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VA Union President Condemns Commission on Care’s Report as ‘Anti-Veteran’

AFGE leader calls on Congress to invest in VA caregivers and facilities rather than costly, unprepared private providers  

AFGE National President J. David Cox, Sr.WASHINGTON – Ahead of the Commission on Care’s September 7th hearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, American Federation of Government Employees’ National President J. David Cox Sr. released the following statement:

“The American Federation of Government Employees condemns in the strongest possible terms, the horrendous, anti-veteran proposal put forward by the Commission on Care. Their recommendations would essentially destroy the veterans’ health care system, leaving millions of veterans without the integrated care they rely on. Veterans would suffer from a drastically reduced quality of care, higher costs, less access, and the system as a whole would become unaccountable to veterans and taxpayers. Instead it would place veterans’ care in the hands of executives with corporate backgrounds, leaving veterans without a voice.

If the Commission’s mission, as they state in their report, was to ‘provide eligible veterans prompt access to quality health care,’ they have achieved the opposite. The only result of these recommendations would be to fragment the most integrated health care approach in the nation, lower quality across the board by sending veterans to for-profit private providers, line the pockets of private hospital corporations, and hand over control of veterans’ healthcare to an out-of-touch, corporate-style board.

Veterans have overwhelmingly said they want to get their healthcare at the VA. It is the only system equipped to offer the veteran-centric healing they earned through their sacrifice. That’s why large and well-respected veterans service organizations like the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans oppose further privatization of the system, and why two of the Commissioners – Phillip Longman and Michael Blecker – have spoken out repeatedly against the Commission since the release of their final report.

The Commission was rigged from the beginning, and despite going on the record stating that the VA offered healthcare that was superior to what’s offered in the private sector, they’ve recommended a plan that will lead to the downfall of the system millions of veterans rely on. We cannot let that happen, and we hope that the American public will see the Commission’s report for what it truly is and instead listen to what our veterans want.

There are numerous studies and reports that prove time and again how the VA offers veterans the best health care option in the country. The RAND Corporation recently reported that the VA outperforms non-VA health care in preventative care, treatment, and outpatient care; and found that only 13 percent of mental health professionals in the private sector are even prepared to treat veterans. Additionally, the American Psychological Association found that “VA performance was superior to that of the private sector by more than 30 percent.” The VA is succeeding, and to continue that success we must invest in it, not undermine it with costly, fragmented care.

Veterans want the VA. They need the VA. We cannot let private interests dismantle that system in the name of corporate greed.”

A Labor Day Message From Ed Wytkind, President of the Transportation Trades Department AFL-CIO

Washington, DC — The following statement was issued by Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), in advance of Labor Day:

EdwardWytkind“This Labor Day we honor and thank the frontline working people who keep America’s transportation system running safely and efficiently. They are hardworking, dedicated professionals who play a vital role in keeping our economy strong.

“Transportation workers have the right to a voice on the job, a safe work environment and fair pay for the critical work they do — and having strong unions gives them that chance. Yet, today these working men and women face a torrent of attacks that undermine their basic right to bargain for good wages and face economic rules rigged in favor of the very rich. And too often, these policies are endorsed from the people we elect or who are seeking public office.

“The values of honor and respect for working people are on the ballot this fall. One candidate, Donald Trump, pays lip service to the issues facing working people but endorses a disastrous platform that, at its core, will lower wages and destroy bargaining rights on the job. The other candidate, Secretary Hillary Clinton, has spent her entire career fighting for working people and is advancing an economic plan that will restrain reckless greed and offer solutions to the severe challenges and anxieties faced by so many working families. We will do our part to make sure that these completely different visions for our country are well understood by rank and file transportation employees.  

“On this Labor Day, we pause to pay tribute to those frontline employees in the transportation sector who keep America strong, safe and secure. It is on their behalf that we will advocate in the election and beyond in favor of an America that honors their contributions and against those who are out to eviscerate their rights on the job.”

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Nevada Hispanic Working People Ramp up Voter Mobilization Ahead of Labor Day

Image of Latino American (Image by LBJ Foundation FLIKR)

Image of Latino American (Image by LBJ Foundation FLIKR)

Hispanic workers in this key state ready to go out in record numbers to defeat Donald Trump and to support candidates who stand for Nevada’s working families 

[Las Vegas, Nev.] –   Daniel Aranda, a Mexican-American IBEW Local 357 electrician and union organizer, is determined to do whatever is needed to help Hispanics in Nevada live a better life. He is ready to rally against Donald Trump and his vitriolic rhetoric attacking Hispanic working families. 

Today, Aranda joined other Hispanic union members at the Culinary Union Hall in Las Vegas, Nev., for a roundtable to discuss their plan to stop Donald Trump and to support candidates in key Nevada races like Catherine Cortez Masto for Senate and Ruben Kihuen in CD-4 who have a clear record of standing for policies that will empower this state’s Hispanic working families.

“The Hispanic vote is extremely important, especially here in Nevada”, said Aranda, a Las Vegas resident who immigrated from Chihuahua, Mexico when he was a teenager. “We are ready to inform Hispanic working people across the state of the candidates who will support them. We will urge them to become citizens, to register to vote and to go out and vote.” 

The AFL-CIO’s Labor 2016 election effort aims to reach over 100,000 Hispanic voters who are part of union households in Nevada. At the roundtable today, the Labor 2016 program debuted new Spanish-language materials focused on voter registration and the presidential, Senate, and congressional races as part of the labor movement’s strategy to turnout Hispanic voters in Nevada.

Two weeks ago, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke at the Nevada AFL-CIO convention where he called all working people to be part of this electoral effort:

“Nevada is one of our priority states. If we work together, if we stand united, if we all have skin in the game, we will elect candidates from the state house to the White House who are ready to change the rules of our economy,” Trumka said. “Donald Trump is profoundly unfit to be president.  If you want to know where Donald Trump really stands, ask the brave men and women at Trump Hotel in Las Vegas.  First, Trump hired a union-busting firm to discourage workers from organizing.  The workers won anyway.”

Labor unions in Nevada have been running door-to-door programs across the state since May and will ramp up efforts to reach voters in Hispanic communities after the Labor Day weekend. Speakers on the panel represented unions with some of the highest rates of Hispanic workers in Nevada. For example, the Culinary Union is Nevada’s largest union and largest Hispanic and immigrant organization with 56% of its over 57,000 members identifying as Hispanic/Latino. 

During this roundtable Hispanic members of Nevada’s unions firmly expressed their rejection of Donald Trump’s recent immigration speech. They agreed that they will stand together against the candidate’s attacks by reaching out to their friends, families and neighbors. 

 “We will phone bank. We will knock on as many doors as we can,” said Aranda. “Only through our vote can we tell Donald Trump that he is wrong and that Hispanic working people matter.”

An Open Letter To NH Candidates From WMUR Production Union Steward On The State Of Negotiations

Below is an open letter to all of the New Hampshire candidates.  The Union, IBEW Local 1228, has previously asked candidates to continue to boycott WMUR sponsored debates including the scheduled debates next week. 

NewsHourControlRoom2005

PBS News Hour Control Room


Dear Candidates,

My name is Brian Wilson. I am a shop steward for the Production Department bargaining unit at WMUR. I am writing to you to explain the difficult situation our workers have faced as we have fought for our first labor agreement with Hearst Corporation, the station’s owner.

But, I would first like to express my sincerest appreciation for the support that all of you give to workers across New Hampshire. It is critical that our leaders take a stand for working families who are struggling to make ends meet during these still difficult economic times. We are happy to see a group of candidates who have already shown their strong support.

Our union was certified 16 months ago in April of 2015. Over the past year we have never been able to schedule more than two days to meet in most months and on some occasions have had to wait 6 weeks or more between negotiation dates offered by Hearst.

One of our most important issues is retirement security. Many of our bargaining unit members have a company pension which pre-dates the certification of the Union. Since the beginning of negotiations, Hearst has maintained that they will not allow these employees to continue earning service credit toward any pension plan under a collective bargaining agreement. No one should be forced to lose their retirement security just because they exercised their right to union representation. This is an egregious union busting tactic that has no place in a fair negotiation.

Our other major issue has been pay. WMUR pays low wages. Several of our bargaining unit members are paid a flat $10 per hour with no opportunity for an annual merit increase. We have repeatedly offered wage plans that are competitive with other stations in the market but the company has countered with offers that do little to improve the majority of our workers’ wage situation. There has also been no explanation nor solution offered for gross pay inequities among many similarly positioned workers.

Although it has been over a year and half since we voted to organize, our unit still shares a strong sense of optimism and a willingness to continue to negotiate in good faith to achieve a better future for members.

I want to thank you again for your attention to our issues and for your support. We must protect our right to organize. It is clearly under attack.

Sincerely,

Brian Wilson

Production Asst.

WMUR-TV

Berry Craig: ‘An injury to one is the concern of all’

By BERRY CRAIG
AFT Local 1360

Knights_of_labor_seal_standardI often think about the old Knights of Labor on Labor Day.

Okay, I’m a retired history teacher who still packs a union card.

The Knights “tried to teach the American wage-earner that he was a wage-earner first and a bricklayer, carpenter, miner, shoemaker, after; that he was a wage-earner first and a Catholic, Protestant, Jew, white, black, Democrat, Republican, after,” historian Norman Ware wrote.

The Knights stressed that whatever else divided working people, work itself was what they all had in common. Work was, by far, the most important factor in their lives. Thus, workers should unite as members of the working class, the Knights urged.

Active in the late 19th-century, the Knights were among the pioneers in our union movement. There were even Knights in western Kentucky, where I was born, reared and still live. The Fulton group published a newspaper called The Toiler.

The paper and the Knights are long gone.

But the union’s basic principle is still relevant: Working people, no matter what jobs we have, are wage earners first. “An injury to one is the concern of all,” was the Knights’ famous motto. It still rings true.

Anyway, I spent twenty-four years as a teacher. I was a newspaper reporter for almost 13 years before that.

But I was always a wage-earner and a worker first. I belong to the working class just like a factory worker, construction worker, dock worker, miner, truck driver, carpenter, painter, plumber, electrician, firefighter, garbage collector, grocery clerk, secretary and every other worker. We all belong to the working class.

History is plain about what has most benefitted the working class: unions and New Deal-style government action on our behalf. A big part of the New Deal guaranteed our right to organize unions and bargain collectively for better wages, hours, working conditions and benefits.

My maternal grandparents, Susie and Diehl Vest of Mayfield, my hometown, remembered how the union and the New Deal made their lives better.

“Bobo” belonged to the Almagamated Clothing Workers at the old Merit Clothing Co. “Grandadden” worked out of Paducah Painters Local 500, which is still around.

The Vests voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt all four times he ran. (FDR and Abraham Lincoln tie as their grandson’s favorite presidents.)

Senator and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey was one of my favorite politicians. Molly Ivins was one of my favorite newspaper columnists. Both of them also knew what helped the working class the most.

“America is a living testimonial to what free men and women, organized in free democratic trade unions, can do to make a better life,” said HHH, whom I voted for in 1968, the first year I was eligible to cast a ballot.

Said Ivins: “Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers (sadly, that percentage has shrunk as so many of our good union jobs have been shipped out of the country) are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts.”

Happy Labor Day!

Mark Connolly Takes A Bold Stand For Union Workers At WMUR

Last week we posted a story about how WMUR/ Hearst Television is refusing to negotiate with the members of IBEW local 1228 and are refusing add them to the pension system that other station workers already participate in. This contract negotiation dispute resulted in WMUR’s sponsorship of the NH Democratic Presidential debate. The NH Democratic Party reaffirmed their commitment to supporting the WMUR workers, by continuing to boycott WMUR sponsored debates.

“We told WMUR Station Management earlier this year that New Hampshire Democratic candidates would not participate in WMUR sponsored debates as long as the negotiations between the Union Production workers and Hearst were not resolved.” said Ray Buckley, Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “We have not changed our position and the station knows it.”

This week, WMUR scheduled a Democratic Gubernatorial debate for next Tuesday night.  IBEW Local 1228 members are planning to hold an informational picket at WMUR’s Manchester studio the night of the debate.

Today, Mark Connolly, Democratic candidate for Governor, released the following statement regarding the scheduled gubernatorial debate hosted by WMUR Manchester and its parent company, Hearst Television, Inc. 

“Though I appreciate the opportunity provided by WMUR/Hearst, I strongly believe that each and every worker in the Granite State deserves a fair wage and benefits, and I stand with the dedicated workers of IBEW Local 1228.

“These workers are committed to delivering important information to the people of New Hampshire on a daily basis, and I strongly support their right to a collectively bargained contract. 

“Without an agreement in place between WMUR/Hearst and Local 1228, I will not cross the picket line to participate in next week’s debate. I encourage the other candidates to take the same stand.”

After receiving the news, Fletcher Fischer, Business Agent for the IBEW 1228 who represents the Union Production Department at WMUR who are struggling for their first contract said that they “greatly appreciated” the statement of support from Connolly.

“We are hopeful that all New Hampshire candidates running for Governor and any other office feel the same and show support to the working men and women who don’t deserve this type of Corporate attack. All they did was exercise their American right to form a Union and did not expect this type of retribution from the Company they have served so loyally for years,” Fischer added.

Pat Devney, campaign manager for Colin Van Ostern also released a statement in support of the IBEW workers but did not state whether Van Ostern would also skip the debate.

“With a full seven days between now and the debate, we encourage WMUR/Hearst management to sit down with employees and make meaningful and long-overdue progress toward a fair employment agreement.”

“We will continue to monitor negotiations and sincerely hope that progress can be made toward an agreement so that voters will have the opportunity to hear from all candidates about how we can keep New Hampshire moving forward.”

At the time of publication Steve Marchand had not responded to my request for a statement.

Transportation Trades Department AFL-CIO Praises Amtrak’s Purchase Of New High Speed Trains

Transportation Trade Department LogoVice President Biden’s Announcement on Amtrak Procurement
Boosts U.S. Transportation Manufacturing Job Creation

Washington, D.C. — Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement following the announcement in Wilmington, DE by Vice President Joe Biden on the winning bidder in Amtrak’s high speed train purchase:

“The U.S. economy and working people scored a victory today following the announcement by Vice President Joe Biden that Amtrak will be purchasing a new high speed train fleet from Alstom, which will manufacture the trains at its Hornell, New York facility employing members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

“For many years we have advocated for rail and transit procurement policies that reward high-road employers whose manufacturing business models support middle class job creation here at home. For too long federal, state and local policies squandered billions of dollars in rail and transit fleet purchases by only requiring the bare minimum when it came to domestic content and expanding U.S. transportation manufacturing.

“Fortunately, Amtrak has taken an important step in embracing a new vision for how public dollars are spent when rail and transit systems upgrade their fleets. In its request for proposal (RFP) in July of 2014, Amtrak included a groundbreaking requirement that bidders submit a U.S. Employment Plan detailing their plans to create U.S. jobs and opportunities for disadvantaged American workers including veterans.

“Amtrak’s commitment to investing in American manufacturing and good-paying jobs marks a welcome change of direction by recognizing the advantages of best value contracts. This decision also reflects years of persistence by the Obama Administration to prioritize domestic manufacturing in the transportation sector. The President, Vice President and Transportation Secretary Foxx have consistently worked to promote stronger Buy America standards and tighten lax federal waiver rules that for decades mainstreamed excessive foreign outsourcing. 

“I want to congratulate the Jobs to Move American Coalition (JMA), which developed the U.S. Employment Plan and has been a leader in implementing smarter rail and transit procurement policies throughout the country. TTD is proud to be a member of JMA, and I believe that today’s announcement helps prove what we know to be true: public investments in rail and transit can and should be a major economic driver that create good jobs and launch a renaissance in transportation manufacturing.”

Local Massachusetts Union Shirt Manufacturer Featured In New Clinton Campaign Ad

New England Shirt Company ShirtIn New Ad, U.S. Shirtmaker Criticizes
Trump for Outsourcing Jobs, Making Products Overseas

Small Business Owner: ‘Trump Says He’ll Make America Great Again
While He’s Taking the Shirts Right Off Our Backs’

new Hillary for America television ad set to air this week features a Massachusetts shirt manufacturer who employs more than 60 people criticizing Donald Trump for outsourcing jobs to make his products, including shirts, abroad. In the ad, Robert Kidder, the owner of New England Shirt Company in Fall River, says, “This factory has been here since 1883. We have over 60 people here making shirts labeled ‘Made in America,’ but Donald Trump’s brand of shirts come from China, his suits from Mexico, his coats from India.”

Going back to the colonial era, Fall River, Mass., has been central to America’s textile industry, and the New England Shirt Company remains the oldest operating ready-to-wear shirt manufacturer in America. Not only has New England Shirt Company been making shirts in Fall River for over 130 years, but they are also proudly union. Workers are represented by The New England Joint Board, a region group of UNITE HERE locals and “is one of the largest unions in the region representing manufacturing workers.”

Textile manufacturing unions in New England were some of the first and strongest unions in the country in the late 1800 and early 1900s.  Women and children slaved in the mills from Manchester, New Hampshire, through Lawrence, Massachusetts, through Lowell, Massachusetts, and all the way down to New York City.

Unions like the The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA) fought for workplace safety, shorter workdays, and for two full days of rest a week.  Workers banded together and pushed the Massachusetts legislature to pass strong labor like and to be the first to pass child labor laws that prevented children from working in the mills.  Laws that were later passed nationally as part of the National Labor Relations Act.

In 1976,  The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America merged to form UNITE who in 1996 merged with HERE, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, becoming UNITE HERE.

The ad, ‘Shirts,’ joins a previously released ad, “Some Place,” in spotlighting Trump’s long history of making Trump-branded products outside of America as part of a concerted effort over the past month to contrast Trump’s hypocritical business record with Hillary Clinton’s agenda to make the economy work for everyone, not just those at the top. The new ad follows Clinton’s announcement Tuesday of new plans to jumpstart small business startups and strengthen small business growthKidder, the small business owner, closes the new ad, “Donald Trump says he’ll ‘make America great again’ while he’s taking the shirts right off our backs.”

Watch ‘Shirts’

The 30-second ad is a part of and ad buy in Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

Clinton has pledged make the largest investment in job creation since World War II in her first 100 days in office and has proposed a comprehensive “Make It In America” strategy to boost U.S. manufacturing and crack down on corporations that ship jobs overseas.

Today in labor history for the week of August 22, 2015

 
August 22 Five flight attendants form the Air Line Stewardesses Association, the first labor union representing flight attendants. They were reacting to an industry in which women were forced to retire at the age of 32, remain single, and adhere to strict weight, height and appearance requirements. The association later became the Association of Flight Attendants, now a division of the Communications Workers of America - 1945 Int’l Broom & Whisk Makers Union disbands - 1963 Joyce Miller, a vice president of the Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers, becomes first female member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council - 1980 The Kerr-McGee Corp. agrees to pay the estate of the late Karen Silkwood $1.38 million, settling a 10-year-old nuclear contamination lawsuit.  She was a union activist who died in 1974 under suspicious circumstances on her way to talk to a reporter about safety concerns at her plutonium fuel plant in Oklahoma - 1986 Today in labor history for the week of August 22, 2015(The Killing of Karen Silkwood: This is an updated edition of the groundbreaking book about the death of union activist Karen Silkwood, an employee of a plutonium processing plant, who was killed in a mysterious car crash on her way to deliver important documents to a newspaper reporter in 1974. Silkwood’s death at age 28 was highly suspicious: she had been working on health and safety issues at the plant, and a lot of people stood to benefit by her death.) Int’l Longshore & Warehouse Union granted a charter by the AFL-CIO - 1988 August 23 The U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations is formed by Congress, during a period of great labor and social unrest. After three years, and hearing witnesses ranging from Wobblies to capitalists, it issued an 11-volume report frequently critical of capitalism. The New York Herald characterized the Commission's president, Frank P. Walsh, as "a Mother Jones in trousers" - 1912 Today in labor history for the week of August 22, 2015Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, accused of murder and tried unfairly, were executed on this day. The case became an international cause and sparked demonstrations and strikes throughout the world - 1927 Seven merchant seamen crewing the SS Baton Rouge Victory lost their lives when the ship was sunk by Viet Cong action en route to Saigon - 1966 Farm Workers Organizing Committee (to later become United Farm Workers of America) granted a charter by the AFL-CIO - 1966 Today in labor history for the week of August 22, 2015(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.)
Today in labor history for the week of August 22, 2015August 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 25Today in labor history for the week of August 22, 2015 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 26 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 Today in labor history for the week of August 22, 2015(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 Today in labor history for the week of August 22, 2015 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 Today in labor history for the week of August 22, 2015August 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 – 1963Today in labor history for the week of August 22, 2015 (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.)   —Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Today in labor history for the week of August 15, 2016

August 15
To begin what proved to become one of the world’s longest construction projects, workers lay the foundation stone of Germany’s Cologne Cathedral, built to house the relics of the Three Wise Men.  The job was declared completed in 1880—632 years later – 1248

The Panama Canal opens after 33 years of construction and an estimated 22,000 worker deaths, mostly caused by malaria and yellow fever.  The 51-mile canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans – 1914

Populist social commentator Will Rogers killed in a plane crash, Point Barrow, Alaska. One of his many classic lines: “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts” – 1935

Today in labor history for the week of August 15, 2016
(Workplace Jokes: Only SOME of Them Will Get You Fired!: Did you hear the one about the supervisor and the new employee who bump into each other in a bar?  Maybe, but maybe not.  In either case, you can find it and a couple hundred other great workplace jokes in this new collection, the only one of its kind.  You won’t find working people as the butt of jokes here… it’s more likely to be the boss, the banker, the yes man and the union-busting lawyer.)

President Richard M. Nixon announces a 90-day freeze on wages, prices and rents in an attempt to combat inflation – 1971

Gerry Horgan, chief steward of CWA Local 1103 and NYNEX striker in Valhalla, N.Y., is struck on the picket line by a car driven by the daughter of a plant manager and dies the following day. What was to become a 4-month strike over healthcare benefits was in its second week – 1989

Today in labor history for the week of August 15, 2016Eight automotive department employees at a Walmart near Ottawa won an arbitrator-imposed contract after voting for UFCW representation, becoming the giant retailer’s only location in North America with a collective bargaining agreement. Two months later the company closed the department. Three years earlier Walmart had closed an entire store on the same day the government announced an arbitrator would impose a contract agreement there – 2008

August 16
George Meany, plumber, founding AFL-CIO president, born in City Island, Bronx. In his official biography, George Meany and His Times, he said he had “never walked a picket line in his life.” He also said he took part in only one strike (against the United States Government to get higher pay for plumbers on welfare jobs). Yet he also firmly said that “You only make progress by fighting for progress.” Meany served as secretary-treasurer of the AFL from 1940 to 1952, succeeded as president of the AFL, and then continued as president of the AFL-CIO following the historic merger in 1955 until retiring in 1979 – 1894
Today in labor history for the week of August 15, 2016
Homer Martin, early United Auto Workers leader, born in Marion, Ill. – 1902

Congress passes the National Apprenticeship Act, establishing a national advisory committee to research and draft regulations establishing minimum standards for apprenticeship programs. It was later amended to permit the Labor Department to issue regulations protecting the health, safety and general welfare of apprentices, and to encourage the use of contracts in their hiring and employment – 1937

National Agricultural Workers Union merges into Amalgamated Meat Cutters & Butcher Workmen – 1960

Int’l Union of Wood, Wire & Metal Lathers merges with United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners – 1979

Today in labor history for the week of August 15, 2016August 17
IWW War Trials in Chicago, 95 go to prison for up to 20 years – 1918

Bakery & Confectionery Workers Int’l Union of America merges with Tobacco Workers Int’l Union to become Bakery, Confectionery & Tobacco Workers – 1978

Year-long Hormel meatpackers’ strike begins in Austin, Minn. – 1985

August 18
Radio station WEVD, named for Eugene V. Debs, goes on the air in New York City, operated by The Forward Association as a memorial to the labor and socialist leader – 1927
(The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene V. Debs: Eugene V. Debs was a labor activist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who captured the Today in labor history for the week of August 15, 2016heart and soul of the nation’s working people. He was brilliant, sincere, compassionate and scrupulously honest. A founder of one of the nation’s first industrial unions, the American Railway Union, he went on to help launch the Industrial Workers of the World—the Wobblies. A man of firm beliefs and dedication, he ran for President of the United States five times under the banner of the Socialist Party, in 1912 earning 6 percent of the popular vote.  Many union activists and labor scholars see Debs as the definitive labor leader.)

Founding of the American Federation of Government Employees, following a decision by the National Federation of Federal Employees (later to become part of the Int’l Association of Machinists) to leave the AFL – 1932

Today in labor history for the week of August 15, 2016August 19
First edition of IWW Little Red Song Book published – 1909

Some 2,000 United Railroads streetcar service workers and supporters parade down San Francisco’s Market Street in support of pay demands and against the company’s anti-union policies. The strike failed in late November in the face of more than 1,000 strikebreakers, some of them imported from Chicago – 1917

Founding of the Maritime Trades Dept., AFL, to give “workers employed in the maritime industry and its allied trades a voice in shaping national policy” – 1946

Phelps-Dodge copper miners in Morenci and Clifton, Ariz., are confronted by tanks, helicopters, 426 state troopers and 325 National Guardsmen brought in to walk strikebreakers through picket lines in what was to become a failed 3-year fight by the Steelworkers and other unions – 1983
Today in labor history for the week of August 15, 2016
Some 4,400 mechanics, cleaners and custodians, members of AMFA at Northwest Airlines, strike the carrier over job security, pay cuts and work rule changes. The 14-month strike was to fail, with most union jobs lost to replacements and outside contractors – 2005

August 20
The Great Fire of 1910, a wildfire that consumed about 3 million acres in Washington, Idaho and Montana—an area about the size of Connecticut—claimed the lives of 78 firefighters over two days.  It is believed to be the largest, although not deadliest, fire in U.S. history – 1910

Today in labor history for the week of August 15, 2016Deranged relief postal service carrier Patrick “Crazy Pat” Henry Sherrill shoots and kills 14 coworkers, and wounds another six, before killing himself at an Edmond, Okla., postal facility.  Supervisors had ignored warning signs of Sherrill’s instability, investigators later found; the shootings came a day after he had been reprimanded for poor work.  The incident inspired the objectionable term “going postal” – 1986

August 21
Slave revolt led by Nat Turner begins in Southampton County, Va. – 1831

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

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