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AFSC-NH’s Testimony Against SB 11, “Right To Work”

Statement on SB 11, prohibiting collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union

January 10, 2017 

I am Arnie Alpert, Co-Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s New Hampshire Program. I am also a member of UNITE-HERE Local 66L and the UNITE-HERE New England Joint Board. I am pleased to be able to appear before you today both as a union member and as a representative of my employer to urge your rejection of the so-called “right to work” bill.

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that turns 100 years old this year. Throughout almost our entire history, going back to 1922 when we provided humanitarian assistance to unemployed coal miners in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, we have assisted working people who have sought to better their lives and working conditions. In 1936, a year after President Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act, the AFSC Social-Industrial Section drafted a statement “on the attitude that the AFSC should take towards organized labor.” The statement noted, in part:

Collective bargaining by groups of workers with employers is therefore desirable in order that workers may meet management on something like equal terms when they bargain for rates of pay, conditions of work, and security of employment.

Since then, from the textile mills of North Carolina to the orange groves of Florida to the grape fields of California, to the maquiladora factories along the Mexican border, and in countless kitchens and construction sites, the AFSC has stood with people who have sought employment, living wages, and dignity on the job.

The ability of working people to attain a decent standard of living is threatened in our country and in our state. According to the NH Housing Finance Authority, the statewide median rent of a two-bedroom apartment in New Hampshire was $1206 in 2016. That means it takes an income of more than $48,000 a year to afford a typical apartment. That’s more than three times what a worker makes at the current minimum wage.

If the purpose of SB 11 was to provide jobs at decent wages so that working people could afford decent housing, we would be enthusiastic about it. But what is called “right to work” is not about ensuring that all people have the right to a decent job. To the contrary, it is about undermining the ability of working people to organize among themselves and bargain collectively with their employers.

By making it more difficult for workers to organize, “right to work” would force down the wage levels of all working people in New Hampshire. The ability to afford health care would be threatened. The ability to pay taxes to support schools would be diminished. The state’s housing crisis would intensify. More people would seek public assistance.

Over the years, in this country and around the world, the American Friends Service Committee has observed that strong unions help their members better their wages and working conditions, but also can be powerful advocates for human rights and a better standard of living for everyone.

If you are interested in reducing poverty and giving more people access to decent jobs, you should recommend this bill inexpedient to legislate.

Hudson Federation Of Teachers President’s Testimony Opposing SB 11 “Right To Work”

Honorable Daniel Innis, Chairman
Senate Commerce Committee
107 North Main Street
Concord NH 03301 

Re: Written Testimony In Opposition to Senate Bill 11

Dear Honorable Chairman Innis and Members of the Committee,

Due to work obligations, I am unable to attend the hearing on Senate Bill 11. However, I would like my letter entered into the record.

I have been an educator in New Hampshire for over fifteen years. Today’s educators face many challenges, as the expectations placed on teachers have increased to issues beyond the classroom over the past decade. We no longer just need to be concerned with curriculum and assessment; we now need to often act as surrogate parents. Without the protection of a union, teachers could be exposed to unrealistic expectations as districts struggle to solve cultural problems through the classroom.

Unions help towns be competitive when they are seeking qualified applicants. Unions provide employees with fair wages and benefits, which can’t be changed through the whim of temporary board members. Unions allow employees to have a voice, without the fear of repercussions, which creates an environment where the best solutions can be sought to create the best outcomes for students.

As president of the Hudson Federation of Teachers, we have over 98% of our members choosing to join the union. They understand what being a union member provides for them. No member is forced to join, but our members appreciate having supplemental insurance, members who negotiate contracts for them, and members who will represent them should they request it. Unions make working situations better for everyone.

With all the challenges facing New Hampshire, such as the opioid crisis, it seems that there are other issues that requires the time and energy of our legislators rather than fix something that is not broken.

I ask that you vote Inexpedient to Legislate on Senate Bill 11 so we can move forward with a positive agenda for NH. If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Lavoie

President, Hudson Federation of Teachers Local 2263

Newfound Teachers Union President: “Right To Work” Will Not Improve The NH Economy

Newfound Teachers Union President’s Testimony Against
So-Called “Right To Work” Legislation

Honorable Daniel Innis, Chairman
Senate Commerce Committee
107 North Main Street
Concord NH 03301 

Re: Testimony In Opposition to Senate Bill 11

Dear Honorable Chairman Innis and Members of the Committee,

My name is Deirdre Conway. I am a second-grade teacher in the Newfound Area School District where I have taught for over 25 years. I am the president of our local teachers’ union, where we do not have agency fee, and believe local control is of utmost importance. I am a proud negotiator for all the teachers in Newfound and I also work for each and every one of them, member or not.

I am writing to urge you to vote against Senate Bill 11, the so-called “Right To Work” legislation.

I would ask you to determine the reasons you are in favor of it, and then consider these facts:

Granite State business experts agree that the “Right To Work” legislation does not address the factors employers say are most important. Under current laws (both state and local), no worker can be forced to join a union or pay union dues, so why do you feel the need for this legislation? “Right To Work” in other states has NOT increased jobs or improved their state’s economy.   Do you have reason to believe NH will be different? From what I have read, there is no compelling reason to believe so.

I would urge you to vote no on this and concentrate your efforts on issues that affect all of New Hampshire’s citizens and taxpayers.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Deirdre B. Conway

President, Newfound Teachers’ Union, AFT#6557

Right To Work Is Still Wrong For New Hampshire Working Families

The working people of New Hampshire are once again under attack from the greedy corporate special interests that want to line their pockets by taking more money from the hard working Granite Staters.

The New Hampshire legislature is once again considering the so-called Right To Work law that has been proven to lower wages, increased healthcare costs, increase poverty rates and reduce workers access to a retirement plan.

The corporate special interests, who have been pushing this harmful and confusing legislation in New Hampshire for the last forty years, only care about one thing: how much more money can they take from you.

Research from the Economic Policy Institute shows that workers in Right to Work states, make on average $5,000 less per year. Lower wages means more profits in the hands of greedy CEOs and less money in the hands of hard working Granite Staters struggling to pay their bills.

The corporate lobbyists will tell you that ‘everyone should have the right to work,’ but the so-called Right to Work law has nothing to do with getting a job. Passing Right to Work will not magically make new companies appear out of thin air.

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin echoed these claims as he forced a Right to Work law through the Wisconsin Legislature. He promised that by passing Right to Work, Wisconsin would create tens of thousands of new jobs.

However, after passing Right to Work in March of 2015, Wisconsin ended up loosing more than 10,000 jobs by the end of the year. This is vastly different than Wisconsin’s neighboring state of Minnesota whose pro-worker progressives agenda, created more than 12,000 jobs in the last quarter of 2015 and was ranked the “Top State for Business in 2015.”

The corporate lobbyists will try to tell you that Right to Work laws are about “freedom from greedy union bosses.”

Are they talking about those same “greedy unions” who helped usher in workplace safety regulations, vacation time, retirement benefits, and the weekend itself? If the corporations had their way, our manufacturing facilities would be filled with twelve year olds, working fourteen hours a day, six days a week for pennies a day.

These special interests will also try to tell you that by passing Right to Work it will give workers the freedom to choose if they want to join a union or not. What they neglect to tell you is that it is already illegal to force someone to join a union. What Right to Work does do is allow people to freeload off the union’s contracts.

The only freedom gained from pushing a Right to Work law in New Hampshire is the corporation’s freedom to pay workers less and take away your rights as workers.

Why are these corporate special interests so determined to pass this unnecessary legislation? New Hampshire already has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Conversely seven of the top ten states in unemployment are Right to Work states.

What exactly will we gain by passing this irrelevant legislation? It does nothing to help workers or struggling middle class families.

Right to Work laws are a thinly veiled affront on the hard working middle class by big business and corporate special interests. That’s why the National Right To Work Committee spends more than $11 million dollars a year lobbying to push this confusing, contentious legislation in state house’s all across the country.

Right to Work is bad for working people and wrong for New Hampshire.

Today in labor history for the week of January 9, 2017

January 09
A Mediation Commission appointed by President Woodrow Wilson finds that “industry’s failure to deal with unions” is the prime reason for labor strife in war industries – 1918

Eighty thousand Chicago construction workers strike – 1922

Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union leads Missouri Highway sit-down of 1,700 families. They had been evicted from their homes so landowners wouldn’t have to share government crop subsidy payments with them – 1939

Former Hawaii Territorial Gov. Ingram Steinbeck opposes statehood for Hawaii, saying left wing unions have an “economic stranglehold” on the islands. Hawaii was to be granted statehood five years later – 1954

The administration of George W. Bush declares federal airport security screeners will not be allowed to unionize so as not to “complicate” the war on terrorism. The decision was challenged and eventually overturned after Bush left office – 2003

January 10
In what is described as the worst industrial disaster in state history, the Pemberton Mill in Lawrence, Mass., collapses, trapping 900 workers, mostly Irish women. More than 100 die, scores more injured in the collapse and ensuing fire. Too much machinery had been crammed into the building – 1860

Wobbly organizer and singer Joe Hill allegedly kills two men during a grocery store hold-up in Utah. Today in labor history for the week of January 9, 2017He ultimately is executed by firing squad (His last word was “Fire!”) for the crime despite much speculation that he was framed – 1914

Former AFL-CIO President George Meany dies at age 85. The one-time plumber led the labor federation from the time of the AFL and CIO merger in 1955 until shortly before his death – 1980

The Supreme Court lets stand implementation of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) despite the lack of an Environmental Impact Statement – 2004

Today in labor history for the week of January 9, 2017January 11
The IWW-organized “Bread & Roses” textile strike of 32,000 women and children begins in Lawrence, Mass. It lasted 10 weeks and ended in victory. The first millworkers to walk out were Polish women, who, upon collecting their pay, exclaimed that they had been cheated and promptly abandoned their looms – 1912

(Notice in the Minneapolis Labor Review) “Minneapolis Ice Wagon Drivers’ Union will hold an exceptionally interesting meeting Sunday, at 16 South 5th St.  A Jazz Band, dancing, boxing and good speaking are among the attractions.” – 1918

Nearly two weeks into a sit-down strike at GM’s Fisher Body Plant No. 2 in Flint, Mich., workers battle Today in labor history for the week of January 9, 2017police when they try to prevent the strikers from receiving food deliveries from thousands of supporters on the outside.  Sixteen strikers and spectators and 11 police were injured.  Most of the strikers were hit by buckshot fired by police riot guns; the police were injured principally by thrown nuts, bolts, door hinges and other auto parts. The incident became known as the “Battle of the Running Bulls” – 1936

National Hockey League owners end a player lockout that had gone for three months and ten days.  A key issue was owner insistence on a salary cap, which they won – 1995

Ford Motor Co. announces it will eliminate 35,000 jobs while discontinuing four models and closing five plants – 2002

Today in labor history for the week of January 9, 2017January 12
Novelist Jack London is born. His classic definition of a scab—someone who would cross a picket line and take a striker’s job: “After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, the vampire, He had some awful substance left with which He made a scab. A scab is a two-legged animal with a cork-screw soul, a water-logged brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles” – 1876

Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson orders police to raid an open-air mass meeting of shipyard workers in an attempt to prevent a general strike. Workers were brutally beaten. The strike began the following month, with 60,000 workers walking out in solidarity with some 25,000 metal tradesmen – 1919

President Roosevelt creates the National War Labor Board to mediate labor disputes during World War II. Despite the fact that 12 million of the nation’s workers were women—to rise to 18 million by war’s end—the panel consisted entirely of men – 1942

January 13
The original Tompkins Square Riot. As unemployed workers demonstrated in New York’s Tompkins Today in labor history for the week of January 9, 2017Square Park, a detachment of mounted police charged into the crowd, beating men, women and children with billy clubs. Declared Abram Duryee, the Commissioner of Police: “It was the most glorious sight I ever saw…” – 1874

Latino citrus workers strike in Covina, Calif. – 1919

(Exact date uncertain) As the nation debates a constitutional amendment to rein in the widespread practice of brutally overworking children in factories and fields, U.S. District Judge G.W. McClintic expresses concern, instead, about child idleness – 1924

January 14
Clinton-era OSHA issues confined spaces standard to prevent more than 50 deaths and 5,000 serious injuries annually for workers who enter confined spaces – 1993

Pennsylvania Superior Court rules bosses can fire workers for being gay – 1995

Today in labor history for the week of January 9, 2017Some 14,000 General Electric employees strike for two days to protest the company’s mid-contract decision to shift an average of $400 in additional health care co-payments onto each worker – 2003

A 15-month lockout by the Minnesota Orchestra against members of the Twin Cities Musicians’ Union, Local 30-73 ends when the musicians agree to a 15 percent pay cut (management wanted up to 40 percent) and increased health care cost sharing. They did win a revenue-sharing deal based on performance of the Orchestra’s endowments. It was the nation’s longest-running contract dispute for a concert orchestra – 2014

January 15
Wobbly Ralph Chaplin, in Chicago for a demonstration against hunger, completes the writing of the labor Today in labor history for the week of January 9, 2017anthem “Solidarity Forever” on this date in 1915. He’d begun writing it in 1914 during a miners’ strike in Huntington, W. Va. The first verse:
When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong! – 1915

Seventeen workers in the area die when a large molasses storage tank in Boston’s North End neighborhood bursts, sending a 40-foot wave of molasses surging through the streets at an estimated 35 miles per hour.  In all, 21 people died and 150 were injured.  The incident is variously known as the Boston Molasses Disaster, the Great Molasses Flood and the Great Boston Molasses Tragedy.  Some residents claim that on hot summer days, the area still smells of molasses – 1919

Martin Luther King Jr. born – 1929

Today in labor history for the week of January 9, 2017(All Labor Has Dignity: Dr. 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. 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 CIO miners’ union in the Grass Valley area of California strikes for higher wages, union recognition, and the 8-hour day. The strike was defeated when vigilantes and law enforcement officials expelled 400 miners and their families from the area – 1938
Today in labor history for the week of January 9, 2017
The Pentagon, to this day the largest office building in the world, is dedicated just 16 months after groundbreaking. At times of peak employment 13,000 workers labored on the project – 1943

Some 174,000 members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers union (UE) struck General Electric and Westinghouse after the power companies, with record-setting profits, offered just a half-cent per hour increase. After nine weeks, the strike was settled with an 18.5 cents hourly wage improvement – 1946

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Today in labor history for the week of December 19, 2016

December 19
An explosion in the Darr Mine in Westmoreland Co., Pa., kills 239 coal miners. Seventy-one of the dead share a common grave in Olive Branch Cemetery. December 1907 was the worst month in U.S. coal mining history, with more than 3,000 dead – 1907

A 47-day strike at Greyhound Bus Lines ends with members of the Amalgamated Transit Union accepting a new contract containing deep cuts in wages and benefits. Striker Ray Phillips died during the strike, run over on a picket line by a scab Greyhound trainee – 1983

Twenty-six men and one woman are killed in the Wilberg Coal Mine Disaster near Orangeville, Utah. The disaster has been termed the worst coal mine fire in the state’s history. Federal mine safety officials issued 34 safety citations after the disaster but had inspected the mine only days before and declared it safe – 1984

December 20Today in labor history for the week of December 19, 2016
Delegates to the AFL convention in Salt Lake City endorse a constitutional amendment to give women the right to vote – 1899

The first group of 15 Filipino plantation workers recruited by the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association arrive in Hawaii. By 1932 more than 100,000 Filipinos will be working in the fields – 1906

Thousands of workers began what was to be a 2-day strike of the New York City transit system over retirement, pension and wage issues. The strike violated the state’s Taylor Law; TWU Local 100 President Roger Toussaint was jailed for ten days and the union was fined $2.5 million – 2005

Today in labor history for the week of December 19, 2016December 21
Powered by children seven to 12 years old working dawn to dusk, Samuel Slater’s thread-spinning factory goes into production in Pawtucket, R.I., launching the Industrial Revolution in America. By 1830, 55 percent of the mill workers in the state were youngsters, many working for less than $1 per week – 1790

Supreme Court rules that picketing is unconstitutional. Chief Justice (and former president) William Howard Taft declared that picketing was, in part, “an unlawful annoyance and hurtful nuisance…” – 1921

December 22
A group of building trades unions from the Midwest meet in St. Louis to form the National Building Trades Council. The Council disbanded after several years of political and jurisdictional differences – 1897
Today in labor history for the week of December 19, 2016
Twenty-one Chicago firefighters, including the chief, died when a building collapsed as they were fighting a huge blaze at the Union Stock Yards.  By the time the fire was extinguished, 26 hours after the first alarm, 50 engine companies and seven hook-and-ladder companies had been called to the scene. Until September 11, 2001, it was the deadliest building collapse in American history in terms of firefighter fatalities – 1910

Amid a widespread strike for union recognition by 395,000 steelworkers, approximately 250 alleged “anarchists,” “communists,” and “labor agitators” were deported to Russia, marking the beginning of the so-called “Red Scare” – 1919

Today in labor history for the week of December 19, 2016(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.)

December 23
AFL officers are found in contempt of court for urging a labor boycott of Buck’s Stove and Range Co. in St Louis, where the Metal Polishers were striking for a 9-hour day – 1908
Today in labor history for the week of December 19, 2016
Construction workers top out the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 1,368 feet, making it the tallest building in the world – 1970

Walmart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest employer, with 1.4 million “associates,” agrees to settle 63 wage and hour suits across the U.S., for a grand total of between $352 million and $640 million. It was accused of failure to pay overtime, requiring off-the-clock work, and failure to provide required meal and rest breaks – 2008

Today in labor history for the week of December 19, 2016December 24
Seventy-two copper miners’ children die in panic caused by a company stooge at Calumet, Mich., who shouted “fire” up the stairs into a crowded hall where the children had gathered.  They were crushed against closed doors when they tried to flee – 1913

December 25
A dynamite bomb destroys a portion of the Llewellyn Ironworks in Los Angeles, where a bitter strike was in progress – 1910

Today in labor history for the week of December 19, 2016Fourteen servicemen from military bases across the U.S., led by Pvt. Andrew Stapp, form The American Servicemen’s Union (ASU). The union, which never came close to being recognized by the government, in its heyday during the Viet Nam war claimed tens of thousands of members and had chapters at bases, on ships and in Viet Nam. ASU demands included the right to elect officers – 1967
—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Today in labor history for the week of December 5, 2016

December 05
Unionists John T. and James B. McNamara are sentenced to 15 years and life, respectively, after confessing to dynamiting the Los Angeles Times building during a drive to unionize the metal trades in the city.  They placed the bomb in an alley next to the building, set to detonate when they thought the building would be empty; it went off early, and an unanticipated gas explosion and fire did the real damage, killing twenty people. The newspaper was strongly conservative and anti-union – 1911

Ending a 20-year split, the two largest labor federations in the U.S. merge to form the AFL-CIO, with a membership estimated at 15 million – 1955
Today in labor history for the week of December 5, 2016AFL-CIO President John Sweeney welcomes the collapse of World Trade Organization talks in Seattle, declaring, “No deal is better than a bad deal.” – 1999

The U.S. Department of Labor reports employers slashed 533,000 jobs the month before—the most in 34 years—as the Great Recession surged. The unemployment rolls had risen for seven months before that and were to continue to soar for another 10 months before topping 10 percent and beginning to level off late the following year – 2008

December 06
African-American delegates meet in Washington, D.C., to form the Colored National Labor Union as a Today in labor history for the week of December 5, 2016branch of the all-White National Labor Union created three years earlier. Unlike the NLU, the CNLU welcomed members of all races. Isaac Myers was the CNLU’s founding president; Frederick Douglass became president in 1872 – 1869

The Washington Monument is completed in Washington, D.C. On the interior of the monument are 193 commemorative stones, donated by numerous governments and organizations from all over the world; one of them is from the Int’l Typographical Union, founded in 1852.  In 1986 the ITU merged into the Communications Workers of America – 1884

A total of 361 coal miners die at Monongah, W.Va., in nation’s worst mining disaster – 1907

Int’l Glove Workers Union of America merges into Amalgamated Clothing Workers – 1961

United Mine Workers begin what is to become a 110-day national coal strike – 1997
Today in labor history for the week of December 5, 2016
December 07
Heywood Broun born in New York City. Journalist, columnist and co-founder, in 1933, of The Newspaper Guild – 1888

Steam boiler operators from 11 cities across the country meet in Chicago to form the National Union of Steam Engineers of America, the forerunner to the Int’l Union of Operating Engineers. Each of the men represented a local union of 40 members or fewer – 1896

More than 1,600 protesters staged a national hunger march on Washington, D.C., to present demands for unemployment insurance – 1931

United Hatters, Cap & Millinery Workers Int’l Union merges into Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union – 1982
Today in labor history for the week of December 5, 2016
Delegates to the founding convention of the National Nurses United (NNU) in Phoenix, Ariz., unanimously endorse the creation of the largest union and professional organization of registered nurses in U.S. history. The 150,000-member union is the product of a merger of three groups – 2009

December 08
Twenty-five unions found the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in Columbus, Ohio; Cigarmaker’s union leader Samuel Gompers is elected president. The AFL’s founding document’s preamble reads: “A struggle is going on in all of the civilized world between oppressors and oppressed of all countries, between capitalist and laborer…” – 1886

Today in labor history for the week of December 5, 2016(There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America: This thoughtful and highly readable history of the American labor movement traces unionism from the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts in the 1820s to organized labor’s decline in the 1980s and struggle for survival and growth today. Illustrated with dozens of photos, posters and more.)

114-day newspaper strike begins, New York City – 1962

President Bill Clinton signs The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – 1993

Nearly 230 jailed teachers—about one-fourth of the 1,000-member Middletown Township, N.J., staff—are Today in labor history for the week of December 5, 2016ordered freed after they and their colleagues agree to end a 9-day strike and go into mediation with the local school board – 2001

Faced with a national unemployment rate of 10 percent, President Barack Obama outlines new multibillion-dollar stimulus and jobs proposals, saying the country must continue to “spend our way out of this recession” until more Americans are back at work. Joblessness had soared 6 percent in the final two years of George W. Bush’s presidency – 2009

Today in labor history for the week of December 5, 2016December 09
Ratification of a new labor agreement at Titan Tire of Natchez, Miss., ends the longest strike in the history of the U.S. tire industry, which began May 1, 1998, at the company’s Des Moines, Iowa, plant – 2001

December 10
First sit-down strike in U.S. called by IWW at General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y. – 1906

Today in labor history for the week of December 5, 2016(No Contract, No Peace: A Legal Guide to Contract Campaigns, Strikes, and Lockouts is a must-have for any union or activist considering aggressive action to combat management’s growing economic war against workers. No Contract, No Peace! updates information contained in the first edition, entitled Strikes, Picketing and Inside Campaigns, to include reference to recent union activities and NLRB decisions that have affected the labor relations environment. Schwartz’s familiarity with labor and employment law combines with his activist spirit to provide innovative yet practical tips for mounting and maintaining meaningful campaigns designed to build union and workers’ power.)

Int’l Human Rights Day, commemorating the signing at the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, in part: “Everyone has the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” – 1948

American Federation of Teachers Local 89 in Atlanta, Georgia, disaffiliates from the national union because of an AFT directive that all its locals integrate. A year later, the AFT expelled all locals that refused to do so – 1956

Today in labor history for the week of December 5, 2016December 11
A small group of Black farmers organize the Colored Farmers’ National Alliance and Cooperative Union in Houston County, Texas. They had been barred from membership in the all-White Southern Farmers’ Alliance. Through intensive organizing, along with merging with another Black farmers group, the renamed Colored Alliance by 1891 claimed a membership of 1.2 million – 1886

Ten days after an Illinois State mine inspector approved coal dust removal techniques at New Orient mine in West Frankfort, the mine exploded, largely because of coal dust accumulations, killing 119 workers – 1951

The U.S. Department of Labor announces that the nation’s unemployment rate had dropped to 3.3 percent, the lowest mark in 15 years – 1968
Today in labor history for the week of December 5, 2016
Forty thousand workers go on general strike in London, Ontario—a city with a population of 300,000—protesting cuts in social services – 1995

Michigan becomes the 24th state to adopt right-to-work legislation.  The Republican-dominated state Senate introduced two measures—one covering private workers, the other covering public workers—by surprise five days earlier and immediately voted their passage; the Republican House approved them five days later (the fastest it legally could) and the Republican governor immediately signed both bills – 2012

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Today in labor history for the week of November 28, 2016

November 28
William Sylvis, founder of the National Labor Union, born – 1828

National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, precursor to IBEW, founded – 1891

A total of 154 men die in a coal mine explosion at Marianna, Pa.  Engineer and General Superintendent A.C. Beeson tells the local newspaper he had been in the mine a few minutes before the blast and had found it to be in perfect condition – 1908Today in labor history for the week of November 28, 2016

Some 400 New York City photoengravers working for the city’s newspapers, supported by 20,000 other newspaper unionists, begin what is to become an 11-day strike, shutting down the papers – 1953

November 29
Clerks, teamsters and building service workers at Boston Stores in Milwaukee strike at the beginning of the Christmas rush. The strike won widespread support—at one point 10,000 pickets jammed the sidewalks around the main store—but ultimately was lost. Workers returned to the job in mid-January with a small pay raise and no union recognition – 1934

Today in labor history for the week of November 28, 2016The SS Daniel J. Morrell, a 603-foot freighter, breaks in two during a strong storm on Lake Huron. Twenty-eight of its 29 crewmen died; survivor Dennis Hale was found the next day, near frozen and floating in a life raft with the bodies of three of his crew mates. He had survived for nearly 40 hours in frigid temperatures wearing only a pair of boxer shorts, a life jacket, and a pea coat – 1966

National Labor Relations Board rules that medical interns can unionize and negotiate wages and hours – 1999

November 30
“Fighting Mary” Eliza McDowell, also known as the “Angel of the Stockyards,” born in Chicago. As a social worker she helped organize the first women’s local of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union in 1902 – 1854

Mother Jones died at the Burgess Farm in Adelphi, Md.; “I’m not a lady, I’m a hell-raiser!” – 1930

Today in labor history for the week of November 28, 2016(The Autobiography of Mother Jones: Mary Harris Jones—“Mother Jones”—was the most dynamic woman ever to grace the American labor movement. Employers and politicians around the turn of the century called her “the most dangerous woman in America” and rebellious working men and women loved her as they never loved anyone else.
She was an absolutely fearless and tireless advocate for working people, especially coal miners. A founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World—the Wobblies—she feared neither soldiers’ guns nor the ruling class’s jails. Here, in her own words, is her story of organizing in steel, railroading, textiles and mining; her crusade against child labor; her fight to organize women; even her involvement in the Mexican revolution.)

More than 12,000 members of the Insurance Agents Union strike in 35 states and Washington, D.C., against the Prudential Insurance Co. – 1951
Today in labor history for the week of November 28, 2016Unionists and activists shut down World Trade Organization meeting, Seattle, Wash. – 1999

December 01
The Ford Motor Co. introduces the continuous moving assembly line which can produce a complete car every two-and-a-half minutes – 1913

Kellogg cereal adopts 6-hour day – 1930

Today in labor history for the week of November 28, 2016African-American Rosa Parks refuses to go to the back of a Montgomery, Ala., bus, fueling the growing civil rights movement’s campaign to win desegregation and end the deep South’s “Jim Crow” laws – 1955

United Garment Workers of America merge with United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union – 1994

Metal Polishers, Buffers, Platers & Allied Workers Int’l Union & United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum & Plastics Workers of America merge with Int’l Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers & Helpers – 1996

December 02
A Chicago “slugger,” paid $50 by labor unions for every scab he “discouraged,” described his job in an interview: “Oh, there ain’t nothing to it. I gets my fifty, then I goes out and finds the guy they wanna have slugged, then I gives it to ‘im” – 1911

The U.S. Senate votes 65-22 to condemn Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisc.) for “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”  McCarthy was a rabid anti-Communist who falsely accused thousands of Americans, mostly people who supported labor, civil rights and other progressive causes, of being traitors – 1954

Today in labor history for the week of November 28, 2016(A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present: McCarthy’s attack on progressive citizens is just one of many eye-openers revealed in Zinn’s book. 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.)

Court documents filed in Boston say Walmart Stores Inc. has agreed to pay $40 million to 87,500 Massachusetts employees who claimed the retailer denied them rest and meal breaks, manipulated time cards and refused to pay overtime – 2009

December 03
Textile strikers win 10-hour day, Fall River, Mass. – 1866

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passes an ordinance setting an 8-hour workday for all city employees – 1867

IWW union Brotherhood of Timber Workers organized – 1910

Today in labor history for the week of November 28, 2016Canada’s Quebec Bridge, spanning the St. Lawrence River, opens to traffic on this day after the deaths of 89 construction workers in the course of the job.  A flawed design was blamed for a 1907 collapse that killed 75; another 13 died in 1916 when a hoisting device failed as the central span was being lifted – 1919

General strike begins in Oakland, Calif., started by female department store clerks – 1946

The express passenger train “20th Century Limited” ends more than 60 years of service when it takes its last run from New York City to Chicago – 1967

Today in labor history for the week of November 28, 2016Some 5,000 union construction workers in Oahu, Hawaii, march to City Hall in protest of a proposed construction moratorium by the city council – 1976

At least four thousand people die, and as many as 20,000, in one of the largest industrial disasters on record.  It happened in Bhopal, India, when poisonous methyl isocyante was released into the atmosphere at a Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant.  The results of investigations by Union Carbide and the government were never released to the public; one authoritative independent study laid blame at the feet of Union Carbide for its failures on training, staffing, safety and other issues – 1984

Arrests began today in Middleton, N.J., of teachers striking in violation of a no-strike law. Ultimately 228 educators were jailed for up to seven days before they were released following the Middleton Township Education Association’s agreement to take the dispute to mediation – 2001

December 04
President Roosevelt announces the end of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), concluding the Today in labor history for the week of November 28, 2016four-year run of one of the American government’s most ambitious public works programs. It helped create jobs for roughly 8.5 million people during the Great Depression and left a legacy of highways and public buildings, among other public gains – 1943

UAW President Walter Reuther elected president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations – 1952

Cesar Chavez jailed for 20 days for refusing to end United Farm Workers’ grape boycott – 1970

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

UNIONS MATTER: The Real Purpose Behind The Charter School Movement & The Ethical Opposition

img_4941-copyBy Barbara McClung and Lauren Phillips for Unions Matter

As charter schools expand and seek to gain more ground, so has the opposition to that movement been increasing throughout the country. From California to Massachusetts, there is intense questioning both of the educational effectiveness of these schools and how they are using public funds. For example, as reported in The Washington Post on October 15th, the NAACP “ratified a resolution calling for a moratorium on the expansion of charters.” Summarizing what is behind the NAACP’s move, the article states:

“Opponents say that too many charter schools promote racial segregation, are poorly run and siphon public funds from traditional public schools, which educate the neediest students.”

And on election day, the people of Massachusetts—the state in which public education in America began— overwhelmingly voted NO on a ballot initiative to increase the number of charter schools in their state.

The Boston Globe writes:

“The vote is a major victory for teachers unions and civil rights organizations, which argued that charters are diverting too much money and attention from traditional public schools that serve the overwhelming majority of students.”

And they quoted Barbara Madeloni, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association who stated:

“It’s really clear from the results of this election that people are interested in public education and value [it]….There should be no conversation about expanding charters,” she added, until the Legislature moves to “fully fund our public schools.”

As proud UFT members and New York City public school teachers who use the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method in our classrooms, we are sure that: 1) EVERY child has a right to the best education possible; and 2) Education should never be for the profit of any individual or corporation. Eli Siegel, the great philosopher and founder of Aesthetic Realism, presented the most important question concerning economics: “What does a person deserve by being a person?” This question has everything to do with the right of children to be educated.

Now, more than ever, we feel it is vital for Americans to know what Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, explains with enormous clarity and passion about the purpose of charter schools. In an issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, titled “For Education to Succeed,” she writes:

“The push for charter schools is an attempt to make public education exist to supply profit to various individuals. An August 21st New York Times article described charter schools as “financed by taxpayers but privately run” – which means run for the profit of those “private” persons. The charter school movement is a fraud, and depends on the collusion of politicians who withhold needed funds from public schools so as to make those public schools as miserable and unattractive as possible. Charter schools turn teachers, as well as children, into fodder for someone’s private profit—because the vast majority of charter schools do not have unions and therefore do not have the justice to working people that unions make possible. The campaign for charter schools is one of the cleverest and cruelest instances of propaganda in US history. Part of the propaganda is the creation of “success rates” by simply expelling students who don’t succeed.”

And Ms. Reiss continues:

“The fundamental ugliness is having schools be based, not on that beautiful thing, the need and right of a child to learn, but on whether those children can put money in the pockets of some wealthy individuals.”

Also in this same issue you can read a tremendously important paper by New York City high school social studies teacher Christopher Balchin, who tells of the success of the Aesthetic Realism teaching method. We’re grateful to have seen in our own classrooms—from elementary school to middle school, from New York’s Lower East Side to Harlem and beyond—that this teaching method can meet the hopes of students and educators everywhere.

Our children represent our nation’s future. In answer to Eli Siegel’s kind urgent question, “What does a person deserve by being a person?,” they deserve the best public education possible. As parents and educators, we see it as our responsibility to protect and preserve this fundamental right!

Barbara McClung is a science teacher in a NYC elementary school and was a Chapter leader for seven years.

Lauren Phillips is a New York City middle school Humanities teacher.

Today in labor history for the week of November 7, 2016

November 07 Some 1,300 building trades workers in eastern Massachusetts participated in a general strike on all military work in the area to protest the use of open-shop (a worksite in which union membership is not required as a condition of employment) builders. The strike held on for a week in the face of threats from the U.S. War Department - 1917 (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.) President Eisenhower’s use of the Taft-Hartley Act is upheld by the Supreme Court, breaking a 116-day steel strike - 1959 Lemuel Ricketts Boulware dies in Delray Beach, Fla., at age 95. As a GE vice president in the 1950s he created the policy known as Boulwarism, in which management decides what is "fair" and refuses to budge on anything during contract negotiations. IUE President Paul Jennings described the policy as "telling the workers what they are entitled to and then trying to shove it down their throats." - 1990 November 08Today in labor history for the week of November 7, 2016 20,000 workers, Black and White, stage general strike in New Orleans, demanding union recognition and hour and wage gains - 1892 President Franklin D. Roosevelt announces plans for the Civil Works Administration to create four million additional jobs for the Depression-era unemployed. The workers ultimately laid 12 million feet of sewer pipe and built or made substantial improvements to 255,000 miles of roads, 40,000 schools, 3,700 playgrounds, and nearly 1,000 airports (not to mention 250,000 outhouses still badly needed in rural America) - 1933 In one of the U.S. auto industry’s more embarrassing missteps over the last half-century, the Ford Motor Co. decides to name its new model the Edsel, after Henry Ford’s only son. Ford executives rejected 18,000 other potential names - 1956 Today in labor history for the week of November 7, 2016November 09 Twenty people, including at least nine firefighters, are killed in Boston’s worst fire. It consumed 65 downtown acres and 776 buildings over 12 hours – 1872 Creation of Committee for Industrial Organization announced by eight unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (in 1938 they formally break with the AFL and become the Congress of Industrial Organizations). The eight want more focus on organizing mass production industry workers - 1935 Philip Murray, first president of the United Steelworkers Organizing Committee, first president of the United Steelworkers of America, and president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations for 12 years following the retirement of John L. Lewis, dies at age 66 - 1952 November 10Today in labor history for the week of November 7, 2016 Sit-down strike begins at Austin, Minn., Hormel plant with the help of a Wobbly organizer, leading to the creation of the Independent Union of All Workers. Labor historians believe this may have been the first sit-down strike of the 1930s. Workers held the plant for three days, demanding a wage increase. Some 400 men crashed through the plant entrance and chased out nonunion workers. One group rushed through the doors of a conference room where Jay Hormel and five company executives were meeting and declared: “We’re taking possession. So move out.” Within four days the company agreed to binding arbitration - 1933 Today in labor history for the week of November 7, 2016The ship Edmund Fitzgerald—the biggest carrier on the Great Lakes—and crew of 29 are lost in a storm on Lake Superior while carrying ore from Superior, Wisc., to Detroit. The cause of the sinking was never established - 1975 Tile, Marble, Terrazzo Finishers, Shop Workers & Granite Cutters Int’l Union merges into United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners - 1988 November 11Today in labor history for the week of November 7, 2016 Haymarket martyrs hanged, convicted in the bombing deaths of eight police during a Chicago labor rally - 1887 A confrontation between American Legionnaires and Wobblies during an Armistice Day Parade in Centralia, Wash., results in six deaths. One Wobbly reportedly was beaten, his teeth bashed in with a rifle butt, castrated and hanged: local officials listed his death as a suicide - 1919 A total of 57 crewmen on three freighters die over a 3-day period when their ships sink during a huge storm over Lake Michigan - 1940 November 12 Ellis Island in New York closes after serving as the gateway for 12 million immigrants from 1892 to 1924. From 1924 to 1954 it was mostly used as a detention and deportation center for undocumented immigrants - 1954 Today in labor history for the week of November 7, 2016(Mobilizing Against Inequality: 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.) “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap announces he is restructuring the Sunbeam Corp. and lays off 6,000 workers—half the workforce. Sunbeam later nearly collapsed after a series of scandals under Dunlap’s leadership that cost investors billions of dollars - 1996 November 13 A total of 259 miners died in the underground Cherry Mine fire. As a result of the disaster, Today in labor history for the week of November 7, 2016Illinois established stricter safety regulations and in 1911, the basis for the state’s Workers Compensation Act was passed - 1909 A Western Federation of Miners strike is crushed by the militia in Butte, Mont. - 1914 The Holland Tunnel opens, running under the Hudson River for 1.6 miles and connecting the island of Manhattan in New York City with Jersey City, N.J. Thirteen workers died over its 7-year-long construction - 1927 GM workers’ post-war strike for higher wages closes 96 plants - 1945 Today in labor history for the week of November 7, 2016Striking typesetters at the Green Bay, Wisc., Press Gazette start a competing newspaper, The Green Bay Daily News. With financial support from a local businessman who hated the Press Gazette, the union ran the paper for four years before their angel died and it was sold to another publisher. The Gannett chain ultimately bought the paper, only to fold it in 2005 - 1972 Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union activist Karen Silkwood is killed in a suspicious car crash on her way to deliver documents to a newspaper reporter during a safety investigation of her Kerr-McGee plutonium processing plant in Oklahoma - 1974

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten
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