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

Image via WikiCommon

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

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

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

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

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

Unions Applaud President Obama’s “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” Executive Order

White House Pens

White House PensToday is a monumental day for federal workers and those who work for federal contractors.   Today President Obama made it very clear that he would no longer tolerate the mistreatment of workers who are being paid for with money from the US Government.

The White House Press Secretary explains:

“As part of this Year of Action, the President will sign an Executive Order that will require prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations and will give agencies more guidance on how to consider labor violations when awarding federal contracts. Although many contractors already play by the rules, and federal contracting offers already must assess a contractor’s record of integrity, these officers still may not necessarily know about companies’ workplace violations. The new process is also structured to encourage companies to settle existing disputes, like paying back wages. And finally, the Executive Order also ensures that workers are given the necessary information each pay period to verify the accuracy of their paycheck and workers who may have been sexually assaulted or had their civil rights violated get their day in court by putting an end to mandatory arbitration agreements at corporations with large federal contracts.”

“By cracking down on federal contractors who break the law, the President is helping ensure that all hardworking Americans get the fair pay and safe workplaces they deserve.”

While Congress is rushing around to finish their last sessions before leaving on a month long vacation, the President using his executive authority to do what Congress is incapable of doing.

“Once again, the President is leading by example. Establishing the principle that if you are breaking the law, you don’t get to do business with the biggest employer in the country — the federal government,” said Joseph Geevarghese, deputy director of Change to Win. “Just like the executive order raising the minimum wage had a ripple effect across the economy, we hope that this bold step by the President sends a clear signal to the private sector that you need to do right by your workers.”

“Taxpayers shouldn’t reward lawbreakers that bust unions, steal wages and endanger workers,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “President Obama is right to make it harder for companies that abuse workers to receive federal contracts.”

Many who have worked for years, if not decades, pushing for an Executive Order that would protect workers, paid high praise to President Obama for his leadership.

“From raising wages to workplace protections, President Obama is showing strong leadership where it’s needed most,” said Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President. “Today’s executive order is a common sense measure that will make our contracting system fairer. Preventing tax dollars from being funneled to chronic violators of workers’ rights is good for workers, our economy and companies who play by the rules. When Congress shows the same leadership, all workers will be better off.”

“By signing this executive order, President Obama has demonstrated his continued commitment to protecting the rights of American workers,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. “This action will help protect the wages and lives of millions of Americans by giving the government tools to identify and fix workplace violations committed by companies that hold federal contracts. President Obama is right to use his authority to ensure that the federal government leads in the fight for good jobs, protects taxpayer dollars and makes sure the government gets good value for the goods and services it purchases.

“I commend President Obama for signing an executive order that will hold companies that receive significant taxpayer dollars more accountable for their actions,” said Dennis Williams, President of the United Auto Workers. “The president’s order will help tens of millions of workers have a better workplace environment and will create a level playing field for businesses that do the right thing. Today’s announcement is yet another example of the president’s tireless work to improve workplace safety and employees rights.”

“The UAW is proud to stand with President Obama — a president who has stood by hard working Americans! This is another step in the right direction to help rebuild the middle class and strengthen our economy,” Williams said.

“Today, President Obama took a stand for American workers by signing an executive order that will promote fairer and safer workplaces for employees of government contractors,” said Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworker Union. “While many federal contractors already play by the rules and try to treat their workers fairly, thousands of hard-working Americans end up being denied the pay they deserve, or being exposed to health and safety risks, because some contractors insist on cutting corners in the name of profits.”

This is a major step forward to ensure that all workers get what they rightfully earned and those who cheat will not be rewarded. Here are some of the ways the President Obama is going to be cracking down on government contractors.

  1. Hold Corporations Accountable
  2. Crack Down on Repeat Violators
  3. Promote Efficient Federal Contracting 
  4. Protect Responsible Contractors
  5. Focus on Helping Companies Improve
  6. Give Employees a Day in Court
  7. Give Employees Information About their Paychecks
  8. Streamline Implementation and Overall Contractor Reporting

    (You can read the full press release with expanded descriptions of each of these points here.)

“Holding contractors to basic labor standards not only ensures that the federal government is getting the proper value for its dollar, it will protect responsible contractors in the marketplace from unfair competition by unethical employers who profit from their violations of the labor and employment laws that all employers are required to respect,” continued SEIU President Mary Kay Henry.

The SEUI and Good Jobs Nation have been working to organize low-wage fast food workers both inside and outside the government. Yesterday, low-wage federal contract workers who are part of Good Jobs Nation went on strike for the 9th time to call for an end to wage theft, living wages and benefits, and the right to collectively bargain. They are on the front lines when it comes to the horrors of wage theft and maleficence from government contractors.

“The current system doesn’t do enough to ensure taxpayer dollars only go to responsible employers. It’s difficult to know about a company’s record of compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act and others laws that protect working families. That’s why President Obama’s action today is so important. With more than 20 percent of Americans working for companies that do business with the federal government, this executive order will have a real impact on the lives of workers,” concluded Kay Henry.

“Today’s announcement builds on years of work by UFCW members and our partner unions to create a system that is fairer for workers and encourages a race to the top when it comes to labor standards,” said Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). “These efforts included a 2013 resolution passed unanimously by delegates to the UFCW convention calling on the creation of a ‘High Road’ procurement process.”

All in all this order is about protecting workers in every sector of the government.

“In the last several years, the meat and poultry industries have received over 1 billion dollars from taxpayers. Many workers in these industries work full-time yet are not paid enough to support themselves or their families. They also must endure dangerous workplace conditions and chronic underreporting of injuries by their employers,” continued Hansen. “This executive order sends a message that companies who engage in this type of anti-worker activity must change the way they do business or lose access to their government contracts.”

Others took this announcement as chance to once again to highlight the dysfunction of our current Congress.

“With this order, President Obama has sent the message that in the United States, we put people ahead of profits, as he has throughout his time in the Oval Office,” continued USW President Leo Gerard. “Sadly, we have a Republican Congress that takes the opposite approach. Because they are more interested in giving handouts to their wealthy donors than in helping working Americans, the President is forced to take action on his own.”

“We welcome this action by President Obama and call on everyone in Washington to follow his example and start working together to make life better for all American workers and their families,” concluded Gerard.

All in all it was a good day for workers, a bad day for corporations who cheat, and a good day for the American taxpayers who will see savings from the new contracting process.

“I want to thank President Obama, Secretary of Labor Perez, and all those involved in crafting this executive order. Today’s announcement is an important first step in ensuring our government is doing everything in its power to protect America’s workers,” concluded UFCW President Joe Hansen.

Related post: The Government Is The Largest Creator Of Low-Wage Jobs – by Matt Murray

The AFL-CIO and SEIU Respond To Congressmen Ellison And Lewis’ Legislation To Make Unions A Civil Right

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Yesterday Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN) and John Lewis (D-GA) introduced legislation to make it easier for workers to organize and form unions.  They are making changes to the National Labor Relations Act the would make the formation of unions a civil right.

Here is a great introduction to the bill from the Washington Examiner:

“Ellison and Lewis’ legislation would dramatically expand the powers individual workers have under the act by allowing them to sue their employer in federal court under the Civil Rights Act.

The bill would also entitle workers filing lawsuits “to remedies like punitive and compensatory damages,” according to a Tuesday press release.

Currently most unfair labor practice complaints go through the National Labor Relations Board, which was created expressly for that purpose. Some labor disputes are handled by a second entity, the National Mediation Board. Big Labor has long complained the process is too slow.”

Read the full article.

After Representatives Keith Ellison and John Lewis introduced the “Employee Empowerment Act,” Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), issued the following statement:

“This important piece of legislation introduced today by Representatives Ellison and Lewis is emblematic of their deep commitment to workers’ rights and steadfast opposition to discrimination and intimidation anywhere, particularly at the workplace. The bill gives employees whose labor rights are violated the same legal remedies as those whose civil rights are violated at the workplace.

“Too often, employees seeking to unite with their co-workers to demand better wages, benefits and workplace safety provisions face aggressive and often illegal anti-union campaigns coordinated by their employer. Intimidation, illegal firings, wrongful discipline and other tactics aimed at breaking workers’ will are commonplace when they seek to join together on the job.

“Along with Representatives Ellison and Lewis, we believe that workers have the right to stick together and that there are powerful interests dead set on stripping them of that right. In order for workers to be heard, it’s often necessary to band together so companies take them seriously. Too many employers try to prevent this so they can limit workers’ power. Collective bargaining enables employees unite as a group so they can speak with a more powerful voice.

“We thank Representatives Ellison and Lewis for their leadership and hope that House leadership will take up this bill without delay.”

After the announcement  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement on Employee Empowerment Act:

Once again, Representatives Keith Ellison and John L. Lewis are leading in the fight to improve the lives of millions of hardworking Americans. The Employee Empowerment Act represents a crucial step towards ensuring that all workers are able to organize without the threat of retaliation and that workers will have full recourse available to them when employers interfere with their rights.

Eighty years ago, Congress made it the policy of the U.S. government to encourage the practice of collective bargaining – not just to tolerate it, but to expand it. Our economy was built on workers forming unions and engaging in collective bargaining. Further strengthening these rights is important to economic fairness. We need comprehensive changes to the law to strengthen workers’ collective bargaining rights, and the Employee Empowerment Act is an important piece of those reforms. By beefing up the remedies for workers who face discrimination or retaliation by their employers for trying to form or join a union, the bill strengthens worker protections and puts remedies under our labor laws on par with our civil rights laws. This helps better protect workers’ rights to organize and, when passed, will benefit workers and our entire economy.

Richard Trumka on Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports

Richard Trumka (The Nation / AP-Photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Trumka (The Nation / AP-Photo)

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

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

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

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

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

Working People Score Major Victories Throughout The Country

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Working people scored major victories over the last several months, organizing new workplaces and winning fights to raise wages.

The following are a sample of some these victories:

Organizing Victories

Texas Machinists Win Back-to-Back Organizing Drives: Union growth continues in Texas as members from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers successfully organized their second consecutive workplace in Texas this month adding nearly 1,000 new members.

Point Park University Faculty Organize Hundreds to Gain Benefits: Over 300 part-time faculty members at Point Park University in Pittsburgh now have access to essential benefits and protections thanks to a successful vote to join the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers (AFA-USW).

Missouri EMS Workers Win Organizing Fight: An overwhelming majority of Emergency Medical Service (EMS) professionals in Independence, Missouri voted to join EMS Workers United-AFSCME, strengthening the local union and providing essential protections for Missouri workers.

Raising Wages Victories

Massachusetts Workers Help Push Minimum Wage Hike: Working people in Massachusetts scored a big win as Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation that will increase the state’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017.

Newark, NJ Paid Sick-Leave Ordinance Goes Into Effect: A new paid sick-leave law in Newark, NJ will allow full and part-time employees to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick-leave per year. Similar paid sick-leave laws have passed in cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Momentum Builds for Minimum Wage Hike in Nebraska: Workers in Nebraska put a measure on the 2014 ballot to raise the minimum wage to $9 and hour by 2016.

California Workers Benefit from Minimum Wage Increase: An increase in California’s minimum wage to $9 an hour has taken effect, with the wage set to increase again in 2016 to $10 an hour. Meanwhile, efforts continue in Los Angeles to increase the minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour.

Community Victories

Philadelphia Building-Trades Go to Work with New Housing Deal: A deal between Philadelphia building-trades unions and the Philadelphia Housing Authority will put people to work in union jobs while creating new affordable housing for Pennsylvanians.

Letter Carriers Complete Successful Food Drive: Members of the National Association of Letter Carriers completed their annual food drive, collecting more than 72 million pounds of food for families in need.

Union Volunteers Help Aspiring Americans Earn Citizenship: On June 28th at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, DC, volunteers helped nearly 100 people through the U.S. citizenship process, enabling them to file paperwork with the help of legal and immigration experts.

The SCOTUS Rules On “Recess Appointments” To The NLRB

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Yesterday the news broke that the Supreme Court of the United States had issued a ruling on whether or not the President could make “recess appointments.” A recess appointment is when the Senate is officially in “recess,” and the President nominates someone to an official Executive Branch position, like the National Labor Relations Board.

“Today’s ruling clears up the legal landscape on a question both Democratic and Republican presidents have faced for decades – the circumstances under which the United States Constitution allows them to make temporary recess appointments to executive branch positions,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

“President Obama made the recess appointments to the NLRB because obstructionism by Republican senators was about to make the National Labor Relations Board inoperable due to a lack of NLRB members,” continued Trumka. “The President did the right thing and acted on solid legal authority in making these appointments. Had he not acted, millions of workers would have been deprived of their rights under our labor laws.”

This ruling did clear up a few things:

1) The President can make a recess appointment if the recess is longer than ten (10) days.

2) They ruled that the parliamentary trick of holding “pro-forma” session – a session where nothing gets done but technically there is a session – would be enough to break to officially keep the Senate “in session”, and would reset the clock on the any recess timetables. The effectively means that if the Senate held a “pro-forma” session every nine days during long breaks, the President would not make any recess appointments.

3) They ruled that President Obama appointments to the NLRB were unconstitutional. This means all the cases where these NLRB appointees issued a ruling (before they were fully confirmed by the Senate), are now invalid.

Trumka pointed to the filibuster rule change that is allowing appointments to move through better than they were before. “Fortunately Senate leaders successfully changed Senate rules so that Executive Branch nominees can now be confirmed by a majority of the Senate and cannot be blocked by a minority of senators.”

“While today we have a fully functioning National Labor Relations Board to act on behalf of workers, this ruling invalidates countless other NLRB rulings that must now be decided again,” stated Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “This not only puts an additional burden on the NLRB, it creates uncertainty and additional pain for those workers who believed they had found justice. We are confident the NLRB will act swiftly on these cases”

Weingarten was very critical of the real people who were inhibiting the appointments to the NLRB.

“Let’s be clear—this case was the result of Republicans’ relentless obstructionism and their efforts to interfere with President Obama’s ability to make our government work and ensure the NLRB functions on behalf of working people,” continued Weingarten. “While the Senate reached a temporary compromise on presidential appointments, this ruling could embolden a minority of senators to take action in the future to prevent the president from making the appointments needed to ensure our democracy can function fully on behalf of the American people.”

The Communication Workers of America have been working diligently over the past few years to bring awareness to the problems with the antiquated filibuster rule that is allowing the minority to block important pieces of legislation and major appointments. They used their massive network of members to start a national conversation to “Fix the Senate” and pushed to “Give Us Five” referring to a full five member NLRB.

CWA released the following statement

Today’s Supreme decision is a sharp reminder that the U.S. Senate functions under archaic procedures that must change. That’s especially true of the rule requiring a super-majority, or 60 votes, for the Senate to recess.

The Senate rules are at the heart of this decision and the Constitution is clear that the Senate has the right to set its own rules.

In every other democratic meeting, from the local city council to any major parliamentary body, proceedings are recessed by a majority vote. Only the U.S. Senate requires a super-majority to proceed to debate on most motions, legislation and including the motion to recess.

We have seen the consequences of this rule. It’s been a key tactic used by the Senate minority to block confirmation of the president’s executive and judicial nominations. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made his party’s intentions clear when he said his goal was to make President Obama a one-term president. When that didn’t succeed, the Senate minority stepped up a campaign of delay and obstruction, of appointments and any progressive legislative advances. The minority’s strategy of refusing to proceed to a vote for any recess has made a mockery of the Senate’s role in government.

The Senate’s constitutional duty is to review the president’s nominees through “advice and consent” – not use parliamentary tricks to impede his policy agenda.

For thousands of workers, this decision has real-life consequences. Some 120 decisions made by the National Labor Relations Board in the period contested by the Noel Canning lawsuit may be challenged and justice for thousands of workers will be delayed, and in practice, denied.

The need for real Senate rules reform has never been clearer, or more urgent. CWA and our allies, working together in the Democracy Initiative, are keeping up the fight for Senate rules changes. Critical is an end to the super-majority vote requirement that blocks debate and discussion of nearly all Senate business, even the motion to recess.

We need a functioning government if we are to ever recover from this economic slump, and the bitter partisanship that is crippling Washington. It just may be time to go “nuclear” on the filibuster rule, so we can make some real progress.

“White House Summit On Working Families” Focuses On Working Women And Their Families

(Image by Din Jimenez FLIKR)
(Image by Din Jimenez FLIKR)

(Image by Din Jimenez FLIKR)

Working families across the nation are struggling to make ends meet.  Unemployment is still too high, wages are too low, and people are working more and more, while getting less and less.

This week, workers from all across our great nation will be meeting with President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, and the Department of Labor for the White House Summit on Working Families.

The summit is focused on building an economy, and a workplace, that works for all Americans, with a focus on issues that face women and their families.  The Summit will focus on key issues such as workplace flexibility, equal pay, workplace discrimination, worker retention and promotion, and childcare/early childhood education.

Anna Neighbor, a Philadelphia adjunct professor cobbles together teaching positions at as many as four different colleges in a sometimes futile attempt to make ends meet.  She said college students are paralyzed by student loan debt, while a majority of their professors—like herself—work part time, are underpaid and receive no benefits.

Anna mirrors the struggles of many working people who have continued to see an erosion of their pay as the cost of living continues to rise. Even though Anna has an advanced degree, and is a college level educator, she receives no benefits and gets paid as low as $10 per hour.

Priscilla Smith, a teacher’s aide in Lake View, N.Y., near Buffalo, had to take on extra evening, weekend and early morning jobs to help her family financially.

We need to change the way we treat, and pay, our educators. The people, who are educating the workers of tomorrow, should not be forced to work two and three jobs to avoid living in poverty.

Gloria Wright, a 20-year Detroit preschool paraprofessional/assistant teacher hasn’t seen a raise in more than five years. She thinks about leaving the profession, but the pull of the rewards she receives from her students’ accomplishments keeps her in the classroom.

For many people serving their community is very rewarding, however you cannot pay the bills with the smiles of happy four-year olds. Like Gloria, many continue to live on the edge of financial ruin because they truly love the kids, and love what they are doing for their community.

Kendra Liddell a Seattle single mother is paid so little as a 10-year early childhood educator that she has to earn supplemental income to get by. She plans to get a degree in a better-paying field to bring some financial stability to her family, and then return to the classroom because of her deep commitment to serving families and her community.

For decades policy makers have been trying to find solutions to the fact that women continue to earn less than men.  In spite of our best efforts women on average make $.77 on the dollar to a man.  For women of color, the problem is even worse. “African-American women are paid only 64 cents, and Hispanic women only 54 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.”

Women continued to be oppressed in the workplace. Across the board women represent 42% of the overall workforce. Yet women are often excluded from industries like the building trades, which pay much better than retail or office work.  In fact, only 2.6% of all construction workers are women, a number that has remained relatively unchanged for over 30 years.

Percent of Women in Workforce

Vanessa Casillas a bricklayer from Chicago, IL said, “I like being outside and working with my hands, and if I feel good doing it, why should I be limited if I’m a woman?”

Rocky Hwasta a carpenter of Cleveland, OH said, “I became a carpenter in 1985.  Women were not accepted then and are not accepted now.  Although I had a bachelor’s degree, as a single mom, I needed a good paying job with benefits to raise my family of three children.”

Women in the workplace 2

Recently eleven New Hampshire union building trades opened their doors in a special invitation for women to learn a lasting trade.  The Building Pathways NH program gave local women the chance to see what a career in the building trades would be with a rigorous, five week, hands-on introduction to the different skilled trades.  After they complete the Building Pathways program, they are invited to join a full apprentice program with any of the associated unions.

Elizabeth Skidmore, Business Agent for the Carpenters Local 118, helped create the Building Pathways NH program and will be speaking about the new and innovative program, as an invited guest at the Working Families Summit.

“I’m honored to be included in this summit and that the work a broad team has done over the last five years to increase the number of women working in union construction has been given to the White House as a national best practice,” said Skidmore. “Many partners, from labor to local, state and federal government, as well as union contractors and community partners, have worked together to identify and implement game changers, which has put more women to work in these high-skill, high-pay careers.”

The Working Families Summit will hopefully find solutions to some of the many problems that are plaguing working families.  Problems like low pay, good affordable healthcare, retirements, sick days, paid time off and pay equity.

Our economy does better when we all do better.  We need an America that works for everyone, businesses and workers alike.

Workers and Collective Bargaining in Spotlight in Advance of White House Summit on Working Families

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Washington, DC – Labor organizations today turn the spotlight on the individual stories of workers who have benefitted from collective bargaining or are fighting for a voice on the job. Today’s stories cap off a week of activities around working families and working women in advance of the White House Summit on Working Families.

More than 250 workers representing various unions and millions of workers, will be in attendance to ensure the voices of working families are heard.  Profiles of some of the workers can be found here: http://go.aflcio.org/WomenWorkers

Here are some snapshots of their stories:

Celeste Kirkland, Third Rail Maintainer of White Plains, NY
“I finally landed a job within New York City Transit.  It was a union job and meant that my children would have access to quality medical care, and I would be able to provide for my two young sons.”

Vanessa Casillas, Bricklayer of Chicago, IL
“I like being outside and working with my hands, and if I feel good doing it, why should I be limited if I’m a woman?”

Rocky Hwasta, Carpenter of Cleveland, OH
“I became a carpenter in 1985.  Women were not accepted then and are not accepted now.  Although I had a bachelor’s degree, as a single mom, I needed a good paying job with benefits to raise my family of three children.”

Anna Neighbor, Adjunct Professor of Philadelphia area
“Cobbling together as many positions as possible each semester or year is necessary, because as an adjunct, Anna has no job security, no benefits and a salary that can drop to as low as $10 per hour.”

Carmella Salinas, Early Childhood Educator of Espanola, NM
“I wish I could be a parent who could help my two daughters pay for college, but being passionate about teaching young children does not afford me that luxury and that is something I struggle with every day.”

Zelda Mnqanqeni-Waters, Waitress of Philadelphia, PA
“We’ll do what it takes to make sure we have a future at this hotel that we can count on.  We know what we’re worth and we’ll stick together to get it.”

Tiffaney Lewis, clerical worker of Pueblo, CO
“I also know that if my children were to become ill I would be able to get the best medical care possible because of our medical benefits that are also part of our contract.”

Follow the conversation on social media at #WFSpeakUp and #WorkingFamilies.  Or visit the AFL-CIO blog for more stories from working families. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog