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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.

Trump Signs Executive Order To Withdraw From TPP, Wants To Renegotiate NAFTA

Today, President Trump signed an Executive Order to withdraw from the 12 nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.  As of right now, we are unsure of what the order says as it has yet to be released by the White House.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who made his opposition to the TPP a cornerstone in his campaign for President, was “glad” to see the TPP go down in flames.

“I am glad the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead and gone. For the last 30 years, we have had a series of trade deals – including the North American Free Trade Agreement, permanent normal trade relations with China and others – which have cost us millions of decent-paying jobs and caused a ‘race to the bottom’ which has lowered wages for American workers. Now is the time to develop a new trade policy that helps working families, not just multi-national corporations. If President Trump is serious about a new policy to help American workers then I would be delighted to work with him.”

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO called this an “important first step” in building a “fair and just global economy.”

“Last year, a powerful coalition of labor, environmental, consumer, public health and allied groups came together to stop the TPP. Today’s announcement that the US is withdrawing from TPP and seeking a reopening of NAFTA is an important first step toward a trade policy that works for working people. While these are necessary actions, they aren’t enough. They are just the first in a series of necessary policy changes required to build a fair and just global economy. We will continue our relentless campaign to create new trade and economic rules that end special privileges for foreign investors and Big Pharma, protect our planet’s precious natural resources and ensure fair pay, safe conditions and a voice in the workplace for all workers.” 

The Hill is also reporting that President Trump plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and has “dispatched his son-in-law and senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner to Calgary on Tuesday to begin talks with the cabinet of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.”

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich was quick to point out on facebook that Trump’s feudal attempt to renegotiate NAFTA is only a distraction from the Republican attacks on working people.

“Trump stirs up symbolic controversies as diversions from what he and the Republicans are really up to.

Take NAFTA for example. He’s gearing up to “renegotiate” it, whatever that means. Expect lots of angry talk on both sides of our southern border.

But NAFTA’s a hill of beans relative Trump’s and the Republican’s pending repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). That will directly hurt millions of working Americans. But Trump wants to distract attention.

Same with Obama’s overtime rule, now hung up in the courts, which Trump is going to axe. It have delivered $12 billion of wage gains over the next decade to American workers.

Ditto labor unions. Trump’s Republicans are busily killing off unions with so-called “right-to-work” laws. The result is less bargaining power for workers to get better wages. But Trump doesn’t want to talk about labor unions. He’d rather beat up on Mexico.

And keep a careful watch on Medicare and Social Security, which have been in Paul Ryan’s cross-hairs for years. We don’t even know what Trump and the Republicans are planning for them, but whatever it is, average working people will take the brunt.”

So the question now becomes will withdrawing and renegotiating the TPP and possibly renegotiating NAFTA really help working people or will it be another chance for Trump and his billionaire buddies to cash in on unbalanced trade agreements?  Only time will tell.

AFL-CIO Decries Trump’s Cabinet Selections

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Cabinet Nominations

Richard_TrumkaAfter the election, we made clear that we would hold Donald Trump accountable to the promises he made to working people throughout the campaign.

His initial nominations fundamentally threaten these promises.  Taken together, the appointments push President-elect Trump away from the values and issues that working class voters said were most important to them. 

As a candidate, President-elect Trump railed against Wall Street greed and the failure of big banks to invest in America, yet his nominee for Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, is a billionaire who got rich by foreclosing on the homes of hard-working American families. Mnuchin will take us back to the risky, unregulated financial speculation that benefits his Wall Street friends, leaves consumers vulnerable and risks another financial crisis.

President-elect Trump promised to protect Social Security and Medicare, yet his nominee for HHS Secretary, Rep. Tom Price, wants to privatize and undermine these essential programs and take health care coverage away from millions of Americans.  

During the campaign, President-elect Trump complained that our kids aren’t learning, yet his nominee for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, has spent her career undermining our public education system at the expense of students and teachers alike. She is a billionaire lobbyist, who has used her family’s wealth to steer public funds to private schools.  

Finally, President-elect Trump talked about a ‘New Deal’ for communities of color, yet Senator Jeff Sessions, his nominee for Attorney General, has a history of racially charged comments and a record of crushing civil liberties, including the right to vote. He is the opposite of what the American people want in their chief legal officer.

These decisions by President-elect Trump are deeply inconsistent with the pledges he made in the campaign.  Donald Trump the candidate claimed he would rein in the power of Wall Street traders, protect Social Security and Medicare and ensure all kids have great schools.  But his cabinet choices send a dangerous signal about how President-elect Trump will conduct his presidency. We urge the president-elect to stop stacking his administration with billionaire insiders who do not share the core American values he campaigned on.

Labor Organizations Launch New Phone APP To Combat Wage Theft And Worker Abuses

As Donald Trump Prepares to take over Presidency, Immigrant Workers Prepare to Defend Themselves

jornalerNew York, N.Y. – On Monday November 21st, New York-based day labor worker centers, national labor unions, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) formally announced the launch of an innovative new tool to combat wage-theft and labor exploitation among immigrant workers.   

Two years ago, day laborer centers in New York began a bottom-up effort to utilize new technologies to solve epidemic of minimum wage violations.   While wage theft, or the denial of earned wages, is rampant across many industries, day laborers are particularly susceptible for many reasons including misperceptions about their immigration status. The new App was designed by and for day laborers, and it can be used by all vulnerable immigrant workers.  

The Jornaler@ App, (pronounced Jornalera, the Spanish language word for “day laborer”) will allow users to safely combat instances of wage theft by reporting abusive employers and other violations. The information compiled by the App will be administered by day laborer worker centers, labor unions and other organizations that wish to participate.

“Immigrant worker centers are honored to work with our brothers and sisters within the AFL-CIO to forge the next chapter in worksite enforcement strategies” Pablo Alvarado, the Executive Director of NDLON.  “Particularly now, as xenophobes seek to divide workers and undermine government institutions, we must organize, innovate, and stand together to defend ourselves. This new App will encourage organizing and will send a powerful message to abusive employers that wage theft will not be tolerated.”

This year marks the ten-year anniversary of the AFL-CIO’s historic partnership with NDLON, which sought to end the denial of wages to immigrant workers, and opened the door for worker centers to formally participate in the labor movement.

“The launch of this app is very important. This is an example of using technology as a tool for shared prosperity,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “We want to make sure that every worker in this country knows that they are not alone. We continue to stand firm on the side of all working people and commit to protecting these day laborer corners the way we will protect our union halls, in the face of any attack”.

Developing the Jornaler@ APP was the result of collaboration initiated and conducted by social practice artist Sol Aramendi with workers, organizers, lawyers and artists at New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE). As the idea began to grow, other worker centers from across New York began participating in the growing conversation. Groups such as El Centro de Inmigrante, La Colmena, the Don Bosco Workers in Port Chester, The Workplace Project in Hempstead, and Obreros Unidos from Yonkers.

Financial support from the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades was instrumental in completing the development of the application and delivering it to the workers that will use Jornaler@ all over the country.

“The IUPAT is proud to have worked with our community partners and organizations to help build the framework of a new worker movement for the 21st century” said IUPAT General President Kenneth Rigmaiden. “Wage theft is a costly national epidemic, and this app will serve as a powerful tool to protect the workers who push this country forward every day.”

Jornaler@ is available for Android and iPhone. Search for “Jornalera” on Google Play or the AppStore.

AFL-CIO Begins Final Phase of 2016 Campaign

Ground game and digital blitz to target millions of union households and allies

(Washington, DC) – In the final days before the election, the AFL-CIO will drive a powerful grassroots program and launch a digital ad blitz to union households and allies. The final stretch of the campaign is underlined by speaking with millions of voters at the doors and on the phones, delivering millions of mailers and a six-figure digital ad buy in battleground states.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka began the countdown to election day with a new video message that makes the closing argument for Hillary Clinton.

“The case for Hillary Clinton stands on its own,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “We are not choosing the Apprentice. We’re electing the leader of the United States of America. Hillary has the ideas, experience and drive to transform our economy into an engine for shared prosperity.”

In addition, the AFL-CIO will roll out digital ads on ten prominent media sites in the battleground states of Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Orlando Weekly, Tampa Bay Times, Jacksonville FOX-WFOX, Jacksonville First Coast News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Columbus Dispatch, Toledo Blade, Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will see the ads which redirect to a new landing page. You can view the ads here: http://bit.ly/2fgcrrG.

Starting Monday, union members and allies can help build a symbolic wall around the White House to keep Donald Trump out at www.StopTrump.org.

In Philadelphia, radio ads on African American stations will build on the AFL-CIO’s Black voter program and encourage turnout in the community.

Nearly half a million mailers and 1.4 million slate cards listing pro-worker candidates will reach union households in key states by Election Day. All three AFL-CIO officers will continue their rigorous travel schedule across the country to engage with union members in battleground states including Florida, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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