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

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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

Senator Elizabeth liz Warren

 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

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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

Immigration rally Nashua 4-6-13 (credit Arnie Alpert)

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

Stand Up Live Better WalMart

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.

 

AFL-CIO and AFT Oppose The Wall Street Giveaways In House Spending Bill

wall street bull

wall street bull

The Wall Street gamblers are up to their underhanded tricks once again, and they are using their Congressional puppets to do their bidding.  Tonight Republican lawmakers tried to roll back provisions in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act regarding derivative trading.

“The provision that’s about to be repealed requires banks to keep separate a key part of their risky Wall Street speculation so that there’s no government insurance for that part of their business,”  Senator Elizabeth Warren stated on the floor of the Senate. “We all need to stand and fight this giveaway to the most powerful banks in the country.”

Wall Street Gamblers used taxpayer insured derivatives to nearly break our economy and sent us into the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.

“This giveaway to Wall Street would open the door to future bailouts funded by American taxpayers,” said Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. “It has been just six years since risky financial practices put our economy on the brink of collapse. This provision, originally written by lobbyists, has no place in a must-pass spending bill.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement:

At the request of too-big-to-fail banks, the Republican leadership is trying to sneak a provision into a last-minute deal to fund the government that will make it easier for too-big-to-fail banks to put taxpayers on the hook for their risky speculation in toxic derivatives.

We call on members of Congress of both parties who are opposed to too-big-to-fail to stand up to Wall Street and to this harmful roll-back of a critical anti-bailout provision in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Dodd-Frank forced too-big-to-fail banks to move potentially toxic speculation in derivatives out of their government-insured banks. Wall Street’s friends in Congress are trying to once again put the public on the hook for the most dangerous aspects of the financial system.

Working people were profoundly harmed by the 2008 financial crisis and its continuing aftermath of mass unemployment, falling wages, the mass eviction of working people from their homes, and reduced public investment.  Derivatives were at the center of the crisis – turning a painful decline in home prices into an international financial crisis that still plagues our economy.

The AFL-CIO strongly opposes efforts to make it easier for too-big-to-fail banks to use taxpayer-backed funds to make risky bets in the derivatives markets.

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers vehemently opposed rolling back Wall Street reforms.

“It’s unconscionable that Republicans would take a bill to keep the government open and sneak into it a provision that enables Wall Street to do the same kind of gambling that crashed our economy, required billions in taxpayer bailouts and devastated working people,” said Weingarten. “Why would anyone, instead of helping the middle class with policies that will promote shared prosperity, continue to aid and abet the rich and powerful banks with giveaways that crashed the financial system less than a decade ago? Working people are counting on Congress to do the right thing and reject this gift to Wall Street.”

As you have already heard, the spending bill — including the Wall Street roll-backs — passed the House and is now in the Senate.  If they do not pass it by midnight tonight the government will run out of funding and be forced into yet another shutdown.

Will the Senate strike the provision and send the bill back to the House? Will the Senate pass the spending bill with the Wall Street roll-backs?  If the Senate passes the bill will the President veto bill knowing that it could lead to another government shutdown?

By 1 am on Friday morning all of my questions will be answered.

 

Below is Elizabeth Warren’s entire speech to the Senate floor, it is worth your time.

Senator Liz Warren To Keynote AFL-CIO Summit On Wages

Senator Elizabeth liz Warren

Major Event to Launch Bold Year of Action

(Washington, D.C.) – The AFL-CIO announced today that Senator Elizabeth Warren will deliver the keynote address during the first-ever National Summit on Wages next month. On January 7, 2015, at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., Senator Warren will headline a vibrant mix of contributors to the summit that will lay claim to a bold progressive strategy immediately as the New Year opens.

“Elizabeth Warren is a true champion of working people with the right vision and leadership to keynote this critical summit,” AFL-CIO President Trumka said. “Senator Warren knows how to protect Main Street from Wall Street, fight for jobs and rebuild the American Dream. She has a defined set of values and unlike many politicians, she actually sticks by those and fights to implement them. That’s exactly what this summit is all about.”

Announced last month, the summit will be an extended, eclectic discussion about policies and strategies to raise wages in America, including significant interaction with a planned audience of more than 300. The focus will be solving the dilemma of income inequality by raising wages throughout America.

“Hardworking people across the country deserve to earn fair and decent wages so they can build a better future for themselves and for their kids,” said Senator Warren. “The AFL-CIO’s National Summit on Wages will give us a chance to ramp up our efforts to grow opportunities for America’s working families and strengthen our middle class.”

The urgent need for the Summit was reinforced on November 4.  On Election Day, voters made clear their support for raising wages, even as they rejected candidates who wouldn’t boldly stand up for that agenda.

Further details about the Summit will be announced later this month.

Statement By AFL-CIO Pres. Trumka On OUR Walmart Black Friday Protests

Image via WikiCommon

www.BlackFridayProtests.org

As the Walton family indulges in their own Thanksgiving meal, many Walmart workers who help keep them rich can’t afford food for their families. On Black Friday, the entire labor movement will proudly stand with the brave workers at Walmart as they lead the largest mobilization to date for better wages and schedules. Their courage is inspiring and powerful in the fight for all workers.

The low-down, low-cost, low-wage, low-road Walmart model is wrecking America, causing real pain for workers, and it’s wrong. In an economy where too many people who work still can’t make ends meet, it’s the economic and moral responsibility of businesses to step up. Walmart can continue its dangerous business model or it can lead the way to family-sustaining jobs.

The Walton family is worth $150 billion, but that isn’t enough to silence working people or keep us from fighting for what’s right. Local labor movements across the country join with community groups and allies to amplify Walmart workers’ call for the company to publicly commit to $15 an hour and full-time, consistent hours. There comes a time when we’ve got to stand for justice, for good pay, for good jobs, for our future, for our families and for each other. And that time is now, so all Americans can have a Happy Thanksgiving.

AFL-CIO Seeks End to “Revolving Door” Payments

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Large financial institutions give bonuses to their employees for taking jobs in government.

(Washington DC) AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka today sent letters to seven large Wall Street banks calling for the banks to explain questionable compensation practices. Each bank (Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Lazard) provides the opportunity for additional compensation to employees who leave the bank to work for the government.

As an institutional investor, the AFL-CIO has called on each bank’s compensation committee to offer a detailed explanation of how bankers leaving their company to enter government service benefits their old employer.

“When senior executives leave Wall Street companies to work in the government, that means the loss of valuable human capital,” said Heather Slavkin Corzo, Director of the AFL-CIO’s Office of Investment. “So how is it in the interest of shareholders to allow for accelerated vesting or other incentives in exchange for leaving the company?  Unless the position of these companies is that this is just a backdoor way to pay off a newly minted government official to act in Wall Street’s private interests rather than the public interest, it is very difficult to see how these policies promote long-term shareholder value.”

Copies of the letter can be found at the links below:

Morgan Stanley:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7WDMtzVyAYQZkZFTTlWWE1JN0U/view?usp=sharing

Citigroup:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7WDMtzVyAYQQXJDVkZLM0pTckk/view?usp=sharing

Goldman Sachs:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7WDMtzVyAYQbEJETHNObkRDSWs/view?usp=sharing

JP Morgan Chase:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7WDMtzVyAYQZF9BOXFSV2NLSkE/view?usp=sharing

Bank of America:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7WDMtzVyAYQdm5lanFzWkRNWlE/view?usp=sharing

Wells Fargo:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7WDMtzVyAYQNHVSTVEyajY1REE/view?usp=sharing

Lazard:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7WDMtzVyAYQMlFkRXc3SmRaYVE/view

 

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