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Labor Unions Representing Tens of Thousands of New Hampshire Workers Endorse Jeanne Shaheen

Manchester — Just one day after Scott Brown declared he has no interest in promoting economic development here in our state, New Hampshire labor unions representing tens of thousands of Granite State workers including the NH AFL-CIO, SEIU, NEA, Teamsters, Iron Workers, Electrical Workers, Food and Commercial Workers, Postal Workers, and Laborers, endorsed New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen for reelection. In their endorsements, workers highlighted Shaheen’s commitment to creating good paying jobs and her record standing up for New Hampshire workers and their families. Meanwhile, Scott Brown has shown that he’s only looking out for one job, his own, after it was recently reported that he is collecting a hefty paycheck from a company that shipped jobs overseas. Yesterday, Brown declared he wasn’t going to work to create jobs in the Senate.

“I’m honored to have the support of so many New Hampshire workers and their families,” said Shaheen. “Every day in the U.S. Senate, my number one priority has always been to strengthen our economy and create good paying jobs here in New Hampshire so everyone who works hard can earn a decent living for their families. I’ll never stop fighting to increase the minimum wage, invest in our state’s roads and bridges, and close loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas. These are commonsense solutions that will make a real difference for people throughout New Hampshire.”

Jeanne Shaheen has fought to strengthen the state’s economy and create good paying jobs for New Hampshire workers. She reached across party lines to secure new funding to widen I-93 and rebuild the Portsmouth Memorial Bridge, both of which created jobs for workers across the state. Shaheen stood up to members of her own party to protect thousands of jobs at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. She also voted to close tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and is fighting to raise the minimum wage because it’s what’s right for New Hampshire families.

Scott Brown has opposed increasing the minimum wage and voted to support tax loopholes for companies that offshore American jobs. Recently, the Nashua Telegraph reported that Brown has made over a quarter million dollars as a board member of a company that touts outsourcing American jobs to China and Mexico as part of its business plan. Legal documents dated just two days before Brown entered the U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire bear his signature endorsing the company’s outsourcing strategy.

“This election, we’re going door to door because there’s a real contrast in this race between someone running for New Hampshire working families and someone who’s in this race to line his own pockets,” said Mark Mackenzie, President of the NH AFL-CIO. “While Jeanne Shaheen puts New Hampshire first, Scott Brown puts his bank account first, refusing to resign from the board of a company that offshored American jobs to increase its profits. We don’t stand for that here in New Hampshire.”

“As a former teacher herself, Jeanne Shaheen knows the importance of ensuring every child has access to an affordable, quality education,” said NH National Education Association President Scott McGilvray. “It’s an insult to working families that Scott Brown would sit on the Board of Directors of a company that sent American jobs to China and Mexico to increase its bottom line. What Scott Brown needs to understand is that the offshoring practices he endorsed don’t just hurt workers, they hurt communities and they hurt kids.”

“Senator Shaheen has shown time and time again she can reach across the aisle and get things done for the people of New Hampshire,” said Steven Burk, NH Business Agent and Political Liason for the Ironworkers. “She’s worked to create good paying jobs here in our state, including the rebuilding of the Portsmouth Memorial Bridge, which our workers were proud to be a part of. New Hampshire working people deserve a Senator who will stand up for them, fight to increase the minimum wage, and close loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas–not one who supports special interests and lines his own pockets while claiming to represent us.”

“Jeanne Shaheen understands that investing in New Hampshire’s infrastructure not only creates good paying jobs, but also strengthens our economy in the long run,” said New Hampshire Teamsters Secretary-Treasurer David Laughton. “Scott Brown is still cashing in from his role on the board of a company that shipped American jobs overseas. While he profits, working people suffer. Here in New Hampshire, we’re not going to tolerate that kind of behavior.”

“The bottom line is Jeanne Shaheen understands that people in New Hampshire have bills to pay, kids to send to college, and food to put on the table–all while trying to save for retirement,” said Diana Lacey, SEIU 1984 President. “Scott Brown didn’t just vote for tax breaks for companies that offshore American jobs, he sits on the board of one of those companies himself.”

“Senator Shaheen supported every postal worker in New Hampshire when she personally urged members of the Appropriations Committee to protect the USPS service standards, helping to preserve a vital public service,” said Dana Coletti, New Hampshire President of the American Postal Workers Union. “Jeanne Shaheen looks out for the people of New Hampshire and has always put the families of this state first.”

“As Governor and Senator, Jeanne Shaheen’s worked to create good paying jobs by investing in infrastructure and education right here in New Hampshire,” said Joe Bonfiglio, President of the Massachusetts & Northern New England Laborers’ District Council. “Scott Brown on the other hand seems to care more about the economies of China and Mexico. He’s made a quarter million dollars on the board of a company that shipped jobs overseas to increase profits. We need a Senator who prioritizes working people here in New Hampshire, and that Senator is Jeanne Shaheen.”

We’re proud to endorse Jeanne Shaheen for reelection to the United States Senate,” said Jim Carvalho, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 Political Director. “She has a long record of fighting to create good paying jobs and looking out for working families here in New Hampshire. As a Senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown voted to protect tax breaks for Big Oil, Wall Street and companies that ship jobs overseas. Now, he’s collecting money sitting on the board of a company that touts relying on low cost manufacturing jobs in China and Mexico as a part of its business plan. That’s not the representation our state deserves to have in the Senate.”

“Jeanne Shaheen is a Senator New Hampshire working people can trust. Her top priority has always been to create new jobs and she’s delivered for New Hampshire time and time again,” said Joe Casey, President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 490. “Scott Brown is in this race for nobody but Big Oil, Wall Street and himself. I can’t believe he’d vote for tax breaks for all these special interests but won’t support increasing the minimum wage so working people can support their families. Now he’s making money off of a company that shipped jobs overseas? We need to keep Jeanne Shaheen in the Senate.”

UFCW Statement on Market Basket Sale

UFCW Local 312

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Joe Hansen, International President of the UFCW, Richard Charette, UFCW International Vice President and President of UFCW Local 1445, and Dave Fleming, President of UFCW Local 328, today released the following joint statement in response to the sale of Market Basket.

“Market Basket workers have secured the return of their preferred corporate leader by standing together in unprecedented collective actions. These workers showed that the real value of any company is not held in stocks, but in the dedication and hard work of its workforce.

“Market Basket workers and their families have made tremendous sacrifices, and proved that when they stand together, they have the power to move mountains.

“The members of our union have stood in solidarity with Market Basket workers, from rallies to raising a solidarity fund to help laid-off workers. As Market Basket workers negotiate the terms of their return to work, we will continue to offer our solidarity and our support.”

Organize The South To Change A Nation

Organize The South NN14Organize The South

“The only way to win economic justice in America is to organize the South,” according to MaryBe McMillian, Secretary-Treasurer of the North Carolina AFL-CIO.

During this year’s Netroots Nation, one panel discussion focused on how labor and progressive organizations are building a movement to effect real social change in America.

Those of us in the labor movement often think of “organizing” as recruiting new members to join our union ranks. While organizing workers is a crucial part of “organizing the South”, the panel’s broader message is that we need to organize people to push for progressive values.

Reverend Dr. William Barber explained what these progressive values are in a recent speech at the AFT convention. He repeated them as he spoke at Netroots Nation:

  1. Rev Dr William Barber NN14Protecting workers and their rights to organize and form unions.
  2. Protecting women’s health and reproductive rights and the rights of the LBGT community.
  3. Protecting our Constitutional right to vote, making it easier for everyone to vote.
  4. Strengthening our public education system.
  5. Ensuring everyone has access to affordable healthcare.

For example, progressive organizations in North Carolina are coming together in weekly protest marches, in what they call “Moral Mondays.” McMillian explained “We have been successful in organizing multiple groups to participate in Moral Mondays because we are all under attack.”

“The South has always been ground zero for the civil rights movement,” Planned Parenthood Federation’s Carol McDonald told the Netroots Nation audience, before describing some of the most legislative “wins” that came from the Moral Mondays movement.

To effect real economic change throughout the United States, we have to stop the exploitation of workers in the South. “Organizing workers from Texas to North Carolina, we will change the South and in turn change the nation,” said McMillian.

UAW and VW

The UAW Fight For VW

In recent years, labor unions throughout the South have been working to organize workers like Will Branch, an employee at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga TN who was part of the panel discussion.

Inside the facility, UAW’s organizing efforts were welcomed by both workers and plant managers. In Germany, all of Volkswagen’s plants are unionized. They have “works councils” where labor leaders meet with mangers to discuss plans to make the plant more efficient, to make a better product, and how they can make sure that the needs of both sides are satisfied. This is exactly the type of labor-management relations that Volkswagen was trying to build in Chattanooga.

“With a local works council, workers would have a voice they can use to make Volkswagen stronger; in safety, job security and efficiency,” said Jonathan Walden, Volkswagen paint technician. “Global representation means Chattanooga workers may have a strong voice in seeking new products and bringing more jobs to Tennessee.”

Despite Volkswagen’s encouragement of the organizing efforts of the United Auto Workers, many of the local politicians were not so happy.

  • Misleading stories ran in the local media, hinting that if the workers voted for the union, their plant could be closed. (This of course was news to Volkswagen, who tried to reassure workers and their new community that they were here to stay.)
  • U.S. Senator Bob Corker made outrageous claims that VW would only expand their plant if workers rejected the union.
  • Tennessee’s Governor Bill Haslan offered $300 million dollars of taxpayer money, in the form of an “incentive” to Volkswagen, provided that the plant was not unionized.

“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.”

“Politicians subjected Volkswagen workers to a two-week barrage of anti-UAW propaganda, outright lies, distortions, and threats about the viability of their plant.  [T]heir allies… refused to reveal their funding sources and …openly republished the illicit threats in the media and among the Volkswagen workforce,” the UAW said in a written statement.

The union representation election process resulted in a National Labor Relations Board challenge, which was dropped the UAW and Volkswagen announced that they have created “UAW Local 42”, a new union local that will represent the workers at the newly created works council.

“What is best for the worker, is what is best for the company,” VW employee Will Branch told the Netroots Nation audience. “It is not the money that keeps America going, it is us, the workers.”

(That sentiment on full display in the Market Basket protests, here in New England.)

Raise Up NC (@MoralMonday Twitter)

Raise Up NC (@MoralMonday Twitter)

Workers Unite For A Living Wage

Throughout the country, workers have begun to take collective action to highlight the fact that they are being abused and underpaid.

For instance, “Raise Up for $15” is working to organize low wage workers, mostly in fast food restaurants, to push for a living wage.

Cherri Delesline has worked at McDonalds for nearly a decade to support her family. She told the crowd at Netroots Nation, “After ten years with McDonalds, I only make a little more than I did when I started.” Delesline went on to say, “Mangers at my store only make a little more than $8.00 an hour.”

Do the math. A minimum wage worker working full time only makes $15,500 a year. The federal poverty level for a family of four is $23,850. These workers are working full time – and are still living in poverty.

These fast food workers are calling for North Carolina – and the country – to “Rise Up” by paying workers a $15 per hour minimum. Raise Up has also been working to help these fast food workers in their efforts to form unions. However, these workers are not waiting for the NLRB to say they are officially represented by a union, they are going “old school.” They are speaking out collectively, holding wildcat strikes and walkouts, until store management listens to their demands.

Their fight for a living wage is only just beginning. These workers are taking a big risk by stepping out against their employer, but they also know it is the right thing to do.

UFCW Logo

Organizing For Human Rights

In North Carolina, it is not just fast food workers who are seeing the benefits of union representation. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) have been organizing at food processing plants throughout the state. They successfully organized the Smithfield Foods plant in 2008 after a decade-long campaign. Now they have turned their eyes to the Mountaire chicken processing plant, 20 miles down the road.

“Slaughterhouse work is particularly dangerous. A 2005 Government Accountability Office report states that poultry and slaughterhouse workers suffer on-the-job injuries and illnesses at a rate more than twice the national average,” wrote Aaron Lake Smith in an article for INDY Week.

The UFWC members from the Smithfield plant are using their free time to explain to the workers at the Mountaire plant just how much the union has changed their lives. But management at Mountaire is not taking this organizing drive sitting down. They are fighting back, using union busting firms and pushing the envelope of the legality of opposing workers’ right to organize. (Read the story of Isom, who is a present-day version of “Norma Rae”)

For more than a decade, the Farm Laborers Organizing Committee (FLCO-AFLCIO) has been locked in a heated battle with R.J. Reynolds over the slave-like treatment of workers who harvest their tobacco.

“While big tobacco corporations make billions, tobacco farm workers live in poverty, face racism, harassment, nicotine poisoning, lethal pesticides, miserable housing in labor camps and denial of basic human rights and labor protections,” the FLOC wrote on their website.

The FLOC has chalked up a few wins, with contract agreements with Campbell’s Soup, produce growers in Michigan and Ohio, and the 2004 contract agreement with the North Carolina Growers Association – but R.J. Reynolds still eludes them.

Some people say that, “once upon a time unions were needed to protect workers, but we have laws for that now.”

But listening to the workers in the fields, in the plants, and behind the counters, it is obvious that unions are needed now more than ever. These corporations are not just blatantly violating workers’ organizing rights, they are violating their rights as humans. The unions are helping show workers they do not have to stand for this type of treatment, and to notify the public and regulatory agencies when these corporations are violating the law.

The South will not change overnight, but after decades of struggle, unions in the South are slowly rising again.

Image Donkey Hotey on FLCKR

Image DonkeyHotey on FLCKR

Overcoming Obstacles

The Netroots Nation panel discussed some of the significantly high hurdles that will need to be overcome while “organizing the South.”

“There are lots of barriers to our organizing efforts here in the South, but cannot let that deter us,” said MaryBe McMillian (Sec-Tres of the NC AFL-CIO).

“The biggest barrier to the organizing efforts in The South are the right wing politicians,” said Will Branch (UAW Local 42). “These politicians would use their religious beliefs to push their agenda.”

Right-wing religious groups are another major obstacle. Groups like “Right To Life” are working against women’s health and reproductive rights, explained Carol McDonald.  Someone once told me, “if you’re gonna play ball in the South, you have to know the rules of the game” – and then he pointed to the Bible.

This is exactly why the Moral Mondays movement has gained such a strong foothold. Rev. Barber is showing people through passages in the Bible, and passages from our Constitution, that what these right-wing extremists are doing goes against our faith, and against our democracy.

Another of the major obstacles to overcome is race, with right-wing groups trying to pit one race against another, just like they try to pit the middle class family against the lower class family. “We are saying ‘NO’ to the race baiting by the right-wing politicians,” said MaryBe McMillian. “They are afraid of middle class white women standing with low income immigrant workers.”

McMillian talked about how they are using the diversity of the South to their organizing advantage. “African-American workers know the struggles of the new immigrant workers, and they are out educating others,” McMillian said.

“There is no need to fight each other, black, white, or brown, because we are all being mistreated by rich white men,” said Cherri Delesline, a McDonalds worker who was recently arrested when she marched on a McDonalds shareholders meeting demanding a living wage.

 

Bold and Progressive

To win back the South, we have to “be bold and think big,” said McMillian. “We need to unite people from all walks of life.”

McMillian was disappointed that some of the national labor unions and progressive organizations do not see the potential in organizing the South. “We will not only create a new south, but a new labor movement,” she said.

As they say at the closing of every Moral Monday event, “Forward Together, Not One Step Back!

 

 

Side note: MaryBe McMillian read an amazing poem called “Labor’s poem for a Moral March.” It is too long to include in this post, but here are the first few lines:


There’s too much corporate greed
And we have families to feed.

There are so few jobs, no decent wages.
Inequality tops the news pages.

UFCW Stands With Market Basket Workers (#SaveMarketBasket)

UFCW Statement on Market Basket Replacement Worker Job Fair 

UFCW Logo WASHINGTON, D.C. – Joe Hansen, International President of the UFCW, Richard Charette, UFCW International Vice President and President of UFCW Local 1445, and Dave Fleming, President of UFCW Local 328, today released the following joint statement in response to the deadline that Market Basket executives set for workers to return to work before replacement workers would be hired.

“The 1.3 million members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union stand in solidarity with the Market Basket associates who are fighting to protect their jobs from the ravages of corporate greed. Thousands of workers and customers have come together to fight for a cause that is greater than a single CEO: they are fighting to protect longstanding company values that place workers and customers before profits.

“The brave efforts of Market Basket workers are a shining example of the power workers wield when they stand together and act collectively.

“Furthermore, we condemn the company’s chief executives Felicia Thornton and James Gooch for threatening to terminate striking workers and hire replacements. Market Basket workers have an unassailable right to engage in collective action in defense of their benefits and working conditions. These workers deserve a guarantee that their livelihoods will not be jeopardized by a change in management.”

Unions Applaud President Obama’s “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” Executive Order

White House PensToday is a monumental day for federal workers and those who work for federal contractors.   Today President Obama made it very clear that he would no longer tolerate the mistreatment of workers who are being paid for with money from the US Government.

The White House Press Secretary explains:

“As part of this Year of Action, the President will sign an Executive Order that will require prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations and will give agencies more guidance on how to consider labor violations when awarding federal contracts. Although many contractors already play by the rules, and federal contracting offers already must assess a contractor’s record of integrity, these officers still may not necessarily know about companies’ workplace violations. The new process is also structured to encourage companies to settle existing disputes, like paying back wages. And finally, the Executive Order also ensures that workers are given the necessary information each pay period to verify the accuracy of their paycheck and workers who may have been sexually assaulted or had their civil rights violated get their day in court by putting an end to mandatory arbitration agreements at corporations with large federal contracts.”

“By cracking down on federal contractors who break the law, the President is helping ensure that all hardworking Americans get the fair pay and safe workplaces they deserve.”

While Congress is rushing around to finish their last sessions before leaving on a month long vacation, the President using his executive authority to do what Congress is incapable of doing.

“Once again, the President is leading by example. Establishing the principle that if you are breaking the law, you don’t get to do business with the biggest employer in the country — the federal government,” said Joseph Geevarghese, deputy director of Change to Win. “Just like the executive order raising the minimum wage had a ripple effect across the economy, we hope that this bold step by the President sends a clear signal to the private sector that you need to do right by your workers.”

“Taxpayers shouldn’t reward lawbreakers that bust unions, steal wages and endanger workers,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “President Obama is right to make it harder for companies that abuse workers to receive federal contracts.”

Many who have worked for years, if not decades, pushing for an Executive Order that would protect workers, paid high praise to President Obama for his leadership.

“From raising wages to workplace protections, President Obama is showing strong leadership where it’s needed most,” said Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President. “Today’s executive order is a common sense measure that will make our contracting system fairer. Preventing tax dollars from being funneled to chronic violators of workers’ rights is good for workers, our economy and companies who play by the rules. When Congress shows the same leadership, all workers will be better off.”

“By signing this executive order, President Obama has demonstrated his continued commitment to protecting the rights of American workers,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. “This action will help protect the wages and lives of millions of Americans by giving the government tools to identify and fix workplace violations committed by companies that hold federal contracts. President Obama is right to use his authority to ensure that the federal government leads in the fight for good jobs, protects taxpayer dollars and makes sure the government gets good value for the goods and services it purchases.

“I commend President Obama for signing an executive order that will hold companies that receive significant taxpayer dollars more accountable for their actions,” said Dennis Williams, President of the United Auto Workers. “The president’s order will help tens of millions of workers have a better workplace environment and will create a level playing field for businesses that do the right thing. Today’s announcement is yet another example of the president’s tireless work to improve workplace safety and employees rights.”

“The UAW is proud to stand with President Obama — a president who has stood by hard working Americans! This is another step in the right direction to help rebuild the middle class and strengthen our economy,” Williams said.

“Today, President Obama took a stand for American workers by signing an executive order that will promote fairer and safer workplaces for employees of government contractors,” said Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworker Union. “While many federal contractors already play by the rules and try to treat their workers fairly, thousands of hard-working Americans end up being denied the pay they deserve, or being exposed to health and safety risks, because some contractors insist on cutting corners in the name of profits.”

This is a major step forward to ensure that all workers get what they rightfully earned and those who cheat will not be rewarded. Here are some of the ways the President Obama is going to be cracking down on government contractors.

  1. Hold Corporations Accountable
  2. Crack Down on Repeat Violators
  3. Promote Efficient Federal Contracting 
  4. Protect Responsible Contractors
  5. Focus on Helping Companies Improve
  6. Give Employees a Day in Court
  7. Give Employees Information About their Paychecks
  8. Streamline Implementation and Overall Contractor Reporting

    (You can read the full press release with expanded descriptions of each of these points here.)

“Holding contractors to basic labor standards not only ensures that the federal government is getting the proper value for its dollar, it will protect responsible contractors in the marketplace from unfair competition by unethical employers who profit from their violations of the labor and employment laws that all employers are required to respect,” continued SEIU President Mary Kay Henry.

The SEUI and Good Jobs Nation have been working to organize low-wage fast food workers both inside and outside the government. Yesterday, low-wage federal contract workers who are part of Good Jobs Nation went on strike for the 9th time to call for an end to wage theft, living wages and benefits, and the right to collectively bargain. They are on the front lines when it comes to the horrors of wage theft and maleficence from government contractors.

“The current system doesn’t do enough to ensure taxpayer dollars only go to responsible employers. It’s difficult to know about a company’s record of compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act and others laws that protect working families. That’s why President Obama’s action today is so important. With more than 20 percent of Americans working for companies that do business with the federal government, this executive order will have a real impact on the lives of workers,” concluded Kay Henry.

“Today’s announcement builds on years of work by UFCW members and our partner unions to create a system that is fairer for workers and encourages a race to the top when it comes to labor standards,” said Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). “These efforts included a 2013 resolution passed unanimously by delegates to the UFCW convention calling on the creation of a ‘High Road’ procurement process.”

All in all this order is about protecting workers in every sector of the government.

“In the last several years, the meat and poultry industries have received over 1 billion dollars from taxpayers. Many workers in these industries work full-time yet are not paid enough to support themselves or their families. They also must endure dangerous workplace conditions and chronic underreporting of injuries by their employers,” continued Hansen. “This executive order sends a message that companies who engage in this type of anti-worker activity must change the way they do business or lose access to their government contracts.”

Others took this announcement as chance to once again to highlight the dysfunction of our current Congress.

“With this order, President Obama has sent the message that in the United States, we put people ahead of profits, as he has throughout his time in the Oval Office,” continued USW President Leo Gerard. “Sadly, we have a Republican Congress that takes the opposite approach. Because they are more interested in giving handouts to their wealthy donors than in helping working Americans, the President is forced to take action on his own.”

“We welcome this action by President Obama and call on everyone in Washington to follow his example and start working together to make life better for all American workers and their families,” concluded Gerard.

All in all it was a good day for workers, a bad day for corporations who cheat, and a good day for the American taxpayers who will see savings from the new contracting process.

“I want to thank President Obama, Secretary of Labor Perez, and all those involved in crafting this executive order. Today’s announcement is an important first step in ensuring our government is doing everything in its power to protect America’s workers,” concluded UFCW President Joe Hansen.

Related post: The Government Is The Largest Creator Of Low-Wage Jobs – by Matt Murray

Non-Union Working Women Face Greater Challenges on the Job

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

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

A quote from Bene’t’s story

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

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

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

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

Activist Protest Walmart on Black Friday For Better Wages (Somersworth, NH)

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On Friday November 29th millions of Americans went out well before dawn to try to save a few dollars on that hot new toy.  The annual event now known as ‘Black Friday,’ is the biggest annual revenue draw for retailers.  However not everyone who was out on Black Friday was out to shop.

Millions of low wage retail workers were forced to give up their holiday celebrations to go into work Thanksgiving night and work straight through the Black Friday madness.

Walmart the nations largest private employer has been leading the race to the bottom by paying most of the their workers just above minimum wage.  Walmart also does not guarantee that employees will get a full 40-hour workweek either.  These actions by Walmart’s corporate executives have fueled the union organizing efforts of OUR-Walmart.

Organization United for Respect (OUR-Walmart) is a grassroots coalition of workers and union organizers who are trying to help workers find their voice and speak out against their employer.  OUR-Walmart made national news on Black Friday last year when they held their first worker’s strikes.  The turn out was not as big as they hoped for but they made their point.

This year OUR-Walmart’s Black Friday protests were much bigger.  Thousands of protests were held nation wide.  Some were massive like the ones in White Plains New York where hundreds of people gathered to protest.  Others were small like the one in Somersworth New Hampshire where about twenty protesters showed up at the Walmart Supercenter.

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Image courtesy of Occupy Seacoast NH

In a recent interview, David Holt, a member of Occupy Seacoast NH, which organized the Somersworth protest, told me:

We came out to support Walmart workers who are not paid a living wage. We were also protesting Walmart as the poster child for corporate America, driving for profits for the wealthy in America despite the damage it is doing to hardworking Americans, the economy, and the planet.” 

While the group was small they were very diverse. “Attendees included members of the Occupy Seacoast NH group, UNH students who are part of the UNH Peace and Justice League, members of various unions, as well as several concerned citizens,” Holt explained.

David is not a Walmart employee, so I asked David why he chose to take part protesting Walmart?

“Just look at the news,” Holt said. “One Walmart store had a food drive for it’s own employees, they are also currently under investigation for bribery in Mexico, and have been tied in the past to a factory catastrophe in Bangladesh. The list of reasons to protest Walmart is almost limitless, they have caused countless small business to close including smaller chains and their sourcing practices are causing environmental damage all over the world.”

Workers deserve dignity and respect no matter where they work.  Walmart does not respect their workers.  They pay them the absolute minimum, provide no benefits, and do their best to avoid allowing workers to be ‘full time’.    I was very glad to see all of the news coverage and people who took a stand for workers on Black Friday, instead of feeding the corporate greed.

United Food And Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Joins AFL-CIO

UFCW Logo

(Chicago, Illinois) – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) affiliated with the AFL-CIO in a bold move toward a stronger, more unified labor movement.  UFCW President Joe Hansen, supported by a vote of the UFCW Executive Board, decided to add the 1.3 million private sector members to the AFL-CIO federation in order to build a stronger, more unified voice for the rights of workers.

UFCW International President Joe Hansen today released the following statement:

“We join the AFL-CIO because it is the right thing to do for UFCW members, giving them more power and influence. This is not about which building in Washington D.C. we call home — it is about fostering more opportunities for workers to have a true voice on the job. It is about joining forces to build a more united labor movement that can fight back against the corporate and political onslaught facing our members each and every day.

“Our affiliation with the Change to Win Federation (CTW) has been a rewarding one. The CTW’s Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) is leading some of the best campaigns to give workers rights and dignity. While no longer an affiliate of CTW, we continue our strong relationships with the Teamsters, SEIU and the Farmworkers.  We will remain active in the SOC and bring our AFL-CIO partners into collaboration with private-sector unions in an effort to build more power for workers.

“The need for unity became paramount after the 2010 elections.  The attacks on workers brought the UFCW into direct strategic partnership with the AFL-CIO and the entire labor movement.  Our shared campaign revealed a dynamic and revitalized AFL-CIO and made it clear that it was time for the UFCW to redouble our efforts to build a more robust and unified labor movement.

“I respect Rich Trumka’s bold leadership of the AFL-CIO and his strategic advocacy on key issues like the urgent need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, fix the Affordable Care Act so workers in multiemployer plans can keep the health care they currently have, and ensure the National Labor Relations Board protects workers’ rights. The UFCW is proud to affiliate with a transparent, strategic and innovative AFL-CIO an AFL-CIO committed to bringing a union voice on the job to millions of workers from coast to coast.”

Today’s announcement comes as the UFCW Executive Board meets in preparation for its 7th Regular Convention which calls to order Monday, August 12 in Chicago, Illinois.

UFCW delegates representing local unions in the U.S. and Canada will chart a course for the next five years and beyond that aims to raise standards and build power for workers in the grocery, retail and food manufacturing industries. Inspired by the theme, “Blue. Gold. Bold. Powerful Together,” UFCW delegates will deliberate on taking steps to strengthen the UFCW’s strong base of member activists who are the backbone of creative organizing campaigns, engaged bargaining programs and political activism.

**UPDATED**

(Below is the statement from Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO)

Today’s decision by the UFCW to unite with the broader labor movement is great news for workers living in the ‘new normal’ of the low wage economy—working women, young part time workers, retail workers, immigrant workers and so many more. A stronger, more unified grassroots movement of working men and women is exactly what’s needed to raise wages for workers and rebuild an American middle class. Together we are stronger—it’s as simple as that. Together working people have a stronger voice and the power to defend their rights on the job. Together we have a stronger voice in the global economy—the power to counter the excesses of CEOs and the ravages of inequality.

What’s exciting is that many workers are already speaking out and taking action to build power together, so UFCW’s affiliation to build a stronger movement couldn’t be more timely.

This is a bold, important step by the UFCW.  I have great respect for the members and leaders of UFCW— and especially for the innovative, courageous leadership of Joe Hansen.  I look forward to a strong partnership that can make a real and growing difference for today’s workers.

With This Decision I Thee Wed: Labor Celebrates The Death Of DOMA

Discrimination comes in many forms. Some are discriminated based on their skin color, others are discriminated on the basis of their sex.  We all agree that discrimination is wrong.  Today our nation took a giant leap forward against the discrimination of the LBGT community.

“As the Supreme Court has clearly decided, DOMA was an unconstitutional law that discriminated against a group of Americans for no other reason than their sexual orientation, denying them basic rights and protections that so many of us take for granted,” AFGE General Counsel David Borer said.

AFT President Randi Wiengarten highlighted the role that labor played her statement.

“We are a nation built on the belief of equality for all—that all Americans are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The court affirmed these basic values and recognized that laws such as DOMA deny gay and lesbian Americans these fundamental rights and betray our values as a nation.

“The AFT and the rest of the labor movement have a proud history of standing up for equality and justice and fighting discrimination in every part of our society—from the workplace to the ballot box to the individual rights and freedoms we cherish as a nation. We were proud to be a part of the amicus briefs filed challenging the constitutionality of both DOMA and Prop 8.”

Mary Kay Henry, President of the SEIU highlighted the benefits of defeating DOMA in her statement.

“The Supreme Court’s historic 5-4 decision finding DOMA unconstitutional is a huge cause for celebration for gay and lesbian couples and for all Americans who care about equal justice under the law. This ruling means that gay and lesbian couples will have access to federal benefits and protections that they have been denied for too long, such as the right to access healthcare, pension and Social Security survivor benefits.”

Todays Supreme Court decision struck down the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibited the federal Government from recognizing the legal marriages of millions of gay couples.  This means that while some states are still trying to fight against the equal rights movement, the federal government will now except them with open arms.

Since the equal rights movement began members of the LBGT community have been fight at the state level to win the right to be married.  They have made great advances in these fights. Now nearly one-quarter our great country gives LBGT couple the freedom to marry.  Until today, the federal government rejected their marriage.  They could not file joint taxes, costing them thousands in extra taxes.  More importantly they could not receive the same benefits from their employers, as heterosexual couples.

Federal employees who are married to a spouse of the same sex have been directly harmed by DOMA, said Leisha Self, AFGE Legal Rights Attorney for the 14th District. In addition to disparate treatment with regard to federal taxes, federal employees have been barred from adding their same-sex spouses to their benefits, often forcing them to pay higher costs or receive less coverage for health insurance, vision and dental insurance and flexible spending accounts.

“Now that the Supreme Court has declared DOMA unconstitutional, we expect the federal government to move swiftly in changing its rules and regulations to ensure that all federal employees are afforded the same rights and benefits, regardless of whom they choose to marry,” Self said.

Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) showed his strong support for the LGBT community in this statement after the verdict was announced.

“The UFCW strongly supports full equality for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. That means equal rights in employment, immigration, and yes—marriage. The momentum for marriage equality is growing every day. The Supreme Court today restored it in California, Minnesota recently became the 12th state to recognize same-sex unions, and more are on the way. It is not a matter of if but when all Americans will have the freedom to marry. The UFCW looks forward to that day.”

Today’s verdict was also an enormous win for the state of California.   Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO recognized how important this decision is for workers in California and throughout the country.

“The Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 were radical and divisive laws that never should have been. Now, we can begin to fully clear the dark legal cloud that has hung over our nation. While justices ruled on the right side of history today, there is far more work to be done in the pursuit of equality. As a nation, we must continue to stand for what is right not only in freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples, but address other major issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers such as employment discrimination, health care access and more. We rejoice in today’s victory and are ready and willing to take on the challenges that still exist.”

Mary Kay Henry, President of the SEIU comments on the impact of the SCOTUS rejecting Prop 8 in California.

“The Court’s decision to dismiss California’s Proposition 8 for lack of standing is another major victory for gay and lesbian couples and for equal rights. By affirming the lower court’s ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, now all Californians will have the right to marry whomever they choose.

“Despite this historic day for LGBT rights, we must remember that there is more work to do to ensure equality for all Americans. In 29 states a person can still be fired simply because of who he or she loves. Passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is the next fight we must take on if we are truly going to ensure equality on the job for all Americans and we look forward to joining with our allies to end discrimination in the workplace.”

President Henry is correct, the fight is not over.  With only twelves states legally recognizing the freedom to marry, we have much work to do.  As usual, labor will be there to help push for equality for all workers, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Nation-wide People Come Out In Support Of Walmart Workers! (IMAGES)

I wanted share a few of the early images that are surfacing as the ‘Black Friday Boycott’ has begun.   There is no way of knowing how many people actually walked out or protested outside of their local Walmart but here are a few of the best images I have found so far. (Special thanks to all the sites where I borrowed images from)

From Occupy NH member MA

 

 

 

 

 

Other images from New Hampshire.  Occupy New Hampshire Seacoast had a handfull of protesters at the Somersworth Walmart.  See all of their uploaded images on their Facebook page


Protest against Walmart in Hyattsville, MD

One of many images from the South Central Federation of Labor 

Employee Walk-Outs in at Least Seven States (so far): Occupy Supports WalMart Workers.  Images from a post by Occupy Washington D.C

 

OLB-San Diego were out last night on I-15 with their new lighted letters.

Overpass Light Brigade – Portland Airport took out the message Burma Shave style last night.

Portland, OR

Framington, MA

Occupy Austin and OLB-Austin out tonight. Check out their angry smiley Wally icon!

 

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