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Praise And Concern Over Democrats “Better Deal”

Communication Workers of America: Working People Need Protections for U.S. Call Center Jobs and a “Better Deal”

Today the Democrats released the details of their “Better Deal” that will focus on three goals:

Raise the wages and incomes of American workers and create millions of good-paying jobs: Our plan for A Better Deal starts by creating millions of good-paying, full-time jobs by directly investing in our crumbling infrastructure and prioritizing small business and entrepreneurs, instead of giving tax breaks to special interests. We will aggressively crack down on unfair foreign trade and fight back against corporations that outsource American jobs.  We will fight to ensure a living wage for all Americans and keep our promise to millions of workers who earned a pension, Social Security and Medicare, so seniors can retire with dignity.

Lower the costs of living for families: We will offer A Better Deal that will lower the crippling cost of prescription drugs and the cost of a college or technical education that leads to a good job. We will fight for families struggling with high monthly bills like childcare, credit card fees, and cable bills. We will crack down on monopolies and the concentration of economic power that has led to higher prices for consumers, workers, and small business – and make sure Wall Street never endangers Main Street again.

Build an economy that gives working Americans the tools to succeed in the 21st Century: Americans deserve the chance to get the skills, tools, and knowledge to find a good-paying job or to move up in their career to earn a better living. We will commit to A Better Deal that provides new tax incentives to employers that invest in workforce training and education and make sure the rules of the economy support companies that focus on long-term growth, rather than short-term profits. We will make it a national priority to bring high-speed Internet to every corner of America and offer an apprenticeship to millions of new workers. We will encourage innovation, invest in advanced research and ensure start-ups and small business can compete and prosper.

(Video of Better Jobs announcement at bottom of post)

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO praised today’s announcement.

“We applaud Sen. Chuck Schumer’s leadership and the Senate Democrats for committing to better trade deals and creating the good jobs that working people deserve. Particularly notable in this agenda are the demands for increased public input and transparency in trade negotiations—including the call for town hall meetings across the country—as well as the continued commitment to long-needed action on currency and trade enforcement. This blueprint provides a good start but also must ensure that working people across North America are free to join together to negotiate a fair return on our work. We look forward to working with the Senate to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement’s corporate-driven rules and enact other innovative trade reforms beneficial to working families.”

After the details of the Democratic Party’s “better deal” were released the Communications Workers of America issued a statement highlighting the need to protect call center jobs from offshoring.  

The Democratic Party’s plan for a better deal on trade and jobs outlines real policies to help working families fight back against corporations that want to shift more jobs overseas and cut wages and benefits for working Americans.

For the first time, lawmakers are recognizing the impact of the tens of thousands of U.S. customer service jobs that have disappeared over past years, as corporations ship good call center jobs to Mexico, India, the Philippines and other countries.

CWA has been pressing Congress to stop this flood of jobs overseas. Corporations are boosting their profits and enriching their investors at the expense of working Americans, and communities are devastated when these good service jobs disappear. And as more jobs are sent offshore, more pressure is brought to bear on U.S. workers to accept lower wages and benefits as the price for keeping any job at all.

The Democratic “Better Deal” plan includes crucial legislation introduced by Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) that would help restrict call center offshoring and reverse the loss of thousands of good customer service jobs in the U.S.  It also would provide important consumer safeguards.

Overall, the “Better Deal” plan will give working people a long overdue voice in what happens to their jobs and their communities. It ends the tax incentives and other rewards that corporations now get for sending  jobs overseas; encourages companies to bring jobs back to the U.S. with financial incentives; fully restores “Buy America” requirements for all taxpayer-funded projects, and makes improving U.S. wages and good jobs a key objective of our trade policy.

The Better Deal plan would require companies that handle sensitive U.S. consumer data abroad, including call centers, to disclose to customers what country they are physically located in and the level of data protection in that country.

U.S. trade deals should benefit working families, consumers and communities, not just investors and big corporations. The Better Deal plan provides real solutions to do just that.

Today in labor history for the week of July 31, 2017

July 31
Members of the National Football League Players Association begin what is to be a 2-day strike, their first. The issues: pay, pensions, the right to arbitration and the right to have agents – 1970

Fifty-day baseball strike ends – 1981

The Great Shipyard Strike of 1999 ends after Steelworkers at Newport News Shipbuilding ratify a breakthrough agreement which nearly doubles pensions, increases security, ends inequality, and provides the highest wage increases in company and industry history to nearly 10,000 workers at the yard. The strike lasted 15 weeks – 1999

Today in labor history for the week of July 31, 2017August 01
After organizing a strike of metal miners against the Anaconda Company, Wobbly organizer Frank Little is dragged by six masked men from his Butte, Mont., hotel room and hung from the Milwaukee Railroad trestle. Years later writer Dashiell Hammett would recall his early days as a Pinkerton detective agency operative and recount how a mine company representative offered him $5,000 to kill Little. Hammett says he quit the business that night – 1917

Sid Hatfield, police chief of Matewan, W. Va., a longtime supporter of the United Mine Workers union, is murdered by company goons. This soon led to the Battle of Blair Mountain, a labor uprising also referred to as the Red Neck War – 1921

Police in Hilo, Hawaii, open fire on 200 demonstrators supporting striking waterfront workers. The attack Today in labor history for the week of July 31, 2017became known as “the Hilo Massacre” – 1938

A 17-day, company-instigated wildcat strike in Philadelphia tries to bar eight African-American trolley operators from working. Transport Workers Union members stay on the job in support of the men – 1944

Government & Civic Employees Organizing Committee merges into State, County & Municipal Employees – 1956

Window Glass Cutters League of America merges with Glass Bottle Blowers – 1975

Ten-month strike against Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel wins agreement guaranteeing defined-benefit pensions for 4,500 Steelworkers – 1997

Today in labor history for the week of July 31, 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. The author 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.)

California School Employees Association affiliates with AFL-CIO – 2001

August 02Today in labor history for the week of July 31, 2017
The first General Strike in Canadian history is held in Vancouver, organized as a 1-day political protest against the killing of draft evader and labor activist Albert “Ginger” Goodwin, who had called for a general strike in the event that any worker was drafted against his will – 1918

Hatch Act is passed, limiting political activity of executive branch employees of the federal government – 1939

Today in labor history for the week of July 31, 2017August 03
Uriah Smith Stephens born in Cape May, N.J.  A tailor by trade, in 1869 he led nine Philadelphia garment workers to found the Knights of Labor – 1821

Fighting breaks out when sheriff’s deputies attempt to arrest Wobbly leader Richie “Blackie” Ford as he addressed striking field workers at the Durst Ranch in Wheatland, Calif.  Four persons died, including the local district attorney, a deputy and two workers.  Despite the lack of evidence against them, Ford and another strike leader were found guilty of murder by a 12-member jury that included eight farmers – 1913

Florence Reece dies in Knoxville, Tenn., at 86. She was a Mine Workers union activist and author of Today in labor history for the week of July 31, 2017Which Side Are You On?, written after her home was ransacked by Harlan County sheriff J.H. Blair and his thugs during a 1931 strike – 1986

Some 15,000 air traffic controllers strike. President Reagan threatens to fire any who do not return to work within 48 hours, saying they “have forfeited their jobs” if they do not. Most stay out, and are fired August 5 – 1981

Today in labor history for the week of July 31, 2017August 04
The Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers is formed. It partnered with the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, CIO in 1935; both organizations disbanded in 1942 to form the new United Steelworkers – 1876

An estimated 15,000 silk workers strike in Paterson, N.J., for 44-hour week – 1919

Nearly 185,000 Teamsters begin what is to become a successful 15-day strike at United Parcel Service over excessive use of part-timers – 1997

August 05Today in labor history for the week of July 31, 2017
Using clubs, police rout 1,500 jobless men who had stormed the plant of the Fruit Growers Express Co. in Indiana Harbor, Ind., demanding jobs – 1931

Thirteen firefighters, including 12 smokejumpers who parachuted in to help their coworkers, die while battling a forest fire at Gates of the Mountain, Montana – 1949

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) took effect today. The first law signed by President Clinton, it allows many workers time off each year due to serious health conditions or to care for a family member – 1993

Today in labor history for the week of July 31, 2017(The FMLA Handbook, 5th edition, is a thorough, highly readable handbook that will help every worker get the most out of the surprisingly comprehensive Family and Medical Leave Act. It explains how unions can protect workers who are absent from work for justifiable medical or family-care reasons; block compulsory “light-duty” work programs; force employers to allow part-time schedules; obtain attendance bonuses for workers absent for medical reasons; and much more. An important tool for every union rep.)

August 06
Cigarmakers’ Int’l Union of America merges with Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union – 1974

American Railway Supervisors Association merges with Brotherhood of Railway, Airline & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees – 1980
Today in labor history for the week of July 31, 2017
Brotherhood of Railway Carmen of the U.S. & Canada merges with Brotherhood of Railway, Airline & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees – 1986

Some 45,000 CWA and IBEW-represented workers at Verizon begin what is to be a two-week strike, refusing to accept more than 100 concession demands by the telecommunications giant – 2011

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

 

NESN Broadcast Technicians Benched For Unionizing

IBEW Local 1228 Fights Against Retribution

BOSTON, MA – New England Sports Network (NESN) and its new crewing company, Program Productions Incorporated (PPI) have devastated the incomes of their loyal workers by engaging in retribution in retaliation for unionizing.

Recently, NESN broadcast technicians across New England joined IBEW Local 1228 to create a collective voice to garner equal pay of those in similar positions working for other networks, much needed health benefits, retirement planning and safer working conditions.

NESN hired PPI to staff the 2017 Red Sox season and crew members who have worked most of these games at Fenway Park for over twenty years found themselves being replaced. 

Five union organizers were clearly targeted to be relieved of work. When the IBEW fought PPI to get their NESN days back, they won, but then another change occurred. All 22 NESN technicians were forced to lose several games each month of the season, costing each worker thousands of dollars.

“Their loyalty to NESN, the Boston Red Sox, and the Boston Bruins, is now being paid back with lost work and wages, threatening the income of their families. It’s retribution for these men and women who simply wanted health care and fair pay. The loss of wages, up to $3000 per month for some families, is staggering,” said Fletcher Fischer, Business Manager of IBEW Local 1228.

Steven A. Tolman, President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, remarked that “It’s ironic that NESN has demanded loyalty from these broadcast technicians for over two decades, and now they are punishing people for wanting a union contract to provide for their families, and to secure health care and retirement benefits for the first time ever. The baseball players, umpires, ticket sellers, food service employees, electricians, police, fire, and emergency medical personnel who work at Fenway Park all have contracts. Broadcast technicians deserve no less.”

PPI’s defense has been to not acknowledge that technicians have been targeted and have suggested that NESN executives had asked to “increase the diversity / depth of the crew.”

Fletcher Fischer responded, “We have offered to work with them to bring true diversity to their broadcasts and they have refused all of our offers. We are calling on PPI and NESN to restore the technicians to their normal schedules of the last twenty years.”

“It’s hard to believe that the technicians who bring Red Sox Nation and Bruins fans their games have worked with no health benefits and no retirement plans for so long,” said Richard Rogers Secretary -Treasurer of the Greater Boston Labor Council. “I urge NESN and PPI to stop the retribution. It’s time to restore the games to the technicians who have faithfully brought us our sports broadcasts for the past twenty years.”

Today in labor history for the week of July 24, 2017

July 24 The United Auto Workers and the Teamsters form the Alliance for Labor Action (ALA), later to be joined by several smaller unions. The ALA's agenda included support of the civil rights movement and opposition to the war in Vietnam. It disbanded after four years following the death of UAW President Walter Reuther - 1968 (All Labor Has Dignity: People forget that 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.) The U.S. minimum wage increased to $6.55 per hour today. The original minimum, set in 1938 by the Fair Labor Standards Act, was 25¢ per hour - 2008 U.S. minimum wage rose to $7.25 per hour, up from $6.55 - 2009 July 25 Workers stage a general strike—believed to be the nation’s first—in St. Louis, in support of striking railroad workers. The successful strike was ended when some 3,000 federal troops and 5,000 deputized special police killed at least eighteen people in skirmishes around the city - 1877 New York garment workers win closed shop and firing of scabs after 7-month strike – 1890 Today in labor history for the week of July 24, 2017(No Contract, No Peace: A Legal Guide to Contract Campaigns, Strikes, and Lockouts: This book 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! references 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.) Today in labor history for the week of July 24, 2017Fifteen “living dead women” testify before the Illinois Industrial Commission.  They were “Radium Girls,”women who died prematurely after working at clock and watch factories, where they were told to wet small paintbrushes in their mouths so they could dip them in radium to paint dials.  A Geiger counter passed over graves in a cemetery near Ottawa, Illinois still registers the presence of radium - 1937 The Teamsters and Service Employees unions break from the AFL-CIO during the federation's 50th convention to begin the Change to Win coalition, ultimately comprised of seven unions (4 by 2011: SEIU, Teamsters, UFCW and the UFW). They say they want more emphasis on organizing and less on electoral politics - 2005 Today in labor history for the week of July 24, 2017July 26 In Chicago, 30 workers are killed by federal troops, more than 100 wounded at the "Battle of the Viaduct" during the Great Railroad Strike - 1877 President Grover Cleveland appoints a United States Strike Committee to investigate the causes of the Pullman strike and the subsequent strike by the American Railway Union. Later that year the commission issues its report, absolving the strikers and blaming Pullman and the railroads for the conflict - 1894 Battle of Mucklow, W.Va., in coal strike. An estimated 100,000 shots were fired; 12 miners and four guards were killed - 1912 President Truman issues Executive Order 9981, directing equality of opportunity in armed forces - 1948 Today in labor history for the week of July 24, 2017 The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) took effect today. It requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities and bans discrimination against such workers - 1992 July 27 William Sylvis, founder of the National Labor Union, died - 1869 Today in labor history for the week of July 24, 2017July 28 Women shoemakers in Lynn, Mass., create Daughters of St. Crispin, demand pay equal to that of men - 1869 Harry Bridges is born in Australia. He came to America as a sailor at age 19 and went on to help form and lead the militant Int’l Longshore and Warehouse Union for more than 40 years - 1901 A strike by Paterson, N.J., silk workers for an 8-hour day, improved working conditions ends after six months, with the workers’ demands unmet. During the course of the strike, approximately 1,800 strikers were arrested, including Wobbly leaders Big Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn - 1913 Federal troops burn the shantytown built near the U.S. Capitol by thousands of unemployed WWI veterans, camping there to demand a bonus they had been promised but never received - 1932 Nine miners are rescued in Sommerset, Pa., after being trapped for 77 hours 240 feet underground in the flooded Quecreek Mine - 2002 July 29 The Coast Seamen's Union merges with the Steamship Sailors’ Union to form the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific - 1891 A preliminary delegation from Mother Jones' March of the Mill Children from Philadelphia to President Today in labor history for the week of July 24, 2017Theodore Roosevelt's summer home in Oyster Bay, Long Island, publicizing the harsh conditions of child labor, arrives today. They are not allowed through the gates – 1903 (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 called her “the most dangerous woman in America” and rebellious working men and women loved her as they never loved anyone else.) Nineteen firefighters die while responding to a blaze at the Shamrock Oil and Gas Corp. refinery in Sun Ray, Texas - 1956 Today in labor history for the week of July 24, 2017Following a 5-year table grape boycott, Delano-area growers file into the United Farm Workers union hall in Delano, Calif., to sign their first union contracts - 1970 July 30 President Lyndon Johnson signs the Social Security Act of 1965, establishing Medicare and Medicaid - 1965 Former Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa disappears. Declared legally dead in 1982, his body has never been found - 1975 United Airlines agrees to offer domestic-partner benefits to employees and retirees worldwide - 1999 —Compiled and edited by David Prosten

15 Civil and Human Rights Leaders Urge Nissan to Allow Workers to Organize Through a Free and Fair Election

WASHINGTON— Today, Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, along with 14 national civil rights leaders, sent a letter to José Muñoz, chairman of Nissan North America, urging him to allow the workers of their Canton, Mississippi plant to organize a local union through a free and fair election.

The Nissan plant in Canton, and two plants in Tennessee, are the only Nissan plants in the world without unions and meaningful employee representation. The organizations noted that Nissan has engaged in a potentially unlawful anti-union campaign at the Canton facility, where a majority of the workforce is African American. Nissan touts the Altima as the top-selling vehicle in the nation amongst African Americans.

“Labor rights are economic rights, and economic rights are civil rights,” said Vanita Gupta. “The history of the civil rights movement is deeply tied to the labor movement and we are proud to stand with workers who simply want to exercise their right to pursue union representation. There is nothing more fundamental to economic justice then the right of workers to organize.”

The text of the letter is below and is also available here.

Dear Mr. Muñoz:

We, the undersigned supporters of the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan (MAFFAN), write to you in your role overseeing Nissan’s operations in the United States, including the company’s assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi, where a majority of the workforce is African American. Our organizations are committed to the protection and advancement of civil and human rights, which includes support for principles of free association and the right of workers to organize.[i]

We are writing to you today regarding the effort of the workers of the Canton, Mississippi plant to organize a local union through a free and fair election.

As you know, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found that Nissan in Canton has “threatened its employees with termination because of their union activities … interrogated its employees about their union support … [and] threatened its employees with plant closure if they choose the union as their representative.”[ii] We are deeply troubled to learn that since the filing of a July 10 election petition for representation, Nissan has escalated its anti-union campaign and continued its troubling, potentially unlawful pattern of activity at the Nissan plant.

Furthermore, you are aware that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued citations finding that Nissan has not provided “a place of employment which was free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.”[iii]

Finally, you know that the Nissan plant in Canton — and two plants in Tennessee — are the only Nissan plants in the world that do not have unions and meaningful employee representation. Union membership boosts wages for working people, which is particularly important for people of color and women, whose wages typically lag behind the wages of white, non-Hispanic men.

As leaders in the U.S. civil rights movement, this situation is of grave concern to us. Each year, Nissan touts the Altima as the top-selling vehicle among African-American consumers. Yet you oppose civil rights at the Canton plant and of this majority African-American workforce. We urge you to accord these workers the same dignity and respect that Nissan workers are provided everywhere else in the world.

With this letter, we urge you to immediately cease unfair labor practices. Further, we urge you to meet with representatives of MAFFAN to discuss conditions for achieving neutrality to ensure that Nissan employees in Canton can vote on a local union in a free and fair election.

We believe that Nissan employees in Canton deserve better — and that workers’ rights are civil and human rights. We look forward to your prompt reply. If you have any questions, please contact Seema Nanda at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights at nanda@civilrights.org.

Sincerely,

Vanita Gupta
President and CEO
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

John C. Yang
President and Executive Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC

Hector Sanchez
Executive Director
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement

Kristen Clarke
President and Executive Director
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Leon W. Russell
Chairman of the National Board
NAACP

Derrick Johnson
Vice Chairman of the National Board and President of the Mississippi State Conference NAACP
NAACP

Sherrilyn Ifill
President and Director-Counsel
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund

Rev. Al Sharpton
President
National Action Network

Melanie Campbell
President and CEO
National Coalition on Black Civic Participation

Jim Winkler
General Secretary and President
National Council of Churches

Chris Owens
Executive Director
National Employment Law Project

Terri O’Neil
President
National Organization for Women

Debra L. Ness
President
National Partnership for Women & Families

Fatima Goss Graves
President and CEO
National Women’s Law Center

Janet Murguía
President and CEO
UnidosUS

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.

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