer one: For the profit system to continue, unions must be defeated.”

At this pivotal time in America’s history, unions need to see clearly what they stand for and are fightingagainst so that the justice they represent as a united force will prevail! The means to this will be powerfully and delightfully shown on Sunday, July 12th in an upcoming production by the esteemed Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company Ethics Is a Force–2015! Songs about Labor.”

 

Steven Weiner is a Ret. Executive Board member and Shop Steward of Local 2627, DC-37, AFSCME.

Merrimack County Dept. of Corrections Workers Select SEA/SEIU Local 1984

Union-yes

Concord, NH, July 2, 2015 – Earlier this week employees at Merrimack County Dept. of Corrections voted to part ways with their existing union and to now be represented by SEA/SEIU Local 1984.  SEA/SEIU Local 1984 is the state’s largest public sector union representing employees throughout the state. 

There are 115 workers at Merrimack County Dept. of Corrections who will be part of the new SEA/SEIU Local 1984 bargaining unit.  Sixty-five percent of the eligible workers voted in the race between SEA/SEIU Local 1984 and the National Correctional Employees Union (NCEU). SEIU 1984 Logo

“I think this is a good change,” said First Shift Floor Supervisor, Sal Mills.  “We are looking forward to a better union.  NCEU could only offer us half of what SEA can. We are looking forward to better solidarity.”

The positions that are included in the bargaining unit are Shift Supervisor, Corrections Officer, Medical Services Coordinator, Correction Nurse, Maintenance Engineer, Maintenance Worker II, Training Officer, and Group II Case Manager.

“We are very pleased to welcome the workers at Merrimack County Dept. of Corrections,” said Rich Gulla, President of SEA/SEIU Local 1984.  “I think we are uniquely positioned to successfully represent these workers.  We represent other law enforcement workers in the state and we currently have staff members with law enforcement backgrounds who will extend their knowledge and expertise to representing this new unit.” 

The Merrimack County House of Corrections operates a 237-bed, correctional facility located in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Their detainees include pre-trial adults and adjudicated juveniles, as well as male and female offenders serving sentences of up to two years handed down by the Merrimack County Superior Court, or one of the district courts in Merrimack County.

Public Pressure Pushes T-Mobile US to Provide Fairer Paid Parental Leave Policy

 CWA-blue-line

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Responding to growing public pressure and local government initiatives, T-Mobile US announced this week that it would be adopt a paid parental leave program. The company also said it would end an oppressive policy that required call center workers to be on the phone 96.5% of their work time, leaving them with virtually no time for follow up on customer issues or to make changes in customers’ accounts as needed.

This is great news for workers who often must struggle to balance family and career. It comes as workers at T-Mobile US and a coalition of community supporters in cities like Albuquerque, N.M., step up efforts to restore a fair workweek and achieve other improvements for workers.

Members of TU, the union of T-Mobile workers, the Communications Workers of America and many organizations, including the Center for Popular Democracy, OLÉ and other coalition partners, have been raising concerns about unfair scheduling and other issues for workers at T-Mobile US and other employers.  Workers want a voice in the decisions that affect them in their workplace — not just the ones that the company selectively picks and chooses. That’s why T-Mobile US workers are joining TU.

T-Mobile US’s initial scheduling changes were made just as the Albuquerque City Council was moving forward to consider a proposal to implement paid sick leave and scheduling improvements. The Albuquerque coalition hosted a town hall meeting on irregular scheduling, where Albuquerque City Council members pledged to support their fight for a fair workweek including the right to take sick leave without retaliation.

A recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision found T-Mobile guilty of engaging in illegal employment policies that prevented workers from even talking to each other about problems on the job. The judge ordered the company to rescind those policies and inform all 46,000 employees about the verdict. 

Parental leave is a good first step toward helping workers balance their career and family responsibilities. But workers want real bargaining rights and the right to fairly choose union representation. That’s what T-Mobile must realize.

Leo W Gerard: Obamacare Reconciliation

The Supreme Court last week ensured millions of Americans retained their health insurance. Those who kept their coverage sighed with relief. Democrats cheered.

Republicans reacted with vitriol and recrimination. Even the GOP dissenters on the Supreme Court couldn’t stop themselves from responding with bitter sarcasm. Weirdly too, with language like “jiggery-pokery.”

For the entire five years since Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Republicans have relentlessly attempted to kill it – along with some of its most vulnerable beneficiaries who’d lack life-saving health care if the GOP succeeded. Some Republican legislatures and governors have jubilantly exploited a provision in a previous Supreme Court decision to deny the working poor in their states access to the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid. But the GOP has lost the bulk of two appeals to the Supreme Court. And Republicans have failed at 67 attempts to repeal all or part of the ACA. They need to call off their war on health care now. Declare a ceasefire. Stop trying to slaughter a law that’s helping millions.

Photo by Victoria Pickering on Flickr.

Photo by Victoria Pickering on Flickr.

But if the colossal cadre of contenders for the GOP nomination for president is any indication, no armistice is in the offing. After the court announced the 6-3 decision Thursday, one Republican candidate after another railed against the majority on the Supreme Court and swore to take insurance from millions of Americans by repealing Obamacare.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose announcement last week was overshadowed by the Obamacare and marriage equality decisions, tweeted, “President Obama and Hillary Clinton would like this to be the end of the debate on Obamacare, but it isn’t.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tweeted: “Today’s #SCOTUScare ruling means Republicans must redouble their efforts to repeal and replace this destructive & costly law.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio agreed, with Rubio telling CNN, “I remain committed to repealing this bad law.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush issued a statement saying that as president he would “work with Congress to repeal and replace this flawed law with conservative reforms.”

These responses are, as the GOP would say, bad and flawed. Republicans can deny it until the votes are counted in November 2016, but Obamacare works. Because of the ACA, a higher proportion of Americans are covered by health insurance now than at any time since the government began collecting statistics. More than 16.4 million Americans gained insurance under the ACA. Health care costs increases have declined to a record low. And untold millions of Americans value the law’s broad protections, including prohibitions against insurers denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and against cancelling coverage when policyholders become ill.

Now, it’s true that nearly all of these Obamacare-loathing Republicans, like Jeb, contended they’d replace it after repealing it. But that’s what the GOP has said all along. And they’ve got nothin’. There’s no plan. There’s no strategy. There’s not even an outline.

And there’s a reason for that. The conservative Heritage Foundation developed a plan, including the now GOP-hated individual mandate. Mitt Romney piloted that market-based program successfully when he was governor of Massachusetts. Then, the U.S. House and Senate embraced the framework of Romneycare and passed it. That’s the Affordable Care Act – created by conservatives, adopted by Democrats.

America’s got the GOP plan A. Republicans don’t have a plan B. If they did, they’d have produced it sometime over the past five years. They keep talking like they’ve got something, but it’s as ethereal as individual health insurance plans for people with pre-existing conditions before Obamacare.

The GOP’s tactic of trying to destroy Obamacare in the courts has not served the party well. The first time around in the Supreme Court, the justices upheld the overall legality of Obamacare but did permit states to refuse the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. Despite that, a majority of states – 28 – as well as the District of Columbia covered their working poor by accepting the program.

Several Republican governors who opposed the expansion at first later reconsidered, mostly because infuriated hospital administrators pointed out that the refusal pushed their institutions toward bankruptcy as it forced them to continue providing uncompensated care to the uninsured.

Rebuffing the expansion costs states jobs and economic expansion as well. The Kansas Hospital Association estimated that the state’s rejection of Medicaid expansion in 2014 and 2015 set it back $714 million in federal funding and 3,400 jobs. Still, Kansas is a holdout. That snub to businesses doesn’t seem very Republican.

The federal government threatened Kansas, Tennessee, Florida and Texas with loss of Medicaid money that pays some of the cost of care for the uninsured if those states continue to refuse the expansion. For Florida, that’s $1.3 billion. That would be a big hit to the state’s economy and health care system. Still it’s a holdout.

That’s how much Republicans hate that Democrats passed their conservative health insurance plan.

This time when Republicans tried to kill Obamacare by challenging it in court, they got nothing. In fact, they got less than nothing. They ended up worse off.

The GOP wanted the court to outlaw subsidies that the ACA awards low-income people who buy their health insurance on the federal exchange.   If the GOP had won, subsidies would have been denied to 6.4 million people who buy their insurance on the federal exchange because their states refused to establish their own insurance marketplaces.

But the majority on the Supreme Court declined to outlaw those subsidies. And it did so in a way that prevents a future Republican president from revoking the subsidies simply by changing an IRS rule. That’s a good thing for Americans receiving the subsidies.

But that doesn’t seem to be important to Republicans.

It should be. Here are two numbers those Obamacare-hating Republicans seeking the presidential nomination should keep in mind: While 1.8 million people who bought their insurance on the federal exchange live in counties that voted for President Obama, 4.5 million live in counties that voted for Romney.

Republicans may not want to be responsible for taking health insurance away from 4.5 million Republicans.

So they should stop trying. If they don’t like the Romneycare-inspired Affordable Care Act, they should try to fix it. Use some ingenuity to make it better. Arch conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia illustrated that Republicans are capable of that kind of creativity in his dissent filled with Shakespearean allusions.

The GOP would benefit from reckoning with this loss and abandoning its failed “repeal and replace” refrain. The American people who need health insurance would benefit if the party showed the slightest amount of Scalia’s inventiveness in GOP offers to work with Democrats to improve Obamacare.

 

Unions Speak Out Against Supreme Court’s Decision To Hear Friedrichs v. CTA

Joint Statement on Public Service Workers
on Supreme Court Grant of Cert in Friedrichs v. CTA

Lawsuit Seeks to Curtail Freedom of Firefighters, Teachers, Nurses, First-Responders to Stick Together and Advocate for Better Public Services, Better Communities

WASHINGTON—NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, AFT President Randi Weingarten, CTA President Eric C. Heins, AFSCME President Lee Saunders, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry issued the following joint statement today in response to U.S. Supreme Court granting cert to Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association:

“We are disappointed that at a time when big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off-balance, the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America—that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a decent life.

“The Supreme Court is revisiting decisions that have made it possible for people to stick together for a voice at work and in their communities—decisions that have stood for more than 35 years—and that have allowed people to work together for better public services and vibrant communities.

“When people come together in a union, they can help make sure that our communities have jobs that support our families. It means teachers can stand up for their students. First responders can push for critical equipment to protect us. And social workers can advocate effectively for children’s safety.

“America can’t build a strong future if people can’t come together to improve their work and their families’ futures. Moms and dads across the country have been standing up in the thousands to call for higher wages and unions. We hope the Supreme Court heeds their voices.”

And public servants are speaking out, too, about how Friedrichs v. CTA would undermine their ability to provide vital services the public depends on. In their own words:

“As a school campus monitor, my job is to be on the front lines to make sure our students are safe. Both parents and students count on me—it’s a responsibility that I take very seriously. It’s important for me to have the right to voice concerns over anything that might impede the safety of my students, and jeopardizing my ability to speak up for them is a risk for everyone.”
Carol Peek, a school campus security guard from Ventura, Calif.

“I love my students, and I want them to have everything they need to get a high-quality public education. When educators come together, we can speak with the district about class size, about adequate staffing, about the need for counselors, nurses, media specialists and librarians in schools. And we can advocate for better practices that serve our kids. With that collective voice, we can have conversations with the district that we probably wouldn’t be able to have otherwise―and do it while engaging our communities, our parents and our students.”
Kimberly Colbert, a classroom teacher from St. Paul, Minn.

“As a mental health worker, my colleagues and I see clients who are getting younger and more physical. Every day we do our best work to serve them and keep them safe, but the risk of injury and attack is a sad, scary reality of the job. But if my coworkers and I come together and have a collective voice on the job, we can advocate for better patient care, better training and equipment, and safe staffing levels. This is about all of us. We all deserve safety and dignity on the job, because we work incredibly hard every day and it’s certainly not glamorous.”
Kelly Druskis-Abreu, a mental health worker from Worcester, Mass.

“Our number one job is to protect at-risk children. Working together, front-line social workers and investigators have raised standards and improved policies that keep kids safe from abuse and neglect. I can’t understand why the Supreme Court would consider a case that could make it harder for us to advocate for the children and families we serve—this work is just too important.”
Ethel Everett, a child protection worker from Springfield, Mass.

 


About the National Education Association
The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing nearly 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at www.nea.org and follow on Twitter at @NEAmedia.

About the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
The American Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, was founded in 1916 and today represents 1.6 million members in more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide. AFT represents pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; and nurses and other healthcare professionals. Go online to www.aft.orgor @AFTunion to find out more.

About the California Teachers Association (CTA)
The 325,000-member California Teachers Association is affiliated with the 3 million-member National Education Association. Find out more at www.cta.org and follow CTA on Twitter at @CATeachersAssoc.

About the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
AFSCME is the nation’s largest and fastest growing public service employees union with more than 1.6 million working and retired members. AFSCME’s members provide the vital services that make America happen. We are nurses, corrections officers, child care providers, EMTs, sanitation workers and more. Read more online at www.afscme.org and @AFSCME.

About the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) unites 2 million diverse members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The nation’s largest health care union, SEIU represents nurses, LPNs, doctors, lab technicians, nursing home workers, and home care workers in addition to building cleaning and security industries, including janitors, security officers, superintendents, maintenance workers, window cleaners, and doormen and women. SEIU also represents public workers including local and state government workers, public school employees, bus drivers, and child care providers. Learn more at www.seiu.org and @SEIU.


 

The Largest Federal Union Files Suit Over Data Breach Of Personal Information

AFGE Logo 2AFGE files Class Action Lawsuit against OPM Officials over Data Breach

The largest federal employee union has filed a lawsuit alleging that Office of Personnel Management’s leadership failed to heed warnings, obey security policies and are liable for one of the largest data breaches in U.S. history.

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has filed a class action complaint with a demand for jury trial against the Office of Personnel Management, Director Katherine Archuleta and Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour about one of the most devastating cyberattacks in U.S. history that resulted in potentially 18 million current and former federal employees’ personal and security files being compromised.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. AFGE and two individuals, Robert Crawford and Adam Dale, are represented by a legal team led by Girard Gibbs LLP, a national litigation firm representing plaintiffs in class and collective actions in state and federal courts, and in arbitration matters worldwide. Girard Gibbs LLP has vast experience with cases involving cybersecurity attacks and data breaches.

For a copy of the lawsuit, click here.

AFGE will hold a telepress conference call for members of the media to discuss the lawsuit and other issues pertaining to the data breach beginning at 10:30 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, June 30. The number to call is 800-230-1096; ask for the “AFGE Press Call.”  

In a joint statement, AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr., National Secretary-Treasurer Eugene Hudson Jr., and National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Augusta Y. Thomas said:

“AFGE will not sit idly by while OPM fails to comply with the most basic requests for information or provide an adequate response. Even after this historic security breach, OPM has continued to use poor data security practices and inferior private-sector strategies to solve its security woes.

“Since 2007, officials at OPM have been alerted to their lackluster data security policies and protocols and failed to take appropriate steps to safeguard the information. Although they were forewarned about the potential catastrophe that government employees faced, OPM’s data security got worse rather than better.

“Despite putting government employees and their loved ones at significant personal and financial risk, OPM has failed to reveal the full scope of who was specifically impacted by the data breach and the extent of the information taken. Additionally, the credit monitoring services that OPM provided have not only fallen short, but actually created more potential security risks for employees.

“AFGE is working with its members to ascertain the breadth of the breach and obtain feedback on OPM’s response. Since the agency is unwilling to provide adequate assistance, AFGE is taking unprecedented steps to gather more information for our members and hold the agency accountable.”

To learn more about how AFGE has responded on behalf of its members, visit www.afge.org/DataBreach.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

Labor Praises The Supreme Court’s Marriage Equality Decision And Recognizes That There Is More To Be Done

Gay-Couple-from-back-Holding-Hands Square

For over thirty years organized labor and the LGBT have been walking hand-in-hand to push for equality.

Last year I wrote a labor history story called “Labor of Love: How The American Labor Movement Is Securing LBGT Equality” which focused on the role that labor unions played in pushing for equality.

“The UAW was the first union to get same sex couple benefits into labor contract,” said Roland Leggett, the Michigan State Director for Working America.  After the UAW successfully got domestic partner benefits into their contracts in 1982, more and more Fortune 500 companies started to adopt similar policies.  By 2006, 49% of all Fortune 500 companies offered domestic partner benefits.

As you are already well aware, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. This ruling will force states like Texas, to accept and recognize all marriages.

Labor unions from across the country applauded this decision and reminded us of their role in helping to make the dream of equality, a reality.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision marks a truly historic day in America. While there is still work to do to secure economic and social justice for LGBT Americans, the court’s ruling is a major victory for everyone who believes in equality,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. “Same-sex couples will now have equal access to marriage licenses like any other couple. This ruling is a win for children, families, workers and our entire country.”

“The United Steelworkers applaud the court for upholding the 14th Amendment of the U.S Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law,” said The United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard and International Vice President Fred Redmond. “This is a historic day, and we are proud especially for our LGBT members. This victory confirms the principles of our union that regardless of the color of a person’s skin, regardless of religion or nationality, and no matter who a person loves, discrimination has no place in our union or in our society.”

“Today is a momentous day. Together as a nation we took a dramatic step toward the ideals of equality and freedom. Today, brave Americans who were unafraid to stand up and organize for their basic rights proved once again the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice,” stated Lee Saunders, President of the American Federation of County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

“AFGE applauds today’s Supreme Court ruling declaring that same-sex couples across the country have a Constitutional right to marry,” said American Federation of Government Employees National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Augusta Y. Thomas. “This was the right decision for the country and the right decision for everyone who believes in the principles of fairness, equality, and basic human dignity.

“As the largest union representing federal and D.C. government employees, AFGE represents people across the social and political spectrum, including many LGBT members. Just two weeks ago, AFGE was proud to march for the first time in the 2015 Capital Pride Parade – the only labor union to participate. For years, our AFGE Pride Program has been working toward fair treatment and equality for LGBT employees in the government workplace,” concluded Thomas.

The National Education Association and its 22 state-level affiliates, were a part of a broad-based labor coalition with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Change to Win, filed an amicus brief, arguing that state discrimination against same sex couples deprives such couples of an array of economic benefits and legal rights, and deprives them and their children of fundamental dignity, benefits and rights that other couples and their families enjoy.

“Today the Supreme Court has taken a monumental step forward in our national journey toward a more perfect union by making marriage equality the law in every state of our great nation,” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García. “On behalf of our members—and the students they serve—we applaud the court’s historic decision, which will end discrimination against same sex couples, place them on equal footing with other families and safeguard all of our children.”

“We know that today’s ruling will make a tremendous difference both to the dignity and personal and economic well-being of same sex families and to the dignity and personal well-being of their children as well as others who have been bullied and fearful due to their sexual identity. We applaud the Supreme Court and the many advocates whose work resulted in today’s historic decision,” concluded Eskelsen García.

For some this decision hit very close to home. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers is also one of the few openly gay, national union leaders.

“From Loving to Windsor to today, love has won. As people start seeing one another’s real aspirations and dreams for all our families and our communities, as well as for ourselves, we see that the arc of history does bend toward justice,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

“And while this is a day of celebration, there is more work to do in our fight for full equality. As a gay woman and union leader, I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my union—an ally in the struggle for rights and a shield from unfair discrimination in the workplace,” said Weingarten.

The freedom to marry does not mean that the LGBT community has reached full equality. The persecution and discrimination of LGBT members still runs rampant in many parts of our great nation.

While I celebrated this decision, in solidarity with the dozens of my personal friends and family who are gay, I know that we still have a long way to go. The suicide rate of LBGT teens is almost 30% higher than non-LGBT teens. This is in large part to the persecution and bullying that LGBT teens must endure as they grow and find themselves. Most states have protections from bullying based on race or ethnicity, but very few have protections for the LGBT members.

We also have work to do to ensure that LGBT workers cannot be discriminated against in applying for a job, and cannot be arbitrarily fired just for being gay. Unfortunately too few states have protections for LGBT members from workplace discrimination.

“From talking with LGBT members throughout the country, I know the importance of ensuring that there are comprehensive federal nondiscrimination protections in place. Without these protections, same-sex couples who have the right to marry in their home state will still be at risk of being fired from their jobs or evicted from their apartments based simply on who they are. We will continue the fight forward,” concluded Weingarten.

 

Home Care Workers Celebrate Historic Accord Boosting Caregivers Of Seniors, People With Disabilities

SEIU Home Health Care Workers

BOSTON, MA – Tears of joy streaked the faces of cheering home care workers assembled in their Dorchester union hall on Thursday afternoon as a decades-long struggle for recognition and a living wage culminated in a historic moment of celebration.

According to an agreement reached in contract negotiations between the 35,000 home care workers of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the administration of recently elected Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R), Massachusetts Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) are poised to become the first in the nation to achieve a statewide $15 per hour starting wage.

Upon reaching the agreement, workers called off the fifteen-hour picket they had planned to begin at the Massachusetts State House on the morning of Tuesday, June 30th. Instead, caregivers are planning a celebration of this milestone and nation-leading achievement of a $15 standard at 4:00 p.m. on the State House steps the afternoon of June 30th.

“This victory, winning $15 per hour, it means we are no longer invisible,” said Kindalay Cummings-Akers, a PCA from Springfield, MA. Cummings-Akers cares for a local senior and became a union activist at the onset of the campaign. She was also a member of the statewide PCA negotiating team that reached the agreement with the Baker administration. “This is a huge step forward not just for home care workers, but also toward ensuring the safety, dignity, and independence of seniors and people with disabilities,” she added. “We are a movement of home care workers united by the idea that dignity for caregivers and the people in our care is possible. Today, we showed the world that it is possible.”

“Massachusetts home care workers are helping to lead the Fight for $15 – and winning,” said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Veronica Turner. “We applaud Governor Baker for helping to forge this pathway to dignity for PCAs and the tens of thousands of Massachusetts seniors and people with disabilities who rely on quality home care services to remain in the community or in the workforce. As the senior population grows, the demand for home care services is increasing. By helping to ensure a living wage for these vital caregivers, Governor Baker is taking a critical step with us toward reducing workforce turnover and ensuring that Massachusetts families can access the quality home care they need for their loved ones.”

“It is a moral imperative that all homecare and healthcare workers receive $15 per hour, and Massachusetts is now a leader in this effort,” said 1199SEIU President George Gresham. “Extreme income inequality is a threat to our economy, our bedrock American values and our very democracy. With a living wage, we can ensure more compassionate care for homecare clients, and better lives for homecare workers and their families. We applaud this bold step by Governor Baker towards a better future for our communities in Massachusetts and our country overall.”

The home care workers’ journey began in 2006 when they banded together with senior and disability advocates to pass legislation giving Personal Care Attendants the right to form a union – a right they previously had been denied because of an obscure technicality in state law.

After passing the Quality Home Care Workforce Act to win that right and introduce other improvements to the home care delivery system in 2007, the PCAs voted to join 1199SEIU in 2008 through the largest union election in the history of New England. 1199SEIU is the fastest-growing and most politically active union in Massachusetts.

Prior to the legislative and organizing campaigns, PCA wages had stagnated for years at $10.84 per hour. In a series of three contracts since forming their union and through several major mobilizations, rallies, and public campaigns, the PCAs achieved a wage of $13.38 on July 1st, 2014.

Last year, the Massachusetts home care workers also united with the burgeoning Fight for $15 movement and the local #WageAction coalition, helping to kick off the $15 wage effort in the Bay State with rallies in Boston, Springfield, and Worcester on June 12th, 2014.

Home care workers took to the streets again on April 14th, 2015 as part of a massive Fight for $15 mobilization that drew thousands to the streets of Boston. That Boston-based action served as the kickoff for similar coordinated protests in more than 200 cities and 50 countries across the globe.

Caregivers say they are excited that the picket action they had planned for their current contract expiration date of June 30th can now serve as a celebration of this achievement and the spirit of cooperation that made it possible.

“This is an inspiring moment for home care workers, but also for our children – and our children’s children,” said a beaming Rosario Cabrera, a home care worker from New Bedford, MA whose children Kendra, age 14, and Daniel, age 12, were with her at the negotiating session as workers cheered the new agreement with the Baker administration. “I am so proud that I can show my children and someday tell my grandchildren that I was part of this moment in history, that I was part of a movement for social justice. We want all home care workers to win $15 per hour – and to do it first in Massachusetts fills us with pride. It is evidence of what people can do when we organize and negotiate in good faith to reach common ground.”

“Not only is this going to help the PCAs, but this is going to help us as consumers because it’s going to be easier to hire an attendant now that they can receive a dignified living wage,” said Olivia Richard, age 31, a paraplegic consumer who lives in Brighton, MA. “In the past, consumer employers have had issues with getting PCAs simply because the wage wasn’t enough. This is going to make a huge difference in our lives, as well.”

In negotiations, workers and the Baker administration reached an agreement extending the current collective bargaining agreement and establishing a commitment that all PCAs statewide will receive a starting rate of at least $15 per hour by July 1, 2018. Workers will receive an immediate .30 cent raise effective July 1, 2015, a portion of which will be paid retroactively once the contract is ratified.

A new round of discussions will then begin no later than January 1, 2016 to solidify details on the series of wage increases that will elevate PCAs to the $15 mark by the agreed upon date of July 1, 2018. Meanwhile, PCAs across the state will vote by mail ballot on ratifying the contract extension and the terms therein, including the commitment to establish a statewide minimum $15 starting rate.

 

Representing more than 52,000 healthcare workers throughout Massachusetts and nearly 400,000 workers across the East Coast, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. Our mission is to achieve affordable, high quality healthcare for all. 1199SEIU is part of the 2.1 million member Service Employees International Union.

Pride at Work Celebrates Marriage Equality Across the Nation

Pride At WorkWASHINGTON, DC – In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled today to affirm the right to marry for same-sex couples across the nation. Pride at Work celebrates this historic victory for marriage equality and the LGBTQ community. Executive Director, Jerame Davis, reacts:

“Today’s momentous victory in the Supreme Court has affirmed what we already knew – the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law and that includes the right to marry for same-sex couples. We are ecstatic that this ruling will finally deliver equality and justice to families in every state of our great nation. We hope the states will move quickly to implement this ruling.

“The opponents of marriage equality have predicted doom and despair at each stage of this long journey to equality, but love and commitment are not values that undermine our national heritage. Today’s ruling underscores the importance of marriage in our society and upholds the dignity and value of the lives of LGBTQ Americans.

“But we are not done. In 29 states, same-sex couples who take advantage of their right to wed may face serious complications with their job, housing, and public accommodations. The very real possibility that a worker could marry the person they love on Saturday and then get fired from their job Monday morning when they show pictures around the water cooler is a looming threat to many workers who do not enjoy the protections of a union collective bargaining agreement. While a union contract will protect workers in the workplace, not every workplace is a union shop, which is why we need a comprehensive national non-discrimination law to protect these workers on the job, at home, and in the public square.

“We have won a major victory today, but the backlash will be swift. Our comrades in the labor movement rejoice with us in our victory and will stand with us to fight the battles ahead. We are one union and one nation. Both are stronger today.”

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Pride at Work is the official constituency group of LGBT union members and allies fighting for workplace equality for LGBT workers. We organize mutual support between the organized labor movement and the LGBT community in the spirit of the union movement’s historic motto, “An Injury to One is An Injury to All.” Workers interested in joining Pride at Work or in launching new chapter organizing efforts, can visit www.prideatwork.org or email us at info@prideatwork.org.

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