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Faculty Votes for Union at Plymouth State University

AAUP 100 Years Logo 2Plymouth, NH– In an election held this week, a majority of the one hundred seventy-four tenured and tenure-track faculty members at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire voted to form a union for collective bargaining with the American Association of University Professors. Plymouth State University is one of the four public universities that make up the University System of New Hampshire.

“My colleagues and I look forward to working with the university to establish agreements and processes for faculty that guarantee workload equity, transparency in governance, and academic freedom. Assured academic freedom for faculty creates the best environment for student learning,” said Rebecca Noel, associate professor of history at Plymouth State University.

“I am happy that we faculty at Plymouth State University have chosen to join together as the newest members of the AAUP to improve clarity and workload issues, and I look forward to working with the administration to making PSU an even stronger institution,” said Chris Chabot, Plymouth State University professor of biology.

“This is great news. Plymouth State University faculty, working together in a union, will have a positive impact on the faculty working conditions, student leaning conditions, and the university as a whole,” said Howard Bunsis, chair of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress.

In voting to join together to bargain collectively as an AAUP chapter, faculty members at Plymouth State join many of their colleagues at the University of New Hampshire and across the country.

Advocates Push For New DOL Rule On Silica Dust, While Republicans Try To Scuttle Change

New Silica Rule offers a Simple Solution to a Deadly Problem

Today the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing to review the Department of Labor’s (DOL) long-awaited rule updating the silica dust standard.

Silica is common in many workplace dust exposures. It is found in stone, rock, brick, and other building materials. More than 2 million workers are exposed to silica dust each year in construction, foundries, mining, shipbuilding and other industries.

Crystalline silica is a human lung carcinogen and can also lead to kidney and respiratory diseases. Breathing in silica dust can cause silicosis, a lung disease that can severely disable affected workers. A worker with silicosis typically has trouble breathing, making it difficult to walk, climb steps or carry out other basic functions. The disease can be fatal; there is no cure or treatment currently available.

Since 2009, House Republicans have been trying to block this rule change with claims that the rule change will harm businesses through increased costs.

“Today’s hearing of the House Education and the Workforce Committee is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to undermine this much needed regulatory reform,” said International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers President James Boland.

Democratic committee members strongly support this new standard to reduce workers’ exposure to silica dust, a World Health Organization declared carcinogen that causes silicosis, lung cancer, respirable illnesses such as COPD, and kidney disease.  DOL projects the new standard will save more than 600 lives each year and prevent more than 900 cases of silicosis each year. 

“The purpose of the new federal rule limiting exposure to silica dust is to save lives, reduce disease and make our workplaces safer,” said Jessica Martinez, Acting Executive Director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH).”

“It’s unclear, however,  what the purpose of today’s hearing is. The concerns employers have about the new rule have been heard and these issues have been decided during an exhaustive regulatory process. OSHA rigorously followed all required rules and procedures and received extensive input from all stakeholders, including workers, employers and safety experts,” added Martinez.

“The Subcommittee on Workforce Protections can make better use of its time — and taxpayer money — by examining the many other areas in which workers need new, enforceable protections against hazards which claim tens of thousand of lives and cause millions of injuries every year,” Martinez concluded.

The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers President James Boland released the following statement in Support of OSHA’s Final Rule to Protect Workers from Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica: 

The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) applauds OSHA for doing what’s right for working people; creating healthier workplaces by updating the silica standard is a simple solution to a deadly problem.

The current standard is insufficient to protect construction workers. At the current permissible exposure limit, 100% of construction workers will get sick or die from silica-related illness over the course of a 40 year career. According to a CDC report issued under President Bush, “deaths from inhalation of silica-containing dust can occur after a few months’ exposure.”[1] That is a fact that has been well-established, and we have seen the results of exposure at permissible limits in the untimely illness of far too many bricklayers—union and non-union alike. Even at the reduced permissible limit under the new rule, a significant number of workers will become ill over the course of their working lives, but it will go a long way toward improving the health and safety of workers in this industry.

The new standard provides a meaningful and practical way for employers and employees to comply with the law. This is not complicated. Table one in the rule “matches common construction tasks with dust control methods, so employers know exactly what they need to do to limit worker exposures to silica. The dust control measures listed in the table include methods known to be effective, like using water to keep dust from getting into the air or using ventilation to capture dust. In some operations, respirators may also be needed. Employers who follow Table 1 correctly are not required to measure workers’ exposure to silica and are not subject to the permissible exposure limit.”[2]  The remedies offered in the new standard are simple: water and electricity are available on jobsites already, and most equipment already comes with standard attachments for water or vacuum removal methods.

Today’s hearing of the House Education and the Workforce Committee is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to undermine this much needed regulatory reform. Members of the BAC are committed to do everything in our power to support the silica standard for the construction industry and fight any effort to overturn or delay implementation of the rule.

We are very disappointed in today’s effort by congressional republicans trying to undercut safety efforts in favor of a few powerful interests. For decades, BAC has fought for reduced exposure limits, and the science is behind us. Working people should not get sick and die in return for a hard day’s work—especially when reasonable, feasible and available measures exist to protect them.

Congress would do well to remember that the people exposed to this hazardous element expect that their elected representatives will do what’s good for America, our communities and our families. It is the right time to move this rule forward, and we expect our elected leaders to do their jobs and lead.

Hopefully members of Congress will ultimately move forward with the rule change and put the health and safety of workers ahead of corporate lobbyist who are pushing against it.

Leo W Gerard: American Workers Crushed Under China’s Deliberate Overproduction

Image by Glasseye View Flikr CC

Image by Glasseye View Flikr CC

I went to Washington, D.C., last week to ask trade experts and lawmakers to stop the relentless, lawless, callous dumping of Chinese steel, aluminum, paper, rubber, glass, chemicals and other products, which has closed mills, killed jobs, destroyed lives, devastated American communities and imperiled national security.

American steel is made in the most efficient, cost-effective mills in the world by the most skilled, productive workers anywhere. That’s a fact. It’s a fact that steel executives testified to last week in hearings conducted by members of Congress and trade law enforcers. We want the trade enforcers and Congress to stop the dumping and to force China to dramatically cut its steel production because China has kept none of its promises over the past seven years to voluntarily do so. In fact, it has continuously increased production.

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China makes way, way too much steel. In 2015, it produced nearly 500 million tonsmore than it needed. It did that to keep its citizens employed, its mills running and its country free of civic unrest.

That would be fine if China just put all of that extra steel in a warehouse somewhere. But it dumped more than 100 million tons in overseas markets in 2015. Production of that steel was subsidized by the Chinese government in ways that violate international trade rules, so the price was artificially low. And Chinasuppresses the value of its currency, further falsely reducing the cost of the steel.

Even the most efficient mills in the world can’t compete with a country. So they shut down.

On Tuesday, Sam Pantello, a maintenance mechanical technician at EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel in Pueblo, Colo., told the U.S. Trade Representative that 260 of his fellow workers are laid off and EVRAZ is running at 65 percent capacity all because of Chinese dumping.  Here is what he said:

“We produce high-quality steel cost-effectively and efficiently and are the only manufacturer of steel rail west of the Mississippi. And yet, because of steel dumping, I have co-workers out of a job, worrying about making their next mortgage or car payment, and that just isn’t right.”

This didn’t happen overnight. China has been ramping up production of steel and aluminum and other commodities for over a decade. It ships the excess overseas. That floods international markets, artificially depressing prices worldwide. That bankrupts factories and mills that operate on Western free market principles, causing unemployment and shattering communities. The devastation has occurred across the United States, Great Britain and Europe.

Everyone is affected, from the guy who digs the iron ore out of the ground to the guy who sells burgers to workers leaving the mill on shift change. Dan Pierce, a diesel mechanic at the U.S. Steel Keewatin Taconite mine in Hibbing, Minn., explained this to the U.S. Trade Representative. Because so many steel mills are partly or completely shut down, the demand for taconite, which is processed into iron ore pellets, is slim. U.S. Steel closed the Keewatin Taconite mine last May and laid off nearly all of the 360 workers, including Pierce.

“Not being able to work for the past 11 months has put stress on me, my family and my friends as we wrestle with the uncertainty of if, and when, I will be able to return to work. Our family has had to hold off on home repairs and cut back on groceries and eating out. When we do this, and you multiply it by all of the other workers going through the same things, it means local businesses suffer as people make less trips to places like the Super One Foods or the Erikson lumberyard. Everything in the [iron] range depends on the mining companies running. When they’re shut down, it affects everyone, from daycare providers to local car dealerships to hospitals,” Pierce explained.

The effect of China dumping its excessive production into the world market is massive layoffs, both in the United States and in Europe. Last week Britain demanded that China rein in its overcapacity after Tata Steel announced it was placing its partly closed British mills on the auction block, putting 15,000 jobs at risk.

In the United States, 13,500 steelworkers hold layoff notices, and earlier this month, 750 U.S. Steel white-collar workers learned they’d lose their jobs too. The crisis has hit aluminum just as hard. Five years ago, 14 aluminum smelters ran in this country. Now there are five. Another is slated to close in June. If it does, 6,500 aluminum workers will have lost their jobs. These are good, family-supporting jobs with benefits and pensions.  This is China exporting unemployment.

Tim Davis, a crane operator at Cascade Steel Rolling Mills in McMinnville, Ore., told the U.S. Trade Representative what it means to lose that kind of job. His mill makes rebar, coiled steel wire and flat bar. Because of dumped coiled wire and rebar, Cascade is running on reduced days and furloughed 70 workers, including Davis.

“Cascade Steel isn’t just a job to me. It helped raise me. The paychecks my dad received from working there when I was growing up allowed me to participate in sports while I was in school, paid for our family vacations and ensured that I had a roof over my head and food on the table. I want that for my family. I want to know that as long as I work hard to provide for my family that they can have the same childhood I did thanks to my dad working hard at Cascade Steel.

“I am proud to follow in my father’s footsteps in the manufacturing industry, and I would hope that my children would be proud to follow us if that is what they choose to do, but for that to happen, there needs to be an American manufacturing industry around for them to do so, and at the current rate of American factories closing their doors for good, I’m concerned they won’t have that option.

“At this pace, the only option my kids will have is college, the military or working at a retail store that was built with foreign materials, selling foreign-made products, and then bagging purchases up in foreign-made bags,” he told the Trade Representative.

Since 2009, China has repeatedly acknowledged that it makes too much steel and promised to stop. But it doesn’t. It just makes even more. Even at a loss.

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Again in January China said it would cut production. This time by 100 million tons by 2020. That is not nearly enough. It would, in fact, be insignificant, only about a fifth of its overproduction. But then just last month, China’s Baosteel, a major state-owned company, announced that it would increase production by 20 percent this year.

To put China’s excess in perspective, the nearly 500 million tons it overproduced in 2015 is more than five times the steel forged in the United States, and the United States is the third-largest producer of steel in the world. In 2000, China had just slightly more steelmaking capacity than the United States, but since then, it increased so dramatically that now China has 1.2 billion tons of capacity. That is more than 10 times the capacity of the United States, where production declined over that period.

China’s capacity now exceeds that of the United States, Japan, the European Union, and Russia combined. That means every mill in the United States, Japan, Russia and the European Union could shut down, all of those workers could lose their jobs, all of those communities could crumble and China would reap the benefits by exporting all of its steel and further expanding its industry.

If those countries rolled over and let China do that.

David Clark, a maintenance utility worker at the U.S. Steel Fairfield Tubular Operations in Alabama, previewed for the U.S. Trade Representative what such a China takeover could mean. Much of the Fairfield works shut down in August, and 1,000 steelworkers were laid off. The local union has set up a food bank to help families get by. “My community is struggling,” he told the trade officials.

“The outlook is bleak for the business in our town. All of the suppliers in the area have been forced to cut positions. Some local gas stations have ceased 24-hour operations as the traffic at shift changes went away. And retailers are leaving the city. Shortly after the closure, Walmart and other retailers left the city of Fairfield, and the loss of sales tax revenue has placed the city in dire financial situations. It has gotten to the point where the city council in Fairfield is debating closure of the police department and the suspension of other city services in order to survive.”

Clark said what every steelworker told the trade officials and what we all told Congress: “No U.S. steelworker should have to lose a job to allow unfairly traded steel into this country.”

The corporate officials asked the U.S. Trade Representative and Congress to act to save an industry vital to national security. I told the same officials to stop swallowing false promises of change from China and impose broad-based import restraints, take comprehensive, enforceable measures to reduce global overcapacity and definitively declare that China does not qualify as a market economy under U.S. law.

“I implore this committee to consider the true cost of allowing terrible policies and bad trade agreements to continue destroying the very thing that made this country what it is. We became the strongest, most powerful country in the world because American blue-collar workers carried us there on their backs on their quest to achieve the American Dream. Each and every unfair trade deal we jump into is destroying the legacy that our forefathers created with sweat on their brow and calluses on their hands.”

New AFL-CIO Trade Video Warns That TPP Would Double Down on NAFTA’s Economic Devastation

“We can’t have another NAFTA. There’s too much at risk. It’s too important. What happens if TPP passes? There will be another generation of people that can’t find work.”

(Washington, DC) – Today, the AFL-CIO released a video showing first-hand the devastating economic impact the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could have on communities across the country.

Last week United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard testified at a USTR hearing examining overcapacity in the global steel market and its impact on U.S. steelmakers. There is evidence that foreign governments are subsidizing cheap steel and selling it in the U.S. at unfairly low prices. Countries are able to dump their cheap steel in U.S. markets because they are undervaluing their currency when setting prices.

“Currency manipulation is at the heart of this issue, and the passage of the TPP – which doesn’t address this global problem – could kill American manufacturing for good,” said Gerard. Like NAFTA, it offers no protection for American manufacturing or American workers. U.S. trade policy has not worked for working people or our communities which has led to broad opposition to the TPP. It must be defeated.”

“We know the TPP is a job killer.” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Our trade agreements should help to create good jobs in America, and enable regular working people to succeed by working hard to get ahead. The TPP fails this goal miserably.”

“I’ve seen too many people have their lives destroyed because the jobs went away,” said Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Council Member Dewitt Walton. “We can’t have another NAFTA. There’s too much at risk. It’s too important. What happens if TPP passes? There will be another generation of people that can’t find work.”

Allegheny County which is featured in the video is one of hundreds of local and state governments that have passed or introduced resolutions opposing TPP.

This video is the second in a series examining the real human impact of trade agreements like the TPP. Watch the first video on how the TPP could put the lives of cancer patients in danger.

More Nader Narcissism: The Debate Over How Unions Endorse Candidates

Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton: By BERRY CRAIG

Ralph Nader’s recent Huffington Post column reminded me of the old saying, “With friends like you, who needs enemies.”

Nader’s narcissistic presidential bid in 2000 helped put George W. Bush in the White House.

Now Nader is providing grist for the union-haters’ propaganda mill by writing that “long-entrenched, affluent big union leaders” who support Hillary Clinton for president are trying to lord it over small unions who Feel the Bern.

Sixteen years ago, Nader, now a Bernie Sanders fan, ran for president because he said there was little or no difference between Vice President Al Gore, the AFL-CIO-endorsed Democratic hopeful, and Republican candidate George W. Bush, the union-busting governor of “right to work” Texas.

In his HP column, Nader trotted a claim often heard from union-busters: that union leaders don’t represent the rank-and file.

“These large unions came out for Clinton in late 2015 and early 2016 before they sensed the growing rank and file workers’ preference for the lifetime advocate for workers and union backer, Bernie Sanders,” Nader charged.

He based a big part of his column on an AFL-CIO executive council meeting at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington in late February.

“According to insiders, tempers flared when smaller unions challenged the Hillary-endorsing big unions such as AFSCME (public employees), the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the Service Employees (SEIU) and the Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW),” he wrote.

Nader added, “Listening to the nurses union head speak out for Sanders’ strong pro-labor history, Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME, interrupted her, exclaiming: ‘I will not allow you to do a commercial for Sanders.’ She retorted, ‘You mean for the only candidate who has a 100% labor record?’

“A union leader of postal workers charged the unions backing Hillary as being ‘completely out of touch with their workers.’ AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka then cut off their microphones.”

Admittedly, the rules of straight news reporting—notably giving both sides of a story—don’t apply to an opinion column. But this old reporter wonders why the supposedly pro-union Nader, at least out of a basic sense of fairness, didn’t let the parties involved in the alleged dustup give their side of the story.

If he did contact any of them, he didn’t say so in his column. As it is, Nader’s presentation of hearsay as fact amounts to the kind of union-bashing common to Fox News and right-wing talk radio.

“Few union leaders allow [italics mine] a worker referendum to make the endorsement decisions,” Nader also scolded.

It’s the other way around. Members allow union officials to do what they do. Every official in a union from a shop steward to an international president is elected. So if members of a union want a referendum, they can vote one in through their elected representatives.

Since Nader cited my union, here’s how the AFT arrived at endorsing Clinton:

“The AFT sent all candidates (both Democratic and Republican) a candidate questionnaire and invited those who completed the questionnaire to speak before the AFT’s executive council. No Republican candidate completed a candidate questionnaire.

“The AFT executive council, comprised of elected [italics mine] vice presidents and the AFT officers, met with and interviewed Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders and analyzed their position on the key issues.

“Most important, the AFT asked its members directly about the issues that matter to them and their opinions of the candidates through two polls, including a survey that reached out to more than 1 million AFT households; the ‘You Decide 2016’ online forum; emailing e-activists to get member responses on the issues of importance to them; conducting multiple telephone town hall meetings; and having rank-and-file members ask questions directly of the presidential candidates during the June [2015] executive council meeting.

“Additionally, the AFT commissioned a scientific survey of members by Hart Research Associates. The results of the survey provide a clear picture of where AFT members stand.

“First, by an approximately 3-to-1 margin, AFT members prefer that a Democratic candidate win the presidential election over a Republican.

“79 percent of Democratic voters support the AFT making a recommendation in the primary.

“Among those voters, Hillary Clinton is preferred by members by a margin of more than 3-to-1 over her nearest Democratic competitor.

“Furthermore, Hillary Clinton holds a better than 11-to-1 advantage as the ‘Democrat with the best chance to defeat the Republican candidate.’”

I prefer Sanders to Clinton, as do more than a few of my AFT brothers and sisters. But majority rules.

Sanders has made it clear he’ll back Clinton if wins the nomination. (So will I.)

“We cannot afford an America to have Donald Trump or Cruz or any of them be our next president,” Tad Devine, a senior Sanders campaign advisor, recently told MSBC’s Andrea Mitchell.

He explained of his candidate, “The reason he ran as a Democrat was he understood being outside this process could be like what Ralph Nader did in 2000, elect a Republican president, and he’s not going to be a part of that.”

U.S. DOT Order on Norwegian Air Case, Unless Reversed, Threatens Thousands of U.S. Airline Jobs

Transportation Trade Department LogoWASHINGTON, DC — Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement in response to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s ill-advised order regarding Norwegian Air International’s application for a foreign air carrier permit:

“We are strongly opposed to today’s show cause order issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation that could pave the way for Norwegian Air International (NAI) to launch a job-killing flag-of-convenience airline that perverts the transatlantic airline market and violates our nation’s aviation trade agreement with the European Union (EU).

“The facts surrounding the NAI case could not be clearer. NAI, a subsidiary of Norway-based Norwegian Air Shuttle, was incorporated in Ireland with a single goal in mind: avoid Norway’s regulatory and employment laws to gain an unfair disadvantage over air carriers on both sides of the Atlantic that play by the rules as designed. NAI’s plan has been to use Bangkok-based flight crews employed under Singaporean individual employment contracts, evade collective bargaining obligations in Norway and unfairly undercut wages and labor standards while still reaping the benefits of the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement.

“It is for these reasons that a bipartisan Congress has spoken loudly against the NAI application and why a coalition of European and U.S. airlines has opposed this application for more than two years.

“Worst of all, approval of the NAI application would be a betrayal by this Administration of the explicit labor protections – embodied in Article 17 bis of the U.S.-EU deal – that bar new air services under the agreement that ‘undermine labor standards or the labor-related rights and principles contained in the Parties’ respective laws.’ If NAI is allowed to fly, our government will be saying to U.S. airline employees that the labor protections negotiated into aviation trade agreements are worthless and will be disregarded and cast aside when jobs and labor rights are actually threatened.

“It doesn’t take much creativity to conclude that when an airline company like NAI scours the globe for the cheapest labor it can find, evades the social and employment laws of its own country, and uses a rogue business model in violation of our trade agreements and laws, our government should not reward that airline with new rights to seize our markets, compete unfairly with our air carriers and kill our members’ jobs.

“This is a legacy issue. We will be urging President Obama and Secretary Foxx to reverse course and reject the NAI application. A new era of low-wage, flag-of-convenience airlines should not be launched on this Administration’s watch.”

Low Wage Workers Walk Out In A Nationwide Strike For $15 An Hour

Emboldened by Victories in CA, NY, PA, Fast-Food Workers in New Hampshire Walk off Job, One of Record 320 Strikes Nationwide Demanding $15, Union Rights

Image by Rose Lincoln, 1199SEIU on 4-14-15

Image by Rose Lincoln, 1199SEIU on 4-14-15

More than Fast-Food: Home Care, Child Care, Airport, Workers Flood Manchester Protesting against Low Pay, Tax Avoidance by Corporations

Workers across Service Sector Zero In on McDonald’s
as Symbol of What’s Wrong with Economy

Manchester, NH – Emboldened by a historic string of victories for $15/hour from California to New York to Pennsylvania, fast-food, home care, child care, higher education, and other underpaid workers intensified their Fight for $15/hour and union rights in Manchester Thursday. Before sunrise, local fast-food cooks and cashiers walked off the job, part of a nationwide walkout in a record 320 cities.

Holding signs that read, “McJobs Cost Us All” and “McWages Hold Us All Back,” underpaid workers poured into Manchester streets Thursday, stressing – days ahead of Tax Day – that low wages and tax avoidance by companies like McDonald’s are holding back workers and communities across the country. 

Workers zeroed-in on McDonald’s because the world’s second-largest employer and the industry leader in the fast food and service economies is driving a race to the bottom that is undercutting wages across the economy and resulting in nearly 64 million workers being paid less than $15.   

“We need $15 too,” said Nashua worker Rob Mercier, who walked off the job and is paid just $9.25 after 4 years on the job. “Workers in New York and California and Pennsylvania showed that we can win $15 if we stick together, we will win in New Hampshire and every other part of the country too.” 

New Hampshire workers will join thousands of other underpaid workers in Boston for the moment of silence in remembrance of Jeffrey Pendleton, a Manchester, NH Burger King worker and Fight for $15 member who died in police custody in March after he was arrested for a minor offense and could not afford a $100 bail. Each protest will hold a moment of silence for Jeffrey. The Fight for $15 is dedicating the April 14 strike to Pendleton, a vocal proponent for higher pay and union rights, who participated in the first-ever fast-food strike in New Hampshire last month. 

Fast-food, home care, child care, university, airport, retail, building service, and other workers are demanding that McDonald’s change its business model and use its massive economic power to lift up working families across the globe instead of dragging them down.

Nationwide, the Fight for $15 strikes spread beyond the fast-food industry, as hospital workers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and nursing home workers across Florida walked off their jobs. A strike by 40,000 Verizon workers entered its second day Thursday, and walkouts also spilled overseas, as cooks and cashiers at Europe’s second largest McDonald’s, at Disneyland Paris, shut down the store early Thursday morning to demand higher pay and a union. Protests are taking place Thursday in 40 countries spanning six continents. 

Across New York, California and at UPMC, workers who have already won life-changing raises to $15/hour walked off the job Thursday to stress their demand that companies respect their right to join a union without retaliation, and to show support for other underpaid workers across the country who are still fighting for $15/hour. In New York, striking workers prepared for an evening march from the Times Square McDonald’s—where the Fight for $15 began in 2012—across town to a $1,000-a-plate GOP gala featuring Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, all of whom oppose raising wages. In Cleveland, fast-food, home care, and other underpaid workers announced a November ballot initiative to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour.

A ‘Hot Political Issue’

The strike comes as workers have made $15 and union rights a “hot political issue” in the race for the White House, according to the Associated Press.

Everywhere candidates go this primary season, workers in the Fight for $15 have followed closely behind, forcing White House hopefuls to address the demands of the nearly 64 million Americans paid less than $15/hour. Ahead of debates in cities like Milwaukee, Detroit, Flint, Miami, Houston, and Charleston, fast-food workers went on strike for $15 and union rights and marched on the debates, calling on candidates to “come get our vote.” On four occasions in the debates, candidates were pressed by moderators to respond to workers in the Fight for $15, including in November, when the first question directed at GOP candidates asked them to respond to the demands of fast-food workers outside the Milwaukee Theatre demanding $15/hour and union rights. 

The Democratic Party adopted a $15/hour platform, the Democratic candidates for president have lined up in support of the workers in the Fight for $15, and elected leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Kristen Gillibrand back a $15/hour federal minimum wage. It’s a far cry from the situation when the campaign started—when discourse on the economy was limited to talk of debt and deficits and two lone Democrats in Congress (former Sen. Tom Harkin and former U.S. Rep. George Miller) were the only ones brave enough to even call for $10.10/hour. 

$15/Hour: A New Benchmark

The Fight for $15 has built a growing awareness that $15/hour is the minimum wage level American workers in every part of the country need to survive and pay for the necessities to support their families. In addition to statewide increases to $15/hour in New York and California, cities including Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have raised their minimum wage to $15/hour. And home care workers in Massachusetts and Oregon won $15/hour statewide minimum wages. Companies including Facebook, Aetna, Amalgamated Bank, and Nationwide Insurance have raised pay to $15/hour or higher; workers in nursing homes, public schools and hospitals have won $15/hour via collective bargaining; and fast-food workers have ratcheted up pressure on companies like McDonald’s to raise pay to $15/hour. 

Slate, among others, has credited the Fight for $15 with completely rewiring “how the public and politicians think about wages.” MSNBC said the Fight for $15, “entirely changed the politics of the country, and Fortune said the Fight for $15 “transformed labor organizing from a process often centered on nickel-and-dime negotiations with a single employer into a social justice movement that transcends industry and geographic boundaries.”

McDonald’s Under Fire on Both Sides of the Atlantic

The movement is also gaining momentum overseas, as workers across the globe are increasingly joining together to hold McDonald’s accountable. On Thursday, workers in 40 countries on six continents protested at McDonald’s restaurants, with marches in cities ranging from Sao Paolo to Seoul and London to Lagos. 

The global protests come as McDonald’s is facing scrutiny by federal regulators from South America to Europe. Late last year, the European Commission opened an investigation into McDonald’s following allegations by trade unions and NGOs that the company has dodged more than one billion euros in taxes since 2009. In January, Italian consumer groups filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission, alleging exorbitant rents and onerous contracts thrust upon franchisees give the company an unfair advantage.

In March, Brazilian prosecutors said they were investigating alleged “fiscal and economic crimes” committed by McDonald’s, including suspected tax avoidance and violations of Brazil’s franchise and competition laws. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the federal government continues to prosecute its case against the company for violating federal labor laws, charging both McDonald’s and its franchisees with illegally threatening, intimidating, firing and otherwise retaliating against workers who had joined together in the Fight for $15.

Fast-food workers went on strike Thursday in over 300 cities across the country.

Update From CWA On Possible Verizon Strike Tomorrow

standwithvzworkers-bannerWith Verizon executives refusing to give up demands on offshoring jobs and other devastating cuts, nearly 40,000 Verizon workers are preparing to go on strike on Wednesday at 6:00 am.   

 The Communications Workers of America made this statement:

“The 39,000 hard-working families at Verizon have made the company successful. Given Verizon’s enormous profitability there is no justification for the company’s continuing demands to destroy good middle-class jobs and offshore work. Workers have negotiated in good faith for ten months and addressed the company’s primary concern, which they told us was limiting health care costs. Workers and the customers who depend on us would be much better served if Verizon returned to the bargaining table and negotiated a fair agreement that fairly addressed the concerns of their workforce.

“Marc Reed and other Verizon executives are trying to rig the system against working families. The question of federal mediation is a distraction to the real problem: Verizon’s corporate greed.  Historically, federal mediators only get involved in collective bargaining situations with the agreement of both parties.  CWA did not authorize anyone at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to approach Verizon about extending the strike date. Either the FMCS acted without authorization or Verizon executive vice president Marc Reed is lying.

“All day today, CWA and IBEW bargaining teams have been available to meet, ready, able and willing to bargain. Where’s Verizon?”

Verizon Workers Announce Strike Deadline of Wednesday, April 13th

TELECOM GIANT MAKES $1.8 BILLION A MONTH IN PROFIT, BUT SEEKS TO DESTROY GOOD JOBS FOR NEARLY 40,000 EAST COAST WORKING FAMILIES

After trying for ten months to reach a fair contract, nearly 40,000 Verizon workers from Massachusetts to Virginia will go on strike at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, April 13 if a fair agreement is not reached by then. The Verizon strike will be by far the largest work stoppage in the country in recent years.

“We’re standing up for working families and standing up to Verizon’s corporate greed,” said CWA District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor. “If a hugely profitable corporation like Verizon can destroy the good family-supporting jobs of highly skilled workers, then no worker in America will be safe from this corporate race to the bottom.”

Even though Verizon made $39 billion in profits over the last three years — and $1.8 billion a month in profits over the first three months of 2016 — the company wants to gut job security protections, contract out more work, offshore jobs to Mexico, the Philippines and other locations and require technicians to work away from home for as long as two months without seeing their families. Verizon is also refusing to negotiate any improvements in wages, benefits or working conditions for Verizon Wireless retail workers, who formed a union in 2014.

“More and more, Americans are outraged by what some of the nation’s wealthiest corporations have done to working people over the last 30 years, and Verizon is becoming the poster child for everything that people in this country are angry about,” said Edward Mooney, Vice President, CWA District 2-13.”  This very profitable company wants to push people down. And it wants to push communities down by not fully repairing the network and by not building out FIOS.”

With negotiations at a standstill even as workers have offered hundreds of millions of dollars in healthcare cost savings, support for a fair contract is growing. Last month, 20 U.S. Senators sent a letter to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam calling on him to “act as a responsible corporate citizen and negotiate a fair contract with the employees who make your company’s success possible.” And the working families of Verizon are reaching out to the public about the threat the corporation is posing to communities up and down the East Cost, including a new 30-second ad about the company’s efforts to offshore and relocate jobs.

“Verizon is already turning people’s lives upside down by sending us hundreds of miles from home for weeks at a time, and now they want to make it even worse,” said Dan Hylton, a technician and CWA member in Roanoke, Va., who’s been with Verizon for 20 years. “Technicians on our team have always been happy to volunteer after natural disasters when our customers needed help, but if I was forced away from home for two months, I have no idea what my wife would do. She had back surgery last year, and she needs my help. I just want to do a good job, be there for my family, and have a decent life.”

The Verizon negotiations began in June 2015, and the workers’ contract expired on August 1. At the same time, Verizon’s CEO is making 200 times more than the average Verizon employee, and the company’s top five executives made $233 million over the last five years.

“For months and months, we’ve made every effort to reach a fair agreement at the bargaining table,” said Myles Calvey, IBEW Local 2222 business manager and chairman, T-6 Verizon New England. “We’ve offered Verizon hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings and yet they still refuse to provide basic job security for workers. We have to take a stand now for our families and every American worker.”

Even after significant worker concessions on healthcare, Verizon is attempting to make devastating cut backs, including:

  • Offshoring and contracting out even more customer service work to Mexico, the Philippines and other locations.
  • Cutting job security for all workers.
  • Requiring technicians to work away from home for as long as two months, without seeing their families. For anyone trying to balance work and family life, this is impossible.
  • Refusing to negotiate improvements to wages, benefits and working conditions for Verizon Wireless workers, who formed a union with CWA in 2014.
  • Freezing pensions at 30 years of service and forcing retirees to pay extremely high health care costs.
  • Slashing benefits for workers injured on the job.

Verizon’s corporate greed isn’t just harming workers’ families, it’s hurting customers as well. Service quality has deteriorated to the point that New York State’s Public Service Commission has convened a formal hearing to investigate problems across the Empire State. In the last few weeks, regulators in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have launched similar inquiries into Verizon’s operations.

For years, Verizon has been cutting vital staff — it has nearly 40 percent fewer workers now than a decade ago. Verizon has failed to hire the personnel necessary to properly roll out FiOS, the high-speed broadband service that is still unavailable to many of its customers. In cities like Philadelphia and New York, Verizon has failed to meet the buildout obligations under their citywide cable franchise agreements.

“Verizon wants to force through changes that would make it easier to uproot workers and hurt our communities,” said Betsy Derr, a customer service representative and CWA member in Bloomsburg, Pa., who’s worked at Verizon for over 16 years. “My job could be relocated about 70 miles away.  With three more hours of time commuting every day, I’ll be gone before my stepsons get up and maybe home for an hour before they go to bed.”

Union Busting: Legal Team Creates Unions To Raid Memberships, Benefiting Employers

A union busting legal firm, Seham Seham Meltz & Petersen, is working to undercut workers through divisive tactics and raiding the membership of United Association of Flight Attendants members.

union-busterUnion busting is nothing new. For over a hundred years employers have fought against unionizing efforts and worked to break unions after they win an election.

They use fear and intimidation to push people against forming a union. After a union is elected they hold up negotiations, even sending out false information to workers, in an effort to splinter union support.

Like I said, this is nothing new. We have seen these tactics in action for decades. Now we are seeing a new type of union busting, where the employer encourages workers to form a new union to replace the current union. Yes, you read that right, the employer works with a “union” to raid the membership of an existing union to gain enough support to have the existing union de-certified, thereby loosing all of the gains made from previous contracts.

This tactic is very sneaky and very hard to pull off, but it has worked in the past for one specific law firm, Seham Seham Meltz & Petersen (SSM&P). The conditions have to be just right to make this work. There must be a certain level of discontent within the exiting union and this usually happens as contract negotiations fail.   The “company union” then organizes the discontent workers into forming a new union to replace the exiting union.

A Long History of Pro-Company Union Organizing

Over the last forty years members of the law firm of SSM&P have been forming these new unions, mostly during times of chaos like massive mergers or labor strife.

EL AL Israel Airlines - Boeing 767-3Y0(ER) - Tel Aviv Ben Gurion - 4X-EAP

EL AL Israel Airlines – Boeing 767-3Y0(ER) – Tel Aviv Ben Gurion – 4X-EAP

In 1983, Martin Seham, working for El Al Airlines, attempted to break the International Association of Machinists union that was in long and bitter contract negotiation that ultimately resulted in a 28-month strike.

“During the strike, some of the clerical workers decertified IAM in favor of an independent union. Management imposed severely concessionary terms and recruited scabs as replacement workers,” wrote Captain DD, who has done extensive research on SSM&P when his union, the Airline Pilots Association, came under attack from a new SSM&P union. “Labor law firms advising management typically play very significant roles in developing these anti-union strategies. It is an undeniable fact that it occurred on SSM&P’s watch, and it occurred after that firm played a leading role in helping management to divide the rank-and-file and then crush its workers and the lAM at EI AI.”

In the early 1990s, Seham worked for Varig Airlines, a Brazilian air carrier, to once again undercut the Machinists union.

“This negotiation resulted in another strike. During these negotiations, management-with Seham as its advisor- insisted on removing all restrictions on its right to subcontract work and to remove the union security clause,” explained Captain DD. “The IAM understood that the notice was specifically designed to intimidate and coerce union members to resign their membership with the organization.”

In the decades that followed, SSM&P has been connected with new start up unions at Northwest Airlines, United Airlines, US Air, Delta, and other carriers that were already represented by unions.

SSM&P say they are fighting for workers and trying to form a new union. What they are really doing is pitting worker against worker to completely break the existing union, leaving all of the workers without any protections and without a voice.

The Northwest Suicide Strike

Seham Seham Meltz & Petersen are most well known for forming the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Organization (AMFA), who some have called the worst union in the country, specifically for their raids on other unions and complete lack of leadership.

While AMFA was attempting to organize mechanics at Northwest Airlines, who were already represented by the International Association of Machinists, “Northwest assisted AMFA by allowing [AMFA] access to company property and equipment and that AMFA supporters were allowed to campaign while on company time.”

Northwest most likely assisted AMFA because they knew that a new union would be easier to negotiate with than the IAM and would eliminate all of the previously negotiated agreements.

The AMFA did ultimately win the right to represent the 10,000 mechanics at Northwest Airlines and in turn de-certified the IAM.

Striking union mechanics Don Diedrich, left, and Bert Atienza are on picket duty outside the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, just after the vote result was announced. Both voted "no." (MPR Photo/Jeff Horwich)

Striking union mechanics Don Diedrich, left, and Bert Atienza are on picket duty outside the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, just after the vote result was announced. Both voted “no.” (MPR Photo/Jeff Horwich)

In AMFA’s negotiations with Northwest, AMFA gave Northwest the ability to sub-contract work outside of the union. This resulted in nearly 8,000 good jobs being lost to outside contractors over the years that followed.

After 9/11, Northwest’s losses were piling up and they went to AMFA demanding concessions. AMFA refused to accept the concessions without holding a vote from the membership on Northwest’s “last best offer”. Then AMFA’s leadership took members out on strike, without holding a strike authorization vote, in what became known as the “suicide strike”.

Thousand of workers walked out in the strike. AMFA worked out a deal with Northwest for a “No Retribution, Retaliation or Harassment Due to Participation or Non-Participation in the Strike or Permanent Replacement Status.” In laymen’s terms, this let the scabs that crossed the strike line, keep their jobs and the rest of the unionized workers were laid off.

What union would ever agree to let scab workers keep their jobs while union members are being tossed aside? Any real, pro-worker union, not a company front group, would never have accepted these terms to allow scab workers to keep union member jobs.

Thanks to AMFA’s leadership the 10,000 mechanics at Northwest, were replaced by 500 scab workers.

After Northwest and Delta merged, “AMFA extinguished their certification with no fight at all.” This appears that they were never really in it for the workers.

Seham Seham Meltz & Petersen Strike Again With Another “New Union”

SSM&P are the legal team behind the United Flight Attendants Association, a new union trying to win representation rights from the Association of Flight Attendants (CWA-AFA), who currently represent United Airlines Flight Attendants.

AFA is currently deep in negotiations with United as their current contract is expiring and possible strikes are on the horizon. This situation is nearly identical to all of the other “new unions” formed by SSM&P to fracture the membership.

The newly formed UFAA is trying to get current AFA members to give up their membership and join with UFAA. If they gain enough support AFA would be ousted leaving SSM&P to negotiate on behalf of the workers. What could go wrong with that?

Sito Pantoja, General Vice President of the International Association of Machinists addressed this attempt to raid AFA’s membership without calling out UFAA by name. In an email to AFA members Pantoja clearly stated that IAM stands with CWA-AFA against this fake union.

International_Association_Of_Machinists_and_Aerospace_Workers_logo1“That is why I was extremely dismayed to hear that a few misguided individuals are trying to fracture your union. If they succeed, it will dismantle our successful partnership and all Flight Attendants will lose.”

“Your solidarity and bargaining strength is being undermined by an attempt to lure you away from AFA with promises from a union that does not even exist. This upstart has no finances, no structure, no resources and no experience. A website and a constitution written by a union-busting lawyer does not make a union.”

“The IAM has faced similar challenges from the same people directing this group, and each time airline workers lost…”

“…These divisive efforts surface only during contract negotiations, which cripples the Union bargaining committee and only benefits the company. When unionized workers sign an election authorization card to change unions they play right into the company’s divide and conquer strategy, making it much harder for your negotiators to attain the contract you have earned.”

“The Machinists Union strongly supports the AFA and looks forward to continuing and strengthening our partnership. I urge you to do the same and soundly reject any request to sign a card for this splinter group. Each card that is signed weakens your solidarity and position at the bargaining table.”

Do not be fooled by these union busting lawyers who are looking to steal your voice. They want you to sign a union authorization card, a legally binding document, to de-certify the AFA.

I do not have any proof that SSM&P are working for, or in collusion with, United Airlines but the parallels of their previous union busting actions are uncanny.

United flight attendants should beware that these union busting lawyers are behind this coup and their goal is to destroy the strength you have gained through years of negotiations, contracts and solidarity.

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