Worker Wins Update: Increased Wages and Organizing Successes Highlight Banner Month

WASHINGTON, DC – From increases in the minimum wage to successful organizing efforts at some of America’s largest companies, workers have led notable wins over the recent months.

The following are a sample of victories won by workers:

Organizing Victories

AFSCME Sets Organizing Goal, Almost Doubles It: AFSCME President Lee Saunders announced that the union has organized more than 90,000 workers this year, nearly doubling its 2014 goal of 50,000.

Tennessee Auto Workers to Create New Local Union at VW PlantAuto workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee announced the formation of UAW Local 42, a new local that will give workers an increased voice in the operation of the German car maker’s US facility. UAW organizers continue gain momentum, as the union has the support of nearly half of the plant’s 1,500 workers, which would make the union the facility’s exclusive collective bargaining agent.

California Casino Workers Organize: Workers at the new Graton Resort & Casino voted to join Unite HERE Local 2850 of Oakland, providing job security for 600 gambling, maintenance, and food and beverage workers.

Virgin America Flight Attendants Vote to Join TWU: Flight attendants at Virgin America voted to join the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), citing the success of TWU in bargaining fair contracts for Southwest Airlines flight attendants.

Maryland Cab Drivers Join National Taxi Workers Alliance: Cab drivers in Montgomery County, Maryland announced their affiliation with the National Taxi Workers Alliance, citing low wages and unethical behavior by employers as their reason to affiliate with the national union.

Retail and Restaurant Workers Win Big, Organize Small: Small groups of workers made big strides as over a dozen employees at a Subway restaurant in Bloomsbury, NJ voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Meanwhile, Cosmetics and Fragrance workers at a Macy’s store in Massachusetts won an NLRB ruling that will allow them to vote on forming a union.

Minnesota Home Care Workers Take Key Step to Organize: Home health care workers in Minnesota presented a petition to state officials that would allow a vote on whether they will form a union for more than 26,000 eligible workers.

New York Television Writers-Producers Join Writers Guild: Writers and producers from Original Media, a New York City-based production company, voted to join the Writers Guild of America, citing low wages, long work schedules, and no health care.

Raising Wages Victories

Fast Food Workers Win in New NLRB Ruling: The National Labor Relations Board ruled that McDonald’s could be held jointly responsible with its franchises for labor violations and wage disputes. The NLRB ruling makes it easier for workers to organize individual McDonald’s locations, and could result in better pay and conditions for workers.

Workers Increasingly Have Access to Paid Sick Leave: Cities such as San Diego, CA and Eugene, OR have passed measures mandating paid sick leave, providing workers with needed flexibility and making workplaces safer for all.

Student Athletes See Success, Improved Conditions: College athletic programs are strengthening financial security measuresfor student athletes in the wake of organizing efforts by Northwestern University football players. In addition, the future is bright as the majority of incoming college football players support forming a union.

San Diego Approves Minimum Wage Hike, Portland, ME Starts Process: Even as Congress has failed to raise the minimum wage, localities throughout the country have delivered action. San Diego will raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2017, and the Portland, MEMinimum Wage Advisory Committee will consider an increase to their minimum wage which would take effect in 2015.

Working People Score Major Victories Throughout The Country

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.

AFT President Randi Weingarten on the Harris v. Quinn Decision

WASHINGTON—Statement from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the Harris v. Quinn decision. Today’s Harris v. Quinn decision upholds the right of public sector unions to represent public employees, including their right to collectively bargain, but the Supreme Court refused to extend the right for a union to collect fair share fees for that purpose from Illinois home healthcare workers who are not members.

“While the court upheld the importance of collective bargaining and unions to families and communities, let’s be clear that working people, who have aspired to the middle class and tried to make a better life for their families, have taken it on the chin for years. Stagnating wages, loss of pensions and lack of upward mobility have defined the economic distress they have experienced. Today’s decision makes it worse.

“The Roberts court has consistently ruled in favor of corporate interests, while diminishing the rights of labor. This court has built a record of weakening the rights of both voters and working families; no one should be surprised by this decision.

“America’s workers have gone through the crucible of tough times and adversity—that’s why they formed America’s labor movement. Workers did not start off with their rights being protected by government. We had to—and still must—organize ourselves, our families and others to secure good jobs, great public schools, prosperous communities and opportunity for all. While disappointed in the court’s decision, the American Federation of Teachers will do what we have always done: redouble our efforts to empower and engage our members around the issues they care about and the work they do, and to serve as a strong voice for our communities, our democracy and opportunity for all.”

#MoralMonday Goes National in North Carolina

Labor Movement Amplifies Last Protest of Legislative Session, Uses “Imminent Disturbance

Moral Mondays are getting a jolt of national energy today in North Carolina. The labor movement is spearheading one of the last Moral Mondays of the 2014 legislative session to focus on workers’ rights. Along with the Forward Together Moral Movement, demands for lawmakers to protect the rights of working men and women are being amplified nationwide.

“North Carolina has quickly become a shining example of a people-driven movement and a microcosm of what’s to come,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “When the labor movement and the entire community band together to stand up for what is right, everyone wins. The working people in Raleigh are inspiring action at state capitals around America.”

At its convention last year, the AFL-CIO made a groundbreaking commitment to build enduring labor-community partnerships. The goal of these partnerships has been to assemble a broad progressive coalition for social and economic justice.

“Moral Mondays are exactly the kind of new movement working people and their communities have been eager for,” said Trumka. “Only together can we build momentum and make real, positive change in lives of all workers in the community.”

Today’s protest comes on the heels of efforts by extremist conservatives to silence protestors for creating any “imminent disturbance.” This could include singing, clapping or speaking loudly. The AFL-CIO has been quick to point out that “the greatest moments in America’s history were born out of ‘imminent disturbance’” and are carrying that message today.

Building A New Hampshire That Works For All Working Families

Today I want to talk to you about how we build an America and a New Hampshire that works for all of us, not just the ultra wealthy one-percent (1%).

Today, we see that New Hampshire’s working families and middle class are getting crushed.  Workers wages continue to go down as their household costs continue to rise. Workers are loosing their voice in the workplace as the corporations are forcing our unions out.

But this is no accident. After they break our unions, they slash our wages and loot our pensions, leaving us without a job and without a future.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Together we can create a New Hampshire that works for all of us. That’s why we must work together to reform our labor laws.  To make it easier for workers to come together and form unions, to push back against this corporate anti-worker agenda.  By sticking together and speaking with one voice, we will begin to make a difference in our communities.

You know, working people and the middle class are the engines of our economy.  When we have good jobs, we can educate our children, we can shop in our neighborhoods, we can afford healthcare and retire with dignity and security. We drive our economy forward.

We’ll bolster working families and build a strong middle class, with the decisions we make together. If we are to achieve a strong and vibrant middle class again, we need to: help workers find their voice in the workplace, to strengthen our labor laws to make it easier for worker to organize, and stronger disciplinary actions against companies who violate our laws by intimidating or threatening workers who choose to speak out.

It is up to us to hold our elected officials accountable for standing up for working people and the middle class, not just the CEO’s and hedge fund managers on Wall Street.  Together we can assure that all of us will be able to climb that ladder and find our own version of the American Dream.

This is what America is about. This is what New Hampshire is about. We can do this together. We can build an America, a New Hampshire, that works for all of us.

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Matt Murray speaking at the NH Progressive Summit.  (Image by Jennifer Kenny)

Matt Murray speaking at the NH Progressive Summit. (Image by Jennifer Kenny)

The above was a speech I wrote during a workshop at the NH Progressive Summit.  The panel was led by Richard Kirsch who talked about using the Progressive Economic Narrative to frame our speeches.  The framing in our speeches and our blog posts is crucial to how people will respond.  We can be inspiring, heartfelt, and patriot and still push a strong progressive message.

I would like to thank the NH Citizen’s Alliance and Granite State Progress for organizing this years NH Progressive Summit, and bringing in such great speakers as Richard Kirsch.

 

AFGE Named Exclusive Representative for FEMA Employees

FLRA ruling allows union to create consolidated bargaining unit for FEMA workers nationwide

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees has been named the exclusive representative for more than 2,500 bargaining unit employees at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Federal Labor Relations Authority issued a ruling May 7 allowing individual bargaining units within FEMA to consolidate into a single national unit. AFGE was certified to be the exclusive representative of employees within the consolidated unit, pursuant to FLRA regulations and provisions of Title 5 of the U.S. Code.

The consolidated unit will cover employees in the following nine locations where AFGE has existing bargaining units:

  • FEMA Region II, headquartered in New York City and covering employees in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands
  • FEMA Region III, headquartered in Philadelphia and covering employees in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia
  • FEMA Region IV, headquartered in Atlanta and covering employees in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee
  • FEMA Region V, headquartered in Chicago and covering employees in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin
  • FEMA Region VII, headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., and covering employees in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska
  • FEMA Region IX, headquartered in San Francisco and covering employees in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and the Pacific Islands
  • FEMA Headquarters in Washington, DC
  • The National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg, Md.
  • The FEMA Special Facility in Mount Weather, Va.

Immediately upon notification of consolidation, representatives from the nine locals met in caucus and elected an interim president and an alternate. Gerald Collins, president of AFGE Local 3836 in FEMA Region IV, was elected interim president. Karl Desimone, president of AFGE Local 1754 at the Special Facility, was elected the alternate.

Collins said there are several advantages to employees being covered by a consolidated unit.

“The major advantage to the consolidation is that there will no longer be a need for nine separate negotiated agreements. Now we will have one agreement dealing with all issues of national concern throughout the agency. Another advantage will be in how unfair labor practices will now be handled by a single national entity instead of nine individual locals,” Collins said.

The existing locals will retain their autonomy on issues affecting employees on a local level, while benefiting from being part of a larger unit that can speak with one voice on matters affecting FEMA employees nationwide, Desimone said.

“While there is strength in numbers, the true test of any consolidation is how involved the locals are in the overall operations of the collective. We believe we potentially have the best of both worlds – individual autonomous locals and a consolidated, strong, representative national body,” Desimone said.

The IBEW Is Organizing Workers In One Of The Most Dangerous Jobs In New England

Every worker deserves to have their voice heard in the workplace, and when it comes to the safety of workers, this is a life and death situation.  The IBEW is working to organize tree trimmers who clear branches from power lines throughout New England.

From the video description:

“Tree-trimming is one of the most dangerous jobs out there, so having a voice on the job is vital. Hear from some New England tree-trimmers who found their voice with the IBEW.”

Arena Football Players Affiliate with AFL-CIO

Arena_football_Kansas_City_wide_shot

Partnership builds a stronger labor movement

(Washington, DC, May 13, 2014) – The Arena Football League Players Union (AFLPU) has affiliated with the AFL-CIO following a unanimous vote by its Board of Player Representatives. The hardworking athletes of the AFLPU join the 57 international unions representing more than 12 million working men and women in America.

“The labor movement is stronger when all workers– from nurses in California to teachers in New York or arena football players across the country – speak with a collective voice,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “We are excited to welcome the AFLPU into America’s labor movement and look forward to working together to improve the lives of all working people.”

“This partnership will help grow the AFLPU and level the playing field for players as our league continues to grow,” said AFLPU Executive Director Ivan Soto. “The AFL-CIO’s resources will provide our athletes with training, education and many other benefits that will help us achieve our goal: a workplace that treats athletes fairly and puts player safety first.”

This partnership is the culmination of nearly a year of discussions between the AFL-CIO and the AFLPU.

United Auto Worker Say: NLRB Wrong To Allow Right-Wing Groups To Intervene In VW Vote

UAW and VWDETROIT –The UAW released the following statement in reaction to the NLRB ruling to let outside-funded groups participate in the hearing regarding the interference of state and federal politicians in the UAW election at Volkswagen in Chattanooga:

“It is an outrage that the Atlanta Region of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), deviating from the board’s own practice, is allowing groups with shadowy funding that are masquerading as legitimate worker representatives to participate in the process to determine whether the UAW election at Volkswagen was tainted by state and federal politicians’ threats of retaliation against workers if they exercised their right to choose UAW representation.

“Politicians subjected Volkswagen workers to a two-week barrage of anti-UAW propaganda, outright lies, distortions, and threats about the viability of their plant.  It is an outrage that their allies, who refused to reveal their funding sources and who openly republished the illicit threats in the media and among the Volkswagen workforce, will now be allowed to participate in the NLRB hearing.  They have mocked the NLRB process and have denigrated workers who are demanding that the federal government enforce their right to have an election free from outside interference.

“One of these groups, ‘Southern Momentum’ – an ally of outside groups like Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and the National Right-to-Work Legal Defense Foundation – claims to be an organic group of Volkswagen workers who came together of their own accord to participate in the election campaign.  Instead, Southern Momentum, registered at a management law firm, disclosed after the election that in two weeks, it raised “funding in the low six figures” from “businesses and individuals” rather than Volkswagen workers, according to Reuters news service.

“With this secret business funding, this “grassroots” organization also hired one of the nation’s largest anti-union firms, Projections, to create propaganda for their anti-union campaign.  Southern Momentum neglected to publicly disclose these facts during the election campaign.”

Of Southern Momentum, the UAW reiterated, “Its money speaks louder than its words, but it does not speak for Volkswagen Chattanooga workers.”

The UAW plans to appeal the NLRB Region 10 ruling to full NLRB.

UAW appeals outside interference in union representation election for Chattanooga Volkswagen workers

UAW and VW

DETROIT, Mich. – The UAW filed an appeal (“objections”) with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) today related to the interference by politicians and outside special interest groups in the union representation election held last week at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant.

A firestorm of interference from politicians and special interest groups threatening the economic future of the plant occurred just before and during three days of voting in an election supervised by the NLRB. Workers voted narrowly to reject representation, with a slim 44 vote swing. The objections detail a coordinated and widely publicized coercive campaign conducted by politicians and outside organizations to deprive Volkswagen workers of their federally protected right to join a union.

The campaign included publicly-announced and widely disseminated threats by elected officials that state-financed incentives would be withheld if workers exercised their protected right to form a union.

“It’s essentially saying, ‘If you unionize, it’s going to hurt your economy. Why? Because I’m going to make sure it does,’” said Volkswagen worker Lauren Feinauer. “I hope people see it for the underhanded threat that it is.”

The campaign also included threats by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker related to promises of a new product line awarded to the plant if workers voted against UAW representation.

The objections state, “Senator Corker’s conduct was shameful and undertaken with utter disregard for the rights of the citizens of Tennessee and surrounding states that work at Volkswagen. … The clear message of the campaign was that voting for the union would result in stagnation for the Chattanooga plant, with no new product, no job security, and withholding of state support for its expansion.”

“It’s an outrage that politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that that would grow jobs in Tennessee,” said UAW President Bob King. “It is extraordinary interference in the private decision of workers to have a U.S. senator, a governor and leaders of the state legislature threaten the company with the denial of economic incentives and workers with a loss of product. We’re committed to standing with the Volkswagen workers to ensure that their right to have a fair vote without coercion and interference is protected.”

An affirmative vote for union representation at the Volkswagen plant would have led to the establishment of a works council that would have been the first such model of labor-management relations in the United States.

The NLRB will investigate the election conduct and determine whether there are grounds to set aside the election results and hold a new election for Volkswagen workers.