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Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017

September 11
Some 75,000 coal miners in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia end a 10-week strike after winning an 8-hour day, semi-monthly pay, and the abolition of overpriced company-owned stores, where they had been forced to shop. (Remember the song, “Sixteen Tons,” by coal miner’s son Merle Travis, in which there’s this line: “I owe my soul to the company store.”) – 1897

More than 3,000 people died when suicide highjackers crashed planes into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.  Among the dead in New York were 634 union members, the majority of them New York City firefighters and police on the scene when the towers fell – 2001

Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017Crystal Lee Sutton, the real-life Norma Rae of the movies, dies at age 68. She worked at a J.P. Stevens textile plant in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., when low pay and poor working conditions led her to become a union activist – 2009

September 12
Eugene V. Debs, labor leader and socialist, sentenced to 10 years for opposing World War I. While in jail Debs received one million votes for president – 1918

Jobless workers march on grocery stores and seize food in Toledo, Ohio – 1932

National Guardsmen fire on “sullen and rebellious” strikers at the Woonsocket (Rhode Island) Rayon plant, killing one and injuring three others.  A correspondent said the crowd of about 2,000 “went completely wild with rage.”  Word spread, 6,000 more workers arrived at the scene and the city was put under military rule.  The governor declared that “there is a Communist uprising and not a textile strike” in the state – 1934

Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017United Rubber Workers formed in Akron, Ohio – 1935

A total of 49 people are killed, 200 injured, in explosion at the Hercules Powder Company plant in Kenvil, N.J. – 1940

New York City’s Union Square, the site of the first Labor Day in 1882, is officially named a national historic landmark. The square has long been a focal point for working class protest and political expression – 1998

September 13Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017
The Post Office Department orders 25,000 railway mail clerks to shoot to kill any bandits attempting to rob the mail – 1926

Eleven AFSCME-represented prison employees, 33 inmates die in four days of rioting at New York State’s Attica Prison and the retaking of the prison. The riot caused the nation to take a closer look at prison conditions, for inmates and their guards alike – 1971

September 14
The Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers union calls off an unsuccessful 3-month strike against U. S. Steel Corporation subsidiaries – 1901

Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017Gastonia, N.C., textile mill striker and songwriter Ella May Wiggins, 29, a mother of five, is killed when local vigilantes and thugs force the pickup truck in which she is riding off the road and begin shooting – 1929

A striker is shot by a bog owner (and town-elected official) during a walkout by some 1,500 cranberry pickers, members of the newly-formed Cape Cod Cranberry Pickers Union Local 1. State police were called, more strikers were shot and 64 were arrested. The strike was lost – 1933

Congress passes the Landrum-Griffin Act. The law expands many of the anti-labor provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, increasing union reporting requirements and restricting secondary boycotting and picketing – 1959

Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017(The Essential Guide To Federal Employment Laws, 4th edition: This is a well-indexed book, updated in 2013, offering the full text of 20 federal laws affecting workers’ lives, along with plain-English explanations of each. An entire chapter is devoted to each law, explaining what is allowed and prohibited and what businesses must comply with.)

September 15
Some 5,000 female cotton workers in and around Pittsburgh, Pa., strike for a 10-hour day. The next day, male trade unionists become the first male auxiliary when they gather to protect the women from police attacks. The strike ultimately failed – 1845

President Kennedy signs off on a $900 million public-works bill for projects in economically depressed areas – 1962

Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017More than 350,000 members of the United Auto Workers begin what is to become a 69-day strike against General Motors – 1970

Int’l Association of Siderographers merges with Int’l Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers – 1992

September 16
More than 43,000 oil workers strike in 20 states, part of the post-war strike wave – 1945

A player lockout by the National Hockey League begins, leading to cancellation of what would have been the league’s 88th season. The lockout, over owner demands that salaries be capped, lasted 310 days – 2004

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee wins a signed contract with the Mount Olive Pickle Co. and growers, ending a 5-year boycott.  The agreement marked the first time an American labor union represented guest workers – 2004
Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017
Richard Trumka is elected president of the AFL-CIO at the federation’s convention in Pittsburgh.  He had served as the secretary-treasurer under predecessor John Sweeney from 1995 to 2009, and prior to that was president of the United Mine Workers for 13 years – 2009

September 17
Seventy-five workers die in explosion at Allegheny Arsenal, Pittsburgh, Pa. – 1862

Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017At a New York convention of the National Labor Congress, Susan B. Anthony calls for the formation of a Working Women’s Association. As a delegate to the Congress, she persuaded the committee on female labor to call for votes for women and equal pay for equal work. But male delegates deleted the reference to the vote – 1868

One hundred thousand Pennsylvania anthracite coal miners go on strike. Their average annual wage is $250. They are paid by the ton, defined by Pennsylvania as 2,400 pounds, but which mine operators have increased to as much as 4,000 pounds – 1900

National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) formed at a convention in Washington, D.C. In 1999 it became part of the Int’l Association of Machinists (IAM) – 1917

Some Depression-era weekly paychecks around the New York area: physician, $55.32; engineer, $40.68; Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017clerk, $22.15; salesman, $25.02; laborer, $20; typist, $15.09 – 1933

Southern employers meeting in Greenville, N.C., ready their big counter-offensive to break the textile labor strikes that have hit the Eastern seaboard. Ultimately they deploy 10,000 national guardsmen and 15,000 deputies, but fail to drive hundreds of thousands of strikers back to work – 1934

A Southern Pacific train loaded with sugar beets strikes a makeshift bus filled with 60 migrant workers near Salinas, Calif., killing 32. The driver said the bus was so crowded he couldn’t see the train coming – 1963

A total of 98 United Mine Workers of America members and a minister occupy the Pittston Coal Company’s Moss 3 preparation plant in Carbon, Va., beginning a year-long strike. Among other issues: management demands for drastic limitations in health and pension benefits for retired and disabled miners and their dependents and beneficiaries – 1989

The Occupy Wall Street movement is launched with an anti-Wall Street march and demonstration that Today in labor history for the week of September 11, 2017ended up as a 2-month encampment in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. The event led to protests and movements around the world, with their focus on economic inequality, corruption, greed and the influence on government of monied interests. Their slogan: “We are the 99%.” – 2011

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Working on Labor Day to Recover from Harvey

Watching helplessly as flood waters rose was not an option for Brandon Parker. This Texas refinery worker and member of the United Steelworkers (USW) union has a jacked-up Suburban and a friend with a boat. There was no way he was going to let family members, neighbors or strangers drown.

Like Brandon, many union members couldn’t sit still through the storm. One drove her high-riding pickup truck two hours to find baby formula for co-workers rescued from their roof with a newborn. Another used his pickup truck to rescue people whose cars got caught in fast-moving water.

These are among the many workers across Texas and across the United States whose sense of community drove them to respond to the crisis created by Hurricane Harvey.

Brandon’s most harrowing rescues occurred on Sunday, Aug. 27, when he joined the citizens armada, the flotilla of boats owned by civilians who drafted themselves to serve as first responders when the catastrophic size of the emergency overwhelmed professionals.

The crew on Brandon’s boat was all union. His longtime friend, Kenneth Yates, a member of Plumbers Local Union 68 in Houston, owned the Bay Stealth craft. Yates’ stepfather, Robert Young, a retired member of the American Federation of Teachers, joined them on the expedition through engulfed Dickinson, Texas.

A home in Dickinson, Texas, on Aug. 27 as seen from Brandon Parker’s rescue boat.

The crew on Brandon’s boat was all union. His longtime friend, Kenneth Yates, a member of Plumbers Local Union 68 in Houston, owned the Bay Stealth craft. Yates’ stepfather, Robert Young, a retired member of the American Federation of Teachers, joined them on the expedition through engulfed Dickinson, Texas.

They launched the boat into deep water on Interstate 45. Bands of storm clouds pelted them with rain, paused, then resumed. The flood water was about six feet deep, not quite over the front door of most homes they passed. The current was strong, making it hard to maneuver the boat.

Kenneth Yates and Robert Young on Yates’ Bay Stealth boat in Dickinson, Texas, on Aug. 27 as they set out to rescue people.

At one point, Brandon saw – just two inches below the water’s surface – an iron fence topped by arrow-shaped finials. He quickly shoved the boat away with an oar, preventing the metal points from puncturing the hull and sinking the craft. They were lucky. They saw rescue boats that were flipped over and one wrapped around a light pole. Ultimately, though, both the hull and propeller of Kenneth Yates’ boat were damaged from striking unseen underwater objects.

They picked up nine people. One family came from a second-story deck. They climbed down the deck’s steps and got into the boat. Another group was on the second story of an apartment building and descended its exterior staircase to the boat.

This was before evacuation was ordered, and Brandon was frightened for the people who chose to remain in their homes. He said he urged everyone he saw to leave while they could but many refused. “Because all the professional resources were being used, it might be hours before they could be rescued in an emergency,” Brandon told me last week.

When it got dark, Brandon, Kenneth and Robert went home. They didn’t have lights on the boat, so it wasn’t safe to continue.

Brandon wasn’t done though. That night, a family in his neighborhood needed to get out of their house after water had risen four feet inside. It was a young boy, a friend of Brandon’s 11-year-old son, and the boy’s uncle. Brandon drove as close as he could to the house, then got a guy in a boat to go in and bring them out to where the car was.

Brandon’s neighborhood in League City, Texas, on Aug. 29.

That is how Brandon started rescuing people – with his car, which would end up with damage to the steering system, differentials and wheel bearings from driving in high water. He first put his car into service Saturday night, Aug. 26. He was headed home from his brother-in-law’s house where he’d watched boxer Floyd Mayweather defeat Conor McGregor. Rain was pouring down and lightning flashing. He saw people walking along the swamped road, drenched.

Some had lost their cars in the rising water. Some had parked, afraid to drive further. Brandon picked up about a dozen in his high-riding, 1990 Suburban and drove them to their homes, most to the neighborhood where his brother-in-law lived.

By Sunday, Aug. 27, the roof of Brandon’s house in League City, Texas, was leaking, and he and his wife and three children had taken in flooded out in-laws. Still, he told his wife that he wanted to go out and help people. “She wasn’t too happy, but she understood that I needed to do that,” Brandon recounted. “I have been in situations where people have helped me. Why wouldn’t I go and help other people?”

That morning, he drove to a neighborhood in hard-hit Dickinson, where nearly every house was flooded. He found hurricane refugees walking through deep water carrying plastic garbage bags of belongings over their heads. This is dangerous because people can step in the wrong place and suddenly slip under water. That’s because there were deep ditches on both sides of the road and floods push manhole covers off.

He piled people into his Suburban and drove them to a bar that was still on dry ground. Other volunteers ferried them to shelters from there.

The 1990 Suburban Brandon Parker used to rescue people.

On Monday, Aug. 28, Brandon drove his truck through high water to get to a donation center in Galveston. He picked up cases of water, food, toiletries and other supplies. He distributed them in his neighborhood because many elderly residents had refused to leave their homes. “I went door to door giving out water and food. A lot of people turned me down. They said they didn’t want to take what others needed.”

The supplies were crucial because even when people with high vehicles like Brandon could get out, they found stores closed and gas stations out of fuel. Brandon continued checking on his neighbors and handing out provisions through Wednesday, when water started receding and he had to go to work at the LyondellBasell refinery in Houston.

Like Brandon, Felicia Weir of Santa Fe, Texas, is a USW refinery worker with a high-riding truck. Even after her home flooded, she drove for hours on Wednesday, backing up constantly to circumvent flood-closed roads, to get baby formula and clothes for a couple who had been plucked from their rooftop with an infant granddaughter and two other young grand kids.

Felicia Weir of Santa Fe, Texas, with supplies to distribute from her union hall.

Marcos Velez, a USW staff member from Pasadena, Texas, drove his pickup truck through flood waters to rescue a refinery worker whose car was inundated by three feet of fast moving water in Baytown, Texas, as he tried to drive to his job before dawn. Then Velez turned around and, despite blinding rain, rescued another dozen people whose cars were bobbing in the fast-rising water in that same neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the Texas AFL-CIO set up a charitable organization, the Texas Workers Relief Fund to aid working families, and local unions from across the country began donating. The National Nurses United Registered Nurse Response Network, an organization of volunteer unionized nurses, deployed its first unit to Houston on Thursday. Three Texas USW local unions handed out food and water to first responders and the public.

These efforts won’t stop when the rain does. This Labor Day, workers from across the country will be volunteering. They’ll be helping victims of Hurricane Harvey recover. And they’ll continue donating their services for months.

If You’re Surprised By America’s Wage Stagnation, Then You’re Not Paying Attention

By Larry Willis, President of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the economy and how well it’s doing. The unemployment rate has steadily fallen for years now, and jobs are being created.

But wages? Not so much.

The latest jobs report shows that while the unemployment rate remains low, wages aren’t keeping up with inflation. Instead, they are falling flat.

Some economists and policymakers seem baffled — but TTD and our affiliated unions aren’t.

Yes, there are a number of reasons for this trend. But, as we reflect ahead of Labor Day, it is clear that anti-union policies, like so-called “right to work” laws, and failure to invest in our crumbling infrastructure are contributing factors that need to be called out and addressed.

Unions act as a check against corporate power, making union representation one of the most reliable ways for working people to improve their quality of life and secure a living wage. In fact, data shows a direct correlation between high union density and higher wages and better benefits. And while union members are more likely to have a pension, employer-paid health insurance, and earn an average of 13.2 percent more than their non-union counterparts, the union difference doesn’t just affect those covered by collective bargaining agreements. Strong union contracts influence competition, driving up wages, benefits, and standards of living for non-union workers too.

So what happens when working people don’t have access to unions? Take a look around – we’re seeing it right now. While millions of Americans struggle just to get by, the average CEO makes nearly $14 million annually – 200 times what an average employee earns. This is not a coincidence. It is the result of ruthless, decades-long attacks on the rights of working people to demand better for themselves and their families.

As for all those jobs being created, it is time we ask ourselves what kind of jobs they are. Based on an analysis from MIT’s living wage calculator, it takes a typical family of four (two adults, two children) more than $58,000 annually to have their basic needs met. A minimum-wage, non-union job just won’t cut it.

This country needs more good jobs — the kind that allow people to own a car, buy a house, and put their kids through college. Attacks on the rights of working people to negotiate together for better wages and benefits are not the only reasons these jobs are lacking. Failure by political leaders to invest in our nation’s transportation system hasn’t just left us with infrastructure that’s crumbling and dangerous — this inaction has also resulted in missed opportunities to create as many as 900,000 long-term, good paying jobs, annually.

Thanks to high union density in transportation and infrastructure industries, people working in these sectors — including frontline workers who build, operate, and maintain our transportation system — earn higher pay, better benefits, and more job security than their low-wage counterparts. In fact, at $38,480, the median annual wage paid by occupations in infrastructure is nearly $4,000 higher than the national median wage.

When Congress considers transportation and infrastructure spending, TTD and our affiliated unions will fight for policies that ensure these investments will continue to create the type of jobs we know our country needs. We cannot support an infrastructure plan that threatens long-standing labor standards or undermines the collective bargaining rights of working people.

There are ways to turn things around and make our economy work for everyone. But doing so requires taking a stand against the rich and powerful — something working people cannot do alone. America needs a commitment from political leaders on both sides of the aisle, not only to invest boldly in infrastructure, but to end attacks on the rights of working families, and understand that strong unions aren’t part of the problem — they are part of the solution.

Celebrate Labor Day with USA’s “Brotherhood Outdoors” Marathon on Sportsman Channel 


Franklin, TN
(Aug. 28, 2017) – The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Sportsman Channel are teaming up again to honor the American workforce during the 2017 Brotherhood Outdoors “Salute to the American Worker” marathon in celebration of Labor Day, which airs Saturday, Sept. 2, from 5-8 p.m. ET.

The United States is built on the backs of tireless workers with an undying dedication to the progress of this great nation. Over the course of six consecutive Brotherhood Outdoors episodes, viewers will get an intimate glimpse into the lives of some of America’s hardest workers as they share their personal histories and experiences before heading out on memory-making hunts and fishing trips across the country.

“Labor Day is a national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.   It honors the American Labor movement and those men and women who give their time, their passion and, in some cases, their lives to make sure workers’ rights, wages, working hours, political expression, labor laws and working conditions are upheld.  We are honored to team up with Sportsman Channel to share the inspiring stories of six of those dedicated union workers through a Brotherhood Outdoors marathon,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance.

The show’s relatability to the “everyman” is what makes Brotherhood Outdoors a truly unique show in its category. It is authentic commentary from the ones who have actually lived it.

Schedule for Sept. 2 (ET):

5:00 p.m.   Jon Scaife: Fireman (IAFF Local 3690)
The marathon kicks off with Arizona firefighter Jon Scaife as he shares his history as a union member and fireman before traveling to Kentucky to take a shot at a whitetail buck … and a sip of homegrown bourbon.

5:30 p.m.   Dale Cullum: Insulator (Insulators Local 92)
Dale Cullum shares his role as business manager for his local in South Carolina as well as a mentor and member of the National Wild Turkey Federation. He puts his hunting and mentorship experience into practice as he guides a lucky youth hunter on a Michigan turkey hunt.

6:00 p.m.   Scott Kirchoff: Troubleshooter (IBEW Local 2150)
Scott Kirchoff provides a glimpse into his responsibilities as a utilities troubleshooter in Wisconsin and his passion for teaching new hunting courses. When he travels to Ohio to hunt whitetail, he puts his own lessons in action.

6:30 p.m.   Jason Koger: Motivational Speaker (UA Local 633)
Jason Koger shares how a life-changing accident impacted his future as the world’s only bi-lateral arm amputee using dual prosthesis. He describes his history with the union and how he hopes to inspire others. When he heads to Texas to hunt wild hogs, Jason also embraces the sounds of the Lonestar State.

7:00 p.m.   Travis Simmons: Operating Engineer (IUOE Local 673)
A dedicated operating engineer in Florida, Travis Simmons has been an avid outdoorsman since childhood. He shares his excitement when he embarks on a memorable fly-fishing trip that Mother Nature does her best to spoil.

7:30 p.m.   Ronnie Carver: Auto Worker (UAW Local 2188)
Ronnie Carver shares his history as a proud member of his local auto workers union. He shares his passion for forestry as he takes viewers on a tour of his certified forest. Then he fulfills a family dream when he heads to Canada to for a once-in-a-lifetime bear hunt.

Video Teaser from Union Sportsmen.

Presented by Bank of Labor, Brotherhood Outdoors is also sponsored by the following unions, contractors and corporate partners: Buck Knives, Burris/Steiner, Carhartt, Flambeau, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, National Electrical Contractors Association, United Association/International Training Fund and Union Insurance Group.

To find Sportsman Channel in your area click here.


About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About Sportsman Channel: Launched in 2003, Sportsman Channel/Sportsman HD is a television and digital media company fully devoted to honoring a lifestyle that is celebrated by millions of Americans. A division of Outdoor Sportsman Group, Sportsman Channel delivers entertaining and informative programming that showcases outdoor adventure, hunting and fishing, and illustrates it through unique and authentic storytelling. Sportsman Channel embraces the attitude of “Red, Wild & Blue America” – where the American Spirit and Great Outdoors are celebrated in equal measure. Sportsman Channel reaches more than 36 million U.S. television households. Stay connected to Sportsman Channel online at thesportsmanchannel.com, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Labor Speaks Out Against Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Presidential Pardon

Image by Gage Skidmore

Yesterday, President Trump pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio who was convicted for violating people’s civil rights in his anti-immigrant crusade.

“The criminal conviction grew out of a lawsuit filed a decade ago charging that the sheriff’s office regularly violated the rights of Latinos, stopping people based on racial profiling, detaining them based solely on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally and turning them over to the immigration authorities”, reported the New York Times.

“Joe Arpaio terrorized and harassed Hispanic workers, regardless of immigration status, for the six terms he served as Sheriff,” said UNITE HERE in a written statement. “Under him, illegal racial profiling of law abiding citizens ran rampant in the most populated county in Arizona, and he institutionalized systematic discrimination against Hispanic workers across Phoenix that included frequent violations of the U.S. constitution.  UNITE HERE is proud to have challenged his election multiple cycles with the “Adios Arpaio” campaign focused around activating Hispanic voters in Maricopa County – voters who ultimately threw Arpaio out of public office last November.”

UNITE HERE’s represents 270,000 workers mainly in the hotel, restaurant, gaming industry. Their membership is quite diverse and includes some “undocumented” immigrants.  UNITE HERE negotiates into their contracts some protections for workers who are waiting to gain legal citizenship.

“Donald Trump’s pardon of convicted criminal Joe Arpaio is an attack on immigrants writ large, and shows Trump’s support for Arpaio’s illegal practices. With a dozen TPS expirations looming in the next year and the fate of DACA at imminent risk, we are deeply troubled that Trump is pardoning criminals and sympathizing with racial bigots instead of protecting the law abiding, tax-paying immigrant workers on those programs who make the American economy run, and make this country truly great,” UNITE HERE added.

The United Farm Workers, were quick to condemn Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio.

“We are extremely disappointed with President Trump. He has consistently shown no respect for the hardworking immigrants of this nation,” said the United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez. “His pardoning of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio is shameful. Time and again, immigrants have demonstrated that they are the backbone of agriculture and many other industries. The President should not be pardoning someone who has been so vicious towards immigrants and who has openly flouted a federal judge’s order to stop his racial discrimination.”

“President Trump didn’t just pardon a thug and a criminal, he undermined the rule of law and betrayed the basic norms of our democracy just to hype up his base. Democrats and Republicans alike, including Sen. John McCain and even right-wing members of Congress, have condemned this action because Trump’s blatant abuse of power undermines the dignity of the office of the presidency and tears at the fabric of a just and fair democracy built on the rule of law for all,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson and Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker in a written statement.

Even Arizona Senator John McCain (R-AZ) blasted Trump for using his Presidential Pardon authority to pardon Arpaio.

“No one is above the law and the individuals entrusted with the privilege of being sworn law officers should always seek to be beyond reproach in their commitment to fairly enforcing the laws they swore to uphold. Mr. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for continuing to illegally profile Latinos living in Arizona based on their perceived immigration status in violation of a judge’s orders. The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.”

Ray Buckley, Chair of the NH Democratic Party summed it up perfectly by saying:

“His pardon is a wink and a nod to law enforcement around the country that, if you discriminate against and abuse people unlawfully, you will be rescued from prison by the President of the United States. There is no justification for Trump’s pardon and anyone who tries to defend it is defending criminal discrimination with clear eyes.”

This pardon is just political payback for all that Arpaio has done for Trump during his campaign, adding another notch in his already corrupt administration.

Leo W Gerard: No More Trickle-Down Trade Deals

Free trade be damned.

People don’t need any more free trade. They need jobs. And not just any jobs. They need good jobs with living wages and decent benefits.

That’s what negotiators from the United States, Canada and Mexico must prioritize as they begin talks this week to rewrite the reviled and failed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Negotiators must focus on improving the lives of people, not boosting the profits of corporations.

NAFTA betrayed the citizens of the United States, Canada and Mexico because it was based on the same servility to the rich that trickle-down economics was. Under trickle-down, the wealthy and corporations got the biggest, fattest tax cuts. Everyone else supposedly was to benefit somehow someday.  A microscopic pinch of the immense monetary gift granted to the high and mighty was supposed to magically appear in everyone else’s pockets. It never did.

And that’s the problem with NAFTA. Its negotiators placed corporations on a pedestal, awarding them rights and privileges that no human, no labor organization, no environmental group got. Again, the wrong-headed idea was that if corporations made big bucks, some of the benefits would trickle down to workers. That never happened.

NAFTA was great for corporations. It provided incentives for them to move to the lowest-wage, lowest-environmental regulation location – that being Mexico. Profits, dividends and CEO pay all rose as corporations like United Technologies uprooted profitable American factories – like its Carrier plant in Indiana – and moved them to Mexico. There, dirt-poor wages and lack of environmental regulation provide even higher profits, dividends and CEO pay.

Workers in none of the three NAFTA signatory countries saw any benefits. Wages in the United Statesand Canada stagnated.  In Mexico, wages are actually lower than before NAFTA. The poverty rate in Mexico is almost exactly the same as it was in the mid-1990s, before NAFTA took effect.

NAFTA ensured there was no wall between the United States and Mexico for corporations to scale. Humans get stopped at the border, but not corporations. United Technologies faced no barriers this year when shipped manufacturing from Indiana to Mexico. It was the same for Rexnord, which closed its ball bearing plant in Indianapolis this year and sent it across the border to Mexico, no problem.

As the United States’ trade deficit with both Canada and Mexico skyrocketed in the 20 years after NAFTA took effect in 1994, the United States lost 881,700 jobs. That figure is three years old, so it does not include United Technologies and Rexnord moving 1,600 Indiana jobs to Mexico. Since NAFTA, more than 60,000 factories closed in the United States.

Clearly part of the lure is wages. While a manufacturer may pay $20 an hour in the United States, it’ll only pay $20 a day in Mexico, where the average manufacturing wage is $2.49 an  hour. Labor organizations there are almost always completely controlled by corporate employers, rather than by the workers. So securing raises is nearly impossible.

And while many formerly American manufacturers moved just across the border to special industrial areas, overall job growth in Mexico was not significant. That is because subsidized corn exported from the United States bankrupted huge numbers of small Mexican farmers and many corporations have moved their factories again, this time from Mexico to even lower-wage China and other south Asian countries.

That’s just great for rich investors and fat cat CEOs. It’s been horrible for workers in Mexico, Canada and the United States. What has trickled down has been toxic – lost jobs, stagnant wages and worry.

The difference in the way NAFTA treats corporations and workers is stark. Corporations get special perks in the main NAFTA document. The rights of workers are dealt with in an addendum. They’re an afterthought.

NAFTA gives corporations an extraordinary privilege. They can sue governments for what they contend are “lost profits” if they don’t like regulations or legislation. They don’t have to present their cases to real judges in open court, either. They get to go before a tribunal of corporate lawyers whose decision cannot be appealed by the governments ordered to pay unlimited billions of tax dollars to the corporations. Corporations can force governments to pay if lawmakers protect citizens by, for example, banning a neurotoxin or limiting sale of dangerous products.

There’s no counterpart for workers. NAFTA provides no way for the Carrier workers laid off in Indianapolis by United Technologies to sue. The workers can’t ask three hand-picked worker-jurists in a secret court for income lost because the corporation moved to Mexico to make even bigger profits on the backs of underpaid workers there. There’s no way for Mexican workers to sue when a corporation endangers worker health with pollution or when a company-controlled labor organization pushes down wages.

In fact, NAFTA’s labor addendum bows to corporations before even mentioning workers. The addendum’s preamble says the NAFTA signatories resolved to expand markets for goods and services and to enhance corporate competitiveness globally. Then, after that, the preamble says a goal is to create new jobs, improve working conditions and living standards, and protect “basic” workers’ rights.

NEA’s Vice President, Becky Pringle, Delivers A Powerful Speech At Netroots Nation

Becky Pringle, Vice President of NEA. Image from Netroots Nation Facebook. Photographer Kerry Maloney – TravelerBroads.Com

While attending the Netroots Nation convention in Atlanta this week I heard from many different speakers and I have to say one of my favorite speeches came from Becky Pringle, the Vice President of the National Education Association (NEA), the largest labor union in the country, with over 3 million members.

Her amazingly powerful speech called on the members of Netroots Nation to stand up and take action.

“It is you, who will engage and inspire; lift up and connect our collective voices to create the kind of schools and communities and country that reflect our hopes; our dreams; our possibilities.“

“We need you to stand in the gap for our children, when the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights refuses to protect their most basic of human and civil rights.”

She continued by showing how President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are working together to “decimate” our public school system.

“President Trump and Sec. DeVos made it very clear that their educational priority was to decimate our public schools, and destroy the dreams of those students who come to us with the greatest needs.”

She highlighted how the Trump/DeVos agenda attacks some of the most vulnerable children in our public school system. Together they slashed education funding by $10 billion dollars and repealed protections that provided a “safe learning environment for our trans students.”

“From jeopardizing Title IX protections to refusing to agree to not privatize the education of our students with special needs, to making the case for guns in the classroom to fight off the attack of the grizzly bears, Betsy DeVos demonstrated that she knew absolutely nothing about schools and kids and education.”

Once again she called on Netroots Nation to be bold and unafraid, to take a stand and to help fight to ensure that every child has healthcare, has strong civil rights protections, and to address the institutional racism.

“This is our time to demand what’s right, just like Mother Jones, that great labor organizer, who many called the most dangerous woman in America, because she proudly proclaimed: I’m not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth wherever I please.”

“Netroots Nation, let’s be the most dangerous collective voice in this country. Let’s tell the truth wherever we please.”

“It is us, who must stand and be a witness. We must use our collective power, and with righteous indignation demand justice for our children.”

You can see Ms. Pringle’s entire speech here or below thanks to Netroots Nation.

Today in labor history for the week of August 14, 2017

August 14
President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, providing, for the first time ever, guaranteed income for retirees and creating a system of unemployment benefits – 1935

Members of the upstart Polish union Solidarity seize the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk. Sixteen days later the government officially recognizes the union. Many consider the event the beginning of the end for the Iron Curtain – 1980

Former AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland dies at age 77 – 1999

Today in labor history for the week of August 14, 2017August 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 14, 2017(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 14, 2017Eight 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 14, 2017
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 14, 2017August 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 14, 2017heart 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 14, 2017August 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 14, 2017
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 14, 2017Deranged 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
—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

40,000 Educators In Puerto Rico Vote To Join The American Federation of Teachers

AMPR and AFT Affiliate to Combat Austerity and Fight for Public Education and Economic Opportunity for the People of Puerto Rico

‘Tu Lucha es Mi Lucha’ – Trial Affiliation Agreement Will Boost Resources in Fight to Rebuild the Island’s Economy

SAN JUAN— Working people around the world understand they must join together to fight back against austerity politics that is bankrupting cities, states, provinces, and countries across the globe.

Right now, the Puerto Rican people are facing down a $70 billion debt crisis that has gutted the economy and wrought a devastating impact on public education, leading to 60,000 fewer students in the school system and tens of thousands of people leaving the island. The crisis has caused the closure of 164 neighborhood public schools and the stripping of benefits and retirement security from teachers and public employees. Teacher salaries in Puerto Rico have been stagnant, as hedge funds and an unelected control board have tried, and failed, to solve the crisis on their backs and the backs of the most vulnerable.

Today, Puerto Rican educators voted to join forces with one of the most powerful education unions in the United States, the American Federation of Teachers.

The Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, the union representing more than 40,000 Puerto Rican educators, AMPR-Local Sindical, and the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers signed a historic affiliation agreement today that will strengthen their joint fight against austerity and privatization and for public education and economic opportunity for the people of Puerto Rico.

AMPR President Aida Diaz said: “Teachers are teachers no matter where they work, and we should be treated as professionals and respected by the government and the public as a vital and necessary resource. Every country wants to improve its economic and social situation, but in Puerto Rico teachers haven’t been treated fairly. For years we have been left behind and denied Social Security, as other professionals have seen improvements to their working conditions, salaries and benefits. With the AFT, we can work hand in hand to improve our working conditions and reclaim all that has been denied to us. In the end, the education system will only improve when teachers are treated as the professionals we are.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “An attack on teachers anywhere is an attack on teachers everywhere. AMPR has been battling against austerity and privatization in Puerto Rico and the everyday consequences for the island’s people. With this affiliation, the 1.6 million members of the AFT join in that fight.

“The people of Puerto Rico didn’t cause this crisis, but they’re forced to shoulder most of the burden because of the actions of hedge funders and irresponsible government deals. The toll has been severe—nearly 60 percent of Puerto Rican children now live in poverty, a rate three times as high as the mainland.

“Our shared values—a strong and equitable economy, great public schools, good healthcare, a strong and vibrant democracy, and the elimination of hate and bigotry—drove us to form this partnership, and we will harness those values to mobilize our members to win.”

Grichelle Toledo, Secretary-General of AMPR-Local Sindical, said: “We believe that this is a great opportunity to join our voices with the voices of 1.6 million AFT members. Both active teachers and retirees will benefit from this affiliation, and we will have a stronger voice in education and politics on the mainland and in Puerto Rico.”

Evelyn DeJesus, a vice president of the AFT’s New York City affiliate, the United Federation of Teachers, said: “I’m a Nuyorican, born in New York with Puerto Rican heritage and roots. For me, this is a very emotional day, and I am honored and excited to be here in this moment in time. We’re here to support and give voice to the children and educators of Puerto Rico. I have been proud to work with AMPR on professional development and training, and we are committed to this partnership for the next three years.”

Prior to the agreement, the AFT and AMPR worked together for months to oppose the PROMESA control board’s attacks on public education and to expose the role of hedge funds in the crisis. Joint trainings have been held to improve communications and member engagement. Separately, the AFT has been assisting AMPR with Puerto Rico bankruptcy issues.

AMPR will be chartered as a state federation of the AFT, with AMPR-Local Sindical, the AMPR’s collective bargaining agent, chartered as an AFT local. The trial affiliation agreement is for three years.

NATCA Remembers PATCO Brothers and Sisters on 36th Anniversary of Strike

WASHINGTON – NATCA President Paul Rinaldi and Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert issued a statement reflecting on the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) strike, which began on this date 36 years ago. Nearly 13,000 controllers – about 85 percent of the union’s membership and 79 percent of the workforce – honored the picket line. Two days later, President Ronald Reagan fired all remaining 11,350 striking controllers.

“Thirty-six years ago today, our union brothers and sisters took a remarkably brave and honorable stand for our profession and the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS). On Aug. 3, 1981, after 95 percent of its members rejected a contract the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had offered five days earlier, PATCO members decided to strike for safer work conditions, reliable equipment, adequate staffing levels, and fair work and pay rules.

“According to the Department of Transportation, U.S. controller staffing dropped 74 percent from 16,375 to about 4,200. It’s tough to imagine the difficult choice these men and women faced. They risked their salaries and ended up giving up their careers to defend a profession they loved. The costs to many of them and their families were profound and lasting. Decades later, we honor their sacrifice, their commitment to our profession, and their bravery in fighting for union principles.

“The thousands of new controllers that entered the workplace during the next few years encountered the same poor working conditions and substandard equipment that had made the job so brutally difficult for their PATCO predecessors. These concerns would not be addressed until the federal government allowed controllers to organize once again.

“Controllers, who faced threats of additional firings, met secretly and organized a new collective voice for our profession, what would become NATCA. The bargaining rights of NATCA’s founding members were officially recognized when our Union was certified on June 19, 1987, as the exclusive bargaining unit representative for FAA controllers by the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

“History teaches us if we are willing to learn from it. NATCA is the union it is today, because our founders never forgot the great legacy of PATCO. NATCA is reaching out and educating our newest members, so they understand what came before. We do not take our jobs or our union rights for granted.

“On this important anniversary, we remember our PATCO brothers and sisters. We continue to be deeply humbled by their solidarity and commitment. We honor them by continuing their legacy of protecting our profession and the NAS. We fight every day to ensure the rights of NATCA members are always protected.”

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