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Richard Trumka on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Annual Union Membership Report

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Today’s release of the annual union membership numbers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in this economic recovery, people are either seeking out good union jobs or taking matters into their own hands by forming unions to raise wages and ensure that new jobs are good jobs.

In 2014, workers made great strides and confronted great challenges, including major organizing wins at American Airlines, multiple state legislative victories on the minimum wage and innovative campaigns conducted by carwash workers, among others. We recognize, however, that right-wing billionaires’ extremist politics, a rapacious Wall Street and insufficient advocacy from political leaders thwarted further progress.

In the State of the Union this week, President Obama celebrated the fact that our economy has benefitted from 58 consecutive months of job growth and reiterated the need for laws that strengthen unions and give workers a voice. But the most important question is not simply how many jobs we’re creating, but are we creating jobs that raise wages for all? A strong recovery must be built on family-sustaining, not poverty-level jobs. Today’s news confirms what most of us already knew: workers are finding good union jobs despite political ideologues — and jobs are coming back as the economy slowly rebounds, but neither are nearly enough.

Key trends include:

  • Union density edged up for workers 16 to 24 from 4.2 to 4.5%
  • Public sector union density growth largely due to women
  • Union density growth in Leisure and Hospitality
  • Union membership increased among Latino men
  • Largest growth, 1.8% among Asian American women
  • Union membership increased for Black women and men
  • Black men and women remain the groups with the highest union density

Noteworthy 2014 Worker Wins

  • More than 92,000 workers chose to join AFSCME, including 20,000 home health care workers who were recently the target of Harris v Quinn. This was double AFSCME’s organizing goal for the year.
  • 14,500 customer service agents who work for American Airlines voted for union representation with CWA after the merger with US Airways. This victory was especially significant for 9,000 former American Airlines agents who have been part of a 19-year long organizing effort.
  • Workers at an Alabama Copper parts plant voted to organize as members of the United Steelworkers despite extensive political intimidation and efforts by Governor Robert Bentley to dissuade workers from unionizing.
  • Mechanics, technicians, and maintenance personnel at the Red River Army Depot near Texarkana, TX successfully organized into the IAM.  This victory follows successful campaigns by workers earlier in the year where 925 employees joined the union at the Corpus Christi Army Depot in Corpus Christi, Texas.
  • Nurses and hospital workers voted to form unions at two hospitals in Connecticut. The workers, who will be represented by AFT Connecticut, had to overcome attempts by hospital administrators to intimidate the workers.

Mass Nurses Warn Of Harmful Cuts To Newton Wellesley Hospital

Nurses Make a Difference

Newton Wellesley Hospital Nurses Go Public With Concerns
About Patient Safety in Response to Plan by Partners to Cut Staffing and Increase Patient Loads for Nurses in the Hospital’s Busy ED

Plan to Cut Staff Comes as the ED Nurses Struggle to Confront a Growing Flu Epidemic and After NWH and Partners has Posted a Healthy Profit in Recent Years

Wellesley, Mass. ¾ The registered nurses of Newton Wellesley Hospital represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United (MNA/NNU), recently began a leafleting/advertising campaign to alert the public about a potentially dangerous plan by Partners Health Care, the multi-billion dollar owner of our hospital, to reduce RN staffing levels and increase nurses’ patient assignments in the facility’s busy emergency department, which the nurses believe will impact the quality and safety of care.  The cuts come as the facility continues to make a healthy profit and the census in the ED has increased over the past year, and as the facility struggles to cope with a growing flu epidemic.

Newton Wellesley Hospital operates a busy and efficient emergency department that treats more than 58,000 patients a year who are experiencing a variety of illnesses and injuries, many of them potentially life threatening, where timely care is essential.

According to Laurie Andersen, a longtime ED nurse at the facility and chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit, “The patients of our hospital have been fortunate as, until now, our emergency department was staffed with a safe complement of expert nurses, with safe patient loads that allowed us to provide the timely care you expect and deserve.  Unfortunately, our administration has announced a plan to reduce the number of nurses on staff, cutting a least one nurse per shift, which will increase the number of patients assigned to each nurse.  This plan will decrease our ability to be flexible and efficient in providing the safe patient care the public needs.”

According to data gathered by the nurses, visits to the emergency department have increased by 2 percent in the past year, and in recent months, the hospital has been flooded with patients visiting the ED, which is being exacerbated by an increase in patients suffering from flu like illnesses.

“Even without these cuts we have had several days where we are boarding patients, including intensive care patients, in the emergency department because we have no beds available to move patients to, and we have more patients coming in our doors all the time.  We have had to initiate care for sick emergency patients young and old in the hallways to make sure that they receive safe care.” Andersen explained. “On numerous occasions we have been on ‘Code Orange’ which means we have no inpatient beds but the Emergency department never closes or turns away sick patients.  We are a busy hospital and when inpatient beds are full, the emergency department must continue to care for those patients as well as caring for all other sick or injured patients from our community.  The nurses at Newton-Wellesley want to provide excellent, timely safe care to our patients and that is why we are so concerned about these cuts.”

According to official financial reports, these changes are being proposed at a time when the hospital posted profits in excess of $27 million and when Partners Health Care, the corporate owner of our hospital, recorded profits of more than $700 million over the last two years.

The nurses have been actively engaged in efforts to convince management to maintain the current staffing levels.  More than 85 percent of the ED nurses signed a petition last year opposing this plan, and earlier this year more than 20 nurses attended a meeting with management to speak out against the plan and what it would mean for the safety of our patients.  Beginning last week, the nurses began an effort to hand out leaflets to the public explaining their concerns, and this week the MNA/NNU has placed ads in local papers about the situation.  The flyers and the ads ask for community members to call the NWH President to ask him to maintain the current staffing levels at the hospital.  For a copy of the leaflet, contact David Schildmeier at dschildmeier@mnarn.org.

January 22, 1959

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One of the worst mining disasters in northeastern Pennsylvania history occurs when the Knox Mine Company digs illegally under the Susquehanna River without drilling boreholes to gauge the rock thickness overhead. The insufficient “roof” cover caused 10 billion gallons of water to pour into the mine. Ten people were indicted on a variety of charges, including violations of the Anthracite Mine Act, conspiracy, and involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of twelve miners whose bodies were never been recovered.

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AFT President Randi Weingarten on President Obama’s State of the Union Address

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“Unions give workers the voice they need, and public education gives our children the opportunity they deserve.” 

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten’s statement on President Obama’s State of the Union address:

“Tonight, the president invoked our shared values, reminding us what unites us as a nation. He asked us to turn the page, to ensure shared prosperity, to pave the road to middle-class economics so that all who want a chance to succeed get that chance. He affirmed that every child in every neighborhood matters. And he reinforced that unions give workers the voice they need, and public education gives our children the opportunity they deserve.

“All workers deserve a pathway to a good job with a living wage—one that covers the cost of healthcare and child care, and allows them to pay down exorbitant student loans, save for their retirement, provide the basic necessities for their family, like food and housing, and still have a little left over. Working families see that the economy is getting better, but too many have yet to feel it. That must change, and the president raised many ideas tonight to change it. We need to ensure that all families can climb the ladder of opportunity. And to do that, we need our government to reinvest in public education and support our educators. The tools the president advanced tonight—providing free community college and greater access to early childhood education, raising the minimum wage, offering child care and paid sick leave to parents—all will help if they are enacted.

“The president summoned us all to come together, to think bigger, to aim higher. That’s what the teachers, nurses and public workers, those who are and want to be the middle class in America, do every day. This is our credo. We want to do what’s best for our communities and our country. We want to reclaim the promise of America.”

January 21, 1946

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750,000 steelworkers walk off the job, joining what would become known as the Great Strike Wave of 1946. The post-World War II strike wave was not limited to industrial workers; there were more strikes in transportation, communication, and public utilities than in any previous year. By the end of 1946, 4.6 million workers had been involved in strikes.

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January 20, 2000

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600 heavily armed police are deployed to protect scabs unloading freight in Charleston, South Carolina, during an International Longshoremen’s Association strike. The striking longshoremen arrived at the docks to picket and a fight ensued; police drove into the crowd, fired smoke grenades, and attacked with wooden batons. Five longshoremen – who became known as the “Charleston Five” – were indicted for felony riot.

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January 19, 2015

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Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, an American federal holiday celebrating the birthday of American civil rights activist and organizer Martin Luther King, Jr. The campaign for a federal holiday in his honor began soon after his assassination in 1968. President Ronal Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed three years later. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.

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Today in labor history for the week of January 19, 2015

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January 19
Twenty strikers at the American Agricultural Chemical Co. in Roosevelt, N.J., were shot, two fatally, by factory guards. They and other strikers had stopped an incoming train in search of scabs when the guards opened fire – 1915
(Strikes Around the World draws on the experience of fifteen countries—The United States, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Argentina, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Covering the high and low points of strike activity over the period 1968–2005, the study shows continuing evidence of the durability, adaptability and necessity of the strike.)

Some 3,000 members of the Filipino Federation of Labor strike the plantations of Oahu, Hawaii. Their ranks swell to 8,300 as they are joined by members of the Japanese Federation of Labor – 1920

Yuba City, Calif., labor contractor Juan V. Corona found guilty of murdering 25 itinerant farm workers he employed during 1970 and 1971 – 1973

Bruce Springsteen makes an unannounced appearance at a benefit for laid-off 3M workers, Asbury Park, N.J. – 1986

January 20
Chicago Crib Disaster—A fire breaks out during construction of a water tunnel for the city of Chicago, burning the wooden dormitory housing the tunnel workers. While 46 survive the fire by jumping into the frigid lake and climbing onto ice floes, approximately 60 men die, 29 burned beyond recognition and the others drowned – 1909

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) founded – 1920

The Nazis adopt the “Act on the Regulation of National Labor,” replacing independently negotiated collective agreements. The act read, in part, “The leader of the plant makes the decisions for the employees and laborers in all matters concerning the 2015.01.19history-mickey.mantleenterprise… He is responsible for the well-being of the employees and laborers. [They] owe him faithfulness.” – 1934

Hardworking Mickey Mantle signs a new contract with the New York Yankees making him the highest paid player in baseball: $75,000 for the entire 1961 season – 1961

Bruce Springsteen’s “My Hometown,” a eulogy for dying industrial cities, is the country’s most listened-to song. The lyrics, in part: “Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores / Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more / They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks / Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back to your hometown / Your hometown / Your hometown / Your hometown…” – 1986

January 21
Some 750,000 steel workers walk out in 30 states, largest strike in U.S. history to that time – 1946

Postal workers begin four-day strike at the Jersey City, N.J., bulk and foreign mail center, protesting an involuntary shift change. The wildcat was led by a group of young workers who identified themselves as “The Outlaws”- 1974

Six hundred police attack picketing longshoremen in Charleston, S.C. – 2000

January 22
Indian field hands at San Juan Capistrano mission refused to work, engaging in what was probably the first farm worker strike in California – 18262015.01.19history-farmworker.friend
(Farmworker’s Friend: The story of Cesar Chavez is a thoughtful and moving book about the inspiring life of American hero Cesar Chavez, founder and long-time leader of the United Farm Workers of America. This sympathetic portrayal of Chavez and his life’s work begins with his childhood, starting from the time his family’s store in Arizona failed during the Great Depression and his entire family was forced into the fields to harvest vegetables for a few cents an hour. It traces his growth as a man and as a leader, talking of his pacifism, his courage in the face of great threats and greater odds, his leadership and his view that the union was more than just a union, it was a community—una causa.)

Birth of Terence V. Powderly, leader of the Knights of Labor – 1849

The United Mine Workers of America is founded in Columbus, Ohio, with the merger of the Knights of Labor Trade Assembly No. 135 and the National Progressive Miners Union – 1890

Five hundred New York City tenants battle police to prevent evictions – 1932

2015.01.19history-rochester.garment.strikeJanuary 23
Some 10,000 clothing workers strike in Rochester, N.Y., for the 8-hour day, a 10-percent wage increase, union recognition, and extra pay for overtime and holidays. Daily parades were held throughout the clothing district and there was at least one instance of mounted police charging the crowd of strikers and arresting 25 picketers. Six people were wounded over the course of the strike and one worker, 18-year-old Ida Breiman, was shot to death by a sweatshop contractor. The strike was called off in April after manufacturers agreed not to discriminate against workers for joining a union – 1913

In Allegany County, MD, workers with the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal era public works program employing unmarried men aged 18-25, are snowbound at Fifteen Mile Creek Camp S-53 when they receive a distress call about a woman in labor who needs to get to a hospital. 20 courageous CCC volunteers dig through miles of snow drifts until the woman is successfully able to be transported – 1936

January 24
Krueger’s Cream Ale, the first canned beer, goes on sale in Richmond, Va. Pabst was the second brewer in the same year to sell beer in cans, which came with opening instructions and the suggestion: “cool before serving” – 1935

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Sojourner Truth addresses first Black Women’s Rights convention – 1851

The Sheet Metal Workers Int’l Association (SMWIA) is founded in Toledo, Ohio, as the Tin, Sheet Iron and Cornice Workers’ Int’l Association – 1888

Two hundred miners are killed in a horrific explosion at the Harwick mine in Cheswick, Pa., Allegheny County. Many of the dead lie entombed in the sealed mine to this day – 1904
(The novel 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. Above ground, miners battle gun thugs and corrupt sheriffs at Virden, Matewan and Ludlow in an epic struggle to form a Source Link

January 18, 1984

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A 24-hour general strike called for by the Plenario Intersindical de Trabajadores (PIT) in Uruguay demands wage increases, union rights for public employees, the release of political prisoners, and respect for democratic liberties. The strike shut down the capital city and is followed by a series of other strikes that successfully united opposition against the military government.

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Remembering My Father Who Fought For The Union Benefits That Former Postmaster General Donahoe Wants To Take

Bob Dick

Editors Note: This is a special editorial from John Dick, a Letter Carrier in Detroit (NALC Branch 3126, Royal Oak Merged).  

Bob Dick

Bob “Moses” Dick

Yesterday was a milestone for me. Not a day of sadness as much as a day of reflection. January 12th, 2015, was the fifth anniversary of my father’s death. His demise came suddenly. A massive heart attack, then poof; he disappeared from our lives. I remember vividly getting the phone call from Big John. I was setting up my route and my phone kept ringing over and over. I was too busy to answer the damn thing but something didn’t feel right. I answered the fourth time John called. “You have to get to the hospital right away. Something’s wrong with Bob.” I dropped my mail and rushed to the emergency room. My heart sank and then shattered into a million shards when the doctor told me, “There was nothing we could do.” I felt like an orphan.

Bob “Moses” Dick was a proud union man. He had worked at the Ford Utica Trim Shop for thirty years. From 1963 to 1993 he sewed seats for the automobile giant. He was not a fan or a great example of what you might call the “work ethic.” He told me many times as I was growing up that his bosses and even the Ford family only cared about what he could do for them, and he was sure enough gonna return the favor. He said “I got a contract with those folks. I do my thirty years sewin’ those goddam car seats, and in return I have a decent paying job and a secure retirement. I don’t have to like them, and they don’t have to like me. Don’t ever fool yourself, son. You’re just a number to them. A cog in the wheel. I don’t give them any more than I have to.”

He would regale stories to me and my brother about working at the plant. He was outrageously honest, and claimed to have the worst discipline record at the Trim Shop. His temper was legendary, and if he thought a supervisor was acting prickly it was not unusual for him to threaten the health of his bosses. According to Pops, at one discipline meeting his exasperated steward exclaimed, “We have no defense for his actions. We plead insanity!” He loved the UAW, but I am not sure the feeling was completely mutual.

He was proud when I became a letter carrier on October 7th, 2000. The first question he asked me was if I had joined the union. He loved reading my Dicktations and we had him added to our mailing list so that he would receive his own personal copy. He said something to me about my writing that I will never forget. He said I was profound. It was not his style to talk in that way, and all I could say was “Thanks”. His death was premature at the age of 70, but he at least was able to retire at the age of 54 and enjoy 16 years of a Ford pension.

Much has changed in the five short years since my father died. Michigan is now a right- to-work state and America is sliding backwards from the promises it had made to previous generations. The middle class is stagnating economically and the wealth gap between the richest and the poorest is dramatic. Many companies no longer make promises to their workers. My employer, the United States Postal Service, still does. But I have to wonder “For how much longer?”

Our Postmaster General, Patrick R. Donahoe, is retiring in February after a nearly forty year postal career. He started as a mail clerk and worked his way up to the head honcho position of the Service. At a recent speech at the National Press Club honoring his retirement, I was shocked to hear these comments from him: “Most young people aren’t looking for a single employer over the course of their careers. In today’s world, does it really make sense to offer the promise of a government pension to a 22-year-old who is just entering the workforce? And how reliable is that promise?”

Postmaster Donahoe went on to say what the future of the mail would look like. He said “It will not be a person putting a piece of mail in a blue mailbox, but rather a far leaner organization, with a smaller workforce and less generous health care and pension benefits, that competes for e-commerce business, online advertising and other Internet based services.” It is hard to imagine these comments being made from a man who spent his entire career at one organization. Guess he wasn’t wearing his party hat at this retirement dinner!

Postmaster Buzz Kill made some other parting shots at the postal unions for single mindedly fighting to preserve jobs and benefits and the myopic shortsightedness of the mailers for trying to keep postal rates affordable. Rumor has it he kicked a dog and pushed an old lady before the speech was over. For those of us who have been trying to understand the decisions and direction this man has taken the Postal Service over the last several years, this one speech wrapped it all up in a tidy package and put a bow on it for us. He is a true believer in the ‘New America’, where workers have no guarantees or contracts and bounce from job to job every few years. This is the philosophy of our very own Postmaster General.

In February, Megan Brennan will become the new Postmaster General. She has shattered the glass ceiling at L’enfants Plaza and will become the first female to assume that position. I hope she has differing aspirations for what is possible for the United States Postal Service and its workers. We are the nation’s second largest employer, and we are vital to this nation’s economy. The ‘twenty somethings’ I work with deserve a promise from our employer for the hard work they do every do. This is not a job; this is a profession and a career.

A photo of my old man sits on the shot glass shelf of the bar I have in my basement. I will do tonight as I have done many nights in the past; I will raise a glass of strong libation and toast to his memory and honor. The toast will be one of his favorite and I will look at him with a salty tear in my eye; “God Bless the Union!” And for good favor;” Work Sucks!”                                                                                                                                                                                                        Sad to see you go, Donahoe          

        John “Cementhead” Dick

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