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What Do We Know About The New NAFTA Proposal???

The Trump administration’s renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has just completed its third round of negotiations.

So what do we know about the newly proposed agreement? Pretty much nothing.

The negotiations are still being conducted in secret.  Like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the agreement is being negotiated by corporations without the input from labor.

Bits and pieces of the agreement have leaked out, like the Canadian proposal to strengthen workers rights to organize, but when it comes to the major portions of the agreement, mum is the word.

We need to ensure that the new NAFTA agreement: protects workers rights to organize, ensures fair pay for workers around the world, protects climate and environmental protections, eliminates the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) that allows corporations to circumvent a countries ability to create laws, and stops the incentive program that encourages corporations to offshore American jobs.

Celeste Drake, Trade Policy Specialist for the AFL-CIO just posted this video, explaining what we have learned from the third round of negotiations.

 

300 Union Members Head To Puerto Rico To Assist In Recovery Efforts

United ALPA Pilots Prior tl Flight to Puerto Rico
Image from ALPA

Unions and United Airlines Come Together to Fly More than 300 First Responders and Skilled Volunteers to Puerto Rico

35,000 pounds of relief supplies also delivered on flight
Evacuees to fill seats on return flight to Newark, New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J., Oct. 4, 2017 – Today, the AFL-CIO, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and United Airlines teamed up to fly more than 300 first responders and skilled volunteers—including nurses, doctors, electricians, engineers, carpenters and truck drivers—to Puerto Rico to help with relief and rebuilding efforts.

The flight was one way to respond to the urgent need to get highly skilled workers to Puerto Rico to help people seeking medical and humanitarian assistance as well as to help with the rebuilding effort. While in Puerto Rico, workers will coordinate with the Puerto Rico Federation of Labor and the city of San Juan on various efforts, including helping clear road blockages, care for hospital patients, deliver emergency supplies, and restore power and communications.

United Airlines volunteered a 777-300, one of the largest and newest aircraft in its fleet, to airlift this humanitarian relief team to San Juan. In addition to the hundreds of highly skilled workers assembled by the AFL-CIO, the flight was operated by ALPA- and AFA-CWA-represented United Airlines pilots and flight attendants volunteering their time. IAM-represented United ramp employees also will support the flight on the ground in Newark and San Juan.

The flight departed Newark Liberty International Airport at 11 a.m. ET and will arrive at San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport at approximately 2:45 p.m. ET. The flight also is transporting more than 35,000 pounds of such emergency relief supplies as food, water and essential equipment. The airline has operated more than a dozen flights to and from Puerto Rico, carrying nearly 740,000 pounds of relief-related cargo and more than 1,300 evacuees.

The United aircraft is returning to Newark this evening with evacuees from Puerto Rico. These passengers are being provided complimentary seats as part of United’s ongoing humanitarian relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

“The working families of Puerto Rico are our brothers and sisters. And this incredible partnership will bring skilled workers to the front lines to deliver supplies, care for victims and rebuild Puerto Rico,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Our movement is at its best when we work together during times of great need. But we are even better when we find common ground and partner with business and industry on solutions to lift up our communities. This endeavor is entirely about working people helping working people in every way possible. In times of great tragedy, our country comes together, and we are committed to doing our part to assist the people of Puerto Rico.”

“When our union sisters and brothers see a need in our national or international community, we don’t ask if we should act, we ask how,” said AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson. “Today is the result of our collective strength, compassion and commitment to action. I am proud United responded to the call to carry a union of relief workers among America’s working families to care for our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico. We are united in lifting up our fellow Americans. It is an honor to serve on the volunteer crew of Flight Attendants and Pilots transporting skilled relief workers and returning to New York with hundreds needing safe passage out of Puerto Rico.”


“Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico need help and this is a race against time,” said Captain Todd Insler, Chairman, ALPA United Airlines. “The ALPA pilots of United Airlines are honored to fly these skilled workers and medical professionals to San Juan today, and will continue to support the humanitarian efforts going forward. We applaud these brave volunteers who are dedicating their time, selflessly leaving their homes and families, and answering the call to help. The strength of the unions represented on this flight comes from workers joining together to help one another. Likewise, the strength of this joint relief effort comes from all of us—labor, management and government—standing together to help our fellow citizens in their time of need.”

“This flight carries not only much-needed supplies and skilled union labor, but also the love and support of more than 33,000 IAM members at United who will continue helping the people of Puerto Rico recover,” said IAM General Vice President Sito Pantoja.

While in Puerto Rico, OPEIU nurse members Kris Teed, RN , Elizabeth Moreno, RN, and Kyra Keusch, RN, will coordinate with the Puerto Rico AFL-CIO and the City of San Juan on various efforts.

“When our communities call out for help, we can come together and solve the biggest challenges by summoning the best of ourselves. We’ve answered this call many times over the past couple months, and Puerto Rico is no exception,” said Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines. “This flight embodies how working Americans, union leaders and business can unite with a shared sense of purpose to make a life-changing difference at this critical moment. We are deeply grateful to all of the first responders, highly skilled professionals and United employees who are going above and beyond to come to the aid of Puerto Rico.”

 

Unions throughout America have continued to offer supplies and other volunteer efforts in addition to today’s flight. Members on today’s flight are represented by 20 unions from 17 states.

AFL-CIO Makes A $500 Million Dollar Investment To Help Communities Hit By Hurricane Harvey

AFL-CIO Announces $5 Million in Cash Aid and $500 Million in Long-Term Investment to Help Communities Devastated by Hurricane Harvey

(Houston, TX) – AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler traveled to Houston to announce a significant investment by the labor movement to support Hurricane Harvey’s victims and to help rebuild areas destroyed by the historic storm. Specifically, she committed to raising $5 million in cash aid, and to marshalling labor’s investment and member benefits programs.

“This catastrophe has taken valuable lives. It has destroyed homes, leaving working people with nothing, but it will not take away our solidarity, or our strength and determination to stand together and get back on our feet,” said Shuler in Houston, addressing affected residents. “We are all in this together. Electricians, nurses, teachers and construction workers are on the front lines risking their lives to save lives. Working people here in Texas are at our best when we look after each other.”

While in Houston, Shuler also donated $100,000 from the national AFL-CIO to the Texas AFL-CIO’s Texas Workers Relief Fund.

Shuler added that the labor movement has a long-term commitment to help rebuild Houston and support working people affected by the storm.

“The AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust is putting together a program for investing $500 million over five years in affordable housing in the areas affected by Harvey,” she said. “We will be working together with the city of Houston, the Houston Housing Authority and community leaders to ensure these investments address both repair and new construction, in both owner-occupied housing and rental housing.”

A team from the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust will be traveling to the area next week to begin the planning work, Shuler said.

In addition, the AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust, a bank collective trust that provides risk-adjusted returns for union pension plans through investment in commercial real estate, and Ullico, a labor movement-affiliated financial service company, are working with the AFL-CIO on job-creating commercial real estate and infrastructure investment.

“Working people and our unions all across America are giving—our cash donations, our investment capital and our solidarity,” she concluded.

New Report Shows Non-Union Workers Are Less Likely To Have Paid Time Off

New AFL-CIO Labor Day Report Finds Americans’ Freedom to Spend Time with Family Eroding

Majority Think Unions Key to More Benefits on the Job

The majority of people agree that unions are the key to more benefits at work according to a new poll released today by the AFL-CIO, the Economic Policy Institute and GQRR.  The poll shows some startling results that fewer workers are getting paid time off for holidays and vacations, resulting in less time with their families. The poll also shows strong support for labor unions and that people want the ability to join a union.

Over the last twenty years research has shown that Americans are working more and more every year.  Productivity has gone up exponentially while wages have remained relatively flat.  For some, workers are working longer because they are forced to work two or three jobs, others because their employers expect them to work from home on their weekends.  63% of a people reported that they are taking fewer vacations and have less time off than they ever did in the past.
As workers face longer and longer workdays spending time with their families is becoming harder as many do not have access to paid time off for holidays or vacations.  The report shows that overall 23% of the workforce do not have paid holidays and 24% do not have paid vacations.  Access to paid time off even harder in low wage jobs.  “Among the bottom 10% of earners, 59% do not have access to paid holidays, while among the top 10% of earners, 7% do not have access to paid holidays.”

Share of private-sector workers without paid holidays, by wage group, 2017.

The report shows that if you want to have paid vacations, paid holidays, and overtime when you do work a holiday, it pays to be a union member.

The report showed: “While 78% of all working people polled have Labor Day off, 85% of union members do. Furthermore, 66% of union members receive overtime for working on Labor Day, compared with 38% of nonunion members. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of union members enjoy access to paid vacation, compared with 68% of nonunion members. Finally, 75% of union members have access to paid sick leave, compared with only 64% of nonunion members.”

The majority of American workers credit labor unions for many of the benefits they receive.
“Union workers empowered by the freedom to negotiate with employers do better on every single economic benchmark,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Union workers earn substantially more money, union contracts help achieve equal pay and protection from discrimination, union workplaces are safer, and union workers have better access to health care and a pension.”

The report goes on to talk about how very few working people have access to paid family leave. This is paid time off to take your child to the doctor or stay home when they are ill. “Only a paltry 14% of private-sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employers.” the report stated.

This means that “37 million private-sector workers have no access to paid sick leave at all.”

Union Have Been Good for People by Raising Wages and Helping People Enter the Middle Class

Labor unions continue to push for more working people to have access to paid sick leave and family medical leave.  “Recently, in New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C., respectively, the AFL-CIO has played lead roles in the fights to expand access to paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave for all working people. Elsewhere, individual unions have been at the forefront of new and ongoing fights in Arizona, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington.”

These ongoing efforts have helped revitalize the labor movement.  The report found that “72% of Americans think unions help people enter the middle class.” They also understand the direct connection between unions and paid holidays and paid time off.

That is probably why 54% said that they would join a union today, IF they had the opportunity.

“This Labor Day, the AFL-CIO will continue to push for an economy that supports work-life balance and ensures every worker has the freedom to spend time with loved ones. Whether it’s strengthening the right to form a union and negotiate for paid time off, expanding paid leave nationwide or rewarding employers that do the right thing, we are committed to advancing commonsense solutions that allow more Americans to enjoy full and happy lives.”


Click here for the transcript of Richard Trumka talking to the Christian Science Monitor about the new report, “Laboring on Labor Day.”

The full “Laboring on Labor Day” report is included below.

17126_Report5-fin_1

AFL-CIO Executive Council: Working People Need Real Trade Reform, Not Just Rhetoric

 (Silver Spring, Md., Wednesday, July 26, 2017) – For decades, America’s trade agenda has failed working people. Last year, voters in both parties called for change. In the early days of the Trump administration, actions have been initiated on existing trade policies, from assessing the national security impact of steel and aluminum imports to considering reform of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. Updating our nation’s trade deals is vital, but only if the focus is on how to increase and improve the quality of jobs. Much work lies ahead, and the direction and effectiveness of President Trump’s efforts still is unknown.

No task is more pressing than ensuring the administration’s renegotiation of NAFTA results in new rules that reflect the needs and interests of working families, not global corporations. NAFTA has failed working people in Canada, Mexico and the United States. Since NAFTA’s inception in 1994, corporate profits are up, but wages in all three countries are stagnant. Despite increased productivity, workers are not receiving a fair return on their work. There is more trade between the three NAFTA countries, but that trade is unbalanced, with the United States running consistent deficits with Mexico and Canada. The freedom to negotiate together is under attack in all three countries, diminishing the voices of working people and increasing inequality. As with other policy failures, broken trade deals disproportionately have harmed communities of color.

We can do better. NAFTA is not a failure of trade itself, but the result of trade rules rigged to favor global corporations and the wealthy elites in all three countries. Trade should be a cooperative endeavor that benefits us all. For that to happen, NAFTA must change dramatically.

NAFTA and its inequities can’t be fixed with mere tweaks or by substituting language from the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership. Nor should the United States adopt a strategy that pits the working people of North America against each other. We must end the race to the bottom that hurts working families, as it impoverishes our democracy and starves investment in our public infrastructure. We must replace NAFTA’s vicious cycle with a virtuous one—with a set of rules that promote shared prosperity for workers in all three nations.

We must incorporate the lessons learned from NAFTA’s failures into its new rules. This means NAFTA’s labor provisions must be substantially strengthened to improve protections for all working people, regardless of immigration status. NAFTA’s labor rules must meet international standards. Swift and certain monitoring and enforcement tools must replace the current convoluted, ineffective process. This will require effective labor inspections and explicit protections for workers who migrate, including a ban on recruitment fees, accountability for abusive practices by employers and labor recruiters, transparency regarding wages and terms of employment, and real access to justice and legal assistance. Only when all workers share these protections will we be able to effectively join together to negotiate for a better life.

A new NAFTA, with rules that working people help write, is an opportunity to begin constructing a Global New Deal for working families. The critical elements of a new NAFTA are:

  • A democratized renegotiation process
  • Strong labor rules with swift and certain enforcement that prevent the commodification of workers
  • Elimination of corporate courts
  • Enforceable currency rules
  • Stronger rules of origin
  • Protection for responsible government purchasing and Buy American policies
  • Improved screening for foreign domestic investment
  • Improved trade enforcement as part of a robust manufacturing policy
  • Elimination of obstacles to effective trade enforcement
  • New rules to prevent tax dodging
  • Removal of rules that undermine protections for workers, consumers and the environment
  • Commitments to invest in infrastructure
  • Consumer protections that ensure financial stability
  • Prohibition of unsafe and unfair cross-border transportation services
  • Protection for intellectual property while ensuring the right to affordable medicines
  • Prohibition on global corporations from using NAFTA to capture public services for profit
  • Strong environmental rules with swift and certain enforcement

Working people and our unions are united and will mobilize with the same level of intensity as our campaign to defeat the TPP. We will work to advance a set of positive and forward-looking trade rules through a comprehensive public campaign on the ground, online and over the air. The elements of the campaign will include the follow action points:

  • Educate elected officials, policy makers, opinion leaders and all workers about the causes and effects of NAFTA and other U.S. trade policies, showing there is another way, and that we need to act collectively to achieve a higher standard of living;
  • Report and publicize the impact of NAFTA on the quality of life for North America’s working people, including the effect on jobs, wages and negotiating power;
  • Demand greater democracy, transparency and participation in the NAFTA renegotiation process—and publicize any failure to open up the process;
  • Mobilize our members, community allies and all workers to demand a better NAFTA, with rules centered on working people’s policy choices—not those of the corporate class;
  • Develop and execute joint strategies with labor movements and allies in Mexico and Canada to ensure that meaningful and effective protections for working people and higher standards are at the core of any changes to NAFTA; and
  • Utilize all available strategies, including public and social media, to broaden the base of popular engagement and advance our vision of a worker-centered NAFTA.

A 21st Century New Deal For Jobs: A Progressive Plan To Rebuild America And Put People To Work

With Failing Roads and Water Systems Across The Country:
Democrats Kick Off Massive Infrastructure Investment
and Jobs Campaign in Congress

Via KIRO-TV

One of the greatest problems plaguing the United States right now is our crumbling infrastructure. Throughout the U.S. roads and bridges are literally falling to pieces. During the 2016 election nearly every candidate talked about fixing our growing infrastructure problem.

Since Trump’s election people have been waiting to see what his jobs plan would look like and what he is going to do to fix our growing infrastructure problem.

Last week, Trump unveiled his budget that did increase spending on some infrastructure projects but ultimately it fails to uphold his campaign promises or the needs of the nation.

Trump’s proposal would result in a net negative in direct infrastructure investment. The Washington Post reports, “Despite his much-touted plans to spur significant increases in infrastructure investment, President Trump’s budget would actually cut more federal spending on such programs than it would add, according to an analysis by Senate Democrats.”

Last Monday, Politico reported a Fox News interview in which Department of Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao said, Trump’s plan will center on “some kind of public-private partnerships” and “maybe some sale of government assets as well.” This is basically privatization of our roads and bridges to private corporations that will most likely lead to tolls or fee for use.

According to Bloomberg News, the Trump plan will likely include selling $40 billion of American infrastructure to Saudi Arabia.

Those in the Congressional Progressive Caucus have rejected Trumps proposal and submitted their own “21st Century New Deal for Jobs.” The proposal is a massive infrastructure plan that they estimate will put more than 2.5 million people to work.

“Drawing on the legacy of President Franklin Roosevelt’s bold vision and adapting it to a modern context, our 21st Century New Deal for Jobs makes Wall Street, big corporations, and the wealthiest pay their fair share in order to put America back to work. It invests $2 trillion over 10 years, employing 2.5 million Americans in its first year, to rebuild our transportation, water, energy, and information systems, while massively overhauling our country’s unsafe and inefficient schools, homes, and public buildings.”

“Democrats can lead the way in creating millions of new jobs by using true public investment to rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges, and outdated water systems. But any plan we pursue must adhere to a set of fundamental principles of social, racial, and environmental justice so our infrastructure planning workforce reflects the needs of our diverse communities,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ-3), Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair. “Any good plan, such as the 21st Century New Deal for Jobs, must provide significant investments to create jobs by addressing the current needs of our country –such as modernizing our outdated schools and replacing our lead-ridden pipelines that have destroyed the public health of children in Flint. Overall, it must commit public money for the public good.”

“Rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure is about so much more than construction projects,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5) who co-chaired the Congressional Progressive Caucus in years past. “It’s about replacing the pipes in Flint that poisoned an entire community, making our roads and bridges safer, and rebuilding crumbling schools. As Democrats, we believe we must improve the lives of millions of hardworking families, putting millions of Americans to work at good jobs, and make our tax system fairer by making the wealthiest pay their fair share. The Republican infrastructure plan is nothing more than another tax break for millionaires and billionaires.”

“Our country is in dire need of a bold vision to repair our crumbling roads and bridges, clean our air and water, restore our children’s unsafe school buildings, and connect our communities to each other with high-speed rail and internet,” said Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-2), Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair. “While President Trump and the Republicans are busy concocting a trillion-dollar Wall Street giveaway under the guise of infrastructure, Democrats believe big corporations should pay their fair share to support dignified employment and build a more sustainable and vibrant economy for everyone.”

The 21st Century New Deal for Jobs currently has over 20 co-sponsors including Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) both from my home state of New Hampshire.

“Smart meaningful investments in our infrastructure are absolutely critical to creating jobs and increasing our economic competitiveness in the 21st Century. We can’t allow our economy to fall behind our global competitors due to inaction,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “Improving our aging infrastructure will create jobs, expand our economy, improve public safety, and ensure that our businesses and industries are able to thrive. It’s common sense. I’m proud to support this resolution with a set of principles for job creation and infrastructure investment that will help move our country forward.”

“Too much of our infrastructure is in fair or critical condition, even though there are hard-working people across New Hampshire and our nation ready to do the job,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “It’s time for Congress to work together on a comprehensive infrastructure plan that follows these basic principles to address our urgent needs, invest in our future, and create good jobs.”

Local Granite Staters have already come out in support of the 21st Century New Deal for Jobs plan.

“We have to invest in water infrastructure to provide clean, safe water to our residents,” said NH State Representative Mindi Messmer (District NH-01), “Federal money could support much needed upgrades to aging water supplies and provide support needed to ensure that residents have clean, safe drinking water. The 5-town seacoast area has two pediatric cancer clusters and higher than expected rates of pediatric brain cancer. Children are dying and getting sick. We have to make sure their water is safe!”

“Let’s fund local projects first. Taxation in New Hampshire means that there is little support for local road and bridge repair, much less addressing other infrastructure needs,” said Mary A., a Sanbornton, NH resident and Progressive Change Campaign Committee member.

Unions representing millions of American workers also endorsed the progressive framework, and proposal. Labor endorsers include North America’s Building Trades Unions; Transportation Trades Department of AFL–CIO; Teamsters; United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting and Sprinkler Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; American Federation of Teachers; National Educators Association; Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers; International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers; and Amalgamated Transit Union.

“We applaud the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ commitment to our nation’s transportation manufacturing sector by calling for strengthened and more defined Buy America rules. Expanding American job creation by maximizing public purchasing power must be included in any infrastructure plan,” said Edward Wytkind, President of the Transportation Trades Department AFLCIO. “We look forward to working with our advocacy partners to pass a large-scale infrastructure investment package that finally ends an era of neglect that has harmed our economy and idled millions of good jobs.”

“The question is, will we have a 21st century infrastructure plan that will create millions of jobs and strengthen the backbone of our communities or will we privatize everything for corporate profit and further the decline of this country,” said Rafael Navar, Communication Workers of America national political director.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus resolution, announced Thursday, clearly differentiates Democrats from Trump. It lays out 10 principles that must be true of any jobs plan:

  1. Invest in creating millions of new jobs.
  2. Prioritize public investment over corporate giveaways and selling off public goods.
  3. Ensure that direct public investment provides the overwhelming majority of the funds for infrastructure improvement.
  4. Prioritize racial and gender equity, environmental justice, and worker protections.
  5. Embrace 21st century clean-energy jobs.
  6. Protect wages, expand Buy American provisions, encourage project labor agreements, and prioritize the needs of disadvantaged communities — both urban and rural.
  7. Ensure the wealthiest Americans and giant corporations who reap the greatest economic benefit from public goods pay their fair share for key investments.
  8. It must not be paid for at the expense of Social Security and other vital programs.
  9. It must not weaken or repeal existing rules and laws protecting our environment, worker safety, wages, or equity hiring practices.
  10. Prioritize resilient infrastructure that can withstand natural disasters and cyber or physical attacks.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus and Millions Of Jobs Coalition will urge all Democrats in the House of Representatives to co-sponsor the resolution and draw a sharp contrast with Trump.

“This bold plan can be summed up in three words: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” said Stephanie Taylor, Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder. Democrats have a plan to put millions of Americans to work rebuilding bridges, roads, and schools in local communities — and to create 21st Century jobs in fields like clean energy. It’s ridiculous that Trump wants to sell off our public roads to Wall Street investors and foreign corporations who would put up tolls and keep the money for themselves. The difference between the progressive Democratic vision of job creation and Trump’s vision of jobless corporate giveaways is night and day, and the Millions of Jobs Coalition will ensure voters see this contrast.”

“From his steaks to his university, Trump believes he can stamp his name on junk and call it gold. His so-called infrastructure plan will be nothing more than a massive giveaway to Wall Street, and he’ll stick our children with the bill for generations to come,” said Dan Cantor, Working Families Party national director. “Progressives have a plan to create millions of jobs, build a 21st century economy, and pay for it by taxing the big banks that still never paid the bill for crashing the economy almost a decade ago.”

“The water shutoffs in Detroit and Baltimore and poisoned water in Flint, East Chicago and other communities should serve as a wakeup call: Our nation is facing a water crisis, and nothing short of a massive, direct federal investment in publicly-controlled water systems will save it. Abdicating control of our water services to corporations is not the answer,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Instead, we need the federal government to renew its commitment to funding community water and sewer systems. Repairing and updating our nation’s water infrastructure will create nearly a million jobs while ensuring that water service is safe and affordable for everyone in the country.”

If your Representative has not already signed on to support the 21st Century New Deal for Jobs plan, contact them today. Rebuilding our nations roads, bridges, and waterways is the right way to spend American taxpayer money and create jobs for millions of Americans at the same time.

Income Inequality Grows As CEO Pay Jumps 6 Percent To 347 The Average Worker

Image courtesy of the AFL-CIO

A new report and searchable database from the AFL-CIO’s Executive Pay Watch highlights the lavish compensation executives receive while workers wage remain stagnant.

Income inequality has become one of the largest economic issues facing America.  As workers wages remain stagnant, corporations continue to rake in massive profits and pay their executives lavish salaries.

According to the new AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch, the average CEO of an S&P 500 company made $13.1 million per year in 2016 – 347 times more money than the average rank-and-file worker. CEO pay for major U.S. companies has risen nearly 6 percent, as income inequality and outsourcing of good-paying American jobs have increased.

“This year’s report provides further proof that the greed of corporate CEOs is driving America’s income inequality crisis,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Big corporations continually find ways to rig the economy in their favor and line their CEOs’ pockets at the expense of the workers who make their businesses run. Too often, corporations see workers as costs to be cut, rather than assets to be invested in. It’s shameful that CEOs can make tens of millions of dollars and still destroy the livelihoods of the hard-working people who make their companies profitable.”

The Executive PayWatch website showed that in 2016, the average production and nonsupervisory worker earned approximately $37,600 per year. When adjusted for inflation, the average wage has remained stagnant for 50 years.

Take for example, Raymond Barrette, CEO of White Mountain Insurance Group LTD of Hanover, NH.  Barrette raked in $8.1 million in salary and stock options.  That is 270 times the average rank and file worker.

Another example comes from Patrick T. Ryan, CEP of Press Ganey Holdings in Wakefield, Massachusetts. He collected a whopping $28.9 million in compensation, 769 times the average worker.

The report allows viewers to search their comprehensive database of CEO pay by industry or state.

Screenshot from Executive Pay Watch

The PayWatch site also highlights U.S. corporations that don’t pay taxes on their offshore profits. By “permanently reinvesting” these profits overseas, they can forever defer paying federal income taxes and reinvesting back into the community.

According to the report, Massachusetts based General Electric is holding $82 billion in “Unrepatriated Profits” overseas in tax havens.  That is only one-third of the amount of money Apple is shielding overseas ($230 billion).

The report also highlights the growing trend of corporations offshoring good American jobs at the expense of hard working people.

“Avoiding corporate income taxes is one way CEOs boost their companies’ profits and thereby increase their own pay. This corporate tax avoidance reduces the amount of money that is available for public goods like roads and schools. As a result, our economy increasingly has become out of balance,” wrote the AFL-CIO in their report.

Image courtesy of the AFL-CIO

Mondelēz International, highlighted in this year’s PayWatch, represents one of the most egregious examples of CEO-to-worker pay inequality. The company, which makes Nabisco products, including Oreos, Chips Ahoy and Ritz Crackers, is leading the race to the bottom. Last year, it closed the Oreo cookie line at the iconic Nabisco factory in Chicago, sending 600 family-sustaining jobs to Mexico, where workers face poor labor and safety standards. Mondelēz CEO Irene Rosenfeld made more than $16.7 million in 2016 – about $8,000 per hour.

“Greedy CEOs are continuing to get rich off the backs of working people,” said Michael Smith, who was among hundreds of Nabisco workers from the South Side of Chicago laid off in March of 2016. “I loved working at Nabisco, and I took pride in the work I did to make a quality product. It’s not as if the company isn’t profitable. The Oreo alone brings in $2 billion in annual revenue, and the CEO makes more in a day than most of us made in a year. I just don’t understand the disrespectful attitude toward working people.”

While companies are continuing to put profits over people, working people are fighting back. The AFL-CIO has endorsed the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union (BCTGM) boycott of Nabisco products made in Mexico.

These corporations are just examples of the insatiable greed that has taken over Corporate America.  The never ending race to the bottom continues to punish worker, shipping their jobs overseas.  To begin to address the growing income inequality in America, we must first address the outrageous pay ratios between CEO’s and rank and file workers.

150 People A Day Die On The Job: AFL-CIO Releases Blistering New Report

(Washington, D.C.) In 2015, 150 workers died from preventable work-related injuries and illnesses every day in the United States, on average, according to a report released today by the AFL-CIO. 4,836 workers died due to workplace injuries, and another 50,000-60,000 died from occupational diseases. The number of immigrant workers killed on the job reached a nearly 10-year high.

“Corporate negligence and weak safety laws have resulted in tragedy for an astonishing and unacceptable number of working families,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Instead of working for stronger protections, too many Republican politicians in Washington, including the Trump administration, are trying to roll back commonsense regulations that enable workers to return home safely to their families. These are more than numbers; they are our brothers and sisters, and a reminder of the need to continue our fight for every worker to be safe on the job every day.”

The report, titled Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, marks the 26th year the AFL-CIO has reported on the state of safety and health protections for workers in the United States. The report shows the highest workplace fatality rates are in North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Nebraska and West Virginia.

According to the report, Latino workers have an 18% higher fatality rate than the national average. Deaths among Latino workers increased to 903, compared with 804 in 2014. Overall, 943 immigrant workers were killed on the job in 2015—the highest number since 2007.

The report also finds that construction, transportation and agriculture remain among the most dangerous sectors. 937 construction workers were killed in 2015—the highest in any sector. Older workers also are at high risk, with those 65 or older 2.5 times more likely to die on the job. Workplace violence continues to be a growing problem for workers, resulting in 703 deaths.

The report also highlights the fact that OSHA is underfunded and understaffed to handle the 8 million workplaces across the country.

  • There are only 1,838 inspectors (815 federal and 1,023 state) to inspect the 8 million workplaces under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s jurisdiction.
  • Federal OSHA has enough inspectors to inspect workplaces once every 159 years.
  • State OSHA plans have enough inspectors to inspect workplaces once every 99 years.
  • There is one inspector for every 76,402 workers.
  • The current OSHA budget amounts to $3.65 to protect the safety and health of each worker in America.

Not only is OSHA unable to keep up with growing number of workplaces, the penalties are too weak.

The federal penalty average for the death of a worker on the job is $6,500 dollars.  The state penalties are even worse. The state penalty average for the death of a worker on the job is only $2,500.  Serious OSHA violations carry an average penalty of $2,402 for federal and $1,747 from the state.

Instead of working to strengthen worker protections the Trump administration is rolling back regulations and slashing funding to the Department of Labor.

  • Executive Order 13771, issued Jan. 24, 2017, requires that for every new regulatory protection issued, two existing safeguards must be repealed.
  • Repeal of OSHA’s rule clarifying an employer’s obligation to keep accurate injury and illness records.
  • Repeal of a rule that would have required companies to disclose safety and health and labor violations in order to qualify for federal contracts.
  • Delay in the effective date of OSHA’s new beryllium standard and delay in the enforcement of OSHA’s silica standard in the construction industry. The delay in the silica rule will allow continued high exposures that will lead to 160 worker deaths.
  • Budget proposals to slash the Department of Labor’s budget by 21%, eliminate worker safety and health training programs, eliminate the Chemical Safety Board and cut the job safety research budget by $100 million.

After decades of work, OSHA has helped to save the lives of countless workers and yet there is so much more we can do.  We need the President to take strong and swift actions to strengthen OSHA protections, increase the penalties, hire additional inspectors, and address the growing problems facing workers today.

Read the AFL-CIO’s full report here

 

US House Passes Bill To Arbitrarily Fire Workers At The VA, Bypassing The Union’s Due Process

Yesterday, in a largely party line vote of 237-178, the U.S. House passed, “H.R.1259 – VA Accountability First Act of 2017.” A bill that would allow the Secretary of the VA to arbitrarily fire workers without any due process. HR 1259 was written and sponsored by Tennessee Republican, Rep David Roe (R-TN-1) who also cosponsored legislation to revoke the Department of Labor’s new rule mandating employers keep records on all workplace injuries.

The Hill explains:

The bill would give the VA secretary expedited removal authority, meaning any employee fired by the secretary would be out of a job and off the department’s rolls that day.

…One point of conflict in the legislation was the elimination of the union grievance process available to represented employees as a means to appeal negative personnel actions. About 76 percent of VA’s workforce is represented by a union, and Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and author of the accountability bill, has complained the grievance process takes an average of 350 days to complete. The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 230,000 VA employees, called the legislation ‘a union-busting bill, plain and simple.

…A spokeswoman for Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said the senator is still “exploring options” for a bill that can pass the Senate. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has introduced companion legislation for Roe’s House-backed measure. Isakson himself said he is committed to working with his House colleagues and Democrats on his committee to move accountability legislation forward.

“I’m committed to moving legislation that gives Secretary Shulkin the tools to discipline bad employees,” Isakson said. “Accountability reform is a top priority.” The senator authored bipartisan legislation in the last Congress to expedite the firing process at VA, but it stalled in the Senate after clearing his committee.

This bill is designed to bypass the American Federation of Government Employees grievance procedures and weaken the union’s ability to represent workers.  David Cox Sr., National President of AFGE released the following after the bill passed the House.

“The House has passed a venomous piece of legislation from Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee that would undermine the government’s sacred obligation to serve our veterans by gutting frontline employees’ basic worker rights at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Make no mistake – this legislation is not about improving accountability at the VA, and it certainly won’t improve veterans’ access to quality care and earned benefits. This is part of an orchestrated attack on the rights of federal workers and employee unions that’s ripped from the playbook of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

“While we are deterred by the House’s action, we are not defeated. We will fight this bill when it goes before the Senate, and we will continue to make the case to lawmakers and the public that attacking the rights of working-class men and women at the VA and across government is counterproductive to our shared goal of providing the best service to the American taxpayers.”

The AFl-CIO was also displeased with the passage of this legislation calling it a “slap in the face” to the workers at the VA.

“Yesterday, instead of standing up for working families, 10 Democrats in Congress joined with Republicans in attacking workers at the VA. Their support of this anti-worker legislation is not only a slap in the face to the 120,000 VA employees who are themselves veterans, but a betrayal of the promise to treat all VA workers fairly,” said Bill Samuel, AFL-CIO Director of Government Affairs. 

Everyone agrees that the VA needs help.  They are understaffed, overloaded, and underfunded, but the ability to arbitrarily fire hard working people at the VA will do nothing to solve any of these problems.

The reforms Congress should be looking for would include ones like the amendment submitted by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH01) to improve VA hiring of mental health professionals.

Congress must also accept that additional resources are necessary to hire more doctors and nurses at VA health centers and to reduce the delays many veterans face in getting the care they need.  This would include spending money to merge the DOD’s and the VA health records system.

Another major issue facing the VA is that 20 veterans commit suicide every day.  Many of these vets are suffering from PTSD and are unable to get the care they need. NH Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH-1), a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, is working with the newly appointed Secretary of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin, to address this ongoing epidemic.

“The men and women who have served our nation in uniform cannot be cast aside once they have returned home,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “The suicide rate among veterans is a tragedy and it’s long past time we came together to address this challenge.”

“The president and I have made it clear that suicide prevention is one of our top priorities,” Secretary Shulkin said in a statement. “We know the rate of death by suicide among Veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a greater rate than Veterans who use VA care. This is a national emergency that requires bold action. We must and we will do all that we can to help former service members who may be at risk. When we say even one Veteran suicide is one too many, we mean it.”

So while 20 veterans a day commit suicide and the thousands that die every year awaiting care should be the top priority of the President and Congress, but instead they are choosing to attack the very workers who are trying to help fix this broken system and get care to those who desperately need it.

TEA Party Rep, Steve King Pushes A National Right To Work Bill And Repeal Of Davis Bacon

Labor unions respond to Rep King’s introduction of a National Right to Work (for less) law and a full repeal of the Davis Bacon Act that ensures a prevailing wage on all federal projects.

Once again TEA Party Representative, Steve King (R-IOWA) introduced a national Right to Work bill in Congress.

“So-called right-to-work has done enough harm to working people in the states where it is law. Forcing it upon every state in the country would be a national disaster,” said Robert Martinez, Jr., International President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

“Right to work is a lie dressed up in a feel-good slogan. It doesn’t give workers freedom—instead, it weakens our right to join together and bargain for better wages and working conditions. Its end goal is to destroy unions,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “Numbers don’t lie. Workers in states with right to work laws have wages that are 12% lower. That’s because unions raise wages for all workers, not just our members. Its end goal is to destroy unions.”

“Right to work isn’t the will of the people, it’s legislation pushed on working people by out-of-touch corporations that want to ship jobs overseas, cut health and safety protections, and pay lower wages,” added Trumka.

“In introducing so-called “right to work” legislation, Republicans in Congress didn’t waste any time doing the bidding of corporate interests who have plotted for years to weaken the collective bargaining rights of working people,” wrote the Communication Workers of America. “Right to work doesn’t create jobs. It doesn’t improve economic development. It does result in lower wages – 3.1 percent lower, according to the Economic Policy Institute –and fewer benefits for working people. It weakens workers’ ability to join together and bargain collectively with their employer.”

To add further insult to working people, Rep King, and fellow TEA Partier, Senator Mike Lee, re-introduced a repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act.

The Davis-Bacon Act set a prevailing wage that must be met on all federal projects. Prevailing wages are set by regions to ensure that workers in the local area of the project are paid a wage comparable to other workers in their area.

“The introduction of national so-called “right to work” and anti-Davis Bacon legislation is a bid to further shrink opportunities for working class Americans and their families,” said Terry O’Sullivan, General President of the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA). “These pieces of legislation are a deceptive politically-motivated trick to deny millions of American workers the freedom to join together in a union for mutual benefit and to earn a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”

“The bill to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act is a severe attack on the wages and living standards of millions of blue-collar workers and on taxpayers who expect quality construction work on public projects. For generations the Davis-Bacon Act has helped to prevent government projects from driving down wages and help to attract skilled, trained workers, and has given taxpayers the best deal for their money,” added O’Sullivan.

As the Koch Brothers and their political organization, the Americans For Prosperity, push Right to Work at the state level, this new federal bill is just another ideological partisan attack on working people.

“The political motives for right-to-work laws are clear: transfer even more money and power to corporate elites who don’t give a damn about the middle class,” said IAM President Martinez. “November’s election should have made this clear to the political class—American workers are sick and tired of having their wages slashed, and all too often, their jobs shipped overseas. Taking away their right to a strong voice at the bargaining table will hurt the same people Congress is supposed to represent.

“Working people were loud and clear in this past election. We want an economy that works for all, not just corporations. We know we need to rewrite the rules of the economy so that policies like bad trade deals and right to work aren’t the new norm. President Trump has said he supports unions and the people who are our members. He has stood up to corporate Republicans on trade. We call on him to do the same on right to work, and to stand up for every worker’s right to join a union,” Trumka added.

AFL-CIO, LiUNA, CWA and IAM all agree that Congress should once again reject the passage of so-called Right to Work legislation and oppose the repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act.

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