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Transportation Trade Department (AFL-CIO) President Wytkind Speaks On Jobs And Infrastructure

Remarks by Edward Wytkind
President, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO

Delivered at Rally for Jobs and Infrastructure during Infrastructure Week

EdwardWytkindThanks Jos [Williams] for that introduction and for the work you do to mobilize this area’s labor movement behind job creation policies like the ones we are pushing today.

Good afternoon! Thanks for being here to join us in this fight to end the decades-long neglect of our transportation system and infrastructure, a neglect so pervasive that it threatens our economic future.

I’m pleased to join my labor movement colleagues and of course the Transportation Secretary.

I want to commend the President, the Vice President and the Secretary for the job they are doing to advance a vision that says America can and must do better in modernizing our transportation system.  The Administration’s aggressive call for a big and bold plan is exactly what is needed today as we see a lack of leadership and courage in this town.

Let’s be clear.  Our nation’s lifeblood is our public transit and rail systems, our airports and air traffic control system, our highways and bridges, and our ports and maritime systems.

This diverse and powerful network of massive transportation infrastructure and, I might add, the world’s finest transportation workforce, was once the envy of the world.  It is what our grandparents and parents handed off to us so that America had the transportation network it needed to compete and win in the global economy.

But we all know it: we haven’t kept up our end of the bargain. Our current investment gap is threatening to crater our economy, idle millions of good jobs, and harm our competitiveness.

A few facts.

More than 14 million Americans – 1 in 10 workers – operate, build and maintain our transportation system.  These are the types of jobs Americans need if we want to reduce the jobless rate and reverse the crisis of stagnant wages that so many are facing.

The Highway Trust Fund goes broke this summer and WE MUST not let that happen.  But this is really part of a larger problem – this generation is failing to make the investments needed to secure a new era of economic expansion, innovation and job growth.

Bus and rail transit systems, the lifeline for millions of workers and businesses, are seeing healthy demand for their services but more than 3 out of 4 face service and jobs cuts and fare hikes that many workers can’t afford.

Amtrak is using decades-old equipment and being denied the resources it needs to modernize during a time when it has broken its ridership records 10 of the last 11 years.  And like so many issues in this town, high speed rail funding has become a political football for lawmakers who clearly don’t get it.

1950s era technology and a highly skilled FAA workforce may be holding our air traffic control system together, but a broken funding system is slowing modernization and starving airports as we face a projected boom in air travel.

Highways are falling apart and doomed to endless gridlock, and tens of thousands of bridges need to be fixed or replaced, with some literally falling down.

Seaports are being left behind as global commerce brings us mega-sized vessels that threaten to overwhelm our resource-starved ports.

Our freight sector is expected to provide the network needed to execute an ambitious export agenda yet it endures intolerable bottlenecks and unreliable infrastructure.

For decades transportation manufacturing became moribund because we stopped investing and when we did invest in new trains and buses or bridges, we failed to maximize manufacturing job creation right here in America.

And at a time when millions of Americans remain unemployed we’re threatening to become the lost generation that failed to put people to work in middle class jobs building, operating and maintaining a modernized transportation system worthy of this century.

These are the symbols of a nation that is failing its businesses, its communities and its people.

We need a bold commitment to investment, must leverage cutting edge technology and must champion not a one or two year stopgap plan, but a 50 year vision.

It won’t be easy but it means not taking “no” for an answer… not taking half steps… and getting beyond flat-line funding levels and short-term legislative fixes that Washington keeps delivering.

There’s an election this year. And I believe the issue of expanding and modernizing our transportation system must be on the ballot.  Those that stand in the way of progress must be forced to explain why they’re against shorter commutes and goods shipments, faster and safer air travel, modern transit and rail systems, and modern ports that can fuel our exports.

We must return to the days when America built things and made lasting investments that defined our future.

Our transportation unions have a powerful jobs agenda for America. And we’re going to fight for it with everything we’ve got.

Postal Workers to Protest Privatization at Concord Staples Store Today, April 24

Local Activists Join National Day of Action

Many Details of the Deal Between USPS and Staples Remain a Secret

APWU Logo (small)Concord, NH — Members of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), Manchester Area Local , will protest on Thursday, April 24, against a sweetheart deal between the U.S. Postal Service and Staples that is privatizing USPS retail services and replacing good, living-wage postal jobs with low-wage, high-turnover jobs at Staples. The deal will compromise service to customers and jeopardize the security of the mail. Details of the agreement are being kept secret and have not yet been made available to the public.

Who:         Members of the Manchester Area Local APWU, the National Association of Letter Carriers, The National Postal Mailhandlers Union, and the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association will be joined by the NH AFL-CIO, members of numerous local unions, other working men & women throughout the state, and friends and allies who believe in maintaining a public Postal Service.

What:       Protest at Concord Staples, against privatization of U.S. Postal Service retail services.

When:       Thursday, April 24,4-6 pm

Where:     Staples, Fort Eddy Plaza

The protest in Concord is part of a National Day of Action, where participants will protest the USPS-Staples deal, which in October/November 2013 established postal counters in more than 80 Staples stores in four geographic areas. The Postal Service plans to expand the program to Staples’ 1,500 stores nationwide. All of this is occurring despite problems that make the future of some Staples stores very uncertain.

“Staples employees receive minimal training, and the company’s low pay results in high employee turnover,” said Dana Coletti, president of Manchester Area Local APWU.  “With so many concerns about privacy and identity theft, the U.S. mail should be handled by highly-trained, experienced postal employees, who swear an oath to protect your letters and packages and who are accountable to the American people. This program is compromising service to our customers.

“While many of the details of this pilot program are being hidden from the public, many things remain quite clear. The Postal Service, which is the largest civilian employer of veterans, requires postal employees to pass a test and a background check, to complete intensive training and to take an oath to protect the security and safety of the mail. It should be a matter of concern to the public that packages and letters at Staples stores are not even considered mail until they are picked up by the Postal Service. This program threatens both mail security and good, stable jobs” said Janice Kelble, Legislative & Political Director for Manchester Area Local APWU.  “It’s bad for postal workers, bad for our communities, and bad for our country.”

“But this isn’t just about postal jobs,” said national APWU President Mark Dimondstein said. “Many people are outraged that a tremendous public asset is being turned over to a struggling private company.”  Staples recently announced that it would close 225 stores by 2015.

Note: In NH a Hooksett Staples store suddenly disappeared only months ago. Will the same thing happen with postal services vanishing, based on Staples bottom line, with no regard to the needs of a community? 

“Staples makes business decisions based on the bottom line, not service to the people of the country,” Dimondstein said. “As a nation, we need to decide what kind of Postal Service we want. Are we going to have a vibrant, modern, public mail system that serves all of the people, or are we going to let privatizers kill this great institution?”

Thursday’s National Day of Action follows dozens of protests by postal workers and community allies in Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities.

For more information about the campaign to stand up for quality service and good-paying jobs, visit Stop Staples.com.  See also “Postal Union Fights Staples Partnership,” in the Huffington Post, and “The Postal Service Outsources Itself to a Company Doing Almost as Badly as the Postal Service,” in The New Republic.

A copy of the agreement between Staples and the USPS – heavily redacted – is available on the APWU website.


*  *  *


The American Postal Workers Union represents 200,000 employees of the United States Postal Service, and is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.


ATU Says: U.S. Companies Sheltering Profits Overseas Are Unpatriotic

Transit Union calls on Obama to issue executive order to cease federal contracts with these companies

ATU Amalgamated transit unionWashington, DC – US companies sheltering profits overseas are betraying their country and the American people says the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) in calling on President Obama to issue an executive order for the government to cease federal contracts with these companies.

The call comes in response to a Bloomberg report finding multinational companies, including huge federal and defense contractors, have stockpiled $1.95 trillion outside the U.S. to effectively shelter these earnings tax free, according to securities filings from 307 corporations. Microsoft, Apple Inc. and IBM brought in $37.5 billion in overseas profits.

Under current tax code U.S. companies don’t have to pay taxes on foreign income from business abroad until they bring the money home, creating the incentive to leave profits offshore.

“The  hypocritical CEO’s of corporate America are storing cash in overseas vaults for their shareholders, but not for the American public who are seeing their infrastructure fall apart, their children lose SNAP benefits and unemployed family and friends lose unemployment benefits,” said ATU International President Larry Hanley. “US troops are making sacrifices every day to protect our freedoms while these Benedict Arnold like corporate leaders are engaging in acts which betray our country.”

These US companies are using sheltered profits to invest in these foreign countries to create even more profit abroad, shifting potential American jobs and much-needed investment in the U.S. economy.

“These companies receive all the benefits and protections – embassies and military presence – of being an American company, but don’t want to contribute to funding these protections,” Hanley continued. “As our government deals with the never-ending debt crisis, our economy continues to struggle, and many Americans remain jobless, these companies rack in billions abroad, but refuse to invest in the U.S.”

ATU is calling on President Obama to issue an executive order for the U.S. government and federal agencies to cease federal contracts with these companies.

“Our government uses or threatens sanctions against foreign governments – Russia and Iran – to protect the interests of these corporations around the globe. It’s time we held the corporations we protect accountable to the American people,” Hanley continued.

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On the Gap Increasing Wages and the Question of Walmart

Gap’s announcement that it will raise its own minimum wage to $9.00 an hour in 2014 and $10 an hour next year represents a major victory by working people in their growing campaign to raise wages and working standards. While Gap has more work to do both in the United States and with its supply chain in countries like Bangladesh, this wage increase is a turning point.

The Gap’s decision exposes the greatest economic fraud of our time: that large employers cannot pay their employees fair wages.  With one decision, the Gap has stripped the oligarch of his clothes and changed the economic debate in America.

So now Wal-Mart is exposed.  The landscape is clear.  What will the largest employer in our country, owned by the world’s richest family, do?

Walmart workers have been protesting and striking, demanding justice.  What is Walmart’s answer?

As a first small step, Walmart workers, like all workers need a federal minimum wage of at least $10.10 an hour.  But Walmart can do better than that.  It must agree to its workers demands to stop using low wages and abusive scheduling practices to condemn its workers to poverty – and agree to the $25,000 a year minimum.

Then we can start to get to work.  Everything that should constitute a normal working life – from a national living wage to paid sick days, among  many other improvements – should move forward swiftly and with genuine purpose under the  combined leadership of Wal-Mart, all of corporate America, and the labor movement.

The AFL-CIO, and all American workers, are ready to meet the challenge of falling wages and rising inequality that has been growing painfully for decades.  The Gap has issued an invitation to Wal-Mart, and offered America a new path forward.  Will Wal-Mart respond and join the tens of millions who deserve a better future?

AFL-CIO Statement on The Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership

StopTPPOn the eve of the Dec. 7 meeting of trade ministers of the twelve countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade and investment negotiations, Cathy Feingold, International Department Director of the AFL-CIO, released the following statement:

(Washington, DC) After nearly four years of negotiations, the trade ministers are on the brink of finalizing the TPP.  Government trade negotiators often speak of the importance of “momentum” in such agreements, in order to provide “urgency” to make “needed compromises.”  What they rarely speak of is the urgent need to make trade policy choices that will have immediate, positive impacts on the lives of people they are supposed to be representing.

Critical issues remain outstanding in the TPP, including provisions affecting the free exercise of labor rights, the conservation of natural resources, the affordability of life-saving medicines, and the extraordinary legal privileges that allow global corporations to use private courts to challenge laws and regulations they don’t like.

What American working people—and their counterparts in TPP countries—want to know is whether the TPP will create good, family-supporting jobs.  They want to know if it will help reverse the race to the bottom that has led to wage stagnation and made it easier to suppress worker efforts to achieve fair contracts and a voice in the workplace.  They want to know if the TPP will include strong, enforceable labor and environmental protections. They want to know if the TPP will lock-in austerity policies or if it will actually promote shared prosperity and help address economic injustice.

Unfortunately, America’s workers have seen no evidence that their trade negotiators have focused on these urgent quality of life issues.  Unless the trade ministers can re-focus this agreement on the things that really matter to American families, they are likely to create more failed trade policy in their rush to completion, costing both jobs for workers and business opportunities for U.S. manufacturers.

US House Got the Message: Job-Creating Infrastructure Investments Are Bipartisan

WASHINGTON, DC—Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues this statement on passage of H.R.3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), by a vote of 417-3:

“The House of Representatives took a big step forward last night when it passed WRRDA by more than 400 votes, bringing us closer to enacting the first water resources jobs bill since 2007.

“The margin by which this bill passed shows that with strong leadership and a willingness to stare down those incapable of ever admitting there is a role for strategic public investments, it is possible to pass bipartisan jobs-creating transportation legislation. The benefits to America’s competitiveness and economy from improvements to our ports, harbors and waterways overcame intense opposition from extremist organizations that through their opposition to WRRDA were essentially making the case for America’s retreat from the global economy. Fortunately they lost and our economy won.

“We hope this bipartisan approach to port and maritime funding reforms will carry forward to other important transportation measures including the broken and unreliable way we invest in aviation, public transit and highways, and Amtrak.

“We thank House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-WV) and subcommittee leaders for driving this jobs bill home. We look forward to working with them to reconcile House-Senate differences in WRRDA so that a final bill can get to the President’s desk without delay and we can get to work expanding and modernizing our nation’s aging port and maritime infrastructure.”

Unions Praise The End Of The Government Shutdown That Should Never Have Happened.

For the last two weeks federal workers across the country have been waiting for Congress to take action and reopen the government.  While the government shutdown is over, union leaders appear guarded.  They are all happy to see the end of the Government shutdown and make a plea to never let this happen again.

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. today issued the following statement:

“On behalf of the 670,000 federal employees represented by AFGE, I am thrilled that a deal was reached to put our members back to work and restore the services American taxpayers count on. But make no mistake about it, this is not a happy day for federal employees. The Senate deal is simply a brief reprieve from the suffering federal employees and their families have endured for the past sixteen days. We cannot accept another government shutdown in just a few short weeks; federal workers and the public they serve have suffered enough….”

“….I am glad that lawmakers were able to come together to end this crisis without giving in to a radical group of hostage takers. Particular credit goes to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who exhibited extraordinary leadership during this trying time and held firm to his convictions.  But those who perpetrated this inexcusable catastrophe on the American people should be turned out of office in 2014.

“In the coming weeks AFGE will fight all attempts to cut federal pay, retirement, or health care as Congress hashes out FY 14 spending levels. Federal employees are nobody’s bargaining chip. Our message to lawmakers is clear: No more cuts, no more furloughs, no more sacrifices on the backs of hardworking Americans. We will also fight to protect Social Security and Medicare benefits from any reductions, including cuts from the so-called chained CPI.”

AFSCME President Lee Saunders stated:

“For two weeks, Republican congressional leaders were derelict in their duty. They allowed a fringe element in their party – one vastly out of step with American values and priorities — to shut our government down and bring the country to the brink of defaulting on its financial obligations. Their actions demonstrated a callous disregard for this nation’s citizens, businesses and the economy.

The agreement reached is by no means perfect because it continues the Draconian cuts in public services until the next deadline in January. But after 16 days, this shutdown ordeal has come to an end. It should never happen again. The hardworking women and men of this country deserve better.” Via Facebook

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO released a statement after the debt deal was announced.

Finally — after more than two weeks of government shutdown, with hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work and billions of dollars in avoidable losses — Republican leaders have stood down.  While it is good news that we have avoided a crisis, we all know that it should never have happened.  No party or faction inside a party should hold our economy hostage to extract political gains.   We commend President Obama, Majority Leader Reid, and the leadership of the Democratic party for standing firm and resisting extortion….

“….We desperately need to create an economy that works for all.  The across the board sequester cuts hamper that effort and must be repealed.  We need to focus on big ideas and the future – rather than getting bogged down in petty political battles.

Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – issued the following statement:

“Thousands of LIUNA workers who have been furloughed due to the Republican government shutdown can breathe a brief sigh of relief. But the mere functioning of our democracy won’t be enough to avoid the economic brinksmanship we’ve witnessed over the past several weeks from those on the Tea Party fringe. Rebuilding America’s future will take more leaders with the moral courage to rebuild American bipartisanship. The partisan circus has to end because our tax dollars pay for both Republicans and Democrats to do their job of passing legislation that invests in our crumbling roads, bridges and waterways and reforms our broken immigration system, so that every worker has a chance to realize the American Dream.”

Even Congressional members chastised the GOP in holding the country hostage and forcing the government shutdown.  The shutdown cost taxpayers billions, all for nothing.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter stated:

“The shutdown cost our economy $24 billion, and it costs thousands of Americans access to vital government services. We cannot continue to govern by crisis. It hurts small businesses, working families, and America’s economic standing in the world.

“Going forward, Congress must work out a long-term budget to reduce the deficit, invest in job creation, and strengthen the middle class. I am hopeful that cooler heads will prevail in that debate and that our country will benefit from more common sense.”

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan echoed Congresswoman Shea-Porter’s sentiments.

“While I am pleased that Congress finally reached an agreement to end the federal government shutdown and avert a catastrophic default, this entire episode was reckless and unnecessary, and it caused real harm to New Hampshire’s families and economy. 

“With today’s agreement, there are new deadlines in place, but the days of Washington operating by showdown must end. The uncertainty caused by each successive confrontation hurts our economy and puts senseless strain on families.”

Even Senator Ayotte (R-NH) agrees that we need to stop jumping from crisis to crisis. 

Americans are rightfully tired and frustrated, and we owe it to them to stop governing by crisis and start working together to solve problems.”
(From the Union Leader)

This debit ceiling deal means the total economic collapse was avoided.  The deal also means that federal workers will return to work immediately and will receive back pay.  There is also another little piece of good news for federal workers.

Federal workers will received a “1 percent pay raise beginning Jan. 1.  It would be the first across-the-board pay raise for feds since 2010. ”

Where do we go from here? Do we need to start a new countdown clock till this continuing resolution expires in January and we hit the debt ceiling again in February?  This type of legislating from crisis to crisis must end.  This is one of the reasons why our national economy is still struggling to recover.  Every time things start moving forward, up pops another crisis.

The GOP is in for a rude awakening in 2014 if they do not start working with Democrats in the House and Senate.  The American people are pissed off at Congress at a whole but most of the blame falls squarely on the Republican leadership in the House.


Only 89 Days (or less) till the next crisis.

Transportation Trades Department; Government Shutdown Impacts Transportation System and Jobs

Transportation Trade Department Logo
Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues this statement on the impact of a government shutdown on transportation:

“This is a dark day for our nation as extremists in Congress have managed to lock out 800,000 federal workers who have done nothing wrong, and have decided to hold Americans hostage to their destructive tactics.

 “We’ve seen this irresponsible act before and we know that government shutdowns impact our transportation system, its users and the public and private sector employees who hold the system together.

 “Washington’s destructive politics make it impossible to run a national transportation system. As federal transportation officials have announced, most grant-making operations are suspended because the dedicated professionals needed to distribute these vital investments will not be on the job. This means that critical resources for all modes of transport will not flow in a timely fashion as the shutdown gets deeper into the new fiscal year. This could have a severe impact on the states and their transportation authorities and private contractors.

 “The government shutdown will send home FAA aviation safety inspectors who are responsible for oversight, certification and surveillance of both commercial and general aviation—from overseeing foreign-based facilities that maintain our aircraft to certifying pilots and flight instructors. In addition, several thousand other aviation safety professionals who directly run our National Airspace System have been furloughed. And here we go again: the critical work of advancing the Next Generation (NextGen) air traffic management system will be suspended again, as it was during the partial FAA shutdown in 2011.

 “Make no mistake, an extended shutdown, especially this one estimated to cost our economy up to $10 billion a week, will have a negative impact on vital transportation programs. And the blackmail tactics of a minority bloc of politicians will deal another blow to working people struggling in an already slow economic recovery. This will be the message to our members in days ahead.”

New AFL-CIO Report Focuses On The Struggles Of Latino Americans After The Great Recession

A new report released in honor of Labor Day by the AFL-CIO shows that four years after the Great Recession officially ended, Latino working families continue to be disproportionally affected by the weak economic recovery. Across the country, Latino workers are struggling with higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, lower wages, and a dire financial outlook for retirement.

The report titled “The elusive American Dream: Lower wages, high unemployment and an uncertain retirement for Latinos,” compiles economic data  relevant to Latinos from several recent Economic Policy Institute (EPI) studies to show that unemployment and underemployment rates were higher, wages were lower and financial security for seniors was lower among Latino and African American workers. These reports offer both macro- and micro-level solutions to these inequalities.

According to data compiled in this report, the nationwide unemployment rate for Latinos continues to be higher than for whites and is projected to remain “essentially” the same at the end of this year. Furthermore, an August economic snapshot found that among employed Latinos and African-Americans, roughly one in five are underemployed.

Lower wages continue to hold back Latino working families. Between 2007 and 2012, both Latino and Latina full-time workers – defined as those working 35 or more hours per week – earned less in wages than their white and African American counterparts.

Additionally, Latinos and African Americans are more likely than whites to spend retirement mired in poverty, a June EPI report found. 70.1 percent of Latinos, age 65 and older, have incomes less than two times the supplemental poverty threshold. In comparison, only 43.8 percent of whites are economically vulnerable.

“Latino workers have been especially hard hit by the economic crisis.  It doesn’t have to be this way,” said Kelly Ross, Deputy Director for Policy at the AFL-CIO. “Low wages and economic inequality are the result of deliberate policy decisions that can and must be changed.  Increasing wages and reducing inequality is not only a matter of fairness and justice, it is also urgently necessarily if we want to fix what is wrong with our economy.”

The report concludes with several solutions for policy makers to increase jobs and address these problems such as creating large public infrastructure projects, adopting expansionary fiscal policies, passing legislation to increase the federal minimum wage and minimum wage of tipped workers, raising labor standards, reestablishing the right to collective bargaining, and providing a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented workers.

“This report confirms the unfortunate reality that many Latino workers are struggling to provide even the most basic needs to their families,” said Ana Avendaño, AFL-CIO Assistant to the President and Director of Immigration and Community Action. “This is wrong. Latinos work hard every day to build this nation. Let’s honor Labor Day by advocating for policies that will allow them to reach the American Dream.”

View the entire report here.

Richard Trumka Statement Honoring 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Richard_TrumkaFifty years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., AFL-CIO Vice President A. Phillip Randolph, labor and civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, UAW President Walter Reuther and countless Americans marched for equality, jobs and freedom. That march became a pinnacle of the civil rights movement, symbolizing hope and the power of united action.

Today, on the 50thAnniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the fight for equality and justice for all continues. The Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act.  Extremists in the U.S. House of Representatives are stalling reform of our broken immigration system.  Women make 77 cents to a man’s dollar.  And workers’ rights are in jeopardy across the nation.  But today, the unforgettable sounds and images from 1963 also remind us that change is possible.

Today we rededicate ourselves to the dream of economic equality that so many marched for a half century ago. We will work with those who strive for prosperity for all in this great country — regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or place of birth.

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