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VA Union Calls on Senate to ‘Work on Fixing, Not Dismantling Veterans’ Healthcare’

AFGE applauds efforts to increase hiring, but finds that proposed legislation falls short of what’s needed

WASHINGTON – On Tuesday the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing to address proposed legislation aimed at improving veterans’ access to care. With 49,000 vacancies at VA hospitals and clinics nationwide and a growing veteran population, AFGE cautioned lawmakers that some of the proposals under consideration may lead to the dismantling of the VA healthcare system and undermine the VA’s efforts to hire desperately needed staff.

The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 250,000 working people at the VA, submitted written testimony to the hearing, “Pending Health Care Legislation,” that addresses the positive and negative bills that will alter the future of the VA.

AFGE’s comments focused on several bills that will increase the hiring and access to care for veterans at the only healthcare system tailored to their unique needs. In addition, the union’s statement raised concerns about proposals that would vastly expand the use of non-VA care to such an extreme as to threaten the world-class healthcare system’s long-term survival.

In its comments on S. 1325, the Better Workforce for Veterans Act from Senators Jon Tester and Jerry Moran from Montana and Kansas respectively, AFGE supported provisions aimed at improvement of management and human resources practices. But, the union expressed concern about the adverse impact of new hiring authorities on promotion opportunities for current employees. AFGE also questioned a bill provision to use expensive Public Health Service medical officers who lack the expertise and stability of VA’s own workforce, and another that tries to fix VA police recruitment and retention problems without affording them much needed law enforcement officer status.

“We support new legislation that will allow for the VA to fill the glaring number of open positions at the agency,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “Veterans want the VA. Veterans need the VA. They have said time and again that they don’t want to be forced out into the private sector with longer wait times, less access to care, and medical professionals ill-equipped to handle their unique needs,” he added.

In their testimony, AFGE also highlighted several proposals for reforming current programs that provide non-VA care.  “AFGE strongly opposes the Veterans Choice Act of 2017,” from Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, AFGE said in its testimony. Adding, “This bill would vastly increase the use of non-VA care through a massive expansion of the Choice Program. Like the Concerned Veterans of America plan that was soundly rejected by the Commission on Care, this bill would erode the critical core of the VA health care system and put such an enormous financial strain on it threatens its very survival.”

In contrast, AFGE praised the Improving Veterans Access to Community Care Act of 2017 from Sen. Tester. The union lauded the legislator’s efforts to modernize VA services, lay the foundation for VA-run integrated networks, and keep the VA as the primary provider and coordinator of VA care. AFGE said these provisions protect “the critical resources that the VA must retain in order to keep its promise to veterans”

“Veterans have overwhelmingly said that they want Congress to work on fixing, not dismantling veterans’ healthcare, and Sen. Isakson’s bill does nothing of the sort,” said Cox. “We believe that the Improving Veterans Access to Community Care Act of 2017 is a much better approach – albeit with its own faults – to providing veterans options outside of the VA if they so choose.

“Ultimately, AFGE will stand with veterans who make up one-third of workers at the VA, and the millions that use it to receive world-class medical treatment. It’s been proven time and again that the VA is the best option for those who have borne the battle, and we’ll never stop fighting to make it the best that it can be,” said Cox.

Today in labor history for the week of July 3, 2017

July 03
Children, employed in the silk mills in Paterson, N.J., go on strike for 11-hour day and 6-day week. A compromise settlement resulted in a 69-hour work week – 1835

Feminist and labor activist Charlotte Perkins Gilman born in Hartford, Conn. Her landmark study, “Women and Economics,” was radical: it called for the financial independence of women and urged a network of child care centers – 1860

Today in labor history for the week of July 3, 2017July 04
Albert Parsons joins the Knights of Labor. He later became an anarchist and was one of the Haymarket martyrs – 1876

AFL dedicates its new Washington, D.C., headquarters building at 9th St. and Massachusetts Ave. NW. The building, still standing, later became headquarters for the Plumbers and Pipefitters – 1916

Five newspaper boys from the Baltimore Evening Sun died when the steamer they were on, the Three Rivers, caught fire near Baltimore, Md. They are remembered every year at a West Baltimore cemetery, toasted by former staffers of the now-closed newspaper – 1924

With the Great Depression underway, some 1,320 delegates attended the founding convention of the Today in labor history for the week of July 3, 2017Unemployed Councils of the U.S.A., organized by the U.S. Communist Party. They demanded passage of unemployment insurance and maternity benefit laws and opposed discrimination by race or sex – 1930

Two primary conventions of the United Nations’ Int’l Labor Organization come into force: Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize – 1950

Building trades workers lay the cornerstone of the Freedom Tower on the site of the World Trade Center in New York City.  The WTC had been leveled by a terrorist attack three years earlier.  Nearly 3,000 died at the WTC and in other attacks in the eastern U.S. on the same day – 2004

July 05
During a strike against the Pullman Palace Car Company, which had drastically reduced wages, buildings constructed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago’s Jackson Park were set ablaze, reducing seven to ashes – 1894

Today in labor history for the week of July 3, 2017(In this expanded edition of Strike! you can read about labor-management conflicts that have occurred over the past 140 years. Here you’ll learn much about workers’ struggle to win a degree of justice, from the workers’ point of view. Brecher also examines the ever-shifting roles and configurations of unions, from the Knights of Labor of the 1800s to the AFL-CIO of the 1990s. A new chapter, “Beyond One-Sided Class War,” looks at how modern protest movements, such as the Battle of Seattle and Occupy Wall Street, were ignited and considers the similarities between these challenges to authority and those of labor’s past.)

West Coast Longshoremen’s Strike, Battle of Rincon Hill, San Francisco. Some 5,000 strikers fought Today in labor history for the week of July 3, 20171,000 police, scabs and national guardsmen.  Two strikers were killed, 109 people injured. The incident, forever known as “Bloody Thursday,” led to a general strike – 1934

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the National Labor Relations Act – 1935

Three firefighters, a state policeman and an employee of Doxol Gas in Kingman, Arizona are killed in a propane gas explosion. Eight more firefighters were to die of burns suffered in the event – 1973

Fourteen firefighters are killed battling the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain in Glenwood Springs, Colo. – 1994

July 06
Two strikers and a bystander are killed, 30 seriously wounded by police in Duluth, Minn. The workers, mostly immigrants building the city’s streets and sewers, struck after contractors reneged on a promise to pay $1.75 a day – 1889

Today in labor history for the week of July 3, 2017(Mobilizing Against Inequality: Unions, Immigrant Workers, and the Crisis of Capitalism: Are immigrant workers themselves responsible for low wages and shoddy working conditions? Should unions expend valuable time and energy organizing undocumented workers? Unions in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States have taken various approaches to confront the challenges of this significant segment of the workforce. As U.S. immigration policy is debated, readers will gain insight into how all workers benefit when wages and working conditions for immigrant workers are improved.)

Two barges, loaded with Pinkerton thugs hired by the Carnegie Steel Co., land on the south bank of the Monongahela River in Homestead, Pa., seeking to occupy Carnegie Steel Works and put down a strike by members of the Amalgamated Association of Iron & Steel Workers – 1892

Rail union leader Eugene V. Debs is arrested during the Pullman strike, described by the New York Times as “a struggle between the greatest and most important labor organization and the entire railroad capital” that involved some 250,000 workers in 27 states at its peak – 1894

(The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene V. Debs: Eugene V. Debs was a labor activist in the late Today in labor history for the week of July 3, 201719th and early 20th centuries who captured the heart 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.)

Transit workers in New York begin what is to be an unsuccessful 3-week strike against the then-privately owned IRT subway. Most transit workers labored seven days a week, up to 11.5 hours a day – 1926

Explosions and fires destroy the Piper Alpha drilling platform in the North Sea, killing 167 oil workers—the worst loss of life ever in an offshore oil disaster.  The operator, Occidental, was found guilty of having inadequate maintenance and safety procedures, but no criminal charges were ever brought – 1988

July 07
Striking New York longshoremen meet to discuss ways to keep new immigrants from scabbing. They were successful, at least for a time. On July 14, 500 newly arrived Jews marched straight from their ship to the union hall. On July 15, 250 Italian immigrants stopped scabbing on the railroad and joined the union – 1882

Today in labor history for the week of July 3, 2017Mary Harris “Mother” Jones begins “The March of the Mill Children,” when, accompanied part of the way by children, she walked from Philadelphia to President Theodore Roosevelt’s home on Long Island to protest the plight of child laborers. One of her demands: reduce the children’s work week to 55 hours – 1903

Cloak makers begin what is to be a 2-month strike against New York City sweatshops – 1910

Workers begin construction on the Boulder Dam (now known as Hoover Dam) on the Colorado River, during the Great Depression.  Wages and conditions were horrible—16 workers and work camp residents died of the heat over just a single 30-day period—and two strikes over the four years of construction led to only nominal improvements in pay and conditions – 1931

Some 500,000 people participate when a two-day general strike is called in Puerto Rico by more than 60 trade unions and many other organizations. They are protesting privatization of the island’s telephone company – 1998

July 08
First anthracite coal strike in U.S. – 1842
Today in labor history for the week of July 3, 2017Labor organizer Ella Reeve “Mother” Bloor born on Staten Island, N.Y. Among her activities: investigating child labor in glass factories and mines, and working undercover in meat packing plants to verify for federal investigators the nightmarish working conditions that author Upton Sinclair had revealed in The Jungle – 1862

The Pacific Mail Steamship Co. fires all employees who had been working an 8-hour day, then joins with other owners to form the “Ten-Hour League Society” for the purpose of uniting all mechanics “willing to work at the old rates, neither unjust to the laborers nor ruinous to the capital and enterprise of the city and state.” The effort failed – 1867

Founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W., or Wobblies) concludes in Chicago. Charles O. Sherman, a former American Federation of Labor organizer, is elected president – 1905

Some 35,000 members of the Machinists union begin what is to become a 43-day strike that shuts down five major U.S. airlines, about three-fifths of domestic air traffic.  The airlines were thriving, and wages were a key issue in the fight – 1966

Today in labor history for the week of July 3, 2017July 09
The worst rail accident in U.S. history occurs when two trains pulled by 80-ton locomotives collided head-on at Dutchman’s curve in west Nashville, Tenn. 101 people died, another 171 were injured – 1918

New England Telephone “girls” strike for 7-hour workday, $27 weekly pay after four years’ service – 1923

New York City subway system managers in the Bronx attempt to make cleaning crews on the IRT line work faster by forcing the use of a 14-inch squeegee instead of the customary 10-inch tool. Six workers are fired for insubordination; a 2-day walkout by the Transport Workers Union wins reversal of the directive and the workers’ reinstatement – 1935

Fourteen volunteer firefighters and one Forest Service employee die fighting the Rattlesnake wildfire in California’s Mendocino National Forest.  The blaze was set by an arsonist – 1953

United Packinghouse, Food & Allied Workers merge with Amalgamated Meat Cutters & Butcher Workmen – 1968
Today in labor history for the week of July 3, 2017
Five thousand demonstrators rally at the state capitol in Columbia, S.C., in support of the “Charleston Five,” labor activists charged with felony rioting during a police attack on a 2000 longshoremen’s picket of a non-union crew unloading a ship – 2001

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017

June 19
Eight-hour work day adopted for federal employees – 1912

AFL President Sam Gompers and Secretary of War Newton Baker sign an agreement establishing a three-member board of adjustment to control wages, hours and working conditions for construction workers employed on government projects.  The agreement protected union wage and hour standards for the duration of World War I – 1917

A pioneering sit-down strike is conducted by workers at a General Tire Co. factory in Akron, Ohio. The United Rubber Workers union was founded a year later.  The tactic launched a wave of similar efforts in the auto and other industries over the next several years – 1934
(In this expanded edition of Strike! you can read about the General Tire Co. strike as well as other labor-management conflicts that have occurred over the past 140 years.  Here you’ll learn much about workers’ struggle to win a degree of justice, from the workers’ point of view.)

Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017The Women’s Day Massacre in Youngstown, Ohio, when police use tear gas on women and children, including at least one infant in his mother’s arms, during a strike at Republic Steel. One union organizer later recalled, “When I got there I thought the Great War had started over again. Gas was flying all over the place and shots flying and flares going up and it was the first time I had ever seen anything like it in my life…” – 1937

ILWU begins a 4-day general strike in sugar, pineapple, and longshore to protest convictions under the anti-communist Smith Act of seven activists, “the Hawaii Seven.” The convictions were later overturned by a federal appeals court – 1953

June 20
Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017Birth of Albert Parsons, Haymarket martyr – 1848

The American Railway Union, headed by Eugene Debs, is founded in Chicago. In the Pullman strike a year later, the union was defeated by federal injunctions and troops, and Debs was imprisoned for violating the injunctions – 1893

Henry Ford recognizes the United Auto Workers, signs contract for workers at River Rouge plant – 1941

Striking African-American auto workers are attacked by KKK, National Workers League, and armed White workers at Belle Isle amusement park in Detroit. Two days of riots follow, 34 people are killed, more than 1,300 arrested – 1943

Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017(All Labor Has Dignity: Dr. Martin Luther  King was every bit as committed to economic justice as he was to ending racial segregation. He fought throughout his life to connect the labor and civil rights movements, envisioning them as twin pillars for social reform. As we struggle with the growing inequality between the nation’s wealthy and working classes, this collection of King’s speeches on labor rights and economic justice underscore his relevance for today. They help us imagine King anew: as a human rights leader whose commitment to unions and an end to poverty was a crucial part of his civil rights agenda.)

The Taft-Hartley Labor Management Relations Act, curbing strikes, is vetoed by President Harry S. Truman. The veto was overridden three days later by a Republican-controlled Congress – 1947

Oil began traveling through the Alaska pipeline. Seventy thousand people worked on building the pipeline, history’s largest privately-financed construction project – 1977

Evelyn Dubrow, described by the New Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017York Times as organized labor’s most prominent lobbyist at the time of its greatest power, dies at age 95. The Int’l Ladies’ Garment Workers Union lobbyist once told the Times that “she trudged so many miles around Capitol Hill that she wore out 24 pairs of her size 4 shoes each year.” She retired at age 86 – 2006

June 21
In England, a compassionate parliament declares that children can’t be required to work more than 12 hours a day. And they must have an hour’s instruction in the Christian Religion every Sunday and not be required to sleep more than two in a bed – 1802
Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017(Kids at Work: Your heart will be broken by this exceptional book’s photographs of children at backbreaking, often life-threatening work, and the accompanying commentary by author Russell Freedman. Photographer Lewis Hine—who himself died in poverty in 1940—did as much, and perhaps more, than any social critic in the early part of the 20th century to expose the abuse of children, as young as three and four, by American capitalism.)

Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017Ten miners accused of being militant “Molly Maguires” are hanged in Pennsylvania. A private corporation initiated the investigation of the 10 through a private detective agency. A private police force arrested them, and private attorneys for the coal companies prosecuted them. “The state provided only the courtroom and the gallows,” a judge said many years later – 1877

The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the right of unions to publish statements urging members to vote for a specific congressional candidate, ruling that such advocacy is not a violation of the Federal Corrupt Practices Act – 1948

An estimated 100,000 unionists and other supporters march in solidarity with striking Detroit News and Detroit Free Press newspaper workers – 1997

June 22Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017
A total of 86 passengers on a train carrying members of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus are killed, another 127 injured in a wreck near Hammond, Indiana.  Five days later the dead are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Forest Park, Ill., in an area set aside as Showmen’s Rest, purchased only a few months earlier by the Showmen’s League of America – 1918

Violence erupted during a coal mine strike at Herrin, Ill. A total of 36 were killed, 21 of them non-union miners – 1922

June 23
Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017Charles Moyer, president of the Western Federation of Miners, goes to Butte, Mont. in an attempt to mediate a conflict between factions of the miner’s local there. It didn’t go well. Gunfight in the union hall killed one man; Moyer and other union officers left the building, which was then leveled in a dynamite blast – 1914

Congress overrides President Harry Truman’s veto of the anti-worker Taft-Hartley Act. The law weakened unions and let states exempt themselves from union requirements. Twenty states immediately enacted open shop laws and more followed – 1947

OSHA issues standard on cotton dust to protect 600,000 workers from byssinosis, also known as “brown lung” – 1978

A majority of the 5,000 textile workers at six Fieldcrest Cannon textile plants in Kannapolis, N.C., vote for union representation after an historic 25-year fight – 1999

June 24Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017
Birth of Agnes Nestor, president of the Int’l Glove Workers Union and longtime leader of the Chicago Women’s Trade Union League. She began work in a glove factory at age 14 – 1880

Seventeen workers are killed as methane explodes in a water tunnel under construction in Sylmar, Calif. – 1971

June 25
More than 8,000 people attend the dedication ceremony for The Haymarket Martyrs Monument in Chicago, honoring those framed and executed for the bombing at Haymarket Square on May 4, 1886 – 1893

Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017(A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present: If your last serious read of American history was in high school—or even in a standard college course—you’ll want to read this amazing account of America as seen through the eyes of its working people, women and minorities. Zinn, a widely respected Boston University professor, turns history on its head with his carefully researched and dramatic recounting of America and its people—not just its bankers, industrialists, generals and politicians.)

Fair Labor Standards Act passes Congress, banning child labor and setting the 40-hour work week – 1938

At the urging of Black labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph, Franklin Roosevelt issues an executive order barring discrimination in defense industries – 1941

Congress passes the Smith-Connally War Labor Disputes Act over President Franklin Roosevelt’s veto. It allows the federal government to seize and operate industries threatened by strikes that would interfere with war production. It was hurriedly created after the third coal strike in seven weeks – 1943
Today in labor history for the week of June 19, 2017
A total of 21 workers are killed when a fireworks factory near Hallett, Okla., explodes – 1985

Decatur, Ill., police pepper-gas workers at A.E. Staley plant gate one year into the company’s two-and-a-half-year lockout of Paperworkers Local 7837 – 1994

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Leo W Gerard: Trump Offers Fool’s Gold to Fund Infrastructure

Image from USW / Getty

Donald Trump surrounds himself in gold. The signs on Trump buildings shimmer in it. His penthouse in New York is gilded in it.

He claims now to have found the alchemy to conjure $1 trillion in infrastructure gold. He plans to put up a mere $200 billion in federal funds and stir it together with $800 billion in private investment and state dollars.

That is fool’s gold. A falsely-funded infrastructure program is a massive broken promise. America needs real improvements to roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, airports, water systems and railways. That requires a commitment of real tax dollars, not the relinquishment of America’s public assets to profit-seeking private Wall Street entities. Americans should not be charged twice for maintenance of the public good, once through tax breaks to investors and again in outrageous tolls and fees the investors charge.

On Wednesday, standing on the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Trump reiterated the pledge he made repeatedly on the campaign trail to put $1 trillion into infrastructure. He said “restoring America” is a promise that Washington, D.C., has broken. “It has not been kept, but we are going to keep it,” he said.

“Taxpayers deserve the best results for their investment,” he said, “and I will be sure that is what they get.” But the plan to turn over public assets to private corporations for tax-supported investment is gold only for the 1 percent who can afford to invest.

The Wall Street Journal reported last fall that to raise the private funds, Trump planned to give massive tax breaks of 82 percent of equity to investors that help pay for infrastructure repair. For citizens, that’s a crappy deal – giving Wall Street control over public assets in addition to being forced to fork over the taxes that rich investors will not pay.

That financial alchemy creates poison, not gold.

In addition, there is no profit in many types of infrastructure that need repair, like schools and hospitals. A corporation can’t collect tolls from children entering their elementary school each morning.

Despite Trump’s promise in Cincinnati that he would take care of rural areas, there’s no profit in many crucial infrastructure projects in such regions. Investors won’t pay for a highway needed to connect two isolated towns in West Virginia.

And the profit in some projects is highly questionable. Several corporations that have bought or built toll roads have filed for bankruptcy. This includes highways in Texas, California, Indiana and Alabama.

In other cases, the profits reaped are outrageous. After Chicago sold its 36,000 parking meters to Morgan Stanley, the Wall Street bank doubled the parking rates and charged the city tens of millions annually for meters Chicago took out of service for street repairs, mass transit stops and safety. A city inspector general report on the deal says Chicago under-priced the meters by nearly $1 billion when former Mayor Richard M. Daley signed the 75-year contract in 2008. The bank is expected to make back its $1.15 billion investment by 2020, giving it 60 more years to rake in pure profit on the backs of Chicago taxpayers who paid to install the meters and who feed them daily.

That’s gold for Morgan Stanley, grief for taxpayers.

Another part of Trump’s financing plan is to shift infrastructure costs to states and towns. This also cheats too many citizens. Sure, some places high on the hog like Silicon Valley might be able to afford that. But too many will be left out.

That’s because large numbers of cities and states are facing fiscal crises. Chicago sold its parking meters to fill a budget shortfall. In Oklahoma, where there’s a $900 million budget gap, schools are so underfunded that 96 of the state’s 513 districts have reduced the school week to four days and another 44 may be forced to do that in the fall. The state has shuttered rural hospitals, overcrowded its prisons and limited state troopers to 100 miles of driving a day.

In Kansas, with a $1.1 billion budget deficit, the state Supreme Court just ordered the legislature to properly pay for its schools. The court said Kansas’ under-funding meant inadequate education in basic reading and math for students in one fourth of its public schools. The state shortchanged half of the state’s black students and a third of its Hispanic pupils.

Illinois hasn’t had a budget for two years. The state’s credit rating has been downgraded eight times. It has accrued $14.5 billion in unpaid bills. As a result, more than 1,500 public university and community college workers have been laid off and untold numbers of social service agencies have closed or severely curtailed services.

Other states, including Connecticut, Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, face massive pension shortfalls after years of failing to properly pay into the funds.

These places aren’t going to be able to jump up and take on the federal government’s responsibility to invest in infrastructure.

Even the $200 billion that the Trump administration is saying the federal government will provide is in question. It’s in the budget Trump submitted to Congress, but also in that budget is $206 billion in cuts to existing infrastructure programs, including those conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Army Corps of Engineers. That’s the very Corps of Engineers that would pay for the river lock and dam projects that Trump complained Wednesday in Cincinnati were grossly underfunded, causing costly breakdowns.

That kind of budgeting is bad alchemy. That’s not $1 trillion in infrastructure gold.

Trump said Wednesday, “We will build because our people want to build and because we need them to build. We will build because our prosperity demands it. We will build because that is how we make America great again.”

That sounds wonderful. But to build, projects must be properly paid for. And so far, the Trump administration has offered only pyrite.

Leo W Gerard: Workers Want A Green Economy, Not A Black Environment

The BlueGreen Alliance

To justify withdrawing from the Paris climate change accord, President Trump said during his press conference yesterday, “I was elected to represent the city of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

From terrible experience, Pittsburghers know about pollution.

Before Pittsburgh’s renaissance, the streetlights Downtown frequently glowed at noon to illuminate sidewalks through the darkness of smoke and soot belched from mills. White collar office workers changed grimy shirts midday. To the west 130 miles, the polluted Cuyahoga River in Cleveland burned – several times.

Pollution sickened and killed. It triggered asthma and aggravated emphysema. In Donora, just south of Pittsburgh, an air inversion in 1948 trapped smog in the Monongahela River valley.  Poisonous steel mill and zinc plant emissions mixed with fog and formed a yellow earth-bound cloud so dense that driving was impossible. Within days, 20 people were dead. Within a month, another 50 of the town’s 14,000 residents succumbed.

Some viewed pollution as a blessing, a harbinger of jobs. Air that tasted of sulfur signified paychecks. For most, though, pollution was a curse. It meant scrubbing the grime off stoops daily. It meant children wheezing and gasping for air. It meant early death.

The preventable deaths are why my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), has fought against pollution for decades, long before scientists conclusively linked it to global climate change. That connection made combatting pollution even more urgent. It crystalized our obligation to save the planet for posterity. Signing the Paris Climate Accord last year committed the United States to preserving what we all share, the water and the air, for our children and their children. Donald Trump’s withdrawal from that agreement moves the United States, and the world, back in time to rivers so toxic they burn and air so noxious it poisons. Trump’s retreat makes America deadly again.

Don’t get me wrong. The USW supports job creation. But the union believes clean air pays; clear water provides work. Engineers design smokestack scrubbers, skilled mechanics construct them and still other workers install them. Additional workers install insulation and solar panels. Untold thousands labor to make the steel and other parts for wind turbine blades, towers and nacelles, fabricate the structures and erect them. Withdrawing from the Paris Accord diminishes these jobs and dispatches the innovators and manufacturers of clean technologies overseas where countries that continue to participate in the climate change agreement will nurture and grow them.

Eleven years ago, the USW joined with the Sierra Cub to form the BlueGreen Alliance because USW members believe Americans deserve both a clean environment and good jobs. The USW believes Americans must have both. Or, in the end, they will have neither.

The Alliance, which now includes more than a dozen unions and environmental groups, has collaborated with industry leaders to find solutions to climate change in ways that create high -quality jobs.

It’s an easy sell to many corporate leaders. Shortly after the election last fall, hundreds of companies and investors, including the likes of Nike and Starbucks, signed a letter asking Trump to abandon his campaign rhetoric about withdrawing from the Paris Accord.

In April, more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies, including giants Google, BP and Shell, also wrote Trump urging against reneging on nation’s climate commitment. They said that because the agreement requires action by all countries, it reduces the risk of competitive imbalances for U.S. companies that comply with environmental regulations.

More recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Trump that disavowing the accord would injure U.S. business, the economy and the environment. Tesla CEO Elon Musk told Trump that if he turned his back on the accord, Musk would resign from two White House advisory boards.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, also urged Trump to keep the United States’ commitments under the 195-nation pact, rather than joining Syria as an outlier. Syria and Nicaragua are the only non-signatory countries, but Nicaragua declined to sign because its leaders felt the accord was not strong enough.

The streetlights never switch on at noon in Pittsburgh anymore. The Cuyahoga River now supports fish that live only in clean water. Donora’s sole reminder of those dark days in October of 1948 is a Smog Museum.

But the United States remains the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas polluter. It has an obligation to lead the world in combating climate change. Great leaders don’t shirk responsibility.

Leo W Gerard: Trump’s Budget Slashes Opportunity

A few hundred billion cut here, a few hundred billion slashed there, and the Trump budget proposal released this week adds up to real crushed opportunity.

Image From Getty Images

The spending plan slices a pound of flesh from everyone, well, everyone who isn’t a millionaire or billionaire. For the rich, it promises massive tax breaks.

There are cuts to worker safety programs, veterans’ programs, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, vocational training, public education, environmental protection, health research and more. So much more. The list is shockingly long.

Each incision is painful. But what’s worse is the collective result: the annihilation of opportunity. The rich can buy opportunity. The rest cannot. What was always special about America was its guarantee of opportunity to everyone. All who worked hard and pulled themselves up by their  bootstraps could earn their own picket-fenced home. This budget terminates the goal of opportunity for all. It declares that the people of the United States no longer will help provide boots to those who lost jobs because of NAFTA, the residents of economically depressed regions, the children of single mothers, the sufferers of chronic diseases, the victims of natural disasters. No bootstraps for them. Just for the rich who hire servants to pull the straps on their fancy $1,500 Gucci footwear.

The minimum-wage servant class doesn’t have a prayer under this budget. Trump condemns them to a perpetual prison of poverty. His budget denies them, and even their children, the chance to rise. It treats no better the precarious middle class and workers whose jobs are threatened by imports. It even screws veterans.

Achieving the American Dream depends on a good education, and the Trump budget would extinguish that possibility for tens of millions. The breadth and depth of the cuts to public education are gobsmacking. They’ll enable billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to use the money instead to subsidize private school tuition for the Gucci class.

While DeVos helps the already-rich attend pricey private schools, she and Trump would cut $345.9 billion from public education, training, employment and social services. That includes $71.5 billion from public elementary, secondary and vocational education. They’d take $11.4  billion from education for disadvantaged children and $13.9 billion from special-needs children.

They’d withdraw $183.3 billion from higher education including $33 billion from financial assistance. They say to kids who failed to be born to wealthy parents – too bad for you, no low-interest student loans for brilliant poor students and far fewer grants for the talented who could cure cancer if only they could afford college tuition.

Many of these aspiring students can’t turn to their parents for help because they’ve lost jobs as manufacturers like Rexnord and Carrier closed American factories and shipped jobs to Mexico or China. Trump and DeVos would also decimate help for the parents to get back on their feet, eliminating $25.2 billion for training and employment.

If the parents’ unemployment insurance runs out as they search for new jobs and their cars are repossessed, mass transit may not be an option for commuting to new positions. Trump would cut it by $41.6 billion.

If a furloughed worker in North Dakota or Minnesota or Pennsylvania can’t afford to pay the heating bill, Trump’s government would no longer help. He would eliminate entirely the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, ending aid that can mean the difference between life and freezing to death for 6 million vulnerable Americans.

If laid-off workers ultimately also lose their homes to foreclosure, Trump is unsympathetic. He’d cut $77.2 billion from housing assistance. His advice: take your bootless feet and live in the street.

And don’t expect any government cheese once there. Trump would carve $193.6 billion out of food stamps. He doesn’t even spare infants, with an $11.1 billion smack to the program that feeds pregnant women and their babies. School kids can’t expect food either. Trump and DeVos say too bad for them if they can’t hear their teachers over their growling stomachs. Trump takes nearly 21 percent away from the Agriculture Department, which subsidizes school lunches for low-income kids.

Trump also stiffs families that lose their health insurance because they can’t afford COBRA premiums after a job loss or can’t find new employment before their COBRA eligibility expires. Trump slashes $627 billion from Medicaid, and that’s on top of draconian cuts in his so-called health plan that would cost 14 million Americans their insurance coverage next year and 23 million over 10 years. Trump says: no health care for the down and out.

For the residents of West Virginia glens with closed coal mines, and the citizens of shuttered mill towns in Western Pennsylvania and the in habitants of Michigan municipalities struck down by offshored auto manufacturing jobs, Trump would purge $41.3 billion from the community development program that provides both jobs and otherwise unaffordable crucial municipal improvements.

The unemployed or under-employed who hoped for jobs in Trump’s promised $1 trillion infrastructure program receive no reprieve in this proposed spending plan. It removes $97.2 billion from airports, $123.4 billion from ground transportation and $16.3 billion from water transportation projects.

Trump is mulling sending thousands of new troops to Afghanistan, and for some young people with few options, that service is attractive because it comes with good medical and education benefits. But the Trump budget diminishes that chance at success as well, ripping $154.1 billion from veterans’ services including $94.4 billion from hospital and medical care and $511 million from veterans’ education and training.

For young people who thought the AmeriCorps program might be an employment substitute for the military, no luck. Trump’s spending plan abolishes that service program.

Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget redefines America.  No longer the land of opportunity, it would be a place of welfare for the rich in the form of million-dollar tax breaks and subsidies for exclusive private schools. For the rest, hope would be extinguished. For them, Trump’s budget would convert America the beautiful into America the hellish hole.

Today in labor history for the week of May 29, 2017

May 29
Animators working for Walt Disney begin what was to become a successful 5-week strike for recognition of their union, the Screen Cartoonists’ Guild. The animated feature Dumbo was being created at the time and, according to Wikipedia, a number of strikers are caricatured in the feature as clowns who go to “hit the big 

May 30
The Ford Motor Company signs a “Technical Assistance” contract to produce cars in the Soviet Union, and Ford workers were sent to the Soviet Union to train the labor force in the use of its parts. Many American workers who made the trip, including Walter Reuther, a tool and die maker who later was to become the UAW’s president,  returned home with a different view of the duties and privileges of the industrial laborer – 1929

Today in labor history for the week of May 29, 2017(Bye, America: The transfer of work to other countries has escalated since Reuther’s day. In this book, young readers learn that their contemporary, Brady, is proud of his dad and wants to be just like him, working at the factory and making useful things. But that dream dies when his dad goes to work one day and is told that the factory is closing and the work is being sent to China.)

In what became known as the Memorial Day Massacre, police open fire on striking steelworkers at Republic Steel in South Chicago, killing ten and wounding more than 160 – 1937
Today in labor history for the week of May 29, 2017
The Ground Zero cleanup at the site of the World Trade Center is completed three months ahead of schedule due to the heroic efforts of more than 3,000 building tradesmen and women who had worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week for the previous eight months – 2002

May 31
The Johnstown Flood.  More than 2,200 die when a dam holding back a private resort lake burst upstream of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  The resort was owned by wealthy industrialists including Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick.  Neither they nor any other members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club were found guilty of fault, despite the fact the group had created the lake out of an abandoned reservoir – 1889

Some 25,000 white autoworkers walk off the job at a Detroit Packard Motor Car Co. plant, heavily involved in wartime production, when three black workers are promoted to work on a previously all-white assembly line.  The black workers were relocated and the whites returned – 1943

Today in labor history for the week of May 29, 2017Rose Will Monroe, popularly known as Rosie the Riveter, dies in Clarksville, Ind.  During WWII she helped bring women into the labor force – 1997

June 01
The Ladies Federal Labor Union Number 2703, based in Illinois, was granted a charter from the American Federation of Labor. Women from a wide range of occupations were among the members, who ultimately were successful in coalescing women’s groups interested in suffrage, temperance, health, housing and child labor reform to win state legislation in these areas – 1888

Union Carpenters win a 25¢-per-day raise, bringing wages for a 9-hour day to $2.50 – 1898

Congress passes the Erdman Act, providing for voluntary mediation or arbitration of railroad disputes and prohibiting contracts that discriminate against union labor or release employers from legal liability for on-the-job injuries – 1898

Nearly 3,500 immigrant miners begin Clifton-Morenci, Ariz., copper strike – 1903

Some 12,500 longshoremen strike the Pacific coast, from San Diego to Bellingham, Wash. Demands included a closed shop and a wage increase to 55¢ an hour for handling general cargo – 1916

As many as 60,000 railroad shopmen strike to protest cuts in wages – 1922Today in labor history for the week of May 29, 2017

Extinguishing the light of hope in the hearts and aspirations of workers around the world, the Mexican government abolishes siestas—a mid-afternoon nap and work break which lengthened the work day but got people through brutally hot summer days – 1944

Farm workers under the banner of the new United Farm Workers Organizing Committee strike at Texas’s La Casita Farms, demand $1.25 as a minimum hourly wage – 1966

Dakota Beef meatpackers win 7-hour sit-down strike over speed-ups, St. Paul, Minn. – 2000

General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The filing made the automaker the largest U.S. industrial company to enter bankruptcy protection. It went on to recover thanks to massive help from the UAW and the federal government – 2009

June 02
Twenty-six journeymen printers in Philadelphia stage the trade’s first strike in America over wages: a cut in their $6 weekly pay – 1786.

Today in labor history for the week of May 29, 2017A constitutional amendment declaring that “Congress shall have power to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under eighteen years of age” was approved by the Senate today, following the lead of the House five weeks earlier. But only 28 state legislatures ever ratified the amendment—the last three in 1937—so it has never taken effect – 1924

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that President Harry Truman acted illegally when he ordered the Army to seize the nation’s steel mills to avert a strike – 1952

Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and Textile Workers Union of America merge to form Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union – 1976

June 03
Int’l Ladies Garment Workers Union founded – 1900

A federal child labor law, enacted two years earlier, was declared unconstitutional – 1918Today in labor history for the week of May 29, 2017
(The Essential Guide To Federal Employment Laws, 4th edition: Find out what federal laws are on the books in this well-indexed book, updated in 2013, which offers 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.)

More than 1,000 Canadian men, working at “Royal Twenty Centers” established by the Canadian government to provide work for single, unemployed homeless males during the Great Depression, begin an “On to Ottawa Trek” to protest conditions at the camps. They were being paid 20 cents a day plus food and shelter to build roads, plant trees and construct public buildings – 1935

June 04
Massachusetts becomes the first state to establish a minimum wage – 1912

The House of Representatives approves the Taft-Hartley Act. The legislation allows the president of the United States to intervene in labor disputes. President Truman vetoed the law but was overridden by Congress – 1947

Today in labor history for the week of May 29, 2017The AFL-CIO opens its new headquarters building, in view of the White House – 1956

Gov. Jerry Brown signs the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, the first law in the U.S. giving farmworkers collective bargaining rights. The legislation came after years of effort by the United Farm Workers union – 1975

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

A 21st Century New Deal For Jobs: A Progressive Plan To Rebuild America And Put People To Work

With Failing Roads and Water Systems Across The Country:
Democrats Kick Off Massive Infrastructure Investment
and Jobs Campaign in Congress

Via KIRO-TV

One of the greatest problems plaguing the United States right now is our crumbling infrastructure. Throughout the U.S. roads and bridges are literally falling to pieces. During the 2016 election nearly every candidate talked about fixing our growing infrastructure problem.

Since Trump’s election people have been waiting to see what his jobs plan would look like and what he is going to do to fix our growing infrastructure problem.

Last week, Trump unveiled his budget that did increase spending on some infrastructure projects but ultimately it fails to uphold his campaign promises or the needs of the nation.

Trump’s proposal would result in a net negative in direct infrastructure investment. The Washington Post reports, “Despite his much-touted plans to spur significant increases in infrastructure investment, President Trump’s budget would actually cut more federal spending on such programs than it would add, according to an analysis by Senate Democrats.”

Last Monday, Politico reported a Fox News interview in which Department of Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao said, Trump’s plan will center on “some kind of public-private partnerships” and “maybe some sale of government assets as well.” This is basically privatization of our roads and bridges to private corporations that will most likely lead to tolls or fee for use.

According to Bloomberg News, the Trump plan will likely include selling $40 billion of American infrastructure to Saudi Arabia.

Those in the Congressional Progressive Caucus have rejected Trumps proposal and submitted their own “21st Century New Deal for Jobs.” The proposal is a massive infrastructure plan that they estimate will put more than 2.5 million people to work.

“Drawing on the legacy of President Franklin Roosevelt’s bold vision and adapting it to a modern context, our 21st Century New Deal for Jobs makes Wall Street, big corporations, and the wealthiest pay their fair share in order to put America back to work. It invests $2 trillion over 10 years, employing 2.5 million Americans in its first year, to rebuild our transportation, water, energy, and information systems, while massively overhauling our country’s unsafe and inefficient schools, homes, and public buildings.”

“Democrats can lead the way in creating millions of new jobs by using true public investment to rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges, and outdated water systems. But any plan we pursue must adhere to a set of fundamental principles of social, racial, and environmental justice so our infrastructure planning workforce reflects the needs of our diverse communities,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ-3), Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair. “Any good plan, such as the 21st Century New Deal for Jobs, must provide significant investments to create jobs by addressing the current needs of our country –such as modernizing our outdated schools and replacing our lead-ridden pipelines that have destroyed the public health of children in Flint. Overall, it must commit public money for the public good.”

“Rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure is about so much more than construction projects,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5) who co-chaired the Congressional Progressive Caucus in years past. “It’s about replacing the pipes in Flint that poisoned an entire community, making our roads and bridges safer, and rebuilding crumbling schools. As Democrats, we believe we must improve the lives of millions of hardworking families, putting millions of Americans to work at good jobs, and make our tax system fairer by making the wealthiest pay their fair share. The Republican infrastructure plan is nothing more than another tax break for millionaires and billionaires.”

“Our country is in dire need of a bold vision to repair our crumbling roads and bridges, clean our air and water, restore our children’s unsafe school buildings, and connect our communities to each other with high-speed rail and internet,” said Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-2), Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair. “While President Trump and the Republicans are busy concocting a trillion-dollar Wall Street giveaway under the guise of infrastructure, Democrats believe big corporations should pay their fair share to support dignified employment and build a more sustainable and vibrant economy for everyone.”

The 21st Century New Deal for Jobs currently has over 20 co-sponsors including Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) both from my home state of New Hampshire.

“Smart meaningful investments in our infrastructure are absolutely critical to creating jobs and increasing our economic competitiveness in the 21st Century. We can’t allow our economy to fall behind our global competitors due to inaction,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “Improving our aging infrastructure will create jobs, expand our economy, improve public safety, and ensure that our businesses and industries are able to thrive. It’s common sense. I’m proud to support this resolution with a set of principles for job creation and infrastructure investment that will help move our country forward.”

“Too much of our infrastructure is in fair or critical condition, even though there are hard-working people across New Hampshire and our nation ready to do the job,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “It’s time for Congress to work together on a comprehensive infrastructure plan that follows these basic principles to address our urgent needs, invest in our future, and create good jobs.”

Local Granite Staters have already come out in support of the 21st Century New Deal for Jobs plan.

“We have to invest in water infrastructure to provide clean, safe water to our residents,” said NH State Representative Mindi Messmer (District NH-01), “Federal money could support much needed upgrades to aging water supplies and provide support needed to ensure that residents have clean, safe drinking water. The 5-town seacoast area has two pediatric cancer clusters and higher than expected rates of pediatric brain cancer. Children are dying and getting sick. We have to make sure their water is safe!”

“Let’s fund local projects first. Taxation in New Hampshire means that there is little support for local road and bridge repair, much less addressing other infrastructure needs,” said Mary A., a Sanbornton, NH resident and Progressive Change Campaign Committee member.

Unions representing millions of American workers also endorsed the progressive framework, and proposal. Labor endorsers include North America’s Building Trades Unions; Transportation Trades Department of AFL–CIO; Teamsters; United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting and Sprinkler Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; American Federation of Teachers; National Educators Association; Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers; International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers; and Amalgamated Transit Union.

“We applaud the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ commitment to our nation’s transportation manufacturing sector by calling for strengthened and more defined Buy America rules. Expanding American job creation by maximizing public purchasing power must be included in any infrastructure plan,” said Edward Wytkind, President of the Transportation Trades Department AFLCIO. “We look forward to working with our advocacy partners to pass a large-scale infrastructure investment package that finally ends an era of neglect that has harmed our economy and idled millions of good jobs.”

“The question is, will we have a 21st century infrastructure plan that will create millions of jobs and strengthen the backbone of our communities or will we privatize everything for corporate profit and further the decline of this country,” said Rafael Navar, Communication Workers of America national political director.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus resolution, announced Thursday, clearly differentiates Democrats from Trump. It lays out 10 principles that must be true of any jobs plan:

  1. Invest in creating millions of new jobs.
  2. Prioritize public investment over corporate giveaways and selling off public goods.
  3. Ensure that direct public investment provides the overwhelming majority of the funds for infrastructure improvement.
  4. Prioritize racial and gender equity, environmental justice, and worker protections.
  5. Embrace 21st century clean-energy jobs.
  6. Protect wages, expand Buy American provisions, encourage project labor agreements, and prioritize the needs of disadvantaged communities — both urban and rural.
  7. Ensure the wealthiest Americans and giant corporations who reap the greatest economic benefit from public goods pay their fair share for key investments.
  8. It must not be paid for at the expense of Social Security and other vital programs.
  9. It must not weaken or repeal existing rules and laws protecting our environment, worker safety, wages, or equity hiring practices.
  10. Prioritize resilient infrastructure that can withstand natural disasters and cyber or physical attacks.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus and Millions Of Jobs Coalition will urge all Democrats in the House of Representatives to co-sponsor the resolution and draw a sharp contrast with Trump.

“This bold plan can be summed up in three words: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” said Stephanie Taylor, Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder. Democrats have a plan to put millions of Americans to work rebuilding bridges, roads, and schools in local communities — and to create 21st Century jobs in fields like clean energy. It’s ridiculous that Trump wants to sell off our public roads to Wall Street investors and foreign corporations who would put up tolls and keep the money for themselves. The difference between the progressive Democratic vision of job creation and Trump’s vision of jobless corporate giveaways is night and day, and the Millions of Jobs Coalition will ensure voters see this contrast.”

“From his steaks to his university, Trump believes he can stamp his name on junk and call it gold. His so-called infrastructure plan will be nothing more than a massive giveaway to Wall Street, and he’ll stick our children with the bill for generations to come,” said Dan Cantor, Working Families Party national director. “Progressives have a plan to create millions of jobs, build a 21st century economy, and pay for it by taxing the big banks that still never paid the bill for crashing the economy almost a decade ago.”

“The water shutoffs in Detroit and Baltimore and poisoned water in Flint, East Chicago and other communities should serve as a wakeup call: Our nation is facing a water crisis, and nothing short of a massive, direct federal investment in publicly-controlled water systems will save it. Abdicating control of our water services to corporations is not the answer,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Instead, we need the federal government to renew its commitment to funding community water and sewer systems. Repairing and updating our nation’s water infrastructure will create nearly a million jobs while ensuring that water service is safe and affordable for everyone in the country.”

If your Representative has not already signed on to support the 21st Century New Deal for Jobs plan, contact them today. Rebuilding our nations roads, bridges, and waterways is the right way to spend American taxpayer money and create jobs for millions of Americans at the same time.

Flight Attendants’s Union Stands Up For Passengers And Workers Against Wall Street’s Greed

Flight Attendants’ Union Launches Multimedia Campaign with Message that Wall Street’s Shortsighted Approach Will Hurt Airlines and Passengers in the Long-Term

American Airlines Airplane (Tomás Del Coro FLIKR)

EULESS, TEXAS (May 12, 2017) — The Association of Professional Flight Attendants announced today a multimedia campaign in Texas newspapers, aviation trade journals and social media to counter statements from Wall Street analysts critical of additional compensation for flight attendants at American Airlines.

“It seems Wall Street is putting pressure on the airline industry to squeeze out more revenue, but they could care less about passengers or frontline workers, ” said Bob Ross, National President of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. “Analysts are claiming that a long overdue adjustment in our pay scale will reward workers ahead of shareholders. We’re going to set the record straight.” Ross tells workers’ side of the story in a commentary in an issue of Aviation Daily earlier this week. The union also is running advertisements in newspapers and on social media.

Following the recent announcement of pay raises for workers at American, CitiGroup research analyst Kevin Crissey was widely quoted as saying: “This is frustrating. Labor is being paid first again. Shareholders get leftovers.”

The real story, said Ross, is that shareholders received $9 billion in stock buybacks between 2014 and 2016 – plus $600 million in dividends over the past three years. That’s nearly 10 times what pilots and flight attendants will receive over the next three years.

In addition, between 2003 and 2012, flight attendants at American and the former U.S. Airways contributed more than $6 billion in concessions to help the airlines keep their planes in the air. Recent pay adjustments for flight attendants at American (which merged with US Airways in 2013) will bring workers at American into parity with their counterparts at Delta and United. Even with the wage adjustment, APFA members will still be earning less, after inflation, than they did prior to 2003.

As Ross explains in his commentary in Aviation Daily:

It wasn’t flight attendants… who made decisions to shrink space available for passenger seating, routinely overbook planes, and add fees for checked baggage and other services. But we are the ones who have to deal with passengers who are angry and frustrated over challenging travel conditions.

…Underpaying key frontline employees leads to high turnover and low morale, which is not a recipe for quality service. Treating workers fairly is a better long-term strategy.”

 


The Association of Professional Flight Attendants is the largest independent flight attendant union in the nation, representing nearly 26,000 flight attendants at American Airlines.

 

AFGE And TTD Push For Passage Of Transportation Security Officers Act

AFGE members of the Local 556 Orlando (2010). Image by AFGE FLIKR

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees and the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) both announced their support of a bill granting Title 5 rights to TSA Officers from Representatives Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Nita Lowey of New York.Introduced last year as The Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act, this year’s bill finally grants transportation security officers (TSOs) the same workplace rights as all federal employees, including their colleagues in the Department of Homeland Security.

“Implementing basic worker protections for those charged with protecting our skies is a necessary step to increase security and improve workforce morale. TSA’s current personnel system has not served the agency well and lacks the means to attract and retain a strong workforce,” said Rep. Thompson. “This legislation we introduced today will ensure TSA’s personnel and labor management systems are brought in line with the rest of the federal government under Title 5.  I hope my colleagues will agree that these frontline security workers should receive the rights and benefits they earned.”

“More than 42,000 Transportation Security Officers who serve on the front lines of aviation security at airports across the United States are denied worker rights and protections, including full collective bargaining, the right to a fair grievance and arbitration system, and statutory civil rights protections. Transportation Security Officers should be treated like their fellow employees across the Federal government. Our bill would grant TSO these rights, enhancing America’s security by retaining experienced and dedicated officers with improved workforce morale. To truly provide comprehensive transportation security, we must take care of those who take care of us,” said Rep. Lowey.

The new legislation would put TSOs on the General Schedule pay scale and provide them with much needed statutory worker protections like the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Being recognized as equal counterparts to their fellow federal employees would greatly improve workplace conditions and boost morale – which fell to an all-time low last year – at the agency.

“Thank you to Representatives Thompson and Lowey for once again recognizing how important it is to offer fair treatment to the men and women who risk their lives guarding our airports every day,” said AFGE TSA Council President Hydrick Thomas. “Last year our TSA Officers stopped a record number of firearms, dealt with a massive influx in passenger volume while being understaffed, and once again kept our flying public safe – all while being treated like second class citizens in their workplace. Being offered fair pay, workplace protections, the right to appeal adverse decisions to a third party, and full collective bargaining rights are long overdue and will help boost morale for the working people who safeguard our skies,” he added.

“Last year our TSA Officers were faced with a nearly insurmountable task, but they rose to the occasion and got the American traveling public to where they needed to be,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. Adding, “We are thrilled that Representatives Thompson and Lowey have once again introduced legislation that will finally offer our officers the same rights and protections as the rest of the federal workforce. TSA Officers have safeguarded our airports for 16 years, and have done an admirable job. Equal treatment by the federal government is desperately needed and very appreciated by the men and women who make sure you can fly without fear.”

“We applaud Reps. Bennie Thompson, Nita Lowey and Bonnie Watson Coleman for introducing legislation that gives our nation’s hardworking Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) the workplace rights and protections they deserve,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD).

“Every day, our nation’s 45,000 TSOs play a critical role in keeping our nation’s transportation system safe from security threats. Yet, because of a loophole in federal law, these men and women lack the basic protections afforded to other federal employees. The legislation introduced today will right these wrongs and bring much-needed reforms to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that will boost employee morale and retention rates and improve the agency’s ability to protect us from security threats.

“As Congress debates reauthorization of the TSA, lawmakers must standup for our nation’s transportation security officers who play an indispensable role in keeping our country safe,” Wytkind concluded.

AFGE and TTD both urge Congress to pass the Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act to recognize the daily sacrifices TSA Officers make to protect the flying public.

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