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Worker Wins Update: Groundbreaking Contract Victories in Multiple Industries

(Washington, DC, September, 2016) When working people come together and win the contracts, it proves that our raising wages agenda drives economic stability. Working people across the country are creating better lives for themselves and turning those workplace victories into political power. These latest worker wins show what the power of collective voice can achieve.

Here are some highlights:

Staff and Students Win After Lockout Ends: Teachers and students are back in class after the Long Island University Faculty Federation won an agreement that ended a 12-day faculty lockout. The American Federation of Teachers and its state affiliate, New York State United Teachers, fully supported the faculty efforts helping to secure a contract that runs through May 31, 2017.

Detroit Teachers Win Wage Increases in New Contract: The Detroit Federation of Teachers ratified a new contract with the Detroit Public Schools Community District. The agreement includes wage increases and the formation of a committee to address health safety needs of teachers. The agreement now goes before the Detroit Financial Review Commission for final approval.

Two Florida Newspapers Vote to Join NewsGuild CWA: Newsroom staff of the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Ledger of Lakeland have voted to unionize. More than 70 employees will benefit from the new contracts that are being negotiated with GateHouse Media, which owns both papers.

Masters, Mates & Pilots Members Unanimously Approve First Contract With New York Water Taxi: In a unanimous vote, captains and deckhands won a hard-fought campaign in support of collective bargaining and the principles of discussion and agreement in solving conflict. This new contract is viewed as an important step in making New York Harbor a 100 percent unionized waterfront once again.

Magna Seating Workers in Tennessee Overwhelmingly Vote for Union: By a nearly unanimous vote workers at Magna Seating International, a new facility in Spring Hill, Tenn. voted to join the United Auto Workers (UAW) International Union. The 230 workers build seats for the new Cadillac XT5 and GMC Acadia in a state of the art 122,500 square foot facility near the Spring Hill General Motors Manufacturing plant.

Workers at Nation’s Only Lipton Tea Factory Vote to Join UFCW: Nearly 200 workers at the Lipton plant in southeast Virginia voted to unionize with United Food & Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 400.Workers expressed optimism that this will improve conditions at the plant that has operated for more than 60 years and produces most of the tea sold in North America. 

Workers at Boulder Station Vote to Unionize Through NLRB Secret-Ballot Election: Workers at Boulder Station Casino & Hotel voted by a landslide of 67% to be represented by the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and the Bartenders Union Local 165 through an NLRB secret-ballot election. More than 570 Boulder Station workers will be represented by the unions, which are affiliates of UNITE-HERE. It is the first of Station Casinos’ properties in Nevada to unionize.

More NBC Universal Workers Vote to Unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East: Writer-producers at Peacock Productions, the “reality”/nonfiction television production subsidiary of Comcast/NBCUniversal, voted decisively in favor of unionizing with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). The vote comes after a nearly four-year battle that began in October of 2012 when writer-producers at Peacock Productions filed for a union election with the NLRB.

Boeing’s Shameful Attacks On Its South Carolina Employees’ Rights Will Not Go Unchallenged

Boeing Dreamliner

Washington, DC – Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, and Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, issue this statement in response to Boeing’s latest tactics aimed at squashing attempts by its employees in South Carolina to select the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers as their collective bargaining representative. 

“Boeing’s sinister claims that the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is somehow jeopardizing aerospace jobs as it opposes a job-killing flag-of-convenience airline is both factually inaccurate and a cynical attempt by the company to deny its employees in South Carolina the benefits of collective bargaining.

“The IAM and the entire labor movement is opposing Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) entry into the U.S. market because the airline’s application for a permit before the U.S. Department of Transportation violates our air services trade agreement with the European Union (EU). By headquartering NAI in Ireland instead of Norway, the company is attempting to avoid strong labor laws and current collective bargaining obligations in its home country. NAI’s operating plan centers on hiring Asian flight crews under Singaporean or Thai employment contracts. The fact that this scheme will undermine labor standards and collective bargaining rights in violation of Article 17 bis of the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement is the basis for our opposition to the company’s application.

“If NAI’s application is approved, the carrier will gain an unfair competitive advantage over airlines that play by the rules – most of which are significant and longstanding Boeing customers. NAI’s parent company, Norwegian Air Shuttle, already flies to the U.S., using Boeing aircraft, and can continue to do so and expand flights under its existing operating authority. NAI’s application has absolutely nothing to do with buying more Boeing airplanes but has everything to do with setting up a corporate shell to eviscerate labor standards, undercut fair competition and destroy middle-class U.S. airline jobs.

“Boeing’s attack on the IAM is especially outrageous given that the union has led the way in advocating for policies that have expanded Boeing’s reach into new markets and created jobs. The Export-Import Bank, which Boeing has said is vital and essential to its future, would be shuttered if not for the efforts of the IAM and the broader labor movement.

“Finally, the NAI battle has been going on for well over two years. If this application was so important to Boeing, why did it wait until now to take a public position? Clearly these public relations tactics are about dissuading South Carolina workers from joining the IAM and demanding better wages, benefits, job protections and working conditions. These shameful tactics should be dismissed as more anti-union saber-rattling by this corporate giant.”

The US Chamber Of Commerce Releases New Legislative Guide To Steal Workers Rights

Chamber of Commerce Labor Report

The US Chamber of Commerce releases a new legislative guide with suggested legislation gut workers rights and block union organizing efforts.

 

If you ever thought the US Chamber of Commerce was working on your behalf, man were you wrong. Their only agenda is to screw workers out of their rights so they can maximize their corporate member’s profit margins.

Yesterday, the US Chamber of Commerce released their 2016 “Tools for Growth” report that details how states can reform their labor laws to “promote a favorable business climate.”

The report is basically a guideline for state legislators to push anti-union, anti-worker legislation that serves to line the pockets of wealthy business owners and corporate executives.

These laws are not designed to help workers in any way. They are intended to weaken or outright break unions by attempting to legislate away our rights.

Here are just a few of their legislative goals in their “Tools for Growth:”

  • Passing Right to Work – A law that does provide any benefit to jobs or the economy and has only been proven to lower wages.
  • Prohibiting City Ordinances to Raise the Minimum Wage – This legislation would make it illegal for any city or township to raise the minimum wage above the state’s minimum wage. Dozens of cities have already enacted higher minimum wages including New York City, Sea-Tac, and San Francisco to combat the high cost of living in these cities.
  • Legislating a reversal of the NLRB’s “Franchise” decision – The NLRB ruled that corporations could be held accountable for labor law violations in franchised shops.
  • Banning Project Labor Agreements – PLA’s ensure that workers are paid a fair wage, provided healthcare and retirement options, and ensure strong workplace safety protections and workmen’s compensation insurance.
  • Legislating away workers rights to organize and demonstrate – This includes multiple legislative reforms like: Prohibiting card check agreements, prohibiting union-management neutrality agreements, and prohibiting mass picketing [strikes, boycotts, picketing businesses for any reason, or any other demonstration intended to bring harm or attention to a specific business].

This report is nothing more than a legislative roadmap on how to screw workers, allowing corporations to further line their pockets with our lost wages.

The majority of their supporting evidence and legislative proposals in this new report are backed by, none other than the National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation, who have spent years trying to block unions and limit workers rights.

The US Chamber of Commerce will stop at nothing to prevent workers from organizing and forming unions and fighting for higher wages.

Faculty Votes for Union at Plymouth State University

AAUP 100 Years Logo 2Plymouth, NH– In an election held this week, a majority of the one hundred seventy-four tenured and tenure-track faculty members at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire voted to form a union for collective bargaining with the American Association of University Professors. Plymouth State University is one of the four public universities that make up the University System of New Hampshire.

“My colleagues and I look forward to working with the university to establish agreements and processes for faculty that guarantee workload equity, transparency in governance, and academic freedom. Assured academic freedom for faculty creates the best environment for student learning,” said Rebecca Noel, associate professor of history at Plymouth State University.

“I am happy that we faculty at Plymouth State University have chosen to join together as the newest members of the AAUP to improve clarity and workload issues, and I look forward to working with the administration to making PSU an even stronger institution,” said Chris Chabot, Plymouth State University professor of biology.

“This is great news. Plymouth State University faculty, working together in a union, will have a positive impact on the faculty working conditions, student leaning conditions, and the university as a whole,” said Howard Bunsis, chair of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress.

In voting to join together to bargain collectively as an AAUP chapter, faculty members at Plymouth State join many of their colleagues at the University of New Hampshire and across the country.

Plymouth State University Faculty File Petition to Form Union

Plymouth-State 

Plymouth, NH.  On Wednesday, March 9, tenured and tenure-track faculty at Plymouth State University filed a petition with the New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board to form a collective bargaining chapter with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Included with the petition were union authorization cards from a majority of the tenured and tenure-track faculty members at Plymouth State. 

Plymouth State University – AAUP, the group of faculty members leading the union drive, asserts that a faculty union will help create a more collaborative relationship with the PSU administration by establishing a collective bargaining agreement that outlines fair and clear processes. Rebecca Noel, an Associate Professor of History at PSU, is hopeful that a faculty union will create “an environment built on transparency, communication and shared decision-making, with respect for the needs of university students, faculty and staff.” Gary McCool, an Associate Professor in the Lamson Library & Learning Commons at PSU, believes that “the entire university community benefits when faculty are empowered to help ensure the quality of education at PSU by having fairly negotiated, legally binding policies and conditions of employment.”

There are roughly 170 tenured and tenure-track faculty currently working at Plymouth State University who would be eligible to vote in a union election. Plymouth State University is one of four public universities that make up the University System of New Hampshire. Should PSU faculty vote in favor of unionization, they would be following in the footsteps of their unionized colleagues at the University of New Hampshire and Keene State College. The tenured and tenure-track faculty at UNH, along with the full-time non-tenure-track faculty at UNH, are both unionized with the American Association of University Professors. The Plymouth State University – AAUP expects that an election will be scheduled this spring.

Playing Against The House: The True Story Of An Undercover Union Organizer

PlayingAgainsttheHouse.coverimageAs an active union member, and labor blogger, I have always enjoyed sharing the stories of unions winning an election or ratifying their first contract. I know that it is very hard to organize a worksite but it was not until I read “Playing Against The House” that I truly began to understand how hard organizing workers and winning a union election really is.

When I began my career, I was lucky enough to have a union there to represent me. The only choice I had to make was to join the union or not.

I never had to risk losing my job and falling into homelessness over my decision to join the union. I never understood the risks workers face as a union election approaches.

Playing Against The House” is powerful and an amazingly well written book about the difficulties workers face when trying to organize their worksites and the fear workers face as their employer pushes back against their organizing efforts.

The book is a first person account of James Walsh’s experiences working in the service industry at two casinos in South Florida. The struggle to pay his bills, living off tips, the terrible shifts, all while working to build support for the union organizing drive.

After graduating from grad school, Walsh decided he wanted to write a book how unions organize workers. Walsh decided to become a union “salt”. A salt is a worker who helps to build support for the union from the inside of the company. In Walsh’s case he became a server at a couple of different casinos in the South Florida area.

James Walsh Photo Credit Cory Vander Ploeg

James Walsh
Photo Credit Cory Vander Ploeg

Walsh worked with organizers from UNITE HERE to get a job at the casinos the union had a card check agreement with. As a salt, Walsh was there to build connections with other workers, to identify leaders who would be willing to stand up against their employer, and to encourage more workers to support the union.

I was riveted by the story. I literally could not put the book down. I began to feel the anxiety as the organizers began collecting signature cards. I felt angry when workers were fired for supporting the union, knowing full well that it was an illegal termination. I was inspired as workers held demonstrations and were arrested in support of their fellow workers wrongful terminations.

Throughout the book, Walsh highlights the strong anti-union, anti-worker corporate agenda as the casino bosses skirt the edges of illegal union busting activities.   Walsh provided detailed accounts of the tactics used by his employer as they work to squash organizing drives.

To truly comprehend the hard work and dedication it takes to win an organizing drive, this book is an absolute must read.


(Below are a few other quotes praising Walsh’s work.)


PLAYING AGAINST THE HOUSE:
The Dramatic World of an Undercover Union Organizer

By James D. Walsh

“[Walsh] does an engagingly readable job of humanizing the labor battle, showing just how much power the corporations wield.” Kirkus Reviews

“The degree of commitment shown by this young author is stunning. James Walsh used his two years in low wage jobs to help bring a union fight to casino owners and, now, an original, first-hand account to readers. It’s an up-close, empathetic portrait of the working poor, in particular the bravest among them, and what happens when idealism meets the sausage-making of union organizing.” —Ted Conover, author of Rolling Nowhere and Newjack: Guardian Sing Sing

“James Walsh’s Playing Against the House is a brilliantly conceived and executed undercover exposé about union rights at casinos. Set in South Florida, the narrative is full of compassion for the hard-working poor. Every page sizzles. This is New Journalism at its finest.” —Douglas Brinkley, author of Cronkite   

Meet James Walsh

March 7 * Half King Reading Series * New York, NY

April 3 * Politics & Prose * Washington, DC

In A Close Vote, Ground Workers Approve New Contract With Southwest Airlines

Southwest Jet at BWI (image by Rudi Riet FLIKR CC)

Southwest Jet at BWI (image by Rudi Riet FLIKR CC)

New labor agreement with Southwest includes 20 percent wage increase, first raises in five years for many ramp workers at highly profitable airline workers at highly profitable airline 

DALLAS  – After a five-year, often difficult contract battle, Transport Workers Union Local 555, the union representing 12,000 ground crew workers employed by Southwest Airlines, announced today that union members narrowly voted to approve a tentative agreement with the airline. TWU members by a close margin, 50.4 percent (4,703) cast “yes” votes, and 49.6 percent voted “no” (4,628), out of 11,073 eligible.  Electronic voting began February 4 and concluded earlier today.  Ballots were tallied this afternoon in Dallas.

 On December 29, 2015, the TWU Local 555 Executive Board voted to send the tentative agreement to union members for a ratification vote without a recommendation.  Contract talks had been ongoing since July of 2011 and federal mediation with the assistance of the National Mediation Board began in September of 2012.

“Our Board wanted the members to decide this one,” said TWU Local 555 President Greg Puriski. “While we had reached agreement on significant improvements in compensation there were still unresolved issues important to our members related primarily to working conditions. This was a hard vote for many of our members and this explains the close results.”  The new contract includes pay raises of more than 20 percent over the five-year life of the agreement. 

Southwest Airlines earned a record 2.4 billion in 2015. The airline has been growing in both size and profits since the ground workers contract became amendable in 2011, yet many ground workers have not had a raise during that period.

“This agreement is not the end of the road,” said Puriski. “This is merely a stop on the journey. We will continue to work for improved job security and working conditions and stress the importance of recapturing the culture that has made this company a model for not only the airline industry, but for all U.S. employers.”

Added Puriski, “Southwest’s long-time winning formula has largely been replaced by a structure not unlike the failed legacy carriers of the past. Other airlines have become more like Southwest. Somewhere our flight paths crossed—we’re now becoming what they used to be. Management should look at the closeness of this vote and respect what the “no” voters have said and work with the union leadership to improve working conditions and employee morale in order to build an even more successful Southwest Airlines.” 

TWU Local 555 is a local union of the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), representing more than 12,000 ramp, operations, provisioning and freight agents at Southwest Airlines.

Sen. Schumer Urges Verizon to Re-Hire Unjustly Fired Union Member

Image courtesy of CWA District 1

Senator Charles Schumer and workers Image courtesy of CWA District 1, All Rights Reserved.

Call Comes After Feds Serve Verizon With a Labor Complaint For Attempting to Silence Brooklyn Workers

Workers are the First Retail Workers to Form a Union in Verizon Wireless & Are Seeking a Fair First Contract

New York, NY – Senator Chuck Schumer joined CWA in front of the wireless store where the unjustly-fired Bianca Cunningham worked and urged Verizon to re-hire her and settle its contract with the Communications Workers of America.                                

Image courtesy of CWA District 1

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer Image courtesy of CWA District 1, All Rights Reserved.

“I am proud to stand with members of the CWA as they work to build their union and settle a fair contract with Verizon. First, we’re  joined today to tell Verizon to ‘Bring Back Bianca!’ Bianca Cunningham—a hardworking employee at Verizon Wireless– who was unjustly fired. Second, we’re urging Verizon to finally negotiate and settle a fair first contract so that its hardworking employees can live a better quality of life,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer. “Unions are ladder to the middle class for so many hard-working people. And when we have vibrant unions, like CWA, we have the opportunity to build contracts with fair wages and benefits that can strengthen and grow the middle class.” 

“Verizon just announced $5.5 billion in profits in the fourth quarter of 2015 and pays its retail workers about 300 times less than the company CEO,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President of CWA District One.  “But management would rather intimidate its workers by firing their leader for standing up for her rights than settle a fair contract.  It shouldn’t take Federal charges for Verizon to bring Bianca back and settle fair and just contracts.” 

Image courtesy of CWA District 1

Image courtesy of CWA District 1, All Rights Reserved.

In November, the Federal National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) authorized the issuance of a federal complaint against Verizon for violating federal labor laws when it fired Bianca Cunningham in an attempt to silence Brooklyn Verizon Wireless workers.

The 65 newly-unionized Brooklyn workers are the first retail workers in all of Verizon Wireless to form a union. Management is also targeting other union activists.

Verizon Wireless workers are fighting for raises, better benefits and a voice on the job to improve working conditions and protect themselves against unfair metrics that drive commissions and management favoritism.

New Report: A Year of Raising Wages Agenda

AFL-CIO_Headquarters_by_Matthew_Bisanz2
Worker wins rule since first ever Raising Wages Summit,
but challenges remain

(Washington, DC) – Marking nearly one year since the first ever Raising Wages Summit, the AFL-CIO today released a new report detailing the successes, struggles and path ahead to raise wages for working people.

The report, “Fighting for a Better Life: How Working People Across America are Organizing to Raise Wages and Improve Work,” finds that over the last year income inequality has shifted from a problem we discuss to a problem we can solve.

The report points to clear and unequivocal steps for a path forward. Armed with the solutions outlined in the report, the central conclusion is that America is ready to move beyond the discussion of income inequality and is beginning to write new rules that will shape the economy.

“One year ago, we made clear that raising wages for all working people was our number one priority,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “In 2015 we came together in collective voice and action, and made significant progress.”

The report goes well beyond direct wage increases, highlighting successes that demonstrate the all-encompassing nature of the raising wages agenda. Numerous organizing victories, paid sick leave laws in multiple states and municipalities and new protections against wage theft if five states are outlined as part of the effort to create an economy built on raising wages.

The report also outlines hurdles to further victories, and challenges that remain as the raising wages agenda grows.

In December 2015 alone, the report shows, President Obama and Democrats in Congress were forced to fight off six amendments to the budget that would have rolled back protections for working people. And while the unemployment rate continued to fall last year, wage growth showed only modest improvement before grinding to a halt.

Even with modest wage growth and significant gains for working people in 2015, the report is a reminder that more work is needed in order to keep raising wages a priority in political and economic conversations. 

“Although the victories and the momentum of the Raising Wages movement in 2015 demonstrate that collective action works, we are still far behind where we need to be and where we can be,” said President Trumka. “In the year ahead, we will continue to push for a comprehensive economic agenda that puts working people first. Raising Wages is not a hobby, it is our mission.”

View the report at: http://www.aflcio.org/content/download/174433/4152655/RaisingWagesReport2015.pdf

Is Hearst’s Anti-Union History Repeating At WMUR?

What’s the Agenda Behind the News and Entertainment You Watch?

IMG_2193Hearst Corporation is one of the largest media corporations in the world. It has ownership interests in 360 different businesses, including cable networks A&E and ESPN; 30 television stations that reach one in five American households; dozens of magazines; and even digital outlets such as BuzzFeed (which reaches 190 million unique visitors around the world each month). Hearst Television is “the largest ABC affiliate group” and “the second-largest NBC affiliate owner” – and it even owns two CBS-affiliated stations. When you stop and look, Hearst seems to be pretty much everywhere.

Hearst also has one of the longest histories of opposing labor unions, starting with the Newsboys Strike of 1899. In 1944, Hearst Publications went all the way to the Supreme Court trying to keep its employees from forming a union.

And it looks like Hearst is still fighting unionization today. A group of 20 WMUR employees voted to form a union last April – and it’s now December, and Hearst management still doesn’t want to negotiate with the union about workers’ retirement benefits.

Even after receiving letters from presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Even after being contacted by Martin O’Malley’s campaign. Even after the Democratic National Committee and the New Hampshire Democratic Party removed WMUR as a sponsor of the December 19th presidential candidates’ debate, citing “WMUR’s unwillingness to move forward on scheduling negotiations between the Hearst Corporation and Production Department employees represented by IBEW Local 1228.”

Workers have a right to join together in a union.  Employers have the legal obligation to bargain – in good faith – with their employees’ union.

WMUR’s employees have decided to exercise their right to form a union. But it looks like WMUR management – following Hearst’s long history of fighting unions – is now refusing to allow those newly-unionized workers to keep their retirement plan.

Do you wonder if the anti-union agenda might be finding its way into the news and entertainment you watch?

Last year, Hearst Corporation “achieved record revenue and profit for the fourth straight year” – logging $10.3 billion in sales with profits benefitting the Hearst Family Trust. CEO Steven Swartz even sent out a “Thank you” letter celebrating employees’ “hard work and creativity.”

But that fourth-year-in-a-row CEO “Thank you!” is probably sounding pretty hollow to those 20 WMUR employees faced with losing their retirement plan.

Please sign this petition to tell CEO Swartz and the Hearst Family Trust to end their campaign against unions, and to negotiate fairly with the employees who helped the corporation make record-breaking profits.

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