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VA Executive Order Can Only Succeed if Workers’ Rights Are Preserved

AFGE supports new tools to reduce mismanagement and misconduct but cautions against law changes that silence frontline employees

WASHINGTON – In response to President Trump’s Executive Order on Improving Accountability and Whistleblower Protection at the Department of Veterans Affairs, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement:

“We fully support and appreciate new tools to ensure the correct response to mismanagement, bad managers, and underperforming employees at the VA. When employees are found to have engaged in misconduct or performance that fails to meet the highest standards required by the VA, they should be terminated.

“Today’s order addresses the potential bad actors and chronically underperforming managers, reduces layers of management, and allocates new resources to protect employees who report mismanagement and other risks to veterans – all of which are supported by AFGE.

“But, we are concerned that so-called accountability legislation introduced by Sen. Rubio of Florida that is also supported by the administration will destroy the best accountability tools: the voices of frontline workers – and potentially turn the VA into an at-will workforce that could lead to the agency’s demise.

“Any new office created by this order must be staffed by individuals who are free of political affiliation and can render bias-free judgments, and can only be effective if the frontline employees who want to come forward with their concerns keep their due process rights and rights under their collective bargaining agreements.

“The VA – and all federal agencies – must present evidence that misconduct or performance failure has occurred. And those who judge that evidence must be an impartial third party. If those conditions are not met, we risk harming the innocent and encourage corruption and politicization of the agency – consciously or not.

“Time and again it’s the frontline employees who have come forward and spoken up against management covering up wait times. We cannot risk providing cover for incompetent or malicious managers.

“Veterans care is paramount to the focus of the VA – including the one-third of the workforce who are veterans themselves. All future actions must consider the needs of the veterans being cared for at the hospital, as well as those who work there. Although this is a positive step toward improving veterans’ care, there are still 45,000 vacancies that must be addressed.”

AFGE President Cox: “In a government shutdown, it’s the American people who pay the price.”

AFGE president calls for Congress to pass budget to keep government open past April 28

WASHINGTON – J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the nation’s largest federal employee union, today called on Congress to pass a federal budget and keep the government open for business.

“Congress shouldn’t be playing chicken with funding federal programs and services that veterans, seniors, and other hardworking people rely on,” Cox said. “In a government shutdown, it’s the American people who pay the price.”

Unless Congress passes legislation to fund the government past April 28, when the current continuing resolution expires, federal agencies will be forced to shut down most operations.

“The casualties during a government shutdown are endless,” Cox said. “There will be no more federal loans issued to small businesses or new home buyers. Federal research into cures for cancer or other deadly diseases will abruptly end. No more applications will be accepted for new Social Security cards, veterans’ benefits, and housing assistance. Our national parks, monuments, and museums will be forced to close.”

Cox also called on Congress to reject a White House proposal to cut $18 billion from federal agency budgets this fiscal year.

“The administration wants to slash funding for programs that help Americans find affordable housing, protect our environment, educate our children, and deliver mental and public health services to millions,” Cox said. “Those who need our help the most would be hit the hardest by these cuts.”

UNH Spends Almost $200K To Block Union Organizing Efforts

University reports close to $200,000.00 in payments to law firm to prevent employees from exercising legal right to organize.

CONCORD, April 12, 2017 – The University of New Hampshire has finally provided a partial response to Representative Cushing’s Right to Know request. Earlier this year, Rep. Cushing sent two Right to Know requests to the University seeking, among other things, the names of any outside vendors advising management on anti-union efforts, the amounts paid to these organizations, and copies of communications with these organizations.

In their partial response, the University reported spending $193,565.13 on legal fees and expenses with Jackson Lewis Law Firm from June 2016 to March 2017.

“I’m shocked to find that UNH has spent a couple hundred thousand dollars to hire outside help to fight university employees who simply want to exercise their legal right to collectively bargain,” said Representative Cushing.

“We can assume that there will be additional payments made to Jackson Lewis as the University continues to fight their employees’ efforts to organize,” stated Megan Tuttle, NEA-New Hampshire President. “Is this really the best use of the University’s funds?”

The University noted in their response that “this expense is not being paid from any of the following: state appropriation, tuition dollars or operating funds.”

“Regardless of where the money is coming from, at this point the University has chosen to spend close to $200,000.00 on things other than tuition reduction, campus improvements, or to help make the salaries and benefits of the dedicated OS and PAT staff more competitive,” continued Tuttle.

In addition to asking for information regarding management’s anti-organizing efforts, Rep. Cushing’s request also sought information regarding the University’s outsourcing plans.

“We are aware that the University has hired consultants to find ways to save money.  Far too often, these savings are balanced on the backs of OS and PAT employees,” said Tuttle.

The University declined to provide any information on these topics.

State Representative Cushing stated that he will be looking to take further action to determine the actual source of the funds used to pay Jackson Lewis, and to address the lack of disclosure with the rest of his request for public information.

“I don’t see union busting as a line item anywhere in their budget,” stated Cushing.

A copy of Rep. Cushing’s Right to Know request is available here and below.

RepCushing Right To Know

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

April 03  Some 20,000 textile mill strikers in Paterson, N.J., gather on the green in front of the house of Pietro Botto, the socialist mayor of nearby Haledon, to receive encouragement by novelist Upton Sinclair, journalist John Reed and speakers from the Wobblies. Today, the Botto House is home to the American Labor Museum - 1913 UAW Local 833 strikes the Kohler bathroom fixtures company in Kohler, Wisc. The strike ends six years later after Kohler is found guilty of refusing to bargain, agrees to reinstate 1,400 strikers and pay them $4.5 million in back pay and pension credits - 1954 Martin Luther King Jr. returns to Memphis to stand with striking AFSCME sanitation workers. This evening, he delivers his famous "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech in a church packed with union members and others. He is assassinated the following day - 1968 Today in labor history for the week of April 3, 2017April 04 The first issue of The Labor Review, a "weekly magazine for organized workers," was published in Minneapolis. Edna George, a cigar packer in Minneapolis, won $10 in gold for suggesting the name “Labor Review.” The Labor Review has been published continuously since then, currently as a monthly newspaper - 1907 Unemployed riot in New York City’s Union Square - 1914 Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, where he had been supporting a sanitation workers’ Today in labor history for the week of April 3, 2017strike.  In the wake of this tragedy, riots break out in many cities, including Washington, D.C. - 1968 Some 1,700 United Mine Workers members in Virginia and West Virginia beat back concessions demanded by Pittston Coal Co. - 1989 April 05 Columnist Victor Riesel, a crusader against mob infiltration of unions, was blinded in New York City when an assailant threw sulfuric acid in his face. He was also an FBI informer for decades, a proponent of the McCarthy era blacklisting that weakened unions for over a generation, and a crusader against unions connecting with anti-war student activism in the 1960's and 70's - 1956 Today in labor history for the week of April 3, 2017Some 14,000 teachers strike Hawaii schools, colleges - 2001 A huge underground explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, W. Va., kills 29 miners. It was the worst U.S. mine disaster in 40 years. The Massey Energy Co. mine had been cited for two safety infractions the day before the blast; 57 the month before, and 1,342 in the previous five years. Three and one-half years after the disaster Massey’s then-CEO, Don Blankenship, was indicted by a federal grand jury on four criminal counts - 2010 April 06 The first slave revolt in the U.S. occurs at a slave market in New York City’s Wall Street area. Twenty-one Blacks were executed for killing nine Whites. The city responded by strengthening its slave codes - 1712 Birth of Rose Schneiderman, prominent member of the New York Women's Trade Union League, an Today in labor history for the week of April 3, 2017active participant in the Uprising of the 20,000, the massive strike of shirtwaist workers in New York City led by the Int’l Ladies Garment Workers' Union in 1909, and famous for an angry speech about the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire: “Every week I must learn of the untimely death of one of my sister workers…Too much blood has been spilled. I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. The only way they can save themselves is by a strong working-class movement” - 1882 A sympathy strike by Chicago Teamsters in support of clothing workers leads to daily clashes between strikebreakers and armed police against hundreds and sometimes thousands of striking workers and their supporters. By the time the fight ended after 103 days, 21 people had been killed and 416 injured - 1905 What was to become a two-month strike by minor league umpires begins, largely over money: $5,500 to $15,000 for a season running 142 games. The strike ended with a slight improvement in pay - 2006 April 07 Today in labor history for the week of April 3, 2017National Labor Relations Board attorney tells ILWU members to “lie down like good dogs,” Juneau, Alaska - 1947 Some 300,000 members of the National Federation of Telephone Workers, soon to become CWA, strike AT&T and the Bell System. Within five weeks all but two of the 39 federation unions had won new contracts - 1947 Fifteen thousand union janitors strike, Los Angeles - 2000 April 08 A total of 128 convict miners, leased to a coal company under the state’s shameful convict lease system, are killed in an explosion at the Banner coal mine outside Birmingham, Ala. The miners were mostly African-Americans jailed for minor offenses - 1911 President Wilson establishes the War Labor Board, composed of representatives from business and labor, to arbitrate disputes between workers and employers during World War I - 1918 The Works Progress Administration (WPA) is approved by Congress. President Franklin Roosevelt proposed the WPA during the Great Depression of the 1930s when almost 25 percent of Americans were unemployed. It created low-paying federal jobs providing immediate relief, putting 8.5 million jobless to work on projects ranging from construction of bridges, highways and public buildings to arts programs like the Federal Writers' Project - 1935 (Agitate! Educate! Organize! American Labor Posters: WPA artists’ depictions of workers can be seen in Today in labor history for the week of April 3, 2017labor posters of that era. In Agitate! Educate! Organize!, Lincoln Cushing and Timothy W. Drescher share their vast knowledge about the rich graphic tradition of labor posters. Here you will find lavish full-color reproductions of more than 250 of the best posters that have emerged from the American labor movement on topics ranging from core issues such as wages and working conditions to discrimination to international solidarity.) President Harry S. Truman orders the U.S. Army to seize the nation’s steel mills to avert a strike. The Supreme Court ruled the act illegal three weeks later - 1952 Today in labor history for the week of April 3, 2017April 09 IWW organizes the 1,700-member crew of the Leviathan, then the world’s largest vessel - 1930

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 4-2-17: School Vouchers, Voter Suppression, And NHRS

In a final flurry of action, the NH Senate completed action on its bills this past week, setting the stage for the next round of activity at the State House. One of the bills passed by the Senate was SB3, which is another in a long line of attempts at voter suppression. With some newspapers continuing to give front-page coverage to claims of massive voter fraud in NH (even as the stories themselves admit there is no evidence to back such claims), NH Republicans voted to impose new restrictions upon individuals registering to vote. Under this proposed legislation, the applicant will need to fill out a cumbersome and lengthy registration form and provide proofs of residency far beyond what has previously been accepted in NH. The goal, of course, is to reduce same-day registration and reduce voting by college students by dissuading them from even trying to register or creating such long delays at polling places that they will walk away and not vote at all. All of this is done in the name of voter fraud claims repeatedly and definitively refuted by town officials, the NH Secretary of State, and every non-partisan election observer. Instead, as NH’s Granite State Progress puts it, the NH Senate has now (by a party-line vote), thrown NH voters under the “make-believe, magic bus” of those who continue to assert fraud but offer not one scintilla of evidence to back their claims. What a basis for making policy!

SB3 will now go to the NH House, where it will undergo further hearings before being brought to the floor for a vote. Given that there is a Republican majority in the House and that Governor Sununu has also put forward unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, this bad legislation is likely to pass.

Full-Day Kindergarten   One positive development out of the Senate this past week was passage of a bill to provide targeted aid for full-day kindergarten here in NH. The House Finance Committee cut full-day kindergarten from their proposed 2018-19 State budget, but passage of this bill by the Senate makes clear that targeted funding for full-day kindergarten will be a point of contention in upcoming budget battles over the next two months.

House Finance Committee The House did not meet this past week, but the House Finance Committee did take its final votes and has now presented a proposed 2018-19 budget for the State of New Hampshire. As noted above, the Republican majority on the committee voted to eliminate proposed targeted funding for full-day kindergarten, following the logic of House Speaker Shawn Jasper, who could not imagine how any 5 or 6-year old could sit in school for a full day. (Maybe I’m odd, but I know I managed it just fine back in 1963-64!) The other proposals concerning us in this proposed budget concern the NH Retirement System. First, the budget makes no change in the State’s contribution to retirement costs for school districts and towns & municipalities that joined the System with promises of State backing. Instead, the State contribution rate remains at zero, meaning the State continues to break its promises and instead, passes along all retirement cost increases to local taxpayers. Second, this budget forces retirees under age 65 to pay 14% more towards their health insurance (20% of premium cost) and requires those aged 65-67 to now pay at least 10% towards health insurance premiums. In essence, the proposed budget reneges on prior agreements for retirees, making clear once again that the State of NH (at least in this budget) is not to be trusted whatsoever.

The proposed House budget will now go to the floor on Wednesday April 5 and will be voted on either the 5th or 6th. There will be numerous amendments proposed by members of both parties, but in the end, unless there is a major split within the Republican majority, the proposed budget will pass. It will then move on to the Senate where an entirely new budget will likely be drawn up and eventually passed, which means the final version of the 2018-19 budget will be worked out in a committee of conference between the Senate and House in May and likely voted on in June. In sum, the process has only begun.

School Vouchers   Finally, SB193, the radical voucher bill will be considered by the House Education Committee in a hearing this coming Tuesday morning. Advocates of “school choice” will be out in force in support of this raid upon public revenues, and have already launched attacks upon AFT-NH, among others, for opposing this legislation. They imply that AFT-NH spends millions in lobbying against this sort of legislation, which of course, is pure fiction, and whatever AFT spends nationally on the issue is dwarfed by the money spent by ALEC, Americans for Prosperity and the all the various front organizations funded by corporate interests intent on privatizing and profiting from education. The sad truth here in NH is that SB193 will result in major property tax increases as public funds are drained from public education to pay for private schooling. The reality is that choice already exists—what does not exist is the use of public funds to support private choices. SB193 does that, giving public monies to schools that can cherry-pick their students, need not offer the services required for special needs students, and remain free many programmatic and support requirements that public schools must meet. What the advocates of SB193 seek is public money, not public regulation, accountability or transparency. As Mark Fernald perceptively noted in a recent editorial, “If we create a system that is truly competitive and fair—with every school receiving public money meeting the same standards—I think we would find that our public schools do very well, and that most private and charter schools would not be interested in participating.”

Your Action Needed Now   So, if you have not already, please join us in opposing SB193 by completing the two following actions-

  1. A hearing before the House Education Committee has been scheduled for Tuesday, April 4th at 10:00am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 207, 33 North State Street, Concord, NH. Please attend the hearing and show your opposition. If you do not wish to testify, you can sign a card showing your opposition.

    If you are unable to attend, you can email the full House Education Committee directly at HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us. For more resources on this issue to assist you with writing a quick note, please visit our web site at: http://nh.aft.org/2017-nh-state-house-news#

  2. Contact your State Representative by clicking the following one-click action to stop school vouchers!

    Defeat SB 193           

There is no question when our members, partners, and other stakeholders stand up and register their opinions to lawmakers, we do make a difference! Thank you for all that you are doing every day to push back against legislation that is harmful to our state.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017

March 06
The Sailors’ Union of the Pacific, a union of mariners, fishermen and boatmen working aboard U.S. flag vessels, is founded in San Francisco – 1885

The Knights of Labor picket to protest the practices of the Southwestern Railroad system, and the company’s chief, high-flying Wall Street financier Jay Gould. Some 9,000 workers walked off the job, halting service on 5,000 miles of track. The workers held out for two months, many suffering from hunger, before they finally returned to work – 1886

Joe Hill’s song “There is Power in a Union” appears in Little Red Song Book, published by the Wobblies – 1913

With the Great Depression underway, hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers demonstrated in some 30 cities and towns; close to 100,000 filled Union Square in New York City and were attacked by mounted police – 1930

Int’l Brotherhood of Paper Makers merges with United Paperworkers of America to become United Papermakers & Paperworkers – 1957

The federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act is enacted – 1970

Predominantly young workers at a Lordstown, Ohio, GM assembly plant stage a wildcat strike, largely Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017in objection to the grueling work pace: at 101.6 cars per hour, their assembly line was believed to be the fastest in the world – 1972

President Jimmy Carter invoked the Taft-Hartley law to halt the 1977-78 national contract strike by the United Mine Workers of America. The order was ignored and Carter did little to enforce it. A settlement was reached in late March – 1978

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the nation’s unemployment rate soared to 8.1 percent in February, the highest since late 1983, as cost-cutting employers slashed 651,000 jobs amid a deepening recession – 2009 

March 07
Some 6,000 shoemakers, joined by about 20,000 other workers, strike in Lynn, Mass. They won raises, but not recognition of their union – 1860

Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017Three thousand unemployed auto workers, led by the Communist Party of America, braved the cold in Dearborn, Mich., to demand jobs and relief from Henry Ford. The marchers got too close to the gate and were gassed. After re-grouping, they were sprayed with water and shot at. Four men died immediately; 60 were wounded – 1932

Steel Workers Organizing Committee—soon to become the United Steel Workers—signs its first-ever contract, with Carnegie-Illinois, for $5 a day in wages, benefits – 1937

IWW founder and labor organizer Lucy Parsons dies – 1942

Hollywood writers represented by the Writers Guild of America strike against 200 television and movie studios over residuals payments and creative rights. The successful strike lasted 150 days, one of the longest in industry history – 1988

Musicians strike Broadway musicals and shows go dark when actors and stagehands honor picket lines. The strike was resolved after four days – 2003

March 08Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017
Thousands of New York needle trades workers demonstrate for higher wages, shorter workday, and end to child labor. The demonstration became the basis for International Women’s Day – 1908

Three explosions at a Utah Fuel Co. mine in Castle Gate, Utah, kill 171. Fifty of the fatalities were native-born Greeks, 25 were Italians, 32 English or Scots, 12 Welsh, four Japanese, and three Austrians (or South Slavs). The youngest victim was 15; the oldest, 73 – 1924

New York members of the Fur and Leather Workers Union, many of them women, strike for better pay and conditions. They persevere despite beatings by police, winning a 10-percent wage increase and five-day work week – 1926

The Norris-LaGuardia Anti-Injunction Act took effect on this day. It limits the ability of federal judges to issue injunctions against workers and unions involved in labor disputes – 1932

César Chávez leads 5,000 striking farmworkers on a march through the streets of Salinas, Calif. – 1979

Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017(The Fight in the Fields: No man in this century has had more of an impact on the lives of Hispanic Americans, and especially farmworkers, than the legendary Cesar Chavez. This book tells of Chavez and his union’s struggles: to raise farmworker pay from .40 an hour; to win union recognition from savagely resistant grape and lettuce growers; to stop the use of deadly pesticides that were killing children in the fields. The pacifist Chavez endured several month-long fasts to counteract what he saw as a growing tendency toward violence in the farmworker movement, and many think those heroic acts contributed to his early death, at the age of 64.)

March 09
The Westmoreland County (Pa.) Coal Strike—known as the “Slovak strike” because some 70 percent of the 15,000 strikers were Slovakian immigrants—begins on this date and continues for nearly 16 months before ending in defeat. Sixteen miners and family members were killed during the strike – 1912
Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017
Spurred by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the U.S. Congress begins its 100 days of enacting New Deal legislation.  Just one of many programs established to help Americans survive the Great Depression: The Civilian Conservation Corps, which put 2.5 million young men on the government payroll to help in national conservation and infrastructure projects – 1933

Work begins on the $8 billion, 800-mile-long Alaska Oil pipeline connecting oil fields in northern Alaska to the sea port at Valdez. Tens of thousands of people worked on the pipeline, enduring long hours, cold temperatures and brutal conditions. At least 32 died on the job – 1974

March 10
U.S. Supreme Court upholds espionage conviction of labor leader and socialist Eugene V. Debs. Debs was jailed for speaking out against World War I. Campaigning for president from his Atlanta jail cell, he won 3.4 percent of the vote—nearly a million votes – 1919

Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017(The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene V. Debs: Eugene V. Debs was a labor activist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who captured the 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.)

New York City bus drivers, members of the Transport Workers Union, go on strike. After 12 days of no Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017buses—and a large show of force by Irish-American strikers at the St. Patrick’s Day parade—Mayor Fiorello La Guardia orders arbitration – 1941

United Farm Workers leader César Chávez breaks a 24-day fast, by doctor’s order, at a mass in Delano, California’s public park. Several thousand supporters are at his side, including Sen. Robert Kennedy. Chavez called it “a fast for non-violence and a call to sacrifice” – 1968

Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017March 11
Luddites smash 63 “labor saving” textile machines near Nottingham, England – 1811

Transport Workers Union members at American Airlines win 11-day national strike, gaining what the union says was the first severance pay clause in industry – 1950

March 12
Greedy industrialist turned benevolent philanthropist Andrew Carnegie pledges $5.2 million for the construction of 65 branch libraries in New York City—barely 1 percent of his net worth at the time. He established more than 2,500 libraries between 1900 and 1919 following years of treating workers in his steel plants brutally, demanding long hours in horrible conditions and fighting their efforts to unionize. Carnegie made $500 million when he sold out to J.P. Morgan, becoming the world’s richest man – 1901

The first tunnel under the Hudson River is completed after 30 years of drilling, connecting Jersey City and Manhattan. In just one of many tragedies during the project, 20 workers died on a single day in 1880 when the tunnel flooded – 1904
Today in labor history for the week of March 6, 2017
The Lawrence, Mass., “Bread and Roses” textile strike ends when the American Woolen Co. agrees to most of the strikers’ demands; other textile companies quickly followed suit – 1912

Lane Kirkland, president of the AFL-CIO from 1979 to 1995, born in Camden, S.C. – 1922

Steelworkers approve a settlement with Oregon Steel Mills, Inc. and its CF&I Steel subsidiary, ending the longest labor dispute in the USWA’s history and resulting in more than $100 million in back pay for workers – 2004

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Today in labor history for the week of February 27, 2017

This Week in Labor History
February 27
Legendary labor leader and socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs becomes charter member and secretary of the Vigo Lodge, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen. Five years later he is leading the national union and in 1893 helps found the nation’s first industrial union, the American Railway Union – 1875

Birth of John Steinbeck in Salinas, Calif.  Steinbeck is best known for writing The Grapes of Wrath, which exposed the mistreatment of migrant farm workers during the Depression and led to some reforms – 1902

Thirty-eight miners die in a coal mine explosion in Boissevain, Va. – 1932

Four hundred fifty Woolworth’s workers and customers occupy store for eight Today in labor history for the week of February 27, 2017days in support of Waiters and Waitresses Union, Detroit – 1937

The Supreme Court rules that sit-down strikes, a major organizing tool for industrial unions, are illegal – 1939

Mine disaster kills 75 at Red Lodge, Mont. – 1943

February 28
U.S. Supreme Court finds that a Utah state law limiting mine and smelter workers to an 8-hour workday is constitutional – 1898

(Actually Leap Year Feb. 29) The minimum age allowed by law for workers in mills, factories, and mines in South Carolina is raised from 12 to 14 – 1915

Today in labor history for the week of February 27, 2017(Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor: 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.)

Members of the Chinese Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union in San Francisco’s Chinatown begin what is to be a successful four-month strike for better wages and conditions at the National Dollar Stores factory Today in labor history for the week of February 27, 2017and three retail outlets – 1938

(Actually leap year Feb. 29) Screen Actors Guild member Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American to win an Academy Award, honored for her portrayal of “Mammy” in “Gone with the Wind” – 1940

In response to the layoff of 450 union members at a 3M factory in New Jersey, every worker at a 3M factory in Elandsfontein, South Africa, walks off the job in sympathy – 1986

Today in labor history for the week of February 27, 2017March 01
The Granite Cutters National Union begins what is to be a successful nationwide strike for the 8-hour day. Also won: union recognition, wage increases, a grievance procedure and a minimum wage scale – 1900

Joseph Curran is born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. At age 16 he joined the Merchant Marines and in 1937 went on to lead the formation of the National Maritime Union. He was the union’s founding president and held the post until 1973, when he resigned amidst corruption charges. He died in 1981 – 1906

IWW strikes Portland, Ore., sawmills – 1907

An article in the March 1936 edition of the magazine Popular Science lists what it terms “the world’s craziest jobs,” all of them in Hollywood. Included: Horse-tail painter (to make the tails stand out better in the movies); bone-bleacher (for animal skeletons in Westerns); and chorus-girl weigher, whose function the article did not make terribly clear – 1936

Sailors aboard the S.S. California, docked in San Pedro, Calif., refuse to cast off the lines and allow the ship to sail until their wages are increased and overtime paid. The job action lasts three days before the secretary of labor intervenes and an agreement is reached. The leaders were fined two days’ pay, fired and blacklisted, although charges of mutiny were dropped. The action marked the beginnings of the National Maritime Union – 1936

After five years of labor by 21,000 workers, 112 of whom were killed on the job, the Hoover Dam (Boulder Dam) is completed and turned over to the government. Citizens were so mad at President Herbert Hoover, for whom the dam had been named, that it was later changed to Boulder Dam, being located near Boulder City, Nev. – 1936Today in labor history for the week of February 27, 2017

CIO president John L. Lewis and U.S. Steel President Myron Taylor sign a landmark contract in which the bitterly anti-union company officially recognized the CIO as sole negotiator for the company’s unionized workers. Included: the adoption of overtime pay, the 40-hour work week, and a big pay hike – 1937

The federal minimum wage increases to $1 per hour – 1956

March 02
Postal workers granted 8-hour day – 1913

Today in labor history for the week of February 27, 2017(From the Folks Who Brought You The Weekend: This is a sweeping, highly readable history of U.S. labor that will be welcomed by anyone interested in learning more about the struggle of American working people to better their lives through collective action. This excellent narrative surveys the historic efforts and sacrifices that working people made to win the rights we take for granted today, from minimum wage and overtime protections to health and safety guarantees to even the weekend itself.)

More than 6,000 drivers strike Greyhound Lines, most lose jobs to strikebreakers after company declares “impasse” in negotiations – 1990

March 03
Birth date in Coshocton, Ohio, of William Green, a coal miner who was to succeed Samuel Gompers as president of the American Federation of Labor, serving in the role from 1924 to 1952. He held the post until his death, to be succeeded by George Meany – 1873
Today in labor history for the week of February 27, 2017
The local lumber workers’ union in Humboldt County, Calif., founded the Union Labor Hospital Association to establish a hospital for union workers in the county. The hospital became an important community facility that was financed and run by the local labor movement – 1906

Congress approves the Seamen’s Act, providing the merchant marine with rights similar to those gained by factory workers. Action on the law was prompted by the sinking of the Titanic three years earlier. Among other gains: working hours were limited to 56 per week; guaranteed minimum standards of cleanliness and safety were put in place – 1915

The Davis-Bacon Act took effect today. It orders contractors on federally financed or assisted construction projects to pay wage rates equal to those prevailing in local construction trades – 1931

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017

February 20
Responding to a 15 percent wage cut, women textile workers in Lowell, Mass., organize a “turn-out”—a strike—in protest. The action failed. Two years later they formed the Factory Girl’s Association in response to a rent hike in company boarding houses and the increase was rescinded. One worker’s diary recounts a “stirring speech” of resistance by a co-worker, 11-year-old Harriet Hanson Robinson – 1834

Rally for unemployed becomes major confrontation in Philadelphia, 18 arrested for demanding jobs – 1908

Thousands of women march to New York’s City Hall demanding relief from exorbitant wartime food prices. Inflation had wiped out any wage gains made by workers, leading to a high level of working class protest during World War I – 1917
Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017(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. Howard Zinn (1922-2010) was a widely respected historian, author, playwright, and social activist. In A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present, he 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.)

United Mine Workers settle 10-month Pittston strike in Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia – 1990

February 21Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017
A state law was enacted in California providing the 8-hour day for most workers, but it was not effectively enforced – 1868

Transportation-Communication Employees Union merges with Brotherhood of Railway, Airline & Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express & Station Employees – 1969

United Farm Workers of America granted a charter by the AFL-CIO – 1972

February 22
Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017Representatives of the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers meet in St. Louis with 20 other organizations to plan the founding convention of the People’s Party. Objectives: end political corruption, spread the wealth, and combat the oppression of the rights of workers and farmers – 1892

Albert Shanker dies at age 68. He served as president of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers from 1964 to 1984 and of the American Federation of Teachers from 1974 to 1997 – 1997

February 23
W.E.B. DuBois, educator and civil rights activist, born – 1868Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017

The National Marine Engineers Association (now the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association), representing deck and engine officers on U.S. flag vessels, is formed at a convention in Cleveland, Ohio – 1875

The Journeyman Bakers’ National Union receives its charter from the American Federation of Labor – 1887

William Randolph Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner began publishing articles on the menace of Japanese laborers, leading to a resolution in the California legislature that action be taken against their immigration – 1904

Woody Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land” following a frigid trip—partially by hitchhiking, partially by rail—from California to Manhattan. The Great Depression was still raging. Guthrie had heard Kate Smith’s recording of “God Bless America” and resolved to himself: “We can’t just bless America, we’ve got to change it” – 1940

Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017(Woody Guthrie: A Life: Folksinger and political activist Woody Guthrie contributed much to the American labor movement, not the least of which are his classic anthems “Union Maid” and “This Land Is Your Land.” This is an easy-to-read, honest description of Guthrie’s life, from a childhood of poverty to an adulthood of music and organizing—and a life cut short by incurable disease. Guthrie’s life and work inspired millions while he lived and continues to do so through musicians such as his son Arlo, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Billy Bragg and Bruce Springsteen, to name just a few. Guthrie is portrayed as he was—an imperfect being but one with a gift that helped millions as they struggled toward better lives.)

Association of Flight Attendants granted a charter by the AFL-CIO – 1984

Following voter approval for the measure in 2003, San Francisco’s minimum wage rises to $8.50, up from $6.75 – 2004

February 24
U.S. Supreme Court upholds Oregon state restrictions on the working hours of women, justified as necessary to protect their health. A laundry owner was fined $10 for making a female employee work more than 10 hours in a single day – 1908
Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017
Women and children textile strikers beaten by Lawrence, Mass., police during a 63-day walkout protesting low wages and work speedups – 1912

Congress passes a federal child labor tax law that imposed a 10 percent tax on companies that employ children, defined as anyone under the age of 16 working in a mine/quarry or under the age 14 in a “mill, cannery, workshop, factory, or manufacturing establishment.”  The Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional three years later – 1919

February 25
Amalgamated Association of Street & Electric Railway Employees of America change name to Amalgamated Transit Union – 1965

The Order of Railroad Telegraphers change name to Transportation-Communication Employees Union – 1965

Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017A crowd estimated to be 100,000 strong rallied at the Wisconsin state Capitol in protest of what was ultimately was to become a successful push by the state’s Republican majority to cripple public employee bargaining rights – 2011

February 26
Congress OKs the Contract Labor Law, designed to clamp down on “business agents” who contracted abroad for immigrant labor. One of the reasons unions supported the measure: employers were using foreign workers to fight against the growing U.S. labor movement, primarily by deploying immigrant labor to break strikes – 1885

(The Labor Law Source Book: Texts of 20 Federal Labor Laws is a very handy collection that puts the full Today in labor history for the week of February 20, 2017texts of all the major U.S. labor laws into one book. Includes the National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Family and Medical Leave Act and 15 more. The full, actual language of each law is presented—without elaboration by the editor—and a helpful topic finder at the back of the book tells you which laws apply to basic concerns and classes of workers. A valuable basic reference. This book contains the texts of federal labor law amended as of December 31, 2013.)

Bethlehem Steel workers strike for union recognition, Bethlehem, Pa. – 1941

A coal slag heap doubling as a dam in West Virginia’s Buffalo Creek Valley collapsed, flooding the 17-mile long valley. 118 died, 5,000 were left homeless. The Pittston Coal Co. said it was “an act of God” – 1972

A 20-week strike by 70,000 Southern California supermarket workers ends, with both sides claiming victory – 2004

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

Today in labor history for the week of February 13, 2017

February 13
A national eight-month strike by the Sons of Vulcan, a union of iron forgers, ends in victory when employers agreed to a wage scale based on the price of iron bars—the first time employers recognized the union, the first union contract in the iron and steel industry, and what may be the first union contract of any kind in the United States – 1865

Some 12,000 Hollywood writers returned to work today following a largely successful three-month strike against television and motion picture studios.  They won compensation for their TV and movie work that gets streamed on the Internet – 2008

Today in labor history for the week of February 13, 2017
(Working Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds, and Riffraff is an encyclopedic guide to 350 labor films from around the world, ranging from those you’ve heard of—Salt of the Earth, The Grapes of Wrath, Roger & Me—to those you’ve never heard of but will fall in love with once you see them. Fiction and nonfiction, the films are about unions, labor history, working-class life, political movements, and the struggle between labor and capital.)

February 14
Western Federation of Miners strike for 8-hour day – 1903

Today in labor history for the week of February 13, 2017President Theodore Roosevelt creates the Department of Commerce and Labor. It was divided into two separate government departments ten years later – 1903

Jimmy Hoffa born in Brazil, Ind., son of a coal miner. Disappeared July 30, 1975, declared dead seven years later – 1913

Striking workers at Detroit’s newspapers, out since the previous July, offer to return to work. The offer is accepted five days later but the newspapers vow to retain some 1,200 scabs. A court ruling the following year ordered as many as 1,100 former strikers reinstated – 1996

February 15Today in labor history for the week of February 13, 2017
Susan B. Anthony, suffragist, abolitionist, labor activist, born in Adams, Mass. “Join the union, girls, and together say: Equal Pay for Equal Work.” – 1820

U.S. legislators pass the Civil Works Emergency Relief Act, providing funds for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which funneled money to states plagued by Depression-era poverty and unemployment, and oversaw the subsequent distribution and relief efforts – 1934

The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) expels the Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers; the Food, Tobacco & Agricultural Workers; and the United Office & Professional Workers for “Communist tendencies.” Other unions expelled for the same reason (dates uncertain): Fur and Leather Workers, the Farm Equipment Union, the Int’l Longshoremen’s Union, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers – 1950

Today in labor history for the week of February 13, 2017February 16
Leonora O’Reilly was born in New York. The daughter of Irish immigrants, she began working in a factory at 11, joined the Knights of Labor at 16, and was a volunteer investigator of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911. She was a founding member of the Women’s Trade Union League – 1870

Diamond Mine disaster in Braidwood, Ill. The coal mine was on a marshy tract of land with no natural drainage. Snow melted and forced a collapse on the east side of the mine, killing 74 – 1883

Beginning of a 17-week general strike of 12,000 New York furriers, in which Jewish workers formed a coalition with Greek and African American workers and became the first union to win a 5-day, 40-hour week – 1926

Rubber Workers begin sit-down strike at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. – 1936

American Wire Weavers Protective Association merges with United Papermakers & Paperworkers – 1959

All public schools in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisc., are closed as teachers call in sick to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s plans to gut their collective bargaining rights – 2011

February 17Today in labor history for the week of February 13, 2017
Sixty-three sit-down strikers, demanding recognition of their union, are tear-gassed and driven from two Fansteel Metallurgical Corp. plants in Chicago. Two years later the U.S. Supreme Court declared sit-down strikes illegal. The tactic had been a major industrial union organizing tool – 1937

Two locals of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Int’l Union (now UNITE HERE) at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., strike in sympathy with 1,300 graduate student teaching assistants who are demanding the right to negotiate with the university – 1992

February 18
One of the first American labor newspapers, The Man, is published in New York City. It cost 1¢ and, according to The History of American Journalism, “died an early death.” Another labor paper, N.Y. Daily Sentinel, had been launched four years earlier – 1834
Today in labor history for the week of February 13, 2017
Faced with 84-hour workweeks, 24-hour shifts and pay of 29¢ an hour, fire fighters form The Int’l Association of Fire Fighters. Some individual locals had affiliated with the AFL beginning in 1903 – 1918

February 19
American Federation of Labor issues a charter to its new Railroad Employees Department – 1909

A few weeks after workers ask for a 25¢ hourly wage, the Philadelphia Rapid Transit (streetcar) Co. fires 173 union members “for the good of the service” and brings in replacements from New York City. Striker-scab battles and a general strike ensued – 1910

Today in labor history for the week of February 13, 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.)

Journeymen Stonecutters Association of North America merges with Laborers’ Int’l Union – 1968

Today in labor history for the week of February 13, 2017The U.S. Supreme Court decides in favor of sales clerk Leura Collins and her union, the Retail Clerks, in NLRB v. J. Weingarten Inc.—the case establishing that workers have a right to request the presence of their union steward if they believe they are to be disciplined for a workplace infraction – 1975

Int’l Union of Police Associations granted a charter by the AFL-CIO – 1979

Farm Labor Organizing Committee signs agreement with Campbell Soup Co., ending 7-year boycott – 1986

—Compiled and edited by David Prosten

TEA Party Rep, Steve King Pushes A National Right To Work Bill And Repeal Of Davis Bacon

Labor unions respond to Rep King’s introduction of a National Right to Work (for less) law and a full repeal of the Davis Bacon Act that ensures a prevailing wage on all federal projects.

Once again TEA Party Representative, Steve King (R-IOWA) introduced a national Right to Work bill in Congress.

“So-called right-to-work has done enough harm to working people in the states where it is law. Forcing it upon every state in the country would be a national disaster,” said Robert Martinez, Jr., International President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

“Right to work is a lie dressed up in a feel-good slogan. It doesn’t give workers freedom—instead, it weakens our right to join together and bargain for better wages and working conditions. Its end goal is to destroy unions,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “Numbers don’t lie. Workers in states with right to work laws have wages that are 12% lower. That’s because unions raise wages for all workers, not just our members. Its end goal is to destroy unions.”

“Right to work isn’t the will of the people, it’s legislation pushed on working people by out-of-touch corporations that want to ship jobs overseas, cut health and safety protections, and pay lower wages,” added Trumka.

“In introducing so-called “right to work” legislation, Republicans in Congress didn’t waste any time doing the bidding of corporate interests who have plotted for years to weaken the collective bargaining rights of working people,” wrote the Communication Workers of America. “Right to work doesn’t create jobs. It doesn’t improve economic development. It does result in lower wages – 3.1 percent lower, according to the Economic Policy Institute –and fewer benefits for working people. It weakens workers’ ability to join together and bargain collectively with their employer.”

To add further insult to working people, Rep King, and fellow TEA Partier, Senator Mike Lee, re-introduced a repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act.

The Davis-Bacon Act set a prevailing wage that must be met on all federal projects. Prevailing wages are set by regions to ensure that workers in the local area of the project are paid a wage comparable to other workers in their area.

“The introduction of national so-called “right to work” and anti-Davis Bacon legislation is a bid to further shrink opportunities for working class Americans and their families,” said Terry O’Sullivan, General President of the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA). “These pieces of legislation are a deceptive politically-motivated trick to deny millions of American workers the freedom to join together in a union for mutual benefit and to earn a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”

“The bill to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act is a severe attack on the wages and living standards of millions of blue-collar workers and on taxpayers who expect quality construction work on public projects. For generations the Davis-Bacon Act has helped to prevent government projects from driving down wages and help to attract skilled, trained workers, and has given taxpayers the best deal for their money,” added O’Sullivan.

As the Koch Brothers and their political organization, the Americans For Prosperity, push Right to Work at the state level, this new federal bill is just another ideological partisan attack on working people.

“The political motives for right-to-work laws are clear: transfer even more money and power to corporate elites who don’t give a damn about the middle class,” said IAM President Martinez. “November’s election should have made this clear to the political class—American workers are sick and tired of having their wages slashed, and all too often, their jobs shipped overseas. Taking away their right to a strong voice at the bargaining table will hurt the same people Congress is supposed to represent.

“Working people were loud and clear in this past election. We want an economy that works for all, not just corporations. We know we need to rewrite the rules of the economy so that policies like bad trade deals and right to work aren’t the new norm. President Trump has said he supports unions and the people who are our members. He has stood up to corporate Republicans on trade. We call on him to do the same on right to work, and to stand up for every worker’s right to join a union,” Trumka added.

AFL-CIO, LiUNA, CWA and IAM all agree that Congress should once again reject the passage of so-called Right to Work legislation and oppose the repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act.

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