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Workers In Right To Work States Are Less Likely To Have Access To Retirement Plans

Pew Analysis Shows Access to Workplace Retirement Plans
Varies Widely Across States

Big differences among industries, incomes, ages, education, race and ethnicities

Wide differences in access to and participation in employer-based retirement plans exist across states, with variations by employer size and industry type as well as by workers’ income, age, education, race and ethnicity, according to a report released today by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The report, Who’s In, Who’s Out: A Look at Access to Employer-Based Retirement Plans and Participation in the States, examines the rates of access to and participation in plans in all 50 states and assesses the challenges facing workers and employers in ensuring that Americans have sufficient resources to pay for their retirements.

Access and participation is higher in the Midwest, New England, and parts of the Pacific Northwest—and lower in the South and West. The report also finds that among Hispanic workers, access to a plan is around 25 percentage points below that for white non-Hispanic workers. Black and Asian workers also report lower rates of access than white workers.     

“Access to workplace retirement plans varies widely across the states,” said John Scott, director of Pew’s retirement savings project. “Recognizing the savings challenge faced by so many Americans, half of the states are looking at their own solutions.” 

There is a correlation between traditionally strong union states and access to retirement plans.  Workers in Right To Work (for less) states generally have much less access to retirement plans or pensions.

Below is an chart from the report that shows the percentage of workers who has access to some type of retirement plan.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 11.45.19 AMBelow is the current map of Pro-Labor / Right To Work states.  Notice that the overwhelming majority of Right To Work states have drastically less access to retirement plans. (Note: Wisconsin became a RTW state in March of 2015, Michigan in March of 2013, and Indiana in February of 2012.)

righttowork_uschart2015

Overall, Pew’s analysis, based on a pooled version of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS), found that 58 percent of private sector workers have access to a plan, while 49 percent participate in one. Pew also found that more than 30 million full-time, full-year, private sector workers ages 18 to 64 lack access to an employer-based retirement plan, whether a traditional pension or a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k).

The report notes the numerous efforts at the state and federal levels to increase retirement savings. Illinois, for instance, adopted the Secure Choice Savings Program in 2015, which will start enrolling certain private sector workers in new payroll-deduction retirement accounts by 2017. In another example, the state of Washington created a marketplace in which small employers and the self-employed can shop for retirement plans. In addition, the federal government has rolled out the “myRA,” a new national savings program that is geared toward low-income savers. 

“Workplace retirement savings plans can be a critical piece of the retirement security puzzle,” said Scott. “But for millions of Americans, this piece is missing.”

The collective bargaining process has long been the key to ensuring a fair wage and access to retirement. As union membership declines we are continuing to see a reduction in our wages and access to benefits including retirement plans.  


More detailed information, including state-by-state breakdowns, is available in the report’s online interactive data visualization at www.pewtrusts.org/retirementaccess. 

Click here to download the full report.

Workers In Right To Work States Are Less Likely To Have Access To Retirement Plans

Pew Analysis Shows Access to Workplace Retirement Plans
Varies Widely Across States

Big differences among industries, incomes, ages, education, race and ethnicities

Wide differences in access to and participation in employer-based retirement plans exist across states, with variations by employer size and industry type as well as by workers’ income, age, education, race and ethnicity, according to a report released today by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The report, Who’s In, Who’s Out: A Look at Access to Employer-Based Retirement Plans and Participation in the States, examines the rates of access to and participation in plans in all 50 states and assesses the challenges facing workers and employers in ensuring that Americans have sufficient resources to pay for their retirements.

Access and participation is higher in the Midwest, New England, and parts of the Pacific Northwest—and lower in the South and West. The report also finds that among Hispanic workers, access to a plan is around 25 percentage points below that for white non-Hispanic workers. Black and Asian workers also report lower rates of access than white workers.     

“Access to workplace retirement plans varies widely across the states,” said John Scott, director of Pew’s retirement savings project. “Recognizing the savings challenge faced by so many Americans, half of the states are looking at their own solutions.” 

There is a correlation between traditionally strong union states and access to retirement plans.  Workers in Right To Work (for less) states generally have much less access to retirement plans or pensions.

Below is an chart from the report that shows the percentage of workers who has access to some type of retirement plan.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 11.45.19 AMBelow is the current map of Pro-Labor / Right To Work states.  Notice that the overwhelming majority of Right To Work states have drastically less access to retirement plans. (Note: Wisconsin became a RTW state in March of 2015, Michigan in March of 2013, and Indiana in February of 2012.)

righttowork_uschart2015

Overall, Pew’s analysis, based on a pooled version of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS), found that 58 percent of private sector workers have access to a plan, while 49 percent participate in one. Pew also found that more than 30 million full-time, full-year, private sector workers ages 18 to 64 lack access to an employer-based retirement plan, whether a traditional pension or a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k).

The report notes the numerous efforts at the state and federal levels to increase retirement savings. Illinois, for instance, adopted the Secure Choice Savings Program in 2015, which will start enrolling certain private sector workers in new payroll-deduction retirement accounts by 2017. In another example, the state of Washington created a marketplace in which small employers and the self-employed can shop for retirement plans. In addition, the federal government has rolled out the “myRA,” a new national savings program that is geared toward low-income savers. 

“Workplace retirement savings plans can be a critical piece of the retirement security puzzle,” said Scott. “But for millions of Americans, this piece is missing.”

The collective bargaining process has long been the key to ensuring a fair wage and access to retirement. As union membership declines we are continuing to see a reduction in our wages and access to benefits including retirement plans.  


More detailed information, including state-by-state breakdowns, is available in the report’s online interactive data visualization at www.pewtrusts.org/retirementaccess. 

Click here to download the full report.

What the Case Against Union Dues Is Really About: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

photojpeg-2016-01-01-at-5-55-16-pm1-e1451949966541

Image by California Teachers Association

By Alan Shapiro for Unions Matter

On January 11, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that greatly concerns all union members working in the public sector, including teachers and other state and municipal workers. The case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, aims to overturn a Supreme Court ruling that has stood for nearly 40 years. In the important and unanimous 1977 decision Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Supreme Court upheld the right of public sector unions to collect “fair share” or “agency” fees from workers who choose not to join the union, because those workers benefit significantly from union representation.

The current lawsuit is viewed by many as an attack on unions, which it clearly is. As Jean Ross, co-president of the union National Nurses United, wrote:

“The intended effect is to essentially bankrupt public sector unions….The architects of this move are the management-linked groups, funded by some of the wealthiest corporate interests in the U.S., whose goal is to eliminate the ability of workers to have a voice in the workplace or limit the ability of corporations to put profits ahead of worker rights, workplace rights.”

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA) was filed in behalf of just ten teachers in California by the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), a right-wing law firm. Rebecca Friedrichs, the lead plaintiff in the case, said in the court declaration: “I object to many of the union’s public-policy positions, including positions that they have taken…in collective-bargaining.” And Terry Pell, president of the CIR, said that the case “is about the right of individuals to decide for themselves whether to join and pay dues….We are seeking the end of compulsory union dues….”

These arguments are simply untrue and misleading. First of all, these teachers already have the right not to join the union or pay union dues. However, in keeping with the Abood decision, those who don’t join are still required to pay “fair-share” fees for the benefits they receive through the union. It should be noted that under current law teachers who opt out of union membership are not required to fund any political activity. It’s important also to acknowledge that one of the “positions” unions have taken in collective bargaining is that every worker deserves fair compensation. A person’s not liking certain “positions” taken by the U.S. government does not annul that person’s obligation to pay their fair share of income taxes.

         What Motivates This Case?

 As a proud member of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) for nearly thirty years, I want teachers and other union members everywhere to know what Aesthetic Realism, founded by Eli Siegel, explains about our profit-driven economy and unions. It is knowledge that can have all my union brothers and sisters clearer and more equipped to combat the vicious battering union members have been forced to endure. Like other attacks on public sector unions in recent years, this case is part of a huge ethical battle going on in economics. Aesthetic Realism explains that it is like the battle that goes on in every person between contempt—the feeling we will be more by making less of something else, and respect—our desire to be just to the world, including other people.

       The Ethics Unions Represent    

At their basis, unions stand for respect and justice: men and women joining together so that they all can get what they deserve in return for their labor. This purpose is ethical

and kind And it’s completely opposed to the purpose of our profit-driven economy, which is based on contempt: seeing people as existing to make some few individuals wealthy while paying those who do the work as little as possible.

I’m grateful to my union because the UFT—like the CTA—fought hard and steadily for salary increases, pensions, health care, safe working conditions, paid sick leave, and fair grievance procedures. And the union protects these hard-won rights and benefits for all employees covered by the binding contracts they negotiate—union members and non-members alike. The teachers represented in this lawsuit are ungrateful, because they enjoy the benefits that the union fought for and won, and their desire not to pay their fair share should not become the law of the land.

      Our Economy Today

Beginning in 1970, Eli Siegel showed that profit economics could no longer work efficiently. In a series of historic lectures titled Goodbye Profit System, he gave abundant evidence for this failure—centrally the success of unions. Every pay raise, benefit, and safety regulation won by unions cuts into profits.

That is why for decades there has been a massive attempt by corporate America and a number of politicians to destroy unions—which is clearly the purpose of this lawsuit. After successfully weakening private sector unions, including through the passage of “right-to-work laws,” they are now going after public sector unions, trying to convince people (including union members themselves) that unions are the cause of America’s huge fiscal turmoil.

The situation we have today is commented on centrally by Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education. In the periodical The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, she writes:

“What the American people need to be told clearly is who, or what, is really to blame for America’s economic suffering, job losses, government deficits. They’re being told unions are to blame, because unions have been able to negotiate for their members some of what all people deserve, including pensions and health care. If unions thrive, all Americans can have these, and more. Unions stand for all of us. The cause of our economic trouble is 1) the persons who are using, and want to continue using, America and her workforce for their own private profits; and 2) governments’ funding those persons and their businesses, with the people’s money—through tax breaks, subsidies, and outsourcing public work to private companies.”

The practical alternative—and the only thing that will now work—is an economy based on ethics, on honestly answering this essential question, first asked by Eli Siegel: “What does a person deserve by being alive?” This can be the beginning of having an economy that is fair at last to every man, woman, and child in these United States.


Alan Shapiro is a jazz pianist who performs with the Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company. For 28 years he was a music teacher and choral director in the New York City public schools.  He is a proud member of the United Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Musicians (Local 802).

DNC and NH Democratic Party Pull WMUR Sponsorship Of Debate Over Labor Dispute

Generic-News-9-Image-updateWASHINGTON – Following WMUR’s decision to not move negotiations forward with IBEW Local 1228 ahead of next Saturday’sDemocratic debate, Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley issued the following joint statement:

“The DNC and the NHDP are excited about next Saturday’s Democratic presidential candidates debate in New Hampshire, and look forward to a spirited performance by all of our candidates.

Regrettably, as a result of WMUR’s unwillingness to move forward on scheduling negotiations between the Hearst Corporation and Production Department employees represented by IBEW Local 1228 prior to the debate, we will no longer include WMUR as a co-sponsor of the debate, and their talent will not be participating in any way.

The right for workers to form and organize a union is a key principle of the Democratic Party, and is key to ensuring the economic safety of the American people by protecting their rights and benefits. It is the right to organize that made it possible for the middle class in America to grow over the past century, and it is as important today as it has ever been to keep our economic growth as a nation moving forward.

We remain confident in our strong partnership with the ABC network and know that our Democratic candidates will have a robust debate, with a focus on the issues that matter most to hard working Americans across the country.”


Updates from WMUR, IBEW, and NH AFL-CIO below.


Jeff Bartlett, President and General Manager of WMUR-TV, issued this statement in response to the UNION LEADER:

“Needless to say, we’re disappointed that the efforts of the 140 WMUR employees in helping organize this debate will now be undone. Nevertheless, we’ll continue to cover the debate, and the candidates and campaigns. As for the negotiations with this particular union, we will continue with the policy we’ve followed with the many prior union negotiations we’ve successfully concluded – to negotiate in good faith, and directly and not through third parties.  To that end, we have a mutually agreed-upon date for another meeting, which has been scheduled and confirmed for some two weeks now.” 

It is unclear what future negotiations Bartlett is referring to. The fact is that no negotiations were scheduled prior to Senator Sander’s meeting with Jeff Bartlett on December 4th.


 IBEW Applauds DNC Decision to Drop WMUR Sponsorship of Next Debate

IBEW leaders are applauding the decision of the Democratic National Committee and the New Hampshire Democratic Party to drop television station WMUR as a co-sponsor of the next Democratic presidential debate scheduled for December 19.

“The right to collectively bargain has been a key part of every Democratic Party platform for more than a half a century,” said IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson.   “WMUR management’s refusal to meet in good faith with its employees stands in gross violation of that principle so I’m pleased that DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and N.H. Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley have taken this step.” 

Nearly two dozen members of IBEW Local 1228 have been resisting efforts to strip them of their retirement benefits. Management has ignored the union’s request for negotiations. 

All three Democratic candidates – Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders – have called on WMUR, which is owned by Hearst Media, to hold negotiations before the scheduled debate.

“We’re grateful for the support we’ve gotten from the DNC and from the candidates themselves,” said Local 1228 Business Manager Fletcher Fischer. “We hope this puts us one step further towards a fair resolution of the issue.”

(This update is also a stand alone post via this link: http://wp.me/s2yHP6-50346)


The NH AFL-CIO Praises DNC & NHDP’s Decision To Pull WMUR Sponsorship 

New Hampshire AFL-CIO President, Glenn Brackett’s statement on DNC & NHDP’s decision to remove WMUR as a co-sponsor of the December 19th Democratic Debate in Manchester: 

Hooksett – Glenn Brackett, President of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO issued the following statement in support of the Democratic National Committee and the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s decision to remove WMUR as a sponsor of the December 19th Democratic Debate due to WMUR’s refusal to negotiate in good faith with their workers. 

“I am proud of our brothers and sisters of IBEW 1228 for standing up for their rights as WMUR workers. I am grateful to the DNC, New Hampshire Democratic Party, and the Presidential candidates for their decision to stand with New Hampshire workers and hold Hearst Corp. accountable for their refusal to negotiate in good faith with their employees. I would like to thank DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz and NHDP chair Ray Buckley for their support throughout this endeavor. The New Hampshire AFL-CIO would also like to thank Democratic Presidential candidate Martin O’Malley for the statement he released yesterday calling on WMUR to be removed as a sponsor of this debate. 

Although we regret the Hearst Corporation’s repeated unwillingness to move contract negotiations forward with their employees, the New Hampshire AFL-CIO and its fellow brothers and sisters in organized labor look forward to the upcoming debate and the opportunity to see three great candidates make their case to New Hampshire, and working men and women across the country.”

(Link)

The Economic Policy Institute Unveils Their ‘Women’s Economic Agenda’

New ‘Women’s Economic Agenda’ focuses on closing the wage gap between men and woman while lifting the wages of all workers 

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We need an economy that works for everyone not just a select few. Research shows that we are putting working women, specifically women of color, at a severe disadvantage.

We already know that women on average only earn $.70 cents on the dollar compared to men in the same job. The wage gap harms a woman’s chance of economic prosperity and slows economic growth.

The wage gap is closing, however this is not all good news. From 1980 to the present the wage gap has gone from 62% to 82% of men’s wages. On the surface this would appear to be great news, except that 40% of the gains, made by women to close the wage gap, actually came from the fact that men’s wages are falling. The average wage for men dropped from $20.13 in 1980 to $18.35 today.

Ensuring that all workers are paid equally for equal work is important, but that should not be due to the fact that men’s wages are falling. We need to lift all the wages of all workers together.

Today, the Economic Policy Institute released its Women’s Economic Agenda, a set of 12 bold yet achievable proposals that push the discussion about women’s economic security beyond closing the gender wage gap. While closing the gap between men and women’s wages is essential to bring genuine economic security to women and their families, policymakers must do more. Policies in the agenda include raising the minimum wage, ending discriminatory practices that contribute to gender inequality, providing paid family leave, and increasing access to high-quality child care. If implemented, these policies could raise women’s wages by as much as 70 percent.

“Raising wages and boosting economic security for women is an essential part of growing and strengthening America’s middle class,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, who spoke at the agenda’s unveiling. “The proposals in EPI’s Women’s Economic Agenda would be powerful steps forward in the fight to level the playing field for women and families across the country.”

“The gender wage gap is only one way the economy shortchanges women,” said Alyssa Davis research assistant for the Economic Policy Institute. “Only when we take a holistic approach to women’s wages and seek to eliminate both the gender wage gap and the economic inequality gap will women reach their potential in the economy.”

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The full complement of policies in the Women’s Economic Agenda is:

  1. Raise the minimum wage—raising the federal minimum wage to $12 by 2020 would boost wages for one-fourth of the workforce, or 35 million working people—56 percent of whom are women.
  2. Eliminate the tipped minimum wage—two-thirds of tipped workers are women, yet they still make less than their male counterparts. At the median, women tipped workers make $10.07 per hour, while men make $10.63 (including tips).
  3. Strengthen collective bargaining rights—women in unions are more likely to be paid higher wages and have access to benefits such as paid sick days and pensions.
  4. End discriminatory practices that contribute to race and gender inequalities—black women earn 65.4 percent and Hispanic women earn 56.5 percent of white men’s hourly earnings.
  5. Provide paid family leave—only 12 percent of private-sector employees have access to paid family leave. Without paid family leave policies, workers (particularly women) have difficulty balancing the demands of work and family.
  6. Provide paid sick leave—ensuring that working women can earn paid sick time would let them meet their responsibilities at work and at home without compromising their family’s economic security.
  7. Require fair scheduling practices—over one-third of women hourly workers in their prime childrearing years receive their work schedules with advance notice of one week or less.
  8. Provide accessible, affordable, high-quality child care and early childhood education—accessible child care would ensure that parents do not need to choose between leaving the labor force and affording quality child care
  9. Protect and expand Social Security—the average female retiree receives over $300 less per Social Security check than her male counterpart.
  10. Provide undocumented workers a path to citizenship—women are concentrated in many occupations likely to be held by undocumented workers.
  11. Support strong enforcement of labor standards—women are more likely than men to be victims of wage theft, and are a majority of workers who would benefit from expanded overtime protections.
  12. Prioritize wage growth and very low unemployment when making monetary policy—better wage growth is crucial to ensuring that gender and racial wage gaps close for the right reasons, with wages rising for all groups but more rapidly for groups currently disadvantaged in labor markets.

Transportation Trades Department And Lawmakers Collaborate on Transportation Policy Concerns

Transportation Trade Department Logo

TTD Executive Committee Takes Aim at Pending Bills

WASHINGTON, DC — Transportation labor leaders — gathered today at the fall Executive Committee meeting of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) — met with key members of Congress to seek solutions to a woefully underfunded transportation system and to boost job creation in what remains a slow recovery that TTD’s leader said is “leaving too many working people behind.”

“The need for long-term investments in our transportation system and infrastructure will not ‘just go away,’” said Edward Wytkind, president of TTD, who added that the dialogue with congressional guests “focused like a laser” on ending the stalemate on crucial investment bills. “With the recent progress on a surface transportation bill and strong bipartisan display of support for the U.S. Merchant Marine, we may be witnessing a brief but important timeout from senseless partisanship.”

TTD hosted roundtable discussions with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the ranking Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

The high priorities during the discussion with lawmakers included keeping aviation and maritime issues out of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP); fighting legislative assaults on longshore employees’ bargaining rights; passing Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reauthorization; boosting the Maritime Security Program; and rejecting emerging hair specimen drug testing legislation.

“As Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, I value input from my friends in the transportation labor community who bring a critically needed front-line employee perspective to our work,” Diaz-Balart said. “By seeking the views of both labor and business, community leaders and other important partners, we can develop real, long-term solutions to our nation’s transportation infrastructure challenges.”

“We need to increase investments in our infrastructure and focus on the areas that will truly help create jobs and support our economy,” Nelson said. “We also need to protect the men and women who are out there every day making our transportation systems work.”

“Transportation infrastructure is at the heart of the U.S. economy. Our economic competitiveness, our businesses and millions of American jobs depend on robust investments in our crumbling network of roads, bridges, highways and transit systems,” DeFazio said. “We must continue to push for legislation that will modernize our nation’s transportation infrastructure, create good jobs and enhance the rights and working conditions of the men and women who keep America moving. I thank TTD for joining in that effort.”

The Executive Committee also held a discussion about plans for member education in the 2016 presidential election.

TTD, which represents some 2 million workers in every sector of transportation, has been working with its affiliates on a flurry of key issues. Just today TTD and its maritime and aviation affiliates sent a letter to President Obama urging his Administration to keep maritime and aviation out of any TTIP negotiations. TTD has aggressively countered the trucking lobby’s agenda to bring “unscientific” hair specimen drug testing to front line bus and truck drivers. And TTD coordinated efforts with its member unions to advance a surface transportation bill out of committee last week that awaits House floor consideration.

“When you’re talking about transportation jobs, you’re talking about middle-class jobs — the types of jobs that elude too many Americans,” Wytkind added. “The policies that affect our sector have a real impact on working families, and that’s something Congress can’t forget despite working in the Washington bubble.”

Budget Austerity, Not Inflexibility, Is What Bedevils The Federal Pay System

AFGE David Cox

Federal personnel system is flexible enough to meet demands, union leader says

WASHINGTON – Federal agencies have more than enough flexibility within the current pay system to raise wages as needed to meet market demands, yet they continue to suffer from budget shortfalls and bureaucratic foot-dragging, the head of the largest federal employee union told a Senate panel today.

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. rejected the charge that the federal pay system itself is to blame for agency failures to respond quickly to changing labor market conditions. In the past several years, it has been austerity budgets and the strong reluctance on the part of agencies to incur higher costs.

“The bottom line is that the federal pay systems suffer from a lack of funding, not a lack of flexibility,” Cox said in testimony delivered Oct. 22 to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management.

Following the discovery of an oil field in the Bakken region of North Dakota in 2006, the demand in the region skyrocketed. Wages and prices both rose substantially. Yet federal agencies in the region were slow to respond.

Cox attributed the delays to finger pointing between government agencies and lack of money to cover the higher wages. Once agencies made the formal request to increase wages, the Office of Personnel Management responded within eight to 12 weeks – a fair turnaround, he said.

“There is no question that current law and regulation contain fully adequate flexibilities for responding to special economic situations such as surges in demand and prices,” Cox said. “The delayed and limited action on the part of federal agencies in response to the oil boom in the Bakken region was wholly a function of austerity budgets and bureaucratic foot-dragging on the part of agencies. OPM did its part and did so quickly.”

Cox continued, “The federal pay system’s only real problem is the refusal of successive Congresses and successive presidential administrations to provide adequate funding.”


The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

Labor And The Church Share Many Of The Same Progressive Values

Pope Francis (republic of Korea FLIKR)There has always been a strong relationship between the church and labor. The church teaches us to help feed the needed, pay your workers well, and not to fall victim to vanity and greed.

Here are just a few of the hundreds of examples in the Bible:

“Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
Luke 3:11

“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother.”
Deuteronomy 15:7

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
1 Timothy 6:10

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

The teachings of the Bible are simple, help and love your fellow man, and you will be blessed.

Social justice is the bedrock of the labor movement. Fighting for equal pay for equal work regardless of skin color, gender, or sexual preference. Fighting to ensure that everyone earns an honest wage for the work they do. In short, standing together to help all mankind.

So why are conservatives freaking out over the Pope addressing a joint session of Congress?

There is no denying that the political right believes they own the monopoly on religion. They preach the gospel and claim to be good Christians. The problem is that many of their party’s priorities do not fall in line what the Bible teaches and Pope Francis has been speaking out against the foundations of the Republican Party.

Pope Francis says greed ruins society.

The earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called “the dung of the devil.” An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.
Pope Francis.

Recently the Pope has come out and said the church should forgive women who had abortions, in support of LBGT rights, that women should be paid equally, and even went as far to say that the church should pay taxes like everyone else.

“If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
Pope Francis.

“Why should it be taken for granted that women must earn less than men? The disparity is pure scandal. The witness of the social dignity of marriage shall become persuasive, precisely by this way: the way of witness that attracts.”
Pope Francis.

Many are looking forward to the Pope’s arrival including Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO.

“Pope Francis’ arrival is a watershed moment for working people in the United States and an opportunity for every American, regardless of faith, to reexamine the values that drive us as a country. His message of inclusion, economic justice, and social progress transcends party and represents the best of humanity,” said Trumka.

“Working people stand with Pope Francis and look forward to welcoming him to the United States, as he puts forward an agenda that lifts spirits and wages,” added Trumka.

So again I will ask, why does the Pope’s visits scare conservatives? Because he is bringing a message of social progress, that is unheard of on the political right. He is also empowering many of the leaders in the church to speak out against the oppressive right wing policies.

Recently the Archbishop of Chicago spoke out against Right To Work and the demonizing of workers. “I have come today to tell Chicago workers the Catholic Church is with you,” said Archbishop Cupich. “You put your faith into action… You are Catholic social teaching at work.”

“History has shown that we’re better off when the rights of workers (are) protected,” said Cupich.

It is good to finally see organized religion using their immense power and influence to effect positive change in the world.


Be sure to check out this great collection of progressive quotes from Pope Francis at Addicting Info.


 

Below is the entire speech from Archbishop Cupich.  If you have not seen it, you should check it out.

Labor Day 2015: A New Hope For Labor

 

labordayOnce again we have reached Labor Day.

Labor Day is the unofficial end of the summer and for many people it is an excuse to have everyone over for one last BBQ. Too many have forgotten what Labor Day is all about. They have forgotten why we celebrate Labor Day.

I would be lying if I told you that my family spent Labor Day talking about workers and strikes. Like most Americans, we spent the long weekend traveling for one last summer trip.

I will say one of my first memories was walking the picket line with my mother and hundreds of other nurses who were protesting budget cuts that eliminated jobs and reduced pay. I do not even remember what union it was that led the protest or if my mother was a member before the strike. Those are things we just never talked about when I was a kid.

As I grew up I learned more and more about the history of Labor Day. I learned of the horrible working conditions of the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s. I learned the difference between a strike and a lock-out. I learned about unions and how they shaped who we are as workers today.

In short, I learned about the true meaning of “labor” and why we celebrate Labor Day.

The sad fact is that many people have forgotten that it was the labor unions that fought for better working conditions and on-the-job safety programs. It was the labor unions that fought for eight-hour workdays, weekends, and overtime. It was the labor unions that fought for paid vacation time, paid sick leave, healthcare and retirement security. It was the labor unions that ensured equal pay for equal work regardless of sex or the color of your skin.

It was a labor union contract that first gave same-sex couples the right to include their partners on their healthcare plans, giving them the same rights as any other married couple.

It was labor unions that kept the corporations in check, refusing to let their greed dominate the needs of their workers and their communities.  By demanding higher wages in the mills and shops, unions helped to lift the wages of all workers. They created the middle class that we are so desperately searching for again. Workers were paid well and they spent that money in their communities, and that led to decades of economic prosperity.

However, in the late 1970’s a new era of individual greed began to surface and people forgot about working together. Manufacturing began to slow down as technology became more dominant. Workers moved out of the factories and into the office buildings.

Over time, membership in labor unions declined and the middle class began to shrink along with it. Workers wages became stagnant as productivity skyrocketed. Women began to enter the workforce en masse; some to fulfill personal goals and others because the traditional, one-working-parent household could not pay the bills anymore.

After thirty years of decline, what do we as a country have to show for it? We have a country with more than 15% of our citizens living in poverty, and 1-in-5 children living in poverty. We have millions of people working fifty, sixty, or even seventy hours a week just to feed their families.

America used to be different. American companies used to respect workers, not treat them like disposable cups, tossing them aside for a new one every day. American companies used to take pride our country. These companies paid their taxes and together we built a national highway system, airports, hospitals, parks, and libraries.

What happened to that country?   Are we completely doomed?

Fast Food Strike 2014 (FLIKR Annette Bernhardt)

Fast Food Strike 2014 (FLIKR Annette Bernhardt)

I say no. The tide has reached its lowest point and is beginning to rise again. People are beginning to see that we need to stand up together and fight for each other and our communities. People are starting to demand the right to form a union in their workplace, whether they are college professors or fast food workers. Public polling shows more support for labor unions than any time in the past 15 years.

I see it in my own children too. Recently at a family get-together someone mentioned that they just purchased trinket from Wal-Mart. My oldest daughter piped right up and said, “We don’t shop at Wal-Mart because they treat their workers badly.”

My wife and I looked at each other and smiled. Parenting win!

So this Labor Day take a few minutes to read about the true history of Labor Day. Talk with your kids about what it was like for people before labor unions. Ask yourself: do you want to go back to those days?

As for me, I will be honoring those union members of the past who fought and died in the labor movement, by walking down Main Street in our local Labor Day parade with my union brothers & sisters, my wife, and my children, proudly wearing my union T-shirt for all to see.

Happy Labor Day.

 

 

 

The Boston Globe And Tom Brady Make The Case For Unions

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09 (Image by Keith Allison FLICKR CC)

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09 (Image by Keith Allison FLICKR CC)

Today Evan Horowitz of the Boston Globe released this amazing article, “Tom Brady has more rights than most American workers,” highlighting the way that Tom Brady is using the rights afforded to him by his union (the NFL Players Association), and his collective bargaining agreement, to fight his proposed suspension.

“…it’s worth remembering that the only reason Brady has been able to press his case this far is because he’s in a union, which affords him lots of additional workplace rights.”

Deflategate drama aside the Horowitz makes some really good points about the realities of a low unionized workforce.

“The vast majority of American workers aren’t union members. They’re “at-will” employees, with no legal right to be treated fairly at work. In fact, most Americans can be punished, even fired, for being too attractive, or too short, or having the wrong politics — or for no reason at all.”

Horowitz continues by explaining the an employees’ right to “due process” and “fire at will” laws

Don’t employers need a good reason to fire people?

If you’re in a union, then the answer is yes. Generally speaking, union workers can be fired only for “just cause,” so there has to be a good reason.

But nonunionized, at-will workers can be fired for bad reasons, or no reason at all.

… Here’s a short list of reasons you can be fired, put together by Brooklyn College Professor Corey Robin: “not smiling at work, smiling too much; not being friendly to my coworkers, being too friendly; demonstrating insufficient initiative, not being a team player; kowtowing to management, being insubordinate; being a leader, being a follower; braiding my hair in corn rows, wearing it straight; wearing long pants, wearing short pants; sporting an earring, refusing to do so; having a beard, shaving it off; fingernails too long, fingernails too short.”

These have serious implications in todays work environments, managing workers through fear.

Corey Robin has written at length about how the lack of worker protections feeds a culture of fear in the American workplace: The fear of being fired at any moment, of failing to live up to your boss’s expectations, of crossing lines you didn’t know existed. “Among the adult population,” he writes, “only prisoners and soldiers are expected to obey their superiors more often and more unquestioningly.”

Along similar lines, University of Michigan political philosopher Elizabeth Anderson has referred to American corporations as private governments, mini-dictatorships where the executives lord their power over subordinate workers, who are subject to exile (firing) at any moment.

Yet, Anderson admits that most Americans don’t understand how powerless they are, or how profoundly subject to the whims of their employers. And that itself tells us something.

It is very telling. The majority of workers do not understand the laws that surround their employment.  They only know that they can be fired at any time, which discourages them from speaking out even when they do know that laws are being broken.

Maybe this is why public support for unions and their organizing efforts have begun to rise. According to a Gallop poll, 59% of Americans approve of labor unions.  This is up over ten percent since 2009.

Or maybe it is because people are being to realize that being in a union has more benefits that just job protections. It means better healthcare benefits, paid time off, and of course higher wages.

A recent study just showed that women who are covered by a union contract will earn on average $212 a week more.

For over a hundred years labor unions have been standing up for workers and fighting against corporate greed.  One of the best examples right now is the nationwide fight to raise the minimum wage that is being pushed by labor unions and community advocates.  They are fighting for a $15 minimum wage and the right to form a union.

More union members and stronger unions are just what America needs right now.

 

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