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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

AFL-CIO Announces Raising Wages Summits in Presidential Primary States

 Expanded Campaign in Seven Cities

The first National Summit on Raising Wages definitively set the tone for political and economic action in the New Year. It generated an in-depth, diverse conversation and developed concrete steps for an expanded campaign to raise wages for working people. But above all, the summit proved America is beginning to rise up, come together and reject the idea that nothing can be done about falling wages.

The AFL-CIO’s national summit is just the beginning of the 2015 Raising Wages campaign. From today’s success, the campaign expands with two initial projects:

1)      State federations of labor will hold Raising Wages summits in the first four presidential primary states—Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina—beginning in Iowa this spring. These summits will bring together diverse voices to lay out the entire Raising Wages platform and establish state-based standards of accountability.

2)      The AFL-CIO will take the Raising Wages campaign to seven cities around the country: Atlanta, Columbus, DC (Metro), St. Louis, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and San Diego. In each city, the labor movement will stand together with those already at work and bring important energy, ideas and resources to critical battles. These cities will be the starting points of a long-term effort to concentrate work where it can have the most impact.

In major speeches highlighting the summit, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez outlined the defining economic fact of the past generation: productivity has gone way up and wages have stayed flat. Concluding the summit, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka highlighted the enormous progress, remaining challenges and real steps the labor movement plans to undertake in order to create an economy based on raising wages.

The AFL-CIO also released a series of policy prescriptions that take on many of the challenges discussed. These bold policies provide a comprehensive road map to grow our nation’s economy in a way that works for everyone.

The core of the summit’s success was built on a panel discussion of workers, academics, business owners and progressive and political leaders. Through this conversation, panelists detailed how the raising wages agenda made great strides and confronted great challenges in 2014, including major organizing wins at American Airlines, multiple state legislative victories on the minimum wage and innovative campaigns conducted by carwash workers. The panelists also recognized, however, that right-wing billionaires’ extremist politics, a rapacious Wall Street and insufficient advocacy from political leaders thwarted further progress.

The AFL-CIO National Summit on Raising Wages was attended by more than 300 progressive activists and union leaders, and was seen by thousands more through online live-stream video.

This summit is how the work begins. At its end, the challenges—but more importantly, the opportunities—are clear. Allies united behind the idea of a Raising Wages Agenda have come together in a collective voice, and are ready to go to work.

AFL-CIO Urges Navient To Do Business Legally

Institutional investor draws attention to company’s alleged abuse of student loan borrowers

(Washington, D.C.) AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sent a letter to Navient yesterday questioning whether the mammoth student loan servicer has the necessary internal controls to prevent it from violating the law and losing lucrative government contracts.

“As a long-term institutional investor in Navient and its predecessor Sallie Mae, the AFL-CIO has a profound interest in the company’s performance. We are concerned by Navient’s alleged legal violations involving student loan borrowers. Since government investigations are still ongoing, we are asking those responsible for keeping Navient on the right side of the law to discuss our concerns as soon as possible,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Over the past year, Navient has had legal troubles involving their treatment of military members. In May, it was part of a settlement that agreed to pay $97 million over allegations from the Department of Justice and the FDIC that it overcharged 60,000 active duty military members on their student loans and that it mishandled their payments to maximize late fees in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is also investigating the company’s servicing practices and the Department of Education is reviewing whether the company breached its contract.

“While the men and women of our armed forces were protecting our country, Navient mishandled their loan payments. These types of business practices are unacceptable,” added James Gilbert, Director of the AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council and a veteran of the US Navy.

“Navient’s alleged servicing violations are significantly harming its reputation and are jeopardizing its role as a government contractor,” said Heather Slavkin Corzo, Director of the AFL-CIO’s Office of Investment. “Taking financial advantage of soldiers is horrifyingly wrong. The allegations that Navient failed to comply with regulations, if true, pose a real risk to the larger business.”

A copy of the letter can be found at the link below:https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7WDMtzVyAYQSVpjNDBZNVhDYzQ/edit

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On Immigration Accountability Executive Action

Today is an important step toward rational and humane enforcement of immigration law. On behalf of America’s workers, we applaud the Administration’s willingness to act.  We have been calling upon the White House to halt unnecessary deportations since Spring 2013 because our broken immigration system is an invitation for employer manipulation and abuse, and U.S.-born workers as well as immigrant workers are paying the price.

By extending relief and work authorization to an estimated 4 million people, the Obama Administration will help prevent unscrupulous employers from using unprotected workers to drive down wages and conditions for all workers in our country.  Although this fix will be temporary, it will allow millions of people to live and work without fear, and afford them the status to assert their rights on the job.

The Administration is operating within its authority to advance the moral and economic interests of our country, and while we stand ready to defend this program, we must also be clear that it is only a first step.  Unfortunately, more than half of those who currently lack legal protections will remain vulnerable to wage theft, retaliation, and other forms of exploitation.

In addition, we are concerned by the President’s concession to corporate demands for even greater access to temporary visas that will allow the continued suppression of wages in the tech sector.  We will actively engage in the rulemaking process to ensure that new workers will be hired based on real labor market need and afforded full rights and protections.

But this announcement does move us forward – progress that is attributable to the courage and determination of immigrants who rallied, petitioned, fasted and blocked streets to make it happen.  Implementation of the executive action should begin immediately, before further delays open the door for legislative obstruction. Starting tomorrow, the administration should focus enforcement attention on high level targets, stop the community raids and leave workers, grandmothers, and schoolchildren in peace.

Going forward, we renew our call for comprehensive reform that provides a path to citizenship and real protections for workers.  We will continue to stand with all workers, regardless of status, to ensure that their voices are heard and their rights are protected.  Working together, we know that we will ultimately achieve a more just immigration system that promotes shared prosperity and respects the dignity of all workers.

Worker Wins Update: Workers Organize to Create New Jobs, Secure Scheduling Reform

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

The following are a sample of victories won by workers:

Organizing and Community Victories

Walmart Workers Stage Nationwide Black Friday Protests: Walmart workers were joined by unions and community allies in staging approximately 1,600 protests against the corporation’s low wages and hostile work environments on Black Friday. This is the third year in a row that workers have staged Black Friday protests, with this year’s being the biggest yet.

Workers Fight for $15: Workers in a diverse set of sectors, from airline workers to retail employees, joined fast food workers in a nationwide strike across 190 cities. Workers spoke out for a $15 minimum wage and the right to organize for better working conditions and workplace fairness.

Boston Bike Share Workers Vote to Unionize: Employees of Hubway, a Boston-based bike share company, voted overwhelmingly to join Transport Workers Union Local 100. The workers, including mechanics, technicians, and dispatchers, are part of a national campaign to organize bike share workers.

Workers Defy Anti-Union Efforts, Vote to Organize: Approximately 150 workers at an Alabama copper parts plant voted to organize as members of the United Steelworkers after extensive efforts by Governor Robert Bentley to dissuade workers from unionizing.

Nurses and Hospital Workers Establish Union at Two Connecticut Hospitals: Nearly 1,000 radiology technologists, respiratory clinicians, and nurses have voted to form unions at two hospitals in Connecticut. The workers will be represented by AFT Connecticut and had filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board after hospital administrators attempted to halt efforts by intimidating workers.

Boston Parking Attendants Look to Expand Organizing Efforts: Parking attendants in Boston are working to organize approximately 1,600 workers in the Boston area in an attempt to improve working conditions and substandard pay. Parking workers have won contracts with five parking companies in the Boston area over the last two years, and aim to organize at least three additional companies in the area.

Pittsburgh Workers Making Gains: Efforts by workers in the Pittsburgh area have resulted in successful organizing drives at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Rivers Casino, local universities and downtown offices. Currently, local unions are in the process of organizing roughly 1,000 security guards throughout the greater Pittsburgh area.

Los Angeles Workers Come to Agreement, Create Jobs: Approximately 250 new manufacturing jobs will be created in Los Angeles thanks to the efforts of workers negotiating with business and government interests. The workers at a facility, which will be producing light rail trains, will now be free to decide on whether to join a union thanks to a neutrality agreement negotiated by IBEW Local 11.

San Francisco Workers Win Critical Scheduling Reforms: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation that would require retailers with 20 or more locations that employ more than 20 people to give two weeks’ notice for any change in a worker’s schedule. This legislation will assist those working low-wage jobs with unpredictable schedules, such as single mothers and fathers, obtain certainty with their expected hours worked.

Facebook Bus Drivers Organize in San Francisco: Over eighty bus drivers employed by Facebook voted to organize as part of a growing effort in Silicon Valley’s tech sector to win better wages and benefits for low wage workers.