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AFT’s Weingarten on White House Summit on Early Childhood Education

AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

WASHINGTON –American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten participated in a panel today at the White House Summit on Early Childhood Education, where President Barack Obama announced more than $1 billion in public and private spending on early learning programs, including roughly $700 million in already appropriated federal funds.

Following is a statement from Weingarten on behalf of AFT, which represents more than 90,000 early childhood educators in every type of early learning setting across the country:

“Access to high-quality early childhood care and education is key to giving all children a running start. High-quality early learning not only helps to bridge the achievement gap for low-income children, but it’s also a strong economic investment in our nation’s future. As President Obama mentioned today, every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood programs saves us up to eight dollars in the future.

“The most important determinant of a high-quality early learning program is the educator who nurtures, guides and educates our children. Right now, many early educators aren’t getting a living wage. Nearly half rely on public assistance, costing taxpayers $2.4 billion annually. That’s why it’s vital that we give the early child care workforce the resources, working conditions and wages they need to help put our nation’s early learners on a path to success.

“We are proud to work with the White House on this important effort, and we will continue our efforts to ensure that all children have access to high-quality early childhood education. As these public and private partners commit to invest in early childhood education today, we hope that they will invest in the educators who are giving our nation’s early learners a strong start on life.”

AFT’s Weingarten on Human Rights Day and Recent Events

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WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, which the United Nations General Assembly adopted in 1948:

“The United Nations proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 66 years ago, yet we still have a long way to go before every community throughout the world affords all citizens respect, dignity and impartial justice. This has been made clear in recent months, from the abject disregard for life demonstrated by the murder of civilian hostages by terrorists in the Middle East, to the grand jury decisions to not find any culpability in the deaths of unarmed black men in Staten Island, N.Y., and Ferguson, Mo. The time to act for justice is now.

“Nations, cities and towns should use the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard for dignity, freedom and human rights of all men, women and children. We must work to fully realize the declaration so that all people from every corner of society are treated equally and with dignity and worth.”

The AFT is working with Educational International and teacher unions in Egypt, Georgia, Honduras and Zimbabwe to provide educators with the information they need to be advocates for human rights in their classrooms and their communities. For more on this project, see www.tarc.ei-ie.org.

The AFT also has free human rights resources for the classroom, including lesson plans and other teaching materials, at www.teachhumanrights.com and www.sharemylesson.com.

Walmart Could, And Should Be Paying $15 An Hour And Would Still Make $10 Billion In Profit

AFT VIDEO Screengrab

Working families are struggling and Walmart workers symbolize the struggles that millions of Americans are facing.  They work as many hours as their employer will give them and they are still living in poverty.

“If you are a man or woman working full-time in this country, it is a crime for you to still be poor,” said Rabbi Michael Feinberg.  “They (Walmart) have a 1-800 number where the workers call up in order for the corporation to help them connect to social benefits in their state, meaning Medicaid and welfare.”

Walmart workers alone cost the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars a year in social programs. The Americans for Tax Fairness “found that a single Walmart Supercenter cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year or between $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 workers.

Walmart workers have had enough! They are walking out protesting Walmart’s poverty wages and failure to provide full-time employment.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said, “That’s why clergy, labor, school teachers, and workers from all over are here (and) all throughout the country to say to Walmart ‘you got to be fair, you got to be just’.”

Walmart is the largest private employer in the country and collected over $17 billion — yes that is with a B–  in profits in 2013. Let’s not forget that the CEO of Walmart collects an annual salary of $23 million.  To break it down further, that is “1,034 times more than the company’s average worker.”  Is this one man worth more than 1,000 workers? Can he stock the shelves of a 1,000 stores?

A 2013 UC Berkeley study showed that increasing wages to $12.00 an hour would add only $3.21 billion to Walmart’s annual labor costs.  That is not even half of what Walmart spent last year buying back their own stock to inflate their stock price.

If Walmart refused to take any cuts to their profit margin they could pass all of their labor costs on the consumer. This is what the Republicans say will cause the price of mile to jump to $10 a gallon!

The average Walmart customer would see an increase of $12.49 per year – about 46 cents per visit – if Walmart executives passed the total cost along, rather than cutting their profits.

Walmart can easily afford to pay workers $15 an hour, hell they could pay them $30 and hour if they really wanted to and still be a hugely profitable corporation.  In fact Fortune Magazine concluded that Walmart could give every worker a 50% increase in pay and still please their Wall Street investors.

The greed of Walmart is unmatched. Collecting millions of dollars a day in profits while asking  associates to donate to other associates so they can have food for Thanksgiving. (Of course they all had to work Thanksgiving too.)  That takes some really big cojones and a complete lack of respect for the people who are making your company a success.

 

Thanks to the American Federation of Teachers for this great video of solidarity for Walmart workers and the members of Making Change at Walmart (OUR Walmart – UFCW). 

Watch the video on YouTube

AFT President Randi Weingarten Is Arrested Protesting Eric Garner Decision — #ICantBreathe

Image via AFTUnion Twitter

As the editor of the New Hampshire Labor News I get dozens of emails every hour. Some are good and some are junk. Then there are mornings, like today, where I get an email that surprises me, and makes me feel proud at the same time.

Somewhere during the night I received an email from Kate Childs Graham a spokesperson for the American Federation of Teachers where she informed me that AFT President Randi Weingarten was arrested in New York City.

This evening in New York City, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten was arrested in an act of civil disobedience while protesting the grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case. Building on the long legacy of Jews fighting for justice, the action was organized by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. The organization honored Weingarten’s partner, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, earlier in the evening.”

At first I was shocked, but it did not take long for my surprise to pleasure. I though to myself, man I love this woman. I was immediately proud of Randi for bringing attention to the atrocity in the Eric Garner case.
For those who are unaware of the details of the Eric Garner case, Garner was allegedly selling illegal cigarettes when the police confronted him. After a few moments the police decided they needed to restrain Garner. One officer placed Garner in a chock hold – prohibited by the NYPD – and took Garner to the ground. The other five officers worked to restrain Garner as he called out “I can’t breathe”. Garner past away in a local hospital shortly after the event.
The Medical Examiner is ruled that Garner’s death a homicide yet a grand jury ruled that no charges would be brought up on the police officers involved.

The grand jury ruling sparked massive outrage throughout the country and rightfully so.

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers released the following statement:

“Eric Garner’s death was a tragedy that shocked the conscience of many New Yorkers. “We in the AFT family express our deep condolences to his family. Today, we share in the disappointment of many who question the outcome of the grand jury’s deliberations in this case.”

“On this difficult day, I was in New York, and like other New Yorkers I watched the video over and over and found it difficult to reconcile the grand jury’s decision and the evidence in the video. We must break the silence. That’s what this nonviolent protest by the Jewish community is all about.” 

“The AFT represents educators who tomorrow will be in schools with students. As United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said, “We must be ready to help them work through their emotions and the difficult issues that this decision raises for many of them.”

“We in the AFT are committed to a fair and just society. That is why we are joining Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand, and many in our congressional delegation, in calling for a U.S. Justice Department investigation. 

“While many are understandably angry at today’s decision, we remain mindful of the lessons of the civil rights movement that nonviolent protest is the best way to secure justice. In the coming days and weeks, we urge that that precept be carried out.”

We must face the facts that racial profiling and police brutality against African-American is wrong and something has to change.

I applaud, Randi for taking a stand for social justice, even if that means getting arrested.

AFT’s Weingarten: Obama’s Action Reunites Families, Brings Workers Out of the Shadows

AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

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WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on President Obama’s executive order that expands protections to millions of undocumented immigrants:

“As a union, we’ve always been committed to opening the doors of opportunity for all children, and immigration is an issue that touches every community we serve. After the House of Representatives refused to act on comprehensive immigration reform, although the Senate had passed bipartisan legislation, President Obama—as he did with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and as many of his predecessors have done—is using his legal authority to secure our nation’s borders, to help keep families together and to expand our economy.

“A great and diverse nation, founded by immigrants seeking a safer, more prosperous life, continues to deliver the promise of the American dream. Yet our broken immigration system has hurt millions of students and families. We continue to hear heartbreaking stories of kids who don’t know if their parents are coming home or have been deported. We hear from teachers whose students stop showing up for school after their parents are sent to a country these children have never called home. Our nation’s children are counting on us. We must unite, not divide, families. The president’s plan will give many of these families the security of knowing they can stay together, and it will bring many workers out of the shadow economy, ensuring higher wages for all. We remain eager for Congress—especially the Republican-controlled House—to take legislative action and show unity on an issue so personal to American families.”

The Colbert Report Highlights The FREE KEENE Robin Hoods

Screen shot of the Colbert Report 11-19-14 show on Free Keene
Screen shot of the Colbert Report 11-19-14 show on Free Keene

Screen shot of the Colbert Report 11-19-14 show on Free Keene

Last night the Colbert Report covered something that we in New Hampshire have been talking about at length for years, the Free Staters, specifically Free Keene.

The Colbert Report focused on the Free Keene Robin Hooders and their harassment of parking attendants.  The NH Labor News was one of the first to break the story about the harassment of Keene police officers in our story, “Free Keene from ‘Free-Keene': A Story Of Harassment In The Workplace.

I am glad to see that The Colbert Report is bringing some national attention to the outrageous and threatening actions of the Free Keene Robin Hoods.

Wall Street Deals Costing Schools, Municipalities Billions

"Wall Street - New York Stock Exchange" by Carlos Delgado

"Wall Street - New York Stock Exchange" by Carlos Delgado

“Wall Street – New York Stock Exchange” by Carlos Delgado

Educators, Parents, Communities Demand Transparency and Accountability 

WASHINGTON— Following a new report detailing how Wall Street sold toxic deals to school districts and municipalities that are costing communities billions in fees, interest and other payments, educators, parents, community members and local officials have joined together for a Day of Action in cities across the country. They are demanding transparency and accountability to ensure taxpayer money is being used to invest in schools and communities, not to enrich Wall Street.

“These deals are robbing schools and kids of desperately needed resources at a time when budgets have been cut to the bone and our schools are already being asked to do more with less,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Parents, educators and communities deserve basic transparency and accountability—both from the banks that continue to peddle these toxic deals, and from those officials who locked communities into spiraling debt and fees. Putting this money back into the classroom could mean more teachers, nurses and social workers; restoring art and music; creating community schools; and wrapping services for kids and families around schools.”

The report, issued by the Roosevelt Institute, details how banks sold school districts and state and local governments predatory financial products like interest rate swaps and capital appreciation bonds—products that were laced with hidden costs and hidden risks, and in many cases were designed to fail—as well as charging exorbitant fees for products and services.

These deals are affecting schools, towns and cities across the country. For example, in Philadelphia, schools will lose more than $161 million as a result of 10 interest rate swaps. Los Angeles is now spending $290 million a year in financial fees—more than the entire city budget for maintaining its streets and highways. The Chicago Tribune this month detailed how the Chicago Public Schools will likely lose $100 million on a complex financing scheme. Detroit entered into a series of complex financial deals that has left the city $1.6 billion in debt. And the Peralta Community College District in California is paying $1.6 million a year in interest rate swap payments—the equivalent of 320 classes.

AFT members and leaders nationwide joined with parents and community members today to call for greater transparency and accountability.

“Philadelphia’s budget crisis is no coincidence. It’s the partial result of Wall Street banks rigging the game in their favor at the expense of schools, communities and students,” said Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan, who is an AFT vice president. “The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center estimates that our city’s schools have lost more than $161 million as a result of 10 different toxic swap deals. We call on the School Reform Commission to restore critical services by holding Wall Street to account for the money it has cheated our schools and students out of.”

Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson, also an AFT vice president, added, “The predatory lending schemes contributed to the urban blight in Detroit as families lost their homes only to see them boarded up. While Detroit may one day recover, many of these families will have no such luck.”

In Chicago, Chicago Teachers Union Vice President and Acting President Jesse Sharkey responded to the report, saying, “The mayor and the school district need to be as tough on their banker friends as they are on our neighborhood schools. In 2013, CPS closed 50 schools to ‘save money’ at the same time that banks and investment houses like Loop Capital and Bank of America were making millions from excessive fees and complicated swap deals of dubious legality. The banks owe us a rebate of hundreds of millions of dollars, which we should invest in 50 sustainable community schools with robust wraparound services, restorative justice programs, low class sizes and sufficient staffing levels.”

And in Los Angeles, United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl said, “Our school district, city and county are being systematically gouged by Wall Street. Last year, Wall Street banks made more than $200 million in fees at the expense of LA taxpayers. Our city stands to lose an additional $65 million from a toxic interest rate swap deal from the mid-2000s. We will call on the Los Angeles Unified School District to conduct a thorough analysis of its dealings with Wall Street so we can see where the banks are charging too much and we can work to get the schools LA students deserve.”

Read the full report here.

AFL-CIO Summit Focused On Real-World Job Skills And Economic Prosperity

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Career and Technical Education/Workforce Development Summit Focuses on Effective Pathways to Graduation, Real-World Job Skills, Economic Prosperity

Vice-President-Joe-Biden-to-Deliver-Remarks-for-AFL-CIO-AFT-Career-and-Technical-Education-Summit_blog_post_fullWidthWASHINGTON—Career and technical education and workforce development create multiple pathways to high school and higher education graduation, real-world job skills and economic prosperity, speakers including Vice President Joe Biden said today at the first Career and Technical Education/Workforce Development Summit. It was co-hosted by the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.

Vice President Biden said school-employer partnerships provide a path to a middle- class life. “These partnerships provide a seamless transition so folks can go from a classroom to a job, and from job to job within the industry they’re in,” he said, adding, “We have to maintain and enhance our workforce so we have the most sophisticated, best-trained workforce in the world.”

Summit speakers emphasized that today’s CTE programs are very different from yesterday’s vocational education programs. CTE has been reimagined to bring together all the players needed to make it succeed—students, teachers, businesses and other employers, and higher education institutions.

“CTE has the promise and potential to help equip a new generation of workers with the skills and knowledge needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and to forge a new path to college and life,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “It’s a way for our high schools, community colleges and other higher education institutions, and businesses to coordinate and align so they can create and sustain good, middle-class jobs.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said short-term challenges are flat wages and lack of jobs, while the long-term goal must be to regain America’s competitive edge.

“Workforce development won’t be a cure-all, but it is a necessary ingredient. What we need is a full, comprehensive system for lifelong learning. I’m talking about everything from high school programs to community colleges to apprenticeship programs to on-the-job learning. We all benefit when workers develop transferrable skills, so we can move among employers if we want and grow as professionals throughout our working lives,” Trumka said.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said CTE and workforce development are a fundamental part of America’s infrastructure. “It’s as basic to our economy and our communities as building roads and bridges. In fact, workforce development is a bridge—a bridge to our future, to the workers, jobs and technology of tomorrow, to our success as individuals and industries, and to our competitiveness as a nation.”

Alexis Smith is a graduate of the Toledo Technology Academy and now studying biomedical engineering at the University of Toledo.

“My experience at Toledo Tech opened up the doors of opportunity for me to delve into my passion,” Smith said. Of other former and current CTE students speaking at the summit, she said, “We are Exhibit ‘A’ for the power of CTE to engage us in our studies, to help us secure a bright future and to have fun at the same time.”

Among the corporate leaders at the summit validating the importance of CTE programs was Snap-on Inc. Chairman and CEO Nicholas Pinchuk.

“We are in a global competition for jobs,” Pinchuk said. “The single best weapon is CTE. We need to outskill the competition.”

Weingarten noted that for CTE to fulfill its potential, more businesses need to partner with educators and schools to offer a path forward for students with internships, apprenticeships and employment opportunities. This was reinforced in a survey of 570 CTE teachers that the AFT released today.

The teachers uniformly believe in CTE as a way to create opportunity for kids, but said they need the equipment and resources to make the work real and need more partners in business and the community to step up.

“Understanding the realities of the workplace and learning how to apply skills can only improve a student’s chance of success after high school,” a New York teacher said in the survey. A Michigan teacher wrote: “I have seen CTE classes, and the skills learned in them change students’ lives. They give many unmotivated students a reason to perform better in school, and they give many motivated students access to forms of expression and outlets they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Weingarten noted the summit took place just a few days after the polarizing midterm elections. “CTE is a strategy that both Republicans and Democrats believe in and can agree on, so I have great hope that we can move this agenda in Washington, D.C.”

AFT Launches National Ebola Information Hotline

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AFT Launches Ebola Information Hotline for Frontline Healthcare Workers to Help Ensure All Health Facilities Have Ebola Preparedness Plans

Hotline Launched with National Print and Digital Ad Buy

Washington—The AFT, the nation’s second-largest nurses’ union, today launched an Ebola Information Hotline and national ad buy to help ensure all healthcare workers receive the resources, equipment and training to prepare for and contain Ebola in the United States.

This hotline will provide a place for frontline healthcare workers to confidentially report concerns that could put them at risk for potential exposure to Ebola, so they can protect themselves, their patients and their communities. The hotline also will support OSHA’s push to require health facilities to have Ebola preparedness and response plans.

“Our top priority as the nation’s second-largest union of nurses continues to be ensuring the safety of our communities and our nurses and frontline providers. To do so, those frontline providers need training and resources,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “In places such as the UConn Health Center in Farmington, Conn., I have seen firsthand that nurses and health professionals are working with their hospitals to put plans in place. But we know that too many facilities haven’t provided the training, support or resources needed. With OSHA mandating Ebola preparedness plans at every health facility, we wanted to create a resource for nurses and health professionals to turn to if their facility is not providing what is necessary to protect them and their communities.”

The print and digital advertising buy launches this week in Alaska, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

This is the latest step in the AFT’s local, national and international effort to combat and contain Ebola. Last month, the AFT released a three-point strategy to protect healthcare workers and communities, including:

  1. Infection-control protocols and worker-preparedness plans at all health facilities.
  2. Dedicated, specially trained teams of willing staff—including doctors, nurses, lab and X-ray technicians, and housekeeping staff—to care for potential Ebola patients, along with adequate staffing.
  3. Inclusion of frontline providers in the development and implementation of plans.

AFT locals have been working with employers across the country to implement these strategies. For example, in Washington state, our leaders worked with state officials and hospital management to put in place the right training and equipment. And at UConn Health Center in Connecticut, hundreds of workers have volunteered to participate in training. In addition, the AFT’s Ebola response toolkit at www.AFT.org continues to be updated with tools and resources both to help healthcare workers and to support  preparedness in public schools.

On an international level, the AFT has contributed money from our Disaster Relief Fund to combat and contain Ebola in West Africa, including supporting Doctors Without Borders.

AFT-NH Hosts “Working Women Speak Out” (Videos)

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and AFT President Randi Weingarten

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This election is extremely important to working women and their families.  Ensuring that we elect representatives who support women in the workplace was what the Working Women Speak Out event was focused on.

Issues facing working women are the same issues effected every Granite Stater this election.  AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler said, “Women’s issues are shaping up to be the second biggest issue of this election.” Working women are facing enormous challenges in our struggling economy. “Women still only make $.77 cents on the dollar compared to man, and that is a shame,” said Shuler.  In her speech, Shuler focused on reelecting Governor Hassan, Senator Shaheen, and Congresswoman Annie Kuster who all support raising the minimum wage and equal pay for equal work.  Shuler also talked about the need to pass “paid sick leave” for all workers, especially since most low wage jobs, like waiting tables, provide no paid time off when your sick.

View Liz Shuler video on YouTube

AFT-President Randi Weingarten also spoke at the event and focused how poverty and education effect working families. “Nearly half of all public school students are living below the poverty line, and one-in-four (25%) of all children nationally are living in poverty,” said Weingarten.  She also talked about how we need to ensure that we are properly funding our public school system. “The only reason we passed a nation budget was because the Republicans were embarrassed after they shut down the government,” said Weingarten. “How dare they say they support children when they cut public school budgets to give tax breaks to the 1%.”

(Randi also spoke in detail about the effects of spending caps like the one in Nashua in separate post here.)

View Randi’s speech on YouTube

Kelly Torosian, an IBEW 2320 member and an Executive Council member of the NH AFL-CIO, took a few minutes to update the crowd on the ongoing FairPoint strike. Torosian asked for people to show their support for workers standing on the picket line by donating gas cards and grocery store gift cards.  After hearing about the current struggle of striking workers, Weingarten stated, “AFT will donate $5,000 dollars to the FairPoint workers strike fund.”

The crowd of 70 people gave a standing ovation to Governor Hassan as she entered the room, showing their support for her strong leadership in the corner office.  “Building a strong innovative economy starts with a strong public schools system,” said Hassan.  Governor Hassan also spoke about the need to “restore and improve the state minimum wage.”

Hassan also brought attention to the importance of keeping Democrats in control of the NH House and not letting Bill O’Brien regain control.  As Speaker, O’Brien cut funding to public schools, the University of New Hampshire system, and repealed the New Hampshire Minimum Wage law.

Governor Hassan also talked about the importance of having access to quality healthcare and provide low income workers with healthcare through the Medicaid Expansion. “As of this week 20,000 Granite Staters now have healthcare thanks to the Medicaid Expansion,” said Hassan.

View Governor Hassan’s speech on YouTube.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster also talked about the Bill O’Brien House and her opponent Marilinda Garcia, who was one of the select few to be a part of  O’Brien’s leadership team.  Kuster talked about her work in Congress to help working families by pushing for expanded access to healthcare, raising the minimum wage and passing a national Paycheck Fairness law.  Kuster noted that while she supports legislation that would help working women, her opponent, wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, opposes raising the minimum wage, and paycheck fairness is unneeded legislation.

Garcia also wants to abolish the Department of Education that would virtually eliminate the federal student loan program, even though Garcia currently owes tens of thousands of dollars in Sallie Mae student loans.

View Rep. Annie Kuster’s speech on YouTube.

Laura Hainey, President of AFT-NH organized the event and spent a couple of minutes talking about working to ensure that Speaker Bill O’Brien does not regain power in Concord.  As President of AFT-NH, Hainey knows first hand the devastation that another O’Brien legislature would do to the public schools system in New Hampshire.

View Laura Hainey’s speech on YouTube.

Senator Shaheen was unable to attend the event due to a scheduling conflict — she was in Northern New Hampshire campaigning with Sen. Elizabeth Warren — her daughter Stacy gave a short speech on her behalf.  Stacy Shaheen talked about how hard her mother is working for the people of New Hampshire. “My mom is a workhorse,” said Shaheen.  “She has been working for the people of New Hampshire for a long time.”

Working families in New Hampshire need more representatives like this strong, women leaders.

Talk to your friends, neighbors and family members about how important this election is and then encourage them to vote on Nov. 4th.

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