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Congress Votes To Block New Rules Mandated By The NLRB

Yesterday, Congressional Republicans continued their all out assault on working families by passing a law that would limit workers rights to organize and block new rules from the National Labor Relations Board that would allow for faster union elections, slated to take effect in April.

The NLRB said in a December statement that the new rules would allow unions to use electronic means to file for an election and would allow unions to hold elections just 14 days after filing.

“I am heartened that the Board has chosen to enact amendments that will modernize the representation case process and fulfill the promise of the National Labor Relations Act. Simplifying and streamlining the process will result in improvements for all parties. With these changes, the Board strives to ensure that its representation process remains a model of fairness and efficiency for all,” said NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Peirce.

Congressman Frank Guinta receiving an award from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)

Congressman Frank Guinta receiving an award from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)

The bill passed 232-186, almost straight down party lines. The bill was opposed by all of the House Democrats (thank you Congresswoman Annie Kuster [NH-02]) and three lone Republicans. Congressman Frank Guinta, the Republican representing the first district in New Hampshire, was among the Republican majority who voted to pass the bill.

“Today’s vote by House Republicans against the NLRB’s common-sense modernization of its election rules is a direct attack on workers and their right to be heard in the workplace,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Working men and women want an agenda from their Congressional leaders that raises wages and grows our middle class. Instead, they have gotten Republican policies that roll back progress and silence workers while protecting their biggest donors.”

Listening to the debate on the House floor shows exactly how much the Republicans really care about workers and their rights.   These Republicans are putting corporations above working men and women.

“Today, Congress voted to stop an unelected board of bureaucrats from trampling on the rights of America’s workers and job creators,” said Congressman John Kline (R-MN) in a written statement after the vote. “The board’s ambush election rule will stifle employer free speech, cripple worker free choice, and jeopardize the privacy of workers and their families.

Rep. Kline’s statement is nearly identical to the statement released by the US Chamber of Commerce who has worked tirelessly to oppose unionizing efforts and push anti-worker legislation in dozens of states.

“The Chamber applauds Congress for passing legislation to stop the ‘ambush election’ rule issued by the NLRB,” stated U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits Randel K. Johnson. “This rule infringes upon an employer’s free speech right by virtually eliminating an employer’s opportunity to communicate his or her views regarding unionization with employees.

What they should have said was that this vote stifles a workers right to organize and gives more time for employers to hire union busting firms and lie to their employees about how unions operate.

President Obama has already said he will veto this totally partisan bill. This would be Obama’s fourth veto, and second in the last two months.

“President Obama is right in his commitment to vetoing this harmful legislation, and Congressional Republicans should focus their efforts on lifting workers up instead of shutting them out,” said Trumka.

Whether you support unions or not should not matter, that is why we hold elections. If workers freely choose to support a union, the union will win the election. If workers freely choose to reject the union, the union will lose. That is freedom and the choice that workers are guaranteed under the National Labor Relation Act.

Organizing and holding a union election is hard enough, and Republicans in Washington want to block workers from organizing. Working families need to understand that these Republicans are not looking out for them and are only looking out for the wealthy businesses and groups like the US Chamber of Commerce that fund their campaigns.

 

 

Click here for more information about the NLRB’s rule changes

 

AFL-CIO National Organizing Workshop Brings Together Over 600 Organizers to Talk Future of Labor

Organizers from labor unions, student and community groups, and worker centers will gather this weekend to discuss strategies and tactics for growing worker power. The convening will demonstrate that workers continue to find new and creative ways to exercise their collective voice even in the face of right-wing opposition in states like Wisconsin, unfair treatment of workers in major sectors such as the oil and gas industry, and rampant income inequality.

The National Organizers Workshop will be hosted by the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute, with over 600 participants coming from across the country and the world. Organizers developed the workshops, will lead the workshops and will address the challenges and opportunities facing them.  Workshop sessions range from supporting organizing efforts of communities of color to adapting to an ‘Uber-model’ economy.

“This weekend was inspired by workers and organizers on the front line of our movement,” said Elizabeth Bunn, Director of the AFL-CIO’s Organizing Department. “Together we’re writing our future and planning together how to win justice for workers and communities.”

This year’s conference, comprised of unions from both the AFL-CIO and the Change-to-Win coalition, is held in the wake of a year of significant successes for organizing within the labor movement. Organizing campaigns have raised wages for Walmart workers, cable television workers, hotel and hospitality workers, legal services workers, nurses, port truck drivers and more. Over the last several months, workers in diverse industries and occupations are forming unions at their workplaces including, bike share workers, reality television writers, graduate teaching assistants, adjunct faculty, and Silicon Valley bus drivers.

To learn more about the AFL-CIO’s Organizing Institute, visit their website by clicking here.

Labor Movement United in Opposition to ‘Fast Tracking’ Trade Deals

In a show of solidarity, workers from across economic sectors representing 60 unions within and outside of the AFL-CIO came together today to sign a letter to Congress expressing opposition to Fast Track authority, which is used to advance unfair trade deals.

The letter, which can be viewed by clicking here (or see below), demonstrates the unity between workers who have jobs that are directly impacted by bad trade deals, and those whose jobs are indirectly affected.

Today’s letter is part of a comprehensive campaign by the AFL-CIO, its affiliates, and its allies against Fast Track authority. The campaign includes a lobby day on March 4thwhere union members from more than 20 states will be in Washington, DC to lobby members to stop Fast Track. To find out more about the impact Fast Track will have on the US economy, you can watch President Richard Trumka’s explainer by clicking here.

TTD Applauds House Passage of Amtrak Reauthorization

Transportation Trade Department LogoWashington, DC—Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement about the House passage of the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (PRRIA):

“Today the House of Representatives took an important step to sustain Amtrak, America’s national passenger railroad. The overwhelming vote today on the floor of the House also demonstrates that the nation’s largest transportation challenges can be met with bipartisan cooperation and problem solving.

“As transportation unions recently declared in our Executive Committee policy statement, we now have an opportunity to set in motion a long-term vision for federal passenger rail policy. We are pleased that the House has endorsed a multi-year investment for Amtrak at a time when the railroad and its workforce are dealing with rising demand and aging equipment and infrastructure. While we will continue to advocate for higher federal funding levels for Amtrak, PRRIA gives Amtrak a measure of certainty as it advances long-term modernization plans.

“We are especially pleased that the House rejected an amendment that would have zeroed out Amtrak, hollowed out our only national passenger railroad, and destroyed thousands of middle-class jobs. Amtrak is an important driver of jobs and economic development and, like all areas of our transportation system, requires federal support in order to thrive. By voting against the McClintock amendment, members of Congress rejected the idea that the federal government should abdicate its responsibility to fund a key component of our national transportation system.

“Today’s bipartisan action in the House shows that members of Congress have heardAmericans across the country who have called for increased passenger rail service. I especially want to thank Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster and Ranking Democrat Peter DeFazio, as well as Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham and Ranking Member Michael Capuano, for crafting this bill and moving it through the House.

“As PRRIA advances in the Senate, we will continue to oppose privatization mandates, outsourcing schemes, and other so-called reforms that would undermine Amtrak and its workforce and that were rejected in the House bill. At the same time, we will push for funding levels necessary to meet the long-term needs of our neglected passenger rail system and ensure that Amtrak is in a position to provide the type and level of service Americans are calling for.”

Texas Ruling On Immigration Is Setback But Will Not Stop The AFL-CIO’s Work On Immigration

Late last night, a Texas judge issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily blocks the implementation of President Obama’s new deferred action initiatives. These initiatives, announced last November, came in response to more than 10 years of political stalemates and failure by Congress to address America’s broken immigration system and alleviate the pain endured by millions of families around the country. The President’s announced initiatives will provide temporary relief from deportation to approximately 5 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.

The new deferred action initiatives, which include Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and an expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), are based on the well-established authority of Presidents and other executive branch officers to allocate and prioritize finite enforcement resources. This practice is used by prosecutors and other law enforcement personnel on daily basis. The judge’s order, issued just two days before the government was set to begin the DACA expansion, bars federal immigration officials from implementing “any and all aspects” of the new deferred action initiatives.

The following is a statement by Melissa Crow, Legal Director at the American Immigration Council:

“Today’s decision is only the first round in what will clearly be a much longer legal battle. Already, the White House has promised that the Justice Department will appeal the judge’s decision, and we urge them to do so in an expedited manner. We expect higher courts to overturn the judge’s decision based on well-established precedent.

“Today’s decision is more rooted in political rhetoric than legal rationales. It relies on a distorted view of overwhelming evidence of the economic benefits of immigration and ignores Supreme Court precedent. It also discounts a long history of recourse to prosecutorial discretion, which has been exercised by every President since Eisenhower. The decision relies on a technical violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to find that the Administration did not follow proper procedures, while ignoring the fact that the President’s deferred action initiatives are not subject to the APA. While the decision will unfortunately delay critical efforts to address our broken immigration system, the need and the demand for reform has never been greater. We remain confident that it is a question of when, not if, these programs will take effect.”

After the court ruling was announced Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO released the following statement:

This temporary setback will not deter the AFL-CIO’s work on the ground to ensure that as many workers as possible are eventually able to gain protections and work authorization under the new deferred action programs. Around the country, we will continue educating workers, training union activists and helping eligible applicants gather the documents they will need to qualify.

This lawsuit represents a misguided effort to use a false economic basis to block the immigration relief that millions of hardworking, longtime members of our community deserve. The executive actions on immigration will in fact increase earnings, grow the tax base, strengthen the economy and further the public interest, as states like Washington, California, Illinois and New York have explained to the court. The AFL-CIO supports the Department of Justice’s decision to file an appeal, and we trust that higher courts will undo this wrong.

The path to justice often includes obstacles. We will not give up the fight until Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform with a clear pathway to citizenship so that all workers in this country will have the ability to assert their rights on the job and in their communities. In the meantime, this ruling will further strengthen the resolve of a resilient community that is a vital part of our labor movement. We know that an organized community is a stronger community, and that together we will rise.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Applauding Currency Manipulation Bill

“The Currency Undervaluation Investigation Act (Senate Bill) and the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act of 2015 (House Bill) are critical to creating and retaining good manufacturing jobs in America.  Enacting these bills will ensure that we have the tools to address and end destructive currency manipulation by other governments. This unfair practice distorts the global economy and disadvantages countries like the United States that comply with international trade rules. These illegal actions have cost far too many jobs over the past several years.

Working people applaud the leadership from Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and from Representatives Sander Levin (D-MI), Tim Murphy (R-PA), Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Mo Brooks (R-AL) to introduce this important the bipartisan legislation.

Currency manipulation has cost America as many as 5 million jobs, devastating many manufacturing communities.  As a result, there continues to be strong bipartisan support for currency legislation in both the House and Senate.  However, legislation by itself is not enough.  We need to ensure that there are also strong, enforceable currency mechanisms in trade agreements that the U.S. negotiates—especially the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which includes countries that have engaged in such manipulation to boost exports.”

AFL-CIO, Allies Award Grants to Innovating Community Organizers

The LIFT Fund is the first-of-its-kind to support collaboration and innovation around new forms of worker organizing.

(Washington, DC, Jan. 29, 2015)— Today, the AFL-CIO announced the third round of LIFT Fund grants, which will be awarded to a diverse group of organizations who are organizing workers outside of traditional models.  Past recipients include the Los Angeles Black Worker Center which helps workers such as LeDaya Epps to find good-paying jobs through apprenticeship programs. LeDaya was recently invited to the 2015 State of the Union address by First Lady Michelle Obama.

“In Oregon, we stand up for all workers and are proud to help support innovative partnerships that help with that fight,” said Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain. “We’re proud to be a labor partner in the LIFT Fund’s grant process and even more excited to help fuel worker empowerment.”

The fund was established in 2011 as a partnership between the AFL-CIO and philanthropic institutions that share the federation’s vision for a world in which workers are treated by employers with the dignity they deserve.  Partners include the General Service Foundation, the New World Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Solidago Foundation, and the Discount Foundation. The LIFT Fund is the first-of-its-kind to support collaboration and innovation around new forms of worker organizing between Worker Centers and traditional labor.

This year’s grantees comprise a diverse set of workers and sectors, including domestic workers in Connecticut fighting to strengthen legal protections and day laborers in California working to learn new skills. The primary purpose of all grants is to support work at the local or state level and are focused on helping develop power among vulnerable populations of workers, including immigrants, African Americans, women, and rural workers. The money goes exclusively to the worker center, but envisions on the ground collaboration with the local labor movement to expand local power.

“We recognize that our struggle is inextricably linked to the fight for economic justice,” said Montague Simmons, Director of Organization for Black Struggle. “The LIFT grant will support our work to engage and organize those who have been at the forefront of our fight and who also tend to be the most vulnerable to the economic violence waged against our communities.”

Grantees are:

  • Organization for Black Struggle, St Louis, MO (Labor Partner: International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 58)
  • CLEAN Carwash, Los Angeles, CA (Labor Partner: United Steelworkers Local 675)
  • Chinese Progressive Association, San Francisco, CA (Labor Partner: UNITE HERE Local 2)
  • Community Voices Heard, New York, NY (Labor Partner: AFSCME District Council 37)
  • Lynn Worker Center for Economic Justice (Labor Partner: North Shore Labor Council)
  • Make the Road/NYCC (Labor Partner: RWSDU)
  • NDLON, Los Angeles, CA (Labor Partner: LA County Federation)
  • NDWA/Brazilian Immigrant Center, CT (Labor Partner: United Auto Workers Region 9A)
  • National Guest Workers Alliance, New Orleans, LA (Labor Partner: Ironworkers Union)
  • ROC-United, National (Labor Partners: UFCW Western States Council)
  • Sunflower/Kansas People’s Action, Wichita, KS (Labor Partner: Wichita/Hutchinson Labor Federation and CWA)
  • VOZ Worker Center (Labor Partner: Oregon AFL-CIO)
  • Vermont Worker Center (Labor Partner: Vermont State Labor Council)
  • Warehouse Workers Resource Council (Labor Partner: UFCW Western States Council)

Worker Wins Update: From the Casino to the Classroom, Workers Earn Critical Victories

WASHINGTON, DC– Workers across the country have stood up in the past month to fight for better wages and working conditions.

Casino Workers Hit Jackpot With Major Organizing Wins: More than 12,000 workers have organized through UNITE HERE in 2014, surpassing a goal of 10,000 set during the union’s convention. These victories include workers at hotels, airports and casinos around the country.

Nurses Win the Right Prescription for Higher Pay: Approximately 18,000 nurses in California will receive a 14 percent raise over the next three years, additional workplace protections and improved employer 401(k) contributions after reaching a tentative contract agreement with Kaiser Permanente this month. As part of the agreement, Kaiser has committed to hiring hundreds of new RNs and to providing training and employment opportunities for RN graduates.

Seatbacks, Tray tables, and Solidarity All Up for Delta Flight Attendants: Earlier this month, Delta flight attendants filed approximately 12,000 election request cards with the National Mediation Board, formally requesting a union representation election that could result in more than 20,000 workers joining the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). If successful, this win by Delta flight attendants would represent the largest ever organizing victory by transportation sector workers.

Bluegrass State Workers See Green With Minimum Wage Increase:Members of the Louisville Metro Council voted to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2017, making Louisville the first city in the South to raise their minimum wage, and the 12th city to raise it in 2014.

Louisiana Hospital Employees Serve Up a Big Plate of Respect: Shortly before the Christmas holiday, approximately 250 Sodexo cafeteria staff members at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport have joined AFSCME Local 2649, citing a lack of respect on the job and an opportunity to improve working conditions.

Silver Airlines Flight Attendants Strike Gold Through Organizing: Flight attendants from Silver Airways, a Fort Lauderdale, FL based airline partnered with United, voted to join the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA earlier this month. Flight attendants will now work on improving working conditions and safety standards through a new contract.

Big Easy Hospitality Workers Score Big Organizing Win: Late last year, approximately 900 employees at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino organized with UNITE HERE and entered contract negotiations. This win doubles the amount of organized hospitality industry workers in New Orleans.

Today’s Lesson: How to Raise Wages for Professors: Earlier this month, over 400 part-time adjunct professors have voted to form a union at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. The newly unionized professors cited raising wages, job security, and benefits as reasons for organizing.

Sysco Drivers Deliver Better Working Conditions Through Organizing Campaign: Last month, more than 400 Sysco drivers, warehouse workers, fleet and facility maintenance workers, and shuttle yard drivers organized in response to unfair working conditions and uncertain job security.

Richard Trumka on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Annual Union Membership Report

Today’s release of the annual union membership numbers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in this economic recovery, people are either seeking out good union jobs or taking matters into their own hands by forming unions to raise wages and ensure that new jobs are good jobs.

In 2014, workers made great strides and confronted great challenges, including major organizing wins at American Airlines, multiple state legislative victories on the minimum wage and innovative campaigns conducted by carwash workers, among others. We recognize, however, that right-wing billionaires’ extremist politics, a rapacious Wall Street and insufficient advocacy from political leaders thwarted further progress.

In the State of the Union this week, President Obama celebrated the fact that our economy has benefitted from 58 consecutive months of job growth and reiterated the need for laws that strengthen unions and give workers a voice. But the most important question is not simply how many jobs we’re creating, but are we creating jobs that raise wages for all? A strong recovery must be built on family-sustaining, not poverty-level jobs. Today’s news confirms what most of us already knew: workers are finding good union jobs despite political ideologues — and jobs are coming back as the economy slowly rebounds, but neither are nearly enough.

Key trends include:

  • Union density edged up for workers 16 to 24 from 4.2 to 4.5%
  • Public sector union density growth largely due to women
  • Union density growth in Leisure and Hospitality
  • Union membership increased among Latino men
  • Largest growth, 1.8% among Asian American women
  • Union membership increased for Black women and men
  • Black men and women remain the groups with the highest union density

Noteworthy 2014 Worker Wins

  • More than 92,000 workers chose to join AFSCME, including 20,000 home health care workers who were recently the target of Harris v Quinn. This was double AFSCME’s organizing goal for the year.
  • 14,500 customer service agents who work for American Airlines voted for union representation with CWA after the merger with US Airways. This victory was especially significant for 9,000 former American Airlines agents who have been part of a 19-year long organizing effort.
  • Workers at an Alabama Copper parts plant voted to organize as members of the United Steelworkers despite extensive political intimidation and efforts by Governor Robert Bentley to dissuade workers from unionizing.
  • Mechanics, technicians, and maintenance personnel at the Red River Army Depot near Texarkana, TX successfully organized into the IAM.  This victory follows successful campaigns by workers earlier in the year where 925 employees joined the union at the Corpus Christi Army Depot in Corpus Christi, Texas.
  • Nurses and hospital workers voted to form unions at two hospitals in Connecticut. The workers, who will be represented by AFT Connecticut, had to overcome attempts by hospital administrators to intimidate the workers.

AFL-CIO: “Free Trade” Agreement Led to Immigration Crisis

Honduran Workers (Image from AFLCIO)

Honduran Workers (Image from AFLCIO)

Report finds strong correlation between CAFTA, failed migration policies and increased militarization and recent displacement of women and children fleeing violence and poverty in Central America

 A new, eye-opening report issued by the AFL-CIO sheds light on how failed trade policies contributed to the unaccompanied minor crisis at the U.S. border during last summer. The report contains the findings of a delegation of U.S. labor and community leaders who, in October of 2014, traveled to Honduras.

The report titled “Trade, Violence and Migration: The Broken Promises to Honduran Workers” seeks to answer the “root causes” of the unaccompanied minor crisis, while offering various recommendations to the U.S. and Honduran governments. The authors identified egregious worker rights violations, widespread violence, lack of decent work opportunities, crushing poverty, and failure on the part of the government to protect the lives and rights of citizens in their home country as the main catalysts behind a migrant’s decision to come to the U.S.

For four days, members of the delegation met with local labor leaders, returned migrants and community leaders, who spoke on how the Central American Free Trade Agreement – Dominican Republic (CAFTA –DR) – has contributed to lowering their standards of living.  At the end of their visit, delegates came to the conclusion that the people of Central America will continue to flee their homes until they can live their lives with a sense of stability, all of which will require concerted policy changes in the United States and Honduras.

“What we witnessed was the intersection of our corporate-dominated trade policies with our broken immigration system contributing to a state that fails workers and their families and forces them to live in fear,” said AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, who was part of the delegation. “The results are dangerous and serve as a warning of what we cannot allow to continue.”

The report features a series of recommendations for the U.S. and Honduran government on topics related to migration policy; the protection of human and labor rights; and, security and labor policy. Most importantly, the report recommends the following actions:

  1. The U.S. should insist that the Honduran government prosecute all cases of violence against human and worker rights activists including efforts to deny freedom of association as part of the ongoing enforcement of CAFTA labor obligations.
  2. The U.S. must provide immediate funding for the rehabilitation and nurturing support of refugees in the United States. In particular, resources and technical assistant should be dedicated for programs supporting girls and women victims of physical or sexual violence.
  3. Honduras should create a national campaign on minimum wage and overtime pay that promotes compliance with the laws and provides a mechanism such as a hot line for workers to report violations of these and other labor laws.

As of August 31, 2014, U.S. Border Patrol had encountered 17,975 unaccompanied Honduran minors – the largest of any Central American country.

To view the complete report, click here: http://go.aflcio.org/HondurasReport

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