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August 31, 1999

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Detroit public school teachers go on strike for the first time in seven years after negotiations between the Detroit Federation of Teachers and the school district fail to address their concerns around wages, hours, and working conditions. The strike continued through September when a contract was reached that the teachers accepted.

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Today in labor history for the week of August 31, 2015

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August 31
John Reed forms the Communist Labor Party in Chicago. The Party’s motto: “Workers of the world, unite!” – 1919

Some 10,000 striking miners began a fight at Blair Mountain, W.Va., for recognition of their union, the United Mine Workers of America. Federal troops were sent in and miners were forced to withdraw five days later, after 16 deaths – 1921

The Trade Union Unity League is founded as an alternative to the American Federation of Labor, with the goal of organizing along industrial rather than craft lines. An arm of the American Communist Party, the League claimed 125,000 members before it dissolved in the late 1930s – 1929

“Solidarity” workers movement founded as a strike coordination committee at Lenin Shipyards, Gdansk, Poland. The strike launched a wave of unrest in the Soviet Union that ultimately led to its dissolution in 1991 – 1980

An estimated 325,000 unionists gathered in Washington, D.C., for a Solidarity Day march and rally for workplace fairness and healthcare reform – 1991

Detroit teachers begin what is to become a 9-day strike, winning smaller class sizes and raises of up to 4 percent – 1999

September 01
The Int’l Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers is founded at a meeting in Chicago, the product of two separate brotherhoods created over the previous 13 years – 1893

Congress declares Labor Day a national holiday – 18942015.08.31 history weekend
(From the Folks Who Brought You The Weekend is a sweeping, highly readable history of U.S. labor that will be welcomed by anyone interested in learning more about the struggle of American working people to better their lives through collective action.)

Some 30,000 women from 26 trades marched in Chicago’s Labor Day parade – 1903

Walter Reuther is born. He went on to become a founder of the United Auto Workers and was president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations when it merged with the AFL in 1955 – 1907

A 3-week strike in Woonsocket, R.I., part of a national movement to obtain a minimum wage for textile workers, resulted in the deaths of three workers. Ultimately more than 420,000 workers struck nationally – 1934

2015.08.31 history hawaiianIn Hawaii, some 26,000 sugar workers represented by the Longshoremen’s union begin what is to become a successful 79-day strike that shuts down 33 of the 34 sugar plantations on the islands. The strike brought an end to Hawaii’s paternalistic labor relations and impacted political and social institutions throughout the then-territory – 1946

Int’l Metal Engravers & Marking Device Workers Union changed its name to Int’l Association of Machinists – 1956

Some 20,000 Pennsylvania Railroad shop workers effectively halt operations in 13 states for 12 days. It was the first shutdown in the company’s 114-year history – 1960

Boot and Shoe Workers’ Union merged with Retail Clerks Int’l Union – 1977

The Journeymen Barbers, Hairdressers and Cosmetologists’ Int’l Union of America merged with United Food & Commercial Workers – 1980

Glass Bottle Blowers’ Association of the United States & Canada merged with Int’l Brotherhood of Pottery & Allied Workers to become Glass, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers – 1982

Aluminum, Brick & Clay Workers Int’l Union merged with United Glass & Ceramic Workers of North America to form Int’l Union of Aluminum, Brick & Glass Workers – 1982

Brotherhood of Railway, Airline & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees changed name to Transportation-Communications Union – 1987

Coopers Int’l Union of North America merged with Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers Int’l Union – 1992

The federal minimum wage is increased to $5.15 per hour – 1997

The AFL-CIO creates Working America, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization designed to build alliances among non-union working people – 2003

September 022015.08.31 history rock
White and Chinese immigrants battle in Rock Springs, Wyo., fueled by racial tensions and the practice of Union Pacific Railroad of hiring lower-paid Chinese over whites. At least 25 Chinese died and 15 more were injured. Rioters burned 75 Chinese homes – 1885

Operating railway employees win 8-hour day – 1916

Mineowners bomb West Virginia strikers by plane, using homemade bombs filled with nails and metal fragments. The bombs missed their targets or failed to explode – 1921

President Eisenhower signs legislation expanding Social Security by providing much wider coverage and including 10 million additional Americans, most of them self-employed farmers, with additional benefits – 1954

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was signed by President Ford, regulating and insuring pensions and other benefits, and increasing protections for workers – 1974
2015.08.31 history retire.happy(Retire Happy: What To Do NOW to Guarantee A Great Retirement: Everyone who works for a living thinks at some point about retirement, but few actually consider what that really means, other than escaping the daily grind. For sure, most of us worry about having enough money, and this highly readable book provides a lot of information and advice on the subject: how much we’ll need, how to make the most of what we’ve accumulated, how to accumulate more (even as we get close to retirement) and how to make it last. For that advice alone, Retire Happy is worth the price.)

September 032015.08.31 history cotton.harvesters
African-American cotton pickers organize and strike in Lee County, Texas, against miserably low wages and other injustices, including a growers’ arrangement with local law enforcement to round up blacks on vagrancy charges, then force them to work off their fines on select plantations. Over the course of September a white mob put down the strike, killing 15 strikers in the process – 1891

Some 300 musicians working in Chicago movie houses strike to protest their impending replacement by talking movies – 1928

Twenty-five workers die, unable to escape a fire at the Imperial Poultry processing plant in Hamlet, N.C. Managers had locked fire doors to prevent the theft of chicken nuggets. The plant had operated for 11 years without a single safety inspection – 1991

September 04
Twelve thousand New York tailors strike over sweatshop conditions – 1894

2015.08.31 history peekskillMore than 140 attendees at a benefit for a civil rights group are injured in the Source Link

August 30, 1907

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U.S. labor leader and civil rights activist Luisa Moreno is born in Guatemala. Moreno was active in organizing tobacco, sugar cane, and cannery workers and founded The Spanish-Speaking Peoples Congress in 1938 to bring together all Spanish-speaking people residing in the U.S. around issues of immigration, employment, and civil rights. Targeted for her politics, Moreno was deported in 1950 when she refused to testify against International Longshore and Warehouse Union leader Harry Bridges in exchange for citizenship.

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Women Covered By A Union Contract Make $212 More A Week

Women Covered by A Union

Women covered by a union contract

Washington, DC—A new briefing paper released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) finds that women represented by a union in the United States earn an average of $212 more per week than women in nonunion jobs. In addition, union women earn more in every state, with the size of the union wage advantage varying across states: union women in Wyoming earn $349 per week more than their nonunion counterparts in the state, while union women in the District of Columbia earn $48 more per week than D.C.’s nonunion women. The analysis also finds that the size of the union wage advantage is large enough in 32 states to cover the costs of full-time child care for an infant in a center.

Women’s share of union members has increased markedly in the last three decades, from 33.6 percent in 1984 to 45.5 percent in 2014. While men are more likely than women to be in labor unions or covered by a union contract in the United States as a whole (13.1 percent of men, compared with 11.9 percent of women), there are eight jurisdictions—California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, and Vermont—where women are more likely to be unionized than men. More than one in four female workers (25.7 percent) in New York are in a labor union or covered by a union contract. Nationally, public sector workers are five times more likely to belong to a union than private sector workers (35.7 percent, compared with 6.6 percent).

There are 25 “Right to Work” states, in which labor unions may operate but they cannot require employees, even those who would benefit from a contract negotiated by a union, to become members of the union or pay membership dues. Generally, the share of women who are union members or covered by a union contract are higher in states that do not have “Right to Work” laws. “Right to Work” states are associated with lower wages for all workers (both union and nonunion), especially women.

“Union representation brings with it greater pay transparency and helps ensure that employers set pay based on objective criteria, such as skill, effort, and responsibility,” said IWPR Study Director Ariane Hegewisch, co-author of the briefing paper. “Unfortunately, many women around the country are not able to experience this union advantage.”

The Union Advantage

The Union Advantage

Women who are represented by labor unions earn 88.7 cents on the dollar compared with their male counterparts, a considerably higher earnings ratio than the earnings ratio between all women and men in the United States (78.3 percent). Women of all major racial and ethnic groups experience a union wage advantage, but black and Hispanic women are particularly likely to gain from union representation. Hispanic women represented by labor unions have median weekly earnings that are 42.1 percent higher than those without union representation and black women’s earnings are 33.6 percent higher.

The union advantage extends beyond pay to cover benefits, such as retirement plans and health insurance. Women represented by a union are more likely to participate in a pension plan and receive health insurance benefits through their job than those who are not unionized. Approximately three in four unionized women (74.1 percent) have a pension plan, compared with only slightly more than four in ten (42.3 percent) of nonunion women. As of 2013, more than three in four unionized women (76.6 percent) had employer- or union-provided health insurance coverage, compared with only half (51.4 percent) of nonunion women.

“This research shows that it pays to be in a union, especially if you are a woman” said IWPR President Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D. “Not only do union women experience a much narrower gender wage gap with men than women overall, they also earn hundreds of dollars more per week than nonunion women, with greater access to critical benefits that can ensure their longterm financial security and well-being.”

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies.

August 26, 1894

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Striking sheep shearers in New South Wales, Australia, burn and scuttle the paddle steamer Rodney, which had been transporting scab labor. Later that day, Billy McClean, a union shearer, was shot and wounded in an altercation with scabs. He and five others were charged with rioting and sentenced to three years’ hard labor. McClean was released after eighteen months because he was dying from the bullet wound and died on March 22, 1896.

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Today in labor history for the week of August 24, 2015

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August 24
The Gatling Gun Co.—manufacturers of an early machine gun—writes to B&O Railroad Co. President John W. Garrett during a strike, urging their product be purchased to deal with the “recent riotous disturbances around the country.” Says the company: “Four or five men only are required to operate (a gun), and one Gatling … can clear a street or block and keep it clear” – 1877

United Farm Workers Union begins lettuce strike – 1970

August 25
Birth of Allan Pinkerton, whose strike-breaking detectives (“Pinks”) gave us the word “fink” – 1819

Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters founded at a meeting in New York City. A. Philip Randolph became the union’s first organizer – 1925

August 262015.08.24 history 16tons
Fannie Sellins and Joseph Starzeleski are murdered by coal company guards on a picket line in Brackenridge, Pa. Sellins was a United Mine Workers of America organizer and Starzeleski was a miner – 1919
(Sixteen Tons carries the reader down into the dark and dangerous coal mines of the early 1900s, as Italian immigrant Antonio Vacca and his sons encounter cave-ins and fires deep below the earth’s surface.)

After three-quarters of the states had ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, women win their long struggle for the vote – 1920

With America in the depths of the Great Depression, the Comptroller of the Currency announces a temporary halt on foreclosures of first mortgages – 1932

In what some may consider one of the many management decisions that was to help cripple the American auto industry over the following decades, Ford Motor Co. produces its first Edsel. Ford dropped the project two years later after losing approximately $350 million – 1957
2015.08.24 history womens.strike.equality
The Women’s Strike for Equality is staged in cities across the U.S., marking the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, under which women won the right to vote. A key focus of the strike—in fact, more accurately a series of marches and demonstrations—was equality in the workplace. An estimated 20,000 women participated, some carrying signs with the iconic slogan, “Don’t Iron While the Strike is Hot.” Another sign: “Hardhats for Soft Broads” – 1970

More than 1,300 bus drivers on Oahu, Hawaii, begin what is to become a 5-week strike – 2003

August 27
Some 14,000 Chicago teachers who have gone without pay for several months finally collect about $1,400 each – 1934

President Truman orders the U.S. Army to seize all the nation’s railroads to prevent a general strike. The railroads were not returned to their owners until two years later – 1950

August 28
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—the Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have A Dream” speech march—is held in Washington, D.C., with 250,000 participating. The AFL-CIO did not endorse the march, but several affiliated unions did – 19632015.08.24 history mlk.march
(Martin Luther King, Jr., and the March on Washington: Written for 5 to 8 year-olds, this is a very nice introduction to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, that watershed event in the fight for civil rights. It uses the March as a point of reference as it talks about segregation in America and the battle for equal rights.)

August 29
Sixty letter carriers from 18 states meet in a room above Schaefer’s Saloon on Plankinton Avenue in Milwaukee. They unanimously adopt a resolution to form a National Association of Letter Carriers – 1889

Seventy-five workers die when the lower St. Lawrence River’s Quebec Bridge collapses while under construction. A flawed design was found to be the cause. Thirteen more workers were killed nine years later when the reconstructed bridge’s central span was being raised and fell into the river because of a problem with hoisting devices – 1907

Dancers at San Francisco’s Lusty Lady Club vote 57-15 to be represented by SEIU Local 790. Their first union contract, ratified eight months later, guaranteed work shifts, protection against arbitrary discipline and termination, automatic hourly wage increases, sick days, a grievance procedure, and removal of one-way mirrors from peep show booths – 1996

Northwest Airlines pilots, after years of concessions to help the airline, begin what is to become a 2-week strike for higher pay – 1998

Delegates to the Minnesota AFL-CIO convention approve the launching of workdayminnesota.org, now in its fourteenth year. It was the first web-based daily labor news service by a state labor federation – 2000

2015.08.24 history osha.cardAugust 30
Delegates from several East Coast cities meet in convention to form the National Trades’ Union, uniting craft unions to oppose “the most unequal and unjustifiable distribution of the wealth of society in the hands of a few individuals.” The union faded after a few years – 1834

President Franklin Roosevelt’s Wealth Tax Act increases taxes on rich citizens and big business, lowers taxes for small businesses – 1935

OSHA publishes scaffold safety standard, designed to protect 2.3 million construction workers and prevent 50 deaths and 4,500 injuries annually – 1996

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August 22, 2010

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Police open fire and attack with tear gas 2,000 garment workers who block a highway in Dhaka, Bangladesh, for three hours to demand that they be paid overdue wages. In 2010, the garment industry in Bangladesh raked in $12 billion, but the minimum wage for garment workers – working 10 to 16 hours a day under hazardous conditions, six days a week – was $24 a month.

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American Federation of Government Employees Re-Elects National Officers

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Top three officers all re-elected during union’s 40th National Convention

ORLANDO – Delegates attending the American Federation of Government Employees’ 40th National Convention here have re-elected the union’s top three national officers.

National President J. David Cox Sr., National Secretary-Treasurer Eugene Hudson Jr., and National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Augusta Y. Thomas all were returned to office for another three-year term. Cox and Hudson were first elected in 2012, while Thomas was first elected in 2009.

“I am honored and humbled by the faith AFGE members have placed in me to continue the work I began three years ago, leading the nation’s largest union for federal and D.C. government employees,” Cox said. “Our membership has grown year over year for the past 24 years, and we are going to keep growing so we are big enough and strong enough to build the future that our dedicated members deserve.”

Cox won the top office with 63 percent of the votes. Dana Duggins, executive vice president of the National Council of SSA Field Operations Locals Council 220, received 21 percent of the vote. Alex Bastani, president of AFGE Local 12, received 11 percent. David Owens, retired chairman of AFGE’s Air Force Caucus, received 5 percent.

In the race for National Secretary-Treasurer, Eugene Hudson ran unopposed and was re-elected by acclamation.

Augusta Thomas was re-elected as National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices with 75 percent of the vote. Jacob Baker, main unit vice president of AFGE Local 1770, received 25 percent of the vote.

More than 1,500 delegates are attending the convention, which will conclude on Friday.

Leo W Gerard: China Protects its Workers; America Doesn’t Bother

Confronted with a dire situation, a world power last week took strong action to secure its domestic jobs and manufacturing.

That was China. Not the United States.

China diminished the value of its currency.  This gave its exporting industries a boost while simultaneously blocking imports. The move protected the Asian giant’s manufacturers and its workers’ jobs.

Currency manipulation violates free market principles, but for China, doing it makes sense. The nation’s economy is cooling. Its stock market just crashed, and its economic powerhouse – exports – declined a substantial 8.3 percent in July ­– down to $195 billion from $213 billion the previous July. This potent action by a major economic competitor raises the question of when the United States government is going to stop pretending currency manipulation doesn’t exit. When will the United States take the necessary action to protect its industry, including manufacturing essential to national defense, as well as the good, family-supporting jobs of millions of manufacturing workers?

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While China lowered the value of its currency on three consecutive days last week, for a total of 4.4 percent, the largest decline in two decades, a respected Washington think tank, the Economic Policy Institute, released a report detailing exactly how the United States lost 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000.

The report, “Manufacturing Job Loss: Trade, Not Productivity is the Culprit,” clearly links massive trade deficits to closed American factories and killed American jobs. U.S. manufacturers lost ground to foreign competitors whose nations facilitated violation of international trade rules. China is a particular culprit. My union, the United Steelworkers, has won trade case after trade case over the past decade, securing sanctions called duties that are charged on imported goods to counteract the economic effect of violations.

In the most recent case the USW won, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) finalized duties in July on illegally subsidized Chinese tires dumped into the U.S. market. The recent history of such sanctions on tires illustrates how relentless the Chinese government is in protecting its workers.

Shortly after President Obama took office, the USW filed a complaint about illegally-subsidized, Chinese-made tires dumped into the U.S. market. The Obama administration imposed duties on Chinese tire imports from September 2009 to September 2012.

Immediately after the tariffs ended, Chinese companies flooded the U.S. market with improperly subsidized tires again, threatening U.S. tire plants and jobs. So the USW filed the second complaint.

Though the USW workers won the second case as well, the process is too costly and too time consuming. Sometimes factories and thousands of jobs are permanently lost before a case is decided in workers’ favor. This has happened to U.S. tire, paper, auto parts and steel workers.

In addition, the process is flawed because it forbids consideration of currency manipulation – the device China used last week to support its export industries.

By reducing the value of its currency, China, in effect, gave its export industries discount coupons, enabling them to sell goods more cheaply overseas without doing anything differently or better. Simultaneously, China marked up the price of all imports into the country. American and European exporters did nothing bad or wrong, but now their products will cost more in China.

Chinese officials have contended that the devaluation, which came on the heels of the bad news about its July exports, wasn’t deliberate. They say it reflected bad market conditions and note that groups like the International Monetary Fund have been pushing China to make its currency more market based.

Right. Sure. And it was nothing more than a coincidence that it occurred just as China wanted to increase exports. And it was simply serendipity that in just three days, “market conditions” wiped out four years of tiny, painfully incremental increases in the currency’s value.

If the value of the currency truly is market based and not controlled by the government, then as Chinese exports rise, the value should increase. That would eliminate the artificial discount China just awarded its exported goods. Based on past history, that is not likely to happen. So what China really is saying is that its currency is market based when the value is declining but not when it rises.

China did what it felt was right for its people, its industry and its economy. The country hit a rough spot this year. Though its economy is expected to grow by 7 percent, that would be the slowest rate in six years. Its housing prices fell 9.8 percent in June. Car sales dropped 7 percent in July, the largest decline since the Great Recession. Over the past several months, the Chinese government has intervened repeatedly to try to stop a massive stock market crash that began in June.

In the meantime, the nation’s factories that make products like tires, auto parts, steel and paper continue to operate full speed ahead and ship the excess overseas. As a result, for example, the international market is flooded with underpriced Chinese steel, threatening American steel mills and tens of thousands of American steelworkers’ jobs.

This is bad for the U.S. economy. The U.S. trade deficit in manufactured goods rose 15.7 percent ­– by $25.7 billion ­– in the first quarter as imports increased and exports slipped. In the first half of this year, the trade deficit with China rose 9.8 percent, a total of $15 billion.

As EPI points out, that means more U.S. factories closed and U.S. jobs lost. If China had bombed thousands of U.S. factories over the past decade, America would respond. But the nation has done virtually nothing about thousands of factories closed by trade violations.

The United States could take two steps immediately to counter the ill-effects of currency manipulation. Congress could pass and President Obama could sign a proposed customs enforcement bill. It would classify deliberate currency undervaluation as an illegal export subsidy. Then the manipulation could be countered with duties on the imported products.

The second step would be to include sanctions for currency manipulation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that the administration is negotiating with 11 other Pacific Rim countries. The deal doesn’t include China, but it could join later. The deal does, however, include other countries notorious for currency interventions.

American manufacturers and American workers demand rightful protection from predatory international trade practices.

August 18, 2011

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Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff addresses a list of 150 demands by the Margaridas (“Daisies”) – an organization advocating for the rights of women rural workers – and agrees to establish healthcare facilities and centers to enforce health and safety regulations in rural areas, finance more family-owned farms, and to create a national program on sustainable agriculture to help women in rural communities.

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