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Senator Bernie Sanders Rallies The Crowd At The NH AFL-CIO Convention (VIDEO)

Senator Sanders North Conway NH

Here it is the video you have all been waiting for, Senator Bernie Sanders just after announcing he official campaign for President addresses the delegates and friends of the NH AFL-CIO 2015 Convention in North Conway, New Hampshire.

If you already know who Senator Bernie Sanders is, then watch this video and you will fall in love with him all over again.

If you do not know who Senator Bernie Sanders is, then watch this video and see what his vision is for America.

  • A vision where healthcare is a right and everyone has quality healthcare provided to them
  • A vision where our children get a good high quality education and can get a college education without being saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
  • A vsion where a single mother does not need to get food stamps to feed her son even though she already works full time.  Where workers are paid a living wage of $15 an hour minimum.
  • A vision where the government listens to the scientific community and starts to reverse the effects of global warming and leaving our planet better for our children and grandchildren
  • A vision where corporations pay their fair share in taxes and are no longer allowed to hide their profits in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes.
  • A vision where a secretary does not have to pay a higher rate in her taxes than the CEO of the corporation she works for.
  • A vision where American workers are put first and corporate profits are put second.  Where Americans are buying American made goods.  Where American corporations are investing in the future of America by building new manufacturing facilities here in the USA.

Senator Sanders also spoke at length about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the disastrous effects that NAFTA and previous trade agreements have had on American workers.

The speech is a little over 30 minutes long, but I promise you will hardly notice once Bernie starts rolling!

(Video Link: https://youtu.be/BNejWoktsOs)

Congress Votes To Block New Rules Mandated By The NLRB

Yesterday, Congressional Republicans continued their all out assault on working families by passing a law that would limit workers rights to organize and block new rules from the National Labor Relations Board that would allow for faster union elections, slated to take effect in April.

The NLRB said in a December statement that the new rules would allow unions to use electronic means to file for an election and would allow unions to hold elections just 14 days after filing.

“I am heartened that the Board has chosen to enact amendments that will modernize the representation case process and fulfill the promise of the National Labor Relations Act. Simplifying and streamlining the process will result in improvements for all parties. With these changes, the Board strives to ensure that its representation process remains a model of fairness and efficiency for all,” said NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Peirce.

Congressman Frank Guinta receiving an award from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)

Congressman Frank Guinta receiving an award from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)

The bill passed 232-186, almost straight down party lines. The bill was opposed by all of the House Democrats (thank you Congresswoman Annie Kuster [NH-02]) and three lone Republicans. Congressman Frank Guinta, the Republican representing the first district in New Hampshire, was among the Republican majority who voted to pass the bill.

“Today’s vote by House Republicans against the NLRB’s common-sense modernization of its election rules is a direct attack on workers and their right to be heard in the workplace,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Working men and women want an agenda from their Congressional leaders that raises wages and grows our middle class. Instead, they have gotten Republican policies that roll back progress and silence workers while protecting their biggest donors.”

Listening to the debate on the House floor shows exactly how much the Republicans really care about workers and their rights.   These Republicans are putting corporations above working men and women.

“Today, Congress voted to stop an unelected board of bureaucrats from trampling on the rights of America’s workers and job creators,” said Congressman John Kline (R-MN) in a written statement after the vote. “The board’s ambush election rule will stifle employer free speech, cripple worker free choice, and jeopardize the privacy of workers and their families.

Rep. Kline’s statement is nearly identical to the statement released by the US Chamber of Commerce who has worked tirelessly to oppose unionizing efforts and push anti-worker legislation in dozens of states.

“The Chamber applauds Congress for passing legislation to stop the ‘ambush election’ rule issued by the NLRB,” stated U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits Randel K. Johnson. “This rule infringes upon an employer’s free speech right by virtually eliminating an employer’s opportunity to communicate his or her views regarding unionization with employees.

What they should have said was that this vote stifles a workers right to organize and gives more time for employers to hire union busting firms and lie to their employees about how unions operate.

President Obama has already said he will veto this totally partisan bill. This would be Obama’s fourth veto, and second in the last two months.

“President Obama is right in his commitment to vetoing this harmful legislation, and Congressional Republicans should focus their efforts on lifting workers up instead of shutting them out,” said Trumka.

Whether you support unions or not should not matter, that is why we hold elections. If workers freely choose to support a union, the union will win the election. If workers freely choose to reject the union, the union will lose. That is freedom and the choice that workers are guaranteed under the National Labor Relation Act.

Organizing and holding a union election is hard enough, and Republicans in Washington want to block workers from organizing. Working families need to understand that these Republicans are not looking out for them and are only looking out for the wealthy businesses and groups like the US Chamber of Commerce that fund their campaigns.

 

 

Click here for more information about the NLRB’s rule changes

 

A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service

GrandAlliance_LogoAn exciting new voice has joined the conversation to save the Postal Service. More than 60 national organizations have formed “A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service.”  This alliance is made up of national  religious coalitions, retiree groups, progressive groups, and a wide array of unions. These organizations are united in the demand that the public good must not be sacrificed for the sake of private investment and profit.  All Americans have much at stake as the future of America’s Postal Service is at a crossroads.

APWU President Mark Dimondstein stressed the importance of building a Grand Alliance from the moment he was elected in 2013. “Writing Congress is important,” he said, “but it’s not enough. Lobbying for legislation is important, but it’s not enough.” To succeed, he said, postal workers must build a movement. “Building the grand alliance is the only way we will ensure that a vibrant, public Postal Service exists for many years to come.”

“This new alliance is a good complement to the one the NALC and the other postal unions have been working closely with over the past 18 months,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said, “a group made up of postal union and mailing industry stakeholders with a mission to advance in Congress a multi-point postal strategy that includes a comprehensive solution to pre-funding, freedom to offer new products, fair treatment on pension valuations, strengthened service standards and a moratorium on plant closings.”

Though the Postal Service is in the midst of an economic turnaround many in Congress envision the Postal Service as a sort of pinata to be broken apart  so the corporate sector can further enrich themselves. They disregard three straight years of an operational profit and ignore the stunning economic report issued last week. Greed has no boundaries.

The Postal Service can build upon this turnaround and expand service. One example of this is the the successful recent introduction of package delivery on Sundays and Holidays. It has made the lives of working people more convenient as customers can elect to get their parcels delivered at a time that fits their busy schedules.

Another area of possible growth is expanding into Postal Banking. Senator Elizabeth Warren is a strong proponent of this popular idea.  The Postal Service can help rebuild the wounded infrastructure that many economically disadvantaged people in our country navigate on a daily basis. Postal Banking would be an instrument that can take some of the financial pressure off the more than 25% of households that do not have bank accounts.   Rather than have a predatory banking service profit off of outrageous fees for basic banking services . The Postal Service can offer these services as a public service.

This Grand Alliance offers much hope that they can further advance a bright future for the Postal Service. Please watch the attached video by acclaimed actor-activist  Danny Glover and sign the pledge to support the fight to protect and enhance vibrant public postal services now—and for many generations to come. With a new Congress about to take action on the Postal Reform, the time is now to take action.

Danny Glover: Our Postal Service from A Grand Alliance on Vimeo.

AFL-CIO, Allies Award Grants to Innovating Community Organizers

The LIFT Fund is the first-of-its-kind to support collaboration and innovation around new forms of worker organizing.

(Washington, DC, Jan. 29, 2015)— Today, the AFL-CIO announced the third round of LIFT Fund grants, which will be awarded to a diverse group of organizations who are organizing workers outside of traditional models.  Past recipients include the Los Angeles Black Worker Center which helps workers such as LeDaya Epps to find good-paying jobs through apprenticeship programs. LeDaya was recently invited to the 2015 State of the Union address by First Lady Michelle Obama.

“In Oregon, we stand up for all workers and are proud to help support innovative partnerships that help with that fight,” said Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain. “We’re proud to be a labor partner in the LIFT Fund’s grant process and even more excited to help fuel worker empowerment.”

The fund was established in 2011 as a partnership between the AFL-CIO and philanthropic institutions that share the federation’s vision for a world in which workers are treated by employers with the dignity they deserve.  Partners include the General Service Foundation, the New World Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Solidago Foundation, and the Discount Foundation. The LIFT Fund is the first-of-its-kind to support collaboration and innovation around new forms of worker organizing between Worker Centers and traditional labor.

This year’s grantees comprise a diverse set of workers and sectors, including domestic workers in Connecticut fighting to strengthen legal protections and day laborers in California working to learn new skills. The primary purpose of all grants is to support work at the local or state level and are focused on helping develop power among vulnerable populations of workers, including immigrants, African Americans, women, and rural workers. The money goes exclusively to the worker center, but envisions on the ground collaboration with the local labor movement to expand local power.

“We recognize that our struggle is inextricably linked to the fight for economic justice,” said Montague Simmons, Director of Organization for Black Struggle. “The LIFT grant will support our work to engage and organize those who have been at the forefront of our fight and who also tend to be the most vulnerable to the economic violence waged against our communities.”

Grantees are:

  • Organization for Black Struggle, St Louis, MO (Labor Partner: International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 58)
  • CLEAN Carwash, Los Angeles, CA (Labor Partner: United Steelworkers Local 675)
  • Chinese Progressive Association, San Francisco, CA (Labor Partner: UNITE HERE Local 2)
  • Community Voices Heard, New York, NY (Labor Partner: AFSCME District Council 37)
  • Lynn Worker Center for Economic Justice (Labor Partner: North Shore Labor Council)
  • Make the Road/NYCC (Labor Partner: RWSDU)
  • NDLON, Los Angeles, CA (Labor Partner: LA County Federation)
  • NDWA/Brazilian Immigrant Center, CT (Labor Partner: United Auto Workers Region 9A)
  • National Guest Workers Alliance, New Orleans, LA (Labor Partner: Ironworkers Union)
  • ROC-United, National (Labor Partners: UFCW Western States Council)
  • Sunflower/Kansas People’s Action, Wichita, KS (Labor Partner: Wichita/Hutchinson Labor Federation and CWA)
  • VOZ Worker Center (Labor Partner: Oregon AFL-CIO)
  • Vermont Worker Center (Labor Partner: Vermont State Labor Council)
  • Warehouse Workers Resource Council (Labor Partner: UFCW Western States Council)

Immigration, Civil Rights and Labor Groups Join Legal Effort to Defend Immigration Action

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)

Washington D.C. – Today, immigration, civil rights and labor groups joined the legal effort to defend President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration by filing an amicus “friend of the court” brief in the case, State of Texas vs. United States. In the days after the President’s November 20th announcement, two lawsuits were filed seeking to block implementation of the new deferred action initiatives. Both lawsuits seek a “preliminary injunction”—a temporary block of the programs during the life of a lawsuit. The amicus brief, which was written in support of the federal government, provides powerful economic, fiscal, and societal reasons to allow these programs to take effect later this year.

The American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Define American, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Law Center, New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, Service Employees International Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and United We Dream filed a brief opposing the states’ request for a preliminary injunction against the administration’s new deferred action initiatives.

In their brief, the groups provide powerful testimonials about potential beneficiaries of the new deferred action initiatives, many of whom are already entrepreneurs and community leaders. These individuals include a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, community leaders, and primary breadwinners for U.S. citizen children. The groups also explain how the deferred action initiatives will positively impact the U.S. economy, raising wages, increasing tax revenue, and creating new jobs.

Legal battles against President Obama’s action on immigration have already begun. Last week, the first case brought by Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, was rejected by a federal district court judge in D.C. The second case, filed by Texas and 24 other states, is currently set to be heard on January 9, in the U.S. District Court for Southern District of Texas, Brownsville Division.

These lawsuits are merely an attempt to use the courts for political ends; scores of legal experts agree that the President’s actions are well within the scope of his executive authority. Beneath the surface of the lawsuits are the same speculative and discredited myths of criminality and economic impacts that have long fueled anti-immigrant rhetoric.

To view the groups’ legal brief in full see:

The Economy, Education & What America Deserves

 

Matthew D'Amico

Matthew D’Amico

By Matthew D’Amico

With the school year underway and children getting ready to learn new things about the world, there is great worry as to the state of education in America today. As the father of an 8-year-old boy who attends public school, I know the concern parents have about their children doing well in school. And as a political coordinator for a labor union representing public employees throughout New York State, I’ve seen that working men and women are deeply troubled about our economy. Watching parents having to struggle to provide the basic necessities affects children, even while they are sitting in classrooms about to learn math or the history of the American Revolution. It is shameful that more than 16 million children live in poverty in America, which has such great wealth. And millions more are near poverty, with their parents living paycheck to paycheck—if they are lucky enough to have a job at all. With these agonizing worries—which no person, let alone a child, should have to go through—the ability of children to learn is made unnecessarily more difficult.

We should all be doing everything we can to make sure our public schools are well-funded, so that every child gets a good education. However, there are many people who are now attacking that great thing—free public education—wanting to privatize our nation’s schools as a source of profit for themselves. There are now more than 6,000 charter schools nationwide, double the number from just a decade ago. They’re publicly funded, but privately run. These charter schools are now part of the growing privatization of public education. Here is what I read on Forbes.com: “dozens of bankers, hedge fund types and private equity investors…gathered to discuss…investing in for-profit education companies.” But according to the National Education Association, “Privatization is a threat to public education, and more broadly, to our democracy itself.”

Why this is happening now is clearly explained by Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, in her commentary What Education & the Economy Are For.  It is a must-read for all who are concerned with education, including the worry that the ‘public’ will be eliminated from public education. In it too is the explanation of why there are such ferocious attempts to do away with unions, and it is also what is behind the drive to privatize public schools. Ms. Reiss writes:

“Eli Siegel is the philosopher to explain: ‘The purpose of education is to like the world through knowing it.’ This idea is fundamental to the Aesthetic Realism method, which has been enabling children of all backgrounds to learn successfully—including children who had been thought incapable of doing so. To like the world through knowing it is why we should learn the alphabet, find out about numbers, continents, atoms, history. To like the world is the purpose of everyone’s life. Meanwhile, humanity has lived for centuries with a system of economics completely opposed to that purpose.

“The profit system has not been based on the fact that this world should belong rather equally to every child from birth so he or she can have a full chance to benefit from it. Profit economics has instead been based on contempt. The profit motive is the seeing of human beings in terms of: how much money can I get out of you?; how much labor can I squeeze from you while paying you as little as possible?; how much can I force a buyer to pay for my product, which she may need desperately?

Ethics, Unions, & America’s Children

“In 1970 Eli Siegel explained that this contemptuous way of economics had failed after thousands of years. The profit system might be made to stumble on awhile, but it would never recover. The fundamental cause of its failure, he said, was the force of ethics working in history. For example: 1) People on all the continents know more, can produce more things, and so ‘there is much more competition…with American industry than there used to be.’ 2) Unions, by the 1970s, had been so successful in their fight for decent wages—so successful in bringing people lives with dignity—that big profits for stockholders and bosses who don’t do the work could no longer be easily extracted from American workers.

“The persons trying to keep the profit system going cannot undo the first of those factors. So they have been trying ferociously to reverse the second: there has been a vicious, steady effort to have workers be paid less and less, be made poorer and poorer. And to achieve this, one has to undermine, even extinguish, unions—because unions are the power which prevents workers from being swindled, kicked around, humiliated, impoverished, robbed.

“Meanwhile, there are America’s children. They are literally abused day after day by those persons trying to impoverish the American people so as to maintain the profit system. Many children come to school hungry. Many don’t have warm coats for winter. Home (if a child has one) is often a place of economic deprivation—and the accompanying anger.

“Then, there are the schools themselves. In recent decades, as traditional venues for profit-making have fared ill, persons have looked for new ways to use their fellow humans for private gain. Behold—that huge ethical achievement in human history, public education! And the profit-seekers thought, ‘There’s a whole new industry for us here!’ The one reason for the enormous effort to privatize America’s public schools—and that includes through vouchers and through charter schools—is: to use the lives and minds of America’s children to make profit for a few individuals.

“This use of public schools is related to the effort to privatize public sector work in various fields throughout America: to have public monies used—not for the American people, not to respectfully employ public sector workers—but to finance private enterprises. And through it all, again, a big aim is to undo unions so workers can be paid less and the money can go instead to some private-profit-maker.”

What Ms. Reiss is writing about is a national emergency. No child, whether in Alabama, rural Maine, or the South Bronx, should have to go to bed hungry, or have their basic right to an education be a means of profit for some corporation or individual. The time is now for our nation’s leaders to be courageous and answer with honesty this urgent ethical question asked by Eli Siegel: What does a person deserve by being alive?

Blog Action Day 2014 — #Inequality: Overcoming Income Inequality With Progressive Policies

Income-Inequality-Graph-from-Robert-Reichs-New-Film

Image from Inequality For All

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few; but we can’t have both.”

We as a nation are facing a problem. A same problem we have faced and overcome in the past. Income inequality is once again dividing our great nation from the have’s and have not’s.

Early in the 1900’s the United States had a vast income inequality. Workers slaved for sixteen hours a day in dangerous factories. The majority of a workers income went to paying their employer for room and board, while the factory owners collected absorbent amounts of money.

Former AFL-CIO President Thomas Donahue once said, “The only effective answer to organized greed is organized labor.”

As workers fought to get a fair share of the profits, wealthy Americans began using their vast wealth to influence the political system. Using their political influence they blocked legislation that provide workers with better safety regulations, better working conditions and the opportunity to bargain collectively with their employers.

As massive workplace tragedies like the Triangle Shirtwaist fire ripped through the headlines workers had had enough. Workers began to organize and form unions. As workers fought and died, the union movement began to gain traction.

It would still be decades before Congress would pass the National Labor Relations Act that gave workers the legal right to organize. As workers began organizing and negotiating for fair wages the entire country saw the gap between the poor and the wealth slowly start to close.

Unions became a powerhouse against corporate greed by ensuring that all workers were paid fairly, had a voice in their workplace and could retire with dignity.

With the addition of Social Security and the Minimum Wage people began to lift themselves out of poverty and what emerged was a vibrant middle class that would lead the nation through decades of economic prosperity.

In the late 1960s, corporations were looking for ways to weaken the power of unions to increase their profits. The answer was something they knew all along, to elect politicians who would put the interest of the corporations above the interest of the workers. They began a massive lobbying campaign to change regulations, slash workers rights and elect politicians who would vote for their corporate interests first.

As the power of the corporations began to rise again, unions began to fall. Massive anti-union campaigns blocked workers from organizing. President Reagan fired 15,000 air traffic controllers in the 1981 PATCO strike and that drove a stake right through the heart of organized labor. President Reagan showed the nation that it was acceptable for an employer to ignore the demands laid out by the unions and when the time comes, fire them all and rehire new workers. Corporations began using this principle to break unions thereby hiring new workers are drastically reduced wages.

As workers began to lose their voice, income inequality began to rise again. By the 1980s Wall Street was booming. Corporate profits were skyrocketing. CEOs began making obscene amounts of money while the everyday worker saw their wages stagnate.

ceo-vs-workerBy 1983 the ratio between the average worker and the CEO was 46:1. This is double what it was only ten years earlier (23:1). The more wealth Wall Street and greedy CEOs acquired, the more workers suffered.

Corporations continued to use their power in Washington to change the rules of the game for their own benefit. They changed banking regulations that allowed corporations to file for bankruptcy on their pension obligations. After thirty years with a company workers are left with nothing. All the money they contributed to their retirements, gone. Corporations began closing factories and shipping their jobs overseas. Millions of workers lost their jobs and their retirements as factories were chopped up and sold in shady Wall Street deals that paid executives boatloads of money.

As union membership began to decline inequality between workers and CEOs grew by leaps and bounds. Now the ratio between the average worker and the CEO is over 400:1. This is eight times higher than the next highest country, Venezuela at 50:1. That is obscene.

Now over forty percent of the nations wealth is held by only a select few. Income inequality in America now is worse than it was in the 1920s.

econ_onepercentchart15_630

Now that we have identified the problem, how do we fix it to rebuild the middle class and narrow the gap between the average worker and the ultra-wealthy?

The heart of the problem lies in the myth that if we give more money to the ultra-wealthy — or as the Republicans like to call them — job creators, then that money will trickle down to the rest of us. This failed idea continues to shape the political debate in Washington as millionaires and billionaires use their political lobbying groups, like the Americans For Prosperity, to push legislators to give more tax breaks to high-income earners.

Groups like the Americans For Prosperity continue to say that if we take anymore from the wealthy job creators they will just stop creating jobs. The fact is no matter how much money the job creators are given, they still are not creating any jobs. This feeds into the myth that we must give them more money.

The Americans For Prosperity also work to destroy unions, and fight against any progressive measures like raising the minimum wage. They demonize workers who want a living wage, while greedy corporations rake in more profits than any other time in history.

To begin to close the inequality gap we must rely on proven measures that have worked for previous generations. Policies like increasing the minimum wage, ensuring that the ultra-wealthy are paying their fair share in taxes and expanding Social Security. These three policies pushed America out of the Great Depression and into the most prosperous generation in American history.

It sounds simple, but given that too many of our politicians are bought and paid for by corporations and wealthy hedge fund managers, changing these policies have created the gridlock we are currently experiencing on Capitol Hill. Progressives want to move the country forward, while the Conservative majority who want to take us backwards.

There is one more change that we need to enact if we ever want see real change in America. We must get the corporations out of our political system. We need to get their dirty money out of Washington D.C. Their corruptive influence is blocking any meaningful legislation from moving forward. Politicians vote for what their corporate sponsors tell them to, no matter how much the voters disagree.

Across the country, in nearly every poll, voters overwhelmingly agree that it is time to raise the minimum wage. Despite this overwhelming voter support for raising the minimum wage, conservative politicians still oppose the increase.

As Senator Bernie Sanders says, “our democracy is turning into an oligarchy,” and that will eventually destroy America, as we know it.

The AFL-CIO and SEIU Respond To Congressmen Ellison And Lewis’ Legislation To Make Unions A Civil Right

Yesterday Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN) and John Lewis (D-GA) introduced legislation to make it easier for workers to organize and form unions.  They are making changes to the National Labor Relations Act the would make the formation of unions a civil right.

Here is a great introduction to the bill from the Washington Examiner:

“Ellison and Lewis’ legislation would dramatically expand the powers individual workers have under the act by allowing them to sue their employer in federal court under the Civil Rights Act.

The bill would also entitle workers filing lawsuits “to remedies like punitive and compensatory damages,” according to a Tuesday press release.

Currently most unfair labor practice complaints go through the National Labor Relations Board, which was created expressly for that purpose. Some labor disputes are handled by a second entity, the National Mediation Board. Big Labor has long complained the process is too slow.”

Read the full article.

After Representatives Keith Ellison and John Lewis introduced the “Employee Empowerment Act,” Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), issued the following statement:

“This important piece of legislation introduced today by Representatives Ellison and Lewis is emblematic of their deep commitment to workers’ rights and steadfast opposition to discrimination and intimidation anywhere, particularly at the workplace. The bill gives employees whose labor rights are violated the same legal remedies as those whose civil rights are violated at the workplace.

“Too often, employees seeking to unite with their co-workers to demand better wages, benefits and workplace safety provisions face aggressive and often illegal anti-union campaigns coordinated by their employer. Intimidation, illegal firings, wrongful discipline and other tactics aimed at breaking workers’ will are commonplace when they seek to join together on the job.

“Along with Representatives Ellison and Lewis, we believe that workers have the right to stick together and that there are powerful interests dead set on stripping them of that right. In order for workers to be heard, it’s often necessary to band together so companies take them seriously. Too many employers try to prevent this so they can limit workers’ power. Collective bargaining enables employees unite as a group so they can speak with a more powerful voice.

“We thank Representatives Ellison and Lewis for their leadership and hope that House leadership will take up this bill without delay.”

After the announcement  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement on Employee Empowerment Act:

Once again, Representatives Keith Ellison and John L. Lewis are leading in the fight to improve the lives of millions of hardworking Americans. The Employee Empowerment Act represents a crucial step towards ensuring that all workers are able to organize without the threat of retaliation and that workers will have full recourse available to them when employers interfere with their rights.

Eighty years ago, Congress made it the policy of the U.S. government to encourage the practice of collective bargaining – not just to tolerate it, but to expand it. Our economy was built on workers forming unions and engaging in collective bargaining. Further strengthening these rights is important to economic fairness. We need comprehensive changes to the law to strengthen workers’ collective bargaining rights, and the Employee Empowerment Act is an important piece of those reforms. By beefing up the remedies for workers who face discrimination or retaliation by their employers for trying to form or join a union, the bill strengthens worker protections and puts remedies under our labor laws on par with our civil rights laws. This helps better protect workers’ rights to organize and, when passed, will benefit workers and our entire economy.

“White House Summit On Working Families” Focuses On Working Women And Their Families

(Image by Din Jimenez FLIKR)

(Image by Din Jimenez FLIKR)

Working families across the nation are struggling to make ends meet.  Unemployment is still too high, wages are too low, and people are working more and more, while getting less and less.

This week, workers from all across our great nation will be meeting with President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, and the Department of Labor for the White House Summit on Working Families.

The summit is focused on building an economy, and a workplace, that works for all Americans, with a focus on issues that face women and their families.  The Summit will focus on key issues such as workplace flexibility, equal pay, workplace discrimination, worker retention and promotion, and childcare/early childhood education.

Anna Neighbor, a Philadelphia adjunct professor cobbles together teaching positions at as many as four different colleges in a sometimes futile attempt to make ends meet.  She said college students are paralyzed by student loan debt, while a majority of their professors—like herself—work part time, are underpaid and receive no benefits.

Anna mirrors the struggles of many working people who have continued to see an erosion of their pay as the cost of living continues to rise. Even though Anna has an advanced degree, and is a college level educator, she receives no benefits and gets paid as low as $10 per hour.

Priscilla Smith, a teacher’s aide in Lake View, N.Y., near Buffalo, had to take on extra evening, weekend and early morning jobs to help her family financially.

We need to change the way we treat, and pay, our educators. The people, who are educating the workers of tomorrow, should not be forced to work two and three jobs to avoid living in poverty.

Gloria Wright, a 20-year Detroit preschool paraprofessional/assistant teacher hasn’t seen a raise in more than five years. She thinks about leaving the profession, but the pull of the rewards she receives from her students’ accomplishments keeps her in the classroom.

For many people serving their community is very rewarding, however you cannot pay the bills with the smiles of happy four-year olds. Like Gloria, many continue to live on the edge of financial ruin because they truly love the kids, and love what they are doing for their community.

Kendra Liddell a Seattle single mother is paid so little as a 10-year early childhood educator that she has to earn supplemental income to get by. She plans to get a degree in a better-paying field to bring some financial stability to her family, and then return to the classroom because of her deep commitment to serving families and her community.

For decades policy makers have been trying to find solutions to the fact that women continue to earn less than men.  In spite of our best efforts women on average make $.77 on the dollar to a man.  For women of color, the problem is even worse. “African-American women are paid only 64 cents, and Hispanic women only 54 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.”

Women continued to be oppressed in the workplace. Across the board women represent 42% of the overall workforce. Yet women are often excluded from industries like the building trades, which pay much better than retail or office work.  In fact, only 2.6% of all construction workers are women, a number that has remained relatively unchanged for over 30 years.

Percent of Women in Workforce

Vanessa Casillas a bricklayer from Chicago, IL said, “I like being outside and working with my hands, and if I feel good doing it, why should I be limited if I’m a woman?”

Rocky Hwasta a carpenter of Cleveland, OH said, “I became a carpenter in 1985.  Women were not accepted then and are not accepted now.  Although I had a bachelor’s degree, as a single mom, I needed a good paying job with benefits to raise my family of three children.”

Women in the workplace 2

Recently eleven New Hampshire union building trades opened their doors in a special invitation for women to learn a lasting trade.  The Building Pathways NH program gave local women the chance to see what a career in the building trades would be with a rigorous, five week, hands-on introduction to the different skilled trades.  After they complete the Building Pathways program, they are invited to join a full apprentice program with any of the associated unions.

Elizabeth Skidmore, Business Agent for the Carpenters Local 118, helped create the Building Pathways NH program and will be speaking about the new and innovative program, as an invited guest at the Working Families Summit.

“I’m honored to be included in this summit and that the work a broad team has done over the last five years to increase the number of women working in union construction has been given to the White House as a national best practice,” said Skidmore. “Many partners, from labor to local, state and federal government, as well as union contractors and community partners, have worked together to identify and implement game changers, which has put more women to work in these high-skill, high-pay careers.”

The Working Families Summit will hopefully find solutions to some of the many problems that are plaguing working families.  Problems like low pay, good affordable healthcare, retirements, sick days, paid time off and pay equity.

Our economy does better when we all do better.  We need an America that works for everyone, businesses and workers alike.

Building A New Hampshire That Works For All Working Families

Today I want to talk to you about how we build an America and a New Hampshire that works for all of us, not just the ultra wealthy one-percent (1%).

Today, we see that New Hampshire’s working families and middle class are getting crushed.  Workers wages continue to go down as their household costs continue to rise. Workers are loosing their voice in the workplace as the corporations are forcing our unions out.

But this is no accident. After they break our unions, they slash our wages and loot our pensions, leaving us without a job and without a future.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Together we can create a New Hampshire that works for all of us. That’s why we must work together to reform our labor laws.  To make it easier for workers to come together and form unions, to push back against this corporate anti-worker agenda.  By sticking together and speaking with one voice, we will begin to make a difference in our communities.

You know, working people and the middle class are the engines of our economy.  When we have good jobs, we can educate our children, we can shop in our neighborhoods, we can afford healthcare and retire with dignity and security. We drive our economy forward.

We’ll bolster working families and build a strong middle class, with the decisions we make together. If we are to achieve a strong and vibrant middle class again, we need to: help workers find their voice in the workplace, to strengthen our labor laws to make it easier for worker to organize, and stronger disciplinary actions against companies who violate our laws by intimidating or threatening workers who choose to speak out.

It is up to us to hold our elected officials accountable for standing up for working people and the middle class, not just the CEO’s and hedge fund managers on Wall Street.  Together we can assure that all of us will be able to climb that ladder and find our own version of the American Dream.

This is what America is about. This is what New Hampshire is about. We can do this together. We can build an America, a New Hampshire, that works for all of us.

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Matt Murray speaking at the NH Progressive Summit.  (Image by Jennifer Kenny)

Matt Murray speaking at the NH Progressive Summit. (Image by Jennifer Kenny)

The above was a speech I wrote during a workshop at the NH Progressive Summit.  The panel was led by Richard Kirsch who talked about using the Progressive Economic Narrative to frame our speeches.  The framing in our speeches and our blog posts is crucial to how people will respond.  We can be inspiring, heartfelt, and patriot and still push a strong progressive message.

I would like to thank the NH Citizen’s Alliance and Granite State Progress for organizing this years NH Progressive Summit, and bringing in such great speakers as Richard Kirsch.

 

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