AFL-CIO Statement On Obama’s Executive Order To Protect Employees From Gender Discrimination

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Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on President Obama’s Executive Order Protecting Federal Employees from Gender Identity Discrimination

Working people believe in equality and fairness. That’s why we are happy to stand with President Obama in supporting protections for workers who are discriminated against on the basis of gender identity.

It is wrong for any employer to discriminate against or fire a worker based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination in the workplace has no place in the United States. That’s why it’s difficult to believe that in many parts of the country, it’s legal to fire workers for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

America’s unions and working families are dedicated to bringing fairness and dignity to the workplace—and will continue this work until every worker is treated with dignity and respect on the job.

We are proud to come together for a more just America.

AFL-CIO President Trumka On The Humanitarian Crisis At The Border

Richard Trumka (The Nation / AP-Photo)

The humanitarian crisis of families and children fleeing violence in Central America and turning themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents has brought out both the best and the worst in our nation.

Alarmingly, in places like Murrieta, California and Vassar, Michigan, we have seen ugly reminders of racism and hatred directed toward children. The spewing of nativist venom, the taking up of arms and the fear-mongering about crime and disease harken back to dark periods in our history and have no business taking place under the banner of our flag.

On the other hand, around the country we have also seen a tremendous outpouring of compassion and concern for the plight of these women and children.  We are proud to say that local unions have joined with faith and community groups to collect needed supplies, provide shelter and support, and call for humane treatment.

The situation along the border is a refugee crisis that requires a humane, lawful response and must not be politicized.  The labor movement calls upon national and community leaders to respond to the crisis in a manner that meets our obligations under U.S. and international law, and comports with basic human rights and American values.  This means ensuring full due process and providing the additional resources necessary to ensure the well-being and fair treatment of children and refugees.  It also requires taking an honest assessment of the root causes of the crisis, including the long-term impact of U.S. policies on immigration, trade, and foreign affairs.

We cannot lend credibility to Republican assertions that a refugee crisis is proof that we should continue to deport hard working people who have been contributing members of our society for years.  These are simply new excuses to justify failed policies. Lifting the pressure on immigrant workers was needed before the child refugee story developed, and it is no less urgent today.  The Administration must act now to keep all families together, uphold our standards as a humanitarian nation, and advance the decent work agenda necessary to improve conditions both at home and abroad.

Working People Score Major Victories Throughout The Country

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Working people scored major victories over the last several months, organizing new workplaces and winning fights to raise wages.

The following are a sample of some these victories:

Organizing Victories

Texas Machinists Win Back-to-Back Organizing Drives: Union growth continues in Texas as members from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers successfully organized their second consecutive workplace in Texas this month adding nearly 1,000 new members.

Point Park University Faculty Organize Hundreds to Gain Benefits: Over 300 part-time faculty members at Point Park University in Pittsburgh now have access to essential benefits and protections thanks to a successful vote to join the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers (AFA-USW).

Missouri EMS Workers Win Organizing Fight: An overwhelming majority of Emergency Medical Service (EMS) professionals in Independence, Missouri voted to join EMS Workers United-AFSCME, strengthening the local union and providing essential protections for Missouri workers.

Raising Wages Victories

Massachusetts Workers Help Push Minimum Wage Hike: Working people in Massachusetts scored a big win as Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation that will increase the state’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017.

Newark, NJ Paid Sick-Leave Ordinance Goes Into Effect: A new paid sick-leave law in Newark, NJ will allow full and part-time employees to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick-leave per year. Similar paid sick-leave laws have passed in cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Momentum Builds for Minimum Wage Hike in Nebraska: Workers in Nebraska put a measure on the 2014 ballot to raise the minimum wage to $9 and hour by 2016.

California Workers Benefit from Minimum Wage Increase: An increase in California’s minimum wage to $9 an hour has taken effect, with the wage set to increase again in 2016 to $10 an hour. Meanwhile, efforts continue in Los Angeles to increase the minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour.

Community Victories

Philadelphia Building-Trades Go to Work with New Housing Deal: A deal between Philadelphia building-trades unions and the Philadelphia Housing Authority will put people to work in union jobs while creating new affordable housing for Pennsylvanians.

Letter Carriers Complete Successful Food Drive: Members of the National Association of Letter Carriers completed their annual food drive, collecting more than 72 million pounds of food for families in need.

Union Volunteers Help Aspiring Americans Earn Citizenship: On June 28th at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, DC, volunteers helped nearly 100 people through the U.S. citizenship process, enabling them to file paperwork with the help of legal and immigration experts.

The SCOTUS Rules On “Recess Appointments” To The NLRB

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Yesterday the news broke that the Supreme Court of the United States had issued a ruling on whether or not the President could make “recess appointments.” A recess appointment is when the Senate is officially in “recess,” and the President nominates someone to an official Executive Branch position, like the National Labor Relations Board.

“Today’s ruling clears up the legal landscape on a question both Democratic and Republican presidents have faced for decades – the circumstances under which the United States Constitution allows them to make temporary recess appointments to executive branch positions,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

“President Obama made the recess appointments to the NLRB because obstructionism by Republican senators was about to make the National Labor Relations Board inoperable due to a lack of NLRB members,” continued Trumka. “The President did the right thing and acted on solid legal authority in making these appointments. Had he not acted, millions of workers would have been deprived of their rights under our labor laws.”

This ruling did clear up a few things:

1) The President can make a recess appointment if the recess is longer than ten (10) days.

2) They ruled that the parliamentary trick of holding “pro-forma” session – a session where nothing gets done but technically there is a session – would be enough to break to officially keep the Senate “in session”, and would reset the clock on the any recess timetables. The effectively means that if the Senate held a “pro-forma” session every nine days during long breaks, the President would not make any recess appointments.

3) They ruled that President Obama appointments to the NLRB were unconstitutional. This means all the cases where these NLRB appointees issued a ruling (before they were fully confirmed by the Senate), are now invalid.

Trumka pointed to the filibuster rule change that is allowing appointments to move through better than they were before. “Fortunately Senate leaders successfully changed Senate rules so that Executive Branch nominees can now be confirmed by a majority of the Senate and cannot be blocked by a minority of senators.”

“While today we have a fully functioning National Labor Relations Board to act on behalf of workers, this ruling invalidates countless other NLRB rulings that must now be decided again,” stated Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “This not only puts an additional burden on the NLRB, it creates uncertainty and additional pain for those workers who believed they had found justice. We are confident the NLRB will act swiftly on these cases”

Weingarten was very critical of the real people who were inhibiting the appointments to the NLRB.

“Let’s be clear—this case was the result of Republicans’ relentless obstructionism and their efforts to interfere with President Obama’s ability to make our government work and ensure the NLRB functions on behalf of working people,” continued Weingarten. “While the Senate reached a temporary compromise on presidential appointments, this ruling could embolden a minority of senators to take action in the future to prevent the president from making the appointments needed to ensure our democracy can function fully on behalf of the American people.”

The Communication Workers of America have been working diligently over the past few years to bring awareness to the problems with the antiquated filibuster rule that is allowing the minority to block important pieces of legislation and major appointments. They used their massive network of members to start a national conversation to “Fix the Senate” and pushed to “Give Us Five” referring to a full five member NLRB.

CWA released the following statement

Today’s Supreme decision is a sharp reminder that the U.S. Senate functions under archaic procedures that must change. That’s especially true of the rule requiring a super-majority, or 60 votes, for the Senate to recess.

The Senate rules are at the heart of this decision and the Constitution is clear that the Senate has the right to set its own rules.

In every other democratic meeting, from the local city council to any major parliamentary body, proceedings are recessed by a majority vote. Only the U.S. Senate requires a super-majority to proceed to debate on most motions, legislation and including the motion to recess.

We have seen the consequences of this rule. It’s been a key tactic used by the Senate minority to block confirmation of the president’s executive and judicial nominations. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made his party’s intentions clear when he said his goal was to make President Obama a one-term president. When that didn’t succeed, the Senate minority stepped up a campaign of delay and obstruction, of appointments and any progressive legislative advances. The minority’s strategy of refusing to proceed to a vote for any recess has made a mockery of the Senate’s role in government.

The Senate’s constitutional duty is to review the president’s nominees through “advice and consent” – not use parliamentary tricks to impede his policy agenda.

For thousands of workers, this decision has real-life consequences. Some 120 decisions made by the National Labor Relations Board in the period contested by the Noel Canning lawsuit may be challenged and justice for thousands of workers will be delayed, and in practice, denied.

The need for real Senate rules reform has never been clearer, or more urgent. CWA and our allies, working together in the Democracy Initiative, are keeping up the fight for Senate rules changes. Critical is an end to the super-majority vote requirement that blocks debate and discussion of nearly all Senate business, even the motion to recess.

We need a functioning government if we are to ever recover from this economic slump, and the bitter partisanship that is crippling Washington. It just may be time to go “nuclear” on the filibuster rule, so we can make some real progress.

“White House Summit On Working Families” Focuses On Working Women And Their Families

(Image by Din Jimenez FLIKR)
(Image by Din Jimenez FLIKR)

(Image by Din Jimenez FLIKR)

Working families across the nation are struggling to make ends meet.  Unemployment is still too high, wages are too low, and people are working more and more, while getting less and less.

This week, workers from all across our great nation will be meeting with President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, and the Department of Labor for the White House Summit on Working Families.

The summit is focused on building an economy, and a workplace, that works for all Americans, with a focus on issues that face women and their families.  The Summit will focus on key issues such as workplace flexibility, equal pay, workplace discrimination, worker retention and promotion, and childcare/early childhood education.

Anna Neighbor, a Philadelphia adjunct professor cobbles together teaching positions at as many as four different colleges in a sometimes futile attempt to make ends meet.  She said college students are paralyzed by student loan debt, while a majority of their professors—like herself—work part time, are underpaid and receive no benefits.

Anna mirrors the struggles of many working people who have continued to see an erosion of their pay as the cost of living continues to rise. Even though Anna has an advanced degree, and is a college level educator, she receives no benefits and gets paid as low as $10 per hour.

Priscilla Smith, a teacher’s aide in Lake View, N.Y., near Buffalo, had to take on extra evening, weekend and early morning jobs to help her family financially.

We need to change the way we treat, and pay, our educators. The people, who are educating the workers of tomorrow, should not be forced to work two and three jobs to avoid living in poverty.

Gloria Wright, a 20-year Detroit preschool paraprofessional/assistant teacher hasn’t seen a raise in more than five years. She thinks about leaving the profession, but the pull of the rewards she receives from her students’ accomplishments keeps her in the classroom.

For many people serving their community is very rewarding, however you cannot pay the bills with the smiles of happy four-year olds. Like Gloria, many continue to live on the edge of financial ruin because they truly love the kids, and love what they are doing for their community.

Kendra Liddell a Seattle single mother is paid so little as a 10-year early childhood educator that she has to earn supplemental income to get by. She plans to get a degree in a better-paying field to bring some financial stability to her family, and then return to the classroom because of her deep commitment to serving families and her community.

For decades policy makers have been trying to find solutions to the fact that women continue to earn less than men.  In spite of our best efforts women on average make $.77 on the dollar to a man.  For women of color, the problem is even worse. “African-American women are paid only 64 cents, and Hispanic women only 54 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.”

Women continued to be oppressed in the workplace. Across the board women represent 42% of the overall workforce. Yet women are often excluded from industries like the building trades, which pay much better than retail or office work.  In fact, only 2.6% of all construction workers are women, a number that has remained relatively unchanged for over 30 years.

Percent of Women in Workforce

Vanessa Casillas a bricklayer from Chicago, IL said, “I like being outside and working with my hands, and if I feel good doing it, why should I be limited if I’m a woman?”

Rocky Hwasta a carpenter of Cleveland, OH said, “I became a carpenter in 1985.  Women were not accepted then and are not accepted now.  Although I had a bachelor’s degree, as a single mom, I needed a good paying job with benefits to raise my family of three children.”

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Recently eleven New Hampshire union building trades opened their doors in a special invitation for women to learn a lasting trade.  The Building Pathways NH program gave local women the chance to see what a career in the building trades would be with a rigorous, five week, hands-on introduction to the different skilled trades.  After they complete the Building Pathways program, they are invited to join a full apprentice program with any of the associated unions.

Elizabeth Skidmore, Business Agent for the Carpenters Local 118, helped create the Building Pathways NH program and will be speaking about the new and innovative program, as an invited guest at the Working Families Summit.

“I’m honored to be included in this summit and that the work a broad team has done over the last five years to increase the number of women working in union construction has been given to the White House as a national best practice,” said Skidmore. “Many partners, from labor to local, state and federal government, as well as union contractors and community partners, have worked together to identify and implement game changers, which has put more women to work in these high-skill, high-pay careers.”

The Working Families Summit will hopefully find solutions to some of the many problems that are plaguing working families.  Problems like low pay, good affordable healthcare, retirements, sick days, paid time off and pay equity.

Our economy does better when we all do better.  We need an America that works for everyone, businesses and workers alike.

Workers and Collective Bargaining in Spotlight in Advance of White House Summit on Working Families

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Washington, DC – Labor organizations today turn the spotlight on the individual stories of workers who have benefitted from collective bargaining or are fighting for a voice on the job. Today’s stories cap off a week of activities around working families and working women in advance of the White House Summit on Working Families.

More than 250 workers representing various unions and millions of workers, will be in attendance to ensure the voices of working families are heard.  Profiles of some of the workers can be found here: http://go.aflcio.org/WomenWorkers

Here are some snapshots of their stories:

Celeste Kirkland, Third Rail Maintainer of White Plains, NY
“I finally landed a job within New York City Transit.  It was a union job and meant that my children would have access to quality medical care, and I would be able to provide for my two young sons.”

Vanessa Casillas, Bricklayer of Chicago, IL
“I like being outside and working with my hands, and if I feel good doing it, why should I be limited if I’m a woman?”

Rocky Hwasta, Carpenter of Cleveland, OH
“I became a carpenter in 1985.  Women were not accepted then and are not accepted now.  Although I had a bachelor’s degree, as a single mom, I needed a good paying job with benefits to raise my family of three children.”

Anna Neighbor, Adjunct Professor of Philadelphia area
“Cobbling together as many positions as possible each semester or year is necessary, because as an adjunct, Anna has no job security, no benefits and a salary that can drop to as low as $10 per hour.”

Carmella Salinas, Early Childhood Educator of Espanola, NM
“I wish I could be a parent who could help my two daughters pay for college, but being passionate about teaching young children does not afford me that luxury and that is something I struggle with every day.”

Zelda Mnqanqeni-Waters, Waitress of Philadelphia, PA
“We’ll do what it takes to make sure we have a future at this hotel that we can count on.  We know what we’re worth and we’ll stick together to get it.”

Tiffaney Lewis, clerical worker of Pueblo, CO
“I also know that if my children were to become ill I would be able to get the best medical care possible because of our medical benefits that are also part of our contract.”

Follow the conversation on social media at #WFSpeakUp and #WorkingFamilies.  Or visit the AFL-CIO blog for more stories from working families. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog

Non-Union Working Women Face Greater Challenges on the Job

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In advance of the White House Summit on Working Families, the labor movement and worker groups are spending this week highlighting the stories of real working families and the challenges they face.

Today we’ll take a look at working women and moms in the workplace with the story from Bene’t Holmes.  Bene’t is a 25-year-old single mother who works at Walmart in Chicago and struggles to survive on low wages.  In February she suffered a miscarriage while at work, after a manager denied her request for job duties that were less physically demanding.  Following her miscarriage, she asked for a leave of absence to recover and was denied that request as well.  Read how Bene’t realized she needed a voice on the job and took action with the OUR Walmart campaign.

A quote from Bene’t’s story

“….Besides feeling betrayed by Walmart I questioned how a company that champions family could be so cold and heartless when one of its own employees is dealing with a tragedy.

I had to act—no woman should ever be put in that position again. I used my story to speak out and empower other women….”

On the policy front, the Center for Economic Policy and Research is out with a new study on women, working families and unions.  The study concludes that “firms with a union presence were 22 percent more likely to allow workers to take parental leave for a new child, 16 percent more likely to allow workers to take medical leave for their own illness, 12 percent more likely to allow workers to take medical leave for pregnancy, and 19 percent more likely to allow workers to take medical leave to care for a family member.”  View the full study here

Follow the conversation on social media at #WFSpeakUp and #WorkingFamilies.  Or visit the AFL-CIO blog for more stories from working families. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog

AFL-CIO Wraps up Week of Activity in Support of Walmart Workers

Image via WikiCommon
Image via WikiCommon

Image via WikiCommon

Working Families Take to the Streets Leading up to Walmart’s Shareholders Meeting

Washington, DC – This week working families and Walmart moms across the country hit the streets to protest Walmart’s egregious workplace policies.  And this afternoon Walmart moms are rallying outside of the Walmart Supercenter in Washington, D.C., in protest of the company’s illegal firings and disciplinary action against co-workers who have struck to end illegal retaliation and spoken out for better jobs for their families.

On Monday AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called on people to stand with Walmart moms going on strike: http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Corporate-Greed/Why-We-Should-All-Support-the-Moms-on-Strike-Against-Walmart

On Wednesday the AFL-CIO named Rob Walton, Chairman of Walmart the “Low Wage Villain of the Week”: http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Corporate-Greed/Low-Wage-Villain-of-the-Week-Rob-Walton

On Thursday AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler penned an open letter to working women in support of Walmart moms: http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Corporate-Greed/Walmart-Moms-Their-Fight-Is-Our-Fight

Today AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre will join Walmart moms in Washington, DC to call on new Walmart CEO, Doug McMillon, to publicly commit to take the company in a new direction.

The strike follows a series of events in Phoenix, Ariz., where Walmart moms tried todiscuss their concerns of low pay directly with board chairman Rob Walton in his neighborhood.

Worker shareholders who are OUR Walmart members —including many striking moms—are set to attend the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Friday, June 6 in Bentonville, Ark., to take their concerns directly to shareholders.

The annual shareholders meeting will begin as Walmart workers—part of the three-year old national organization OUR Walmart—make significant strides in changing policies of the country’s largest employer. Recently, Walmart upgraded its pregnancy policy after OUR Walmart memberswho are also shareholders submitted a resolution to the company about its discriminatory pregnancy policy. And,responding to OUR Walmart members’ growing calls on the retailer to improve access to hours, Walmart rolled out a new system nationwidethat allows workers to sign up for open shifts in their stores online.

The TTD Says: House Must Reject Plan to Cut Mail Delivery to Pay for Highway and Transit Investments

United States Postal Service fleet; U.S.A.

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Washington DC – Today, TTD President Edward Wytkind dismissed the proposal by House Republican leaders to abolish Saturday mail delivery to close the funding gap in the Highway Trust Fund:

“Abolishing Saturday mail delivery to pay for the funding shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund is a non-starter and should be dead on arrival.  Instead of offering a responsible plan to fund our immediate and long-term surface transportation funding needs, Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Cantor and Majority Whip McCarthy have put forth a misguided proposal that risks further delay in addressing the trust fund’s anticipated insolvency.

“We agree with the critical need to avoid a summer default of the Highway Trust Fund that will put thousands on the employment line and harm businesses across America.  And finding additional revenues to pass a longer-term bill that puts Americans back to work rebuilding, modernizing and operating our decaying transportation system is essential work that Congress must complete.  But attempting to use supposed “savings” from eliminating mail service makes absolutely no sense.  Not only would this proposal cut up to 80,000 good-paying jobs including postal employees represented by TTD unions, but we question whether the promised revenues would actually materialize.  More to the point, offering a politically toxic and flawed proposal will only distract and delay serious policy makers from solving this funding crisis that, if left unaddressed, promises to crater our economy.

“It is disappointing that House Republican leaders have resurrected a strategy – taken right out of the failed playbook from last Congress – of funding surface transportation needs on the backs of workers who have nothing to do with the funding shortfalls we face.  More recently, Congress has demonstrated that Republicans and Democrats can come together on efforts to boost investment in our ports and waterways – essential avenues of commerce and transportation.  We hope that House members will once again choose a path of consensus on major transportation funding issues and reject this dangerous plan that will do nothing to fix the nation’s severe transportation challenges.”

AFL-CIO Slams North Carolina ‘Imminent Disturbance’ Rule with New Video

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WASHINGTON, DC – Today, in a show of solidarity with progressive activists and faith leaders in North Carolina, the AFL-CIO released a video slamming the North Carolina state legislature for establishing undemocratic ‘imminent disturbance’ rules, aimed at limiting the First Amendment rights of North Carolinians.

“The very best of America has come from imminent disturbance, and to limit people’s right to assemble and protest is both unacceptable and un-American,” said AFL-CIO Strategic Advisor and Communications Director, Eric Hauser. “We stand together with the thousands who have spoken out against these reprehensible rules, and call on North Carolina’s leaders to reverse course and restore the basic rights we fight for every day.”

These rules, established earlier this month, would prohibit individuals from engaging in activity deemed to be an ‘imminent disturbance’ to the North Carolina statehouse. The new rules directly impact participants of the ‘Moral Mondays’, which have shed light on extreme right-wing policies introduced in the North Carolina statehouse.

The video, entitled ‘Imminent Disturbance’, can be seen below.