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AFT-NH Hosts “Working Women Speak Out” (Videos)

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and AFT President Randi Weingarten

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This election is extremely important to working women and their families.  Ensuring that we elect representatives who support women in the workplace was what the Working Women Speak Out event was focused on.

Issues facing working women are the same issues effected every Granite Stater this election.  AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler said, “Women’s issues are shaping up to be the second biggest issue of this election.” Working women are facing enormous challenges in our struggling economy. “Women still only make $.77 cents on the dollar compared to man, and that is a shame,” said Shuler.  In her speech, Shuler focused on reelecting Governor Hassan, Senator Shaheen, and Congresswoman Annie Kuster who all support raising the minimum wage and equal pay for equal work.  Shuler also talked about the need to pass “paid sick leave” for all workers, especially since most low wage jobs, like waiting tables, provide no paid time off when your sick.

View Liz Shuler video on YouTube

AFT-President Randi Weingarten also spoke at the event and focused how poverty and education effect working families. “Nearly half of all public school students are living below the poverty line, and one-in-four (25%) of all children nationally are living in poverty,” said Weingarten.  She also talked about how we need to ensure that we are properly funding our public school system. “The only reason we passed a nation budget was because the Republicans were embarrassed after they shut down the government,” said Weingarten. “How dare they say they support children when they cut public school budgets to give tax breaks to the 1%.”

(Randi also spoke in detail about the effects of spending caps like the one in Nashua in separate post here.)

View Randi’s speech on YouTube

Kelly Torosian, an IBEW 2320 member and an Executive Council member of the NH AFL-CIO, took a few minutes to update the crowd on the ongoing FairPoint strike. Torosian asked for people to show their support for workers standing on the picket line by donating gas cards and grocery store gift cards.  After hearing about the current struggle of striking workers, Weingarten stated, “AFT will donate $5,000 dollars to the FairPoint workers strike fund.”

The crowd of 70 people gave a standing ovation to Governor Hassan as she entered the room, showing their support for her strong leadership in the corner office.  “Building a strong innovative economy starts with a strong public schools system,” said Hassan.  Governor Hassan also spoke about the need to “restore and improve the state minimum wage.”

Hassan also brought attention to the importance of keeping Democrats in control of the NH House and not letting Bill O’Brien regain control.  As Speaker, O’Brien cut funding to public schools, the University of New Hampshire system, and repealed the New Hampshire Minimum Wage law.

Governor Hassan also talked about the importance of having access to quality healthcare and provide low income workers with healthcare through the Medicaid Expansion. “As of this week 20,000 Granite Staters now have healthcare thanks to the Medicaid Expansion,” said Hassan.

View Governor Hassan’s speech on YouTube.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster also talked about the Bill O’Brien House and her opponent Marilinda Garcia, who was one of the select few to be a part of  O’Brien’s leadership team.  Kuster talked about her work in Congress to help working families by pushing for expanded access to healthcare, raising the minimum wage and passing a national Paycheck Fairness law.  Kuster noted that while she supports legislation that would help working women, her opponent, wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, opposes raising the minimum wage, and paycheck fairness is unneeded legislation.

Garcia also wants to abolish the Department of Education that would virtually eliminate the federal student loan program, even though Garcia currently owes tens of thousands of dollars in Sallie Mae student loans.

View Rep. Annie Kuster’s speech on YouTube.

Laura Hainey, President of AFT-NH organized the event and spent a couple of minutes talking about working to ensure that Speaker Bill O’Brien does not regain power in Concord.  As President of AFT-NH, Hainey knows first hand the devastation that another O’Brien legislature would do to the public schools system in New Hampshire.

View Laura Hainey’s speech on YouTube.

Senator Shaheen was unable to attend the event due to a scheduling conflict — she was in Northern New Hampshire campaigning with Sen. Elizabeth Warren — her daughter Stacy gave a short speech on her behalf.  Stacy Shaheen talked about how hard her mother is working for the people of New Hampshire. “My mom is a workhorse,” said Shaheen.  “She has been working for the people of New Hampshire for a long time.”

Working families in New Hampshire need more representatives like this strong, women leaders.

Talk to your friends, neighbors and family members about how important this election is and then encourage them to vote on Nov. 4th.

Labor Movement Mobilizes Latino Working Families Ahead of Midterm Elections

(Photo by Bill Burke, Page One Photography)

Latinos in key battleground states rally around worker-friendly candidates

(Washington, DC) – With the 2014 midterm elections around the corner, the AFL-CIO is increasing its mobilization efforts to reach out to Latinos voters in key states across the country. The AFL-CIO is urging voters to support candidates who stand up for the issues that matter the most to working families, not just wealthy CEOs.

Through phone banks, canvassing and community organizations, volunteers are reaching out to Latino voters in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Last week the AFL-CIO circulated fact sheets detailing the significance of the Latino vote in deciding important races in each of these states.

“Latino voters are vital to ensuring that worker-friendly candidates are elected to represent their communities,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “So much is at stake this year – from keeping higher education affordable to implementing a roadmap to citizenship. It is clear that Latinos cannot afford to sit on the sidelines. The labor movement is committed to making sure that the voice of this important community is heard loud and clear on November 4th.”

America’s Latinos are an ever-increasing voting population. According to the Pew Research Center, a record 25.2 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the 2014 midterm elections, making up 11% of eligible voters nationwide. However, the turnout rate of eligible Latino voters has historically lagged that of whites and blacks by substantial margins. The efforts of the AFL-CIO seek to close this turnout gap and support the election of politicians that stand up for middle class families.

AFL-CIO Worker’s Voice PAC To Air Ads In Seven Key States

AFL-CIO_Headquarters_by_Matthew_Bisanz2

With high stakes elections coming down to the wire across the country, the labor movement is going up on radio and TV in support of working family candidates.  The ads will build on the effective grassroots campaign that labor has been running for several months including door knocking, worksite leaflets and phone banking.

Workers’ Voice has just launched full 60 second radio ads designed to educate working families about the stakes on November 4th and promote the candidates who will work for their economic interests:

  • Senator Mark Begich (Alaska)
  • Senator Mark Udall (Colorado)
  • Congressman Bruce Braley (running for Senate in Iowa)
  • Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (running for Senate in Kentucky)
  • Congressman Mike Michaud (running for Governor in Maine)
  • Mary Burke (running for Governor in Wisconsin)

Each ad will run through Election Day in multiple markets across each state.

In addition, a 30 second television ad in Michigan launches today and will air through Election Day.

Each of these ads focus on economic issues and aim to clarify for voters which candidate will fight for a secure and growing middle class.

The Iowa radio ad is an example: By including Senate candidate Jodi Ernst’s own words in support of Social Security privatization, the ad steps above the din on an issue (retirement security) of deep-seated concern to working people in Iowa.

To listen to any of the radio ads, click below:

Alaska US Senate, Radio

Colorado US Senate, Radio

Iowa, US Senate Radio

Kentucky US Senate, Radio

Maine Governor Radio

Wisconsin Governor, Radio

And the Michigan Governor TV ad can be found here

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

Minimum Wage 101

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

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

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

AFL-CIO Announces Targeted Mail Campaign In Select States

AFLCIO Mail

AFLCIO MailMail to hit nearly 1 million households in AK, CO, CT, FL, IA, IL, KY, ME, MI and WI

(Washington, DC)—This week the AFL-CIO will launch its 2014 mail program, designed to persuade voters to support working family candidates. The mail is part of the AFL-CIO’s massive political mobilization program, which includes knocking on doors, distributing worksite fliers and phone banking. With more than 12 million members, the AFL-CIO’s boots on the ground make it one of the largest grassroots efforts in the country.

This week’s mail program includes 25 different pieces in 10 states: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan and Wisconsin. The mail specifies the economic stakes this fall for all working people. The program is built on the trust and solidarity within unions and is designed to encourage voting even among working people who are discouraged by the weak economy.

Subjects include the need for working people to vote to counteract corporate control of politics, hold accountable pro-Wall Street politicians, support public education and enable paid sick leave. This mail program will continue through Election Day, and conversations with union members about working family candidates will continue into 2015 and beyond.

To view individual mail pieces, click on this link or paste it into your browser: http://www.aflcio.org/Legislation-and-Politics/2014-Printed-Mail-Political-Ads

AFL-CIO Wants To Help All Workers With Executive Actions On Immigration

Time is now Immigration reform

AFL-CIO Presents a Panel Discussion on Advancing Workers’ Rights through Executive Action on Immigration

 This afternoon, the AFL-CIO hosted a panel discussion on the need for President Obama to advance the rights of workers by taking executive action on immigration. Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO, was joined on the panel by workers and pro-immigrant allies.

Karla Vegas, Legal Director for the Worker Defense Project (a project of the National Day Laborers’ Organizing Network), highlighted the perils that immigrant workers face.

“The labor movement is driven by its mission to ensure workers have good jobs and fair treatment. This cannot be fully accomplished without immigration relief for the millions of undocumented workers who labor in not only unjust, but dangerous, working conditions.”

Since April of 2013, the AFL-CIO has been working alongside grassroots groups to push for administrative relief to stop the government from using deportations as a weapon against immigrant workers and their families. There are currently 8 million immigrants, five percent of the labor force, who are working in the United States without documents. Their vulnerable position makes them a target for unscrupulous employers who exploit these hardworking men and women by using them as cheap labor, in turn suppressing wages and conditions for all workers.

Reyna Sorto shared her experiences as an undocumented worker.

“I worked in a company named Tito’s Contractors for 10 years and 10 months. My job there was as a laborer, separating recyclable materials. Although my work was physically heavy on me I always gave it my best effort; I have always been very proud of doing my job as a woman. At the same time I also had to endure a lot of sexual harassment in my workplace; working even when I was sick out of fear of losing my job, and almost losing it in 2008 when I got pregnant.”

Lorella Praeli of United We Dream highlighted the legal significance of executive action.

“In line with many legal scholars, UWD fully believes that the President has the constitutional and legal authority to defer action on individual cases and confer employment authorization to millions on the grounds of prosecutorial discretion. The President has a historic opportunity to show courage where Republicans showed cowardice by starting the process that only Congress can finish.”

The panel also included Matthew Ginsburg, Associate General Counsel of the AFL-CIO, Emilio Garcia Lagunes, a member of the United Steel Workers, Jayesh Rathod of American University’s Washington college of Law, Charles Kamasaki of the National Council of La Raza, Nadia Marin of the National Day Laborers’ Organizing Network, Andrea Mercado of the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance and Sonia Ramirez of the Building and Construction Trades Department.

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

Image from Working America FB

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.

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