Labor of Love: How The American Labor Movement Is Securing LBGT Equality

Labor of Love
Labor of Love

From Left to Right : Amanda Terkel, Congressman Mark Takana, Roland Leggett, Kate Childs Graham, Cari Stevenson

“Labor has been fighting for LBGT rights for the last 30 years,” Carli Stevenson told the audience of the “Labor of Love” panel at Netroots Nation.  Carli is an openly gay woman who has done communications for multiple labor unions and is currently working with AFSCME Indiana-Kentucky Organizing Committee 962.

The basis of the panel was talking about the direct influence that labor unions played in fighting for the rights of our brothers and sisters in the LBGT community.  There is no doubt that labor played a major role in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, working to end segregation, and fighting for equality.  Let us never forget that the reason Dr. Martin Luther King was in Memphis, where he was assassinated, was to march with AFSCME sanitation workers.

It is no coincidence that labor has been a leader in pushing for the current civil rights battle, the battle for equality and LBGT rights.  Congressman Mark Takano told the audience that “2013 may have been the gay-est year in history.”  He also said that younger members of the LBGT community do not remember the struggles in the past and who was there to help the LBGT community continue to move forward.

It was people like Cesar Chavez, who as President of the United Farm Workers union was the “first major civil rights leader to support gay and lesbian issues visibly and explicitly.”  Chavez also led the “Second National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights” in 1987.

Congressman Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay politicians elected to San Francisco City Council, helped the Teamsters organize a boycott of Coors in the mid ‘70s.  Milk organized the local gay bar owners to stop selling Coors while the Teamsters truck drivers were on strike.  In return, Milk asked the Teamsters to hire more gay and lesbian drivers.  The partnership was extremely successful, taking Coors from a 40% market share to 14% and ending the strike.

The United Auto Workers pushed equality forward.   “The UAW was the first union to get same sex couple benefits into labor contract,” said Roland Leggett, the Michigan State Director for Working America.  After the UAW successfully got domestic partner benefits into their contracts in 1982, more and more Fortune 500 companies started to adopt similar policies.  By 2006, 49% of all Fortune 500 companies offered domestic partner benefits.

“The patchwork of legal protections across the country underscores the reason why a union contract is an LGBT worker’s best friend,” wrote T Santora, Co-President of Pride At Work, in a 2009 article.

Labor was bold and progressive in their approach to get LBGT protections for all workers, and was right there to fight back when workers were being discriminated against.  Labor used their influence in State Houses and on Capitol Hill to push for same-sex marriage provisions and to pass provisions against worker discrimination.

Before becoming a politician, Congressman Takano was a public school teacher for over 20 years.  He talked about the importance of the partnership between the LBGT community and the teachers unions.  In 1978, they fought back against the Prop 6, the “Briggs Amendment” that would have “banned gays and lesbians from working in the California public schools.”

Together the labor movement and the LGBT community celebrated as the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.  This monumental decision is leading to the destruction of the anti-gay marriage provisions passed throughout the states.


Pushing To End LBGT Discrimination

From the beginning labor and the LBGT community have been working to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).  However, after the Hobby Lobby decision, the “religious provisions” in ENDA took on an entirely new meaning.

The Supreme Court’s decision allows Hobby Lobby a “religious exemption” from a provision of the federal Affordable Care Act.  Within days of that ruling, “closely held corporations” and religious institutions wanted to use the religious exemption to discriminate against the LBGT community.  (Read the story “Hobby Lobby’s harvest: A religious exemption for LGBT discrimination?” from the LA Times)

Just as quickly as religious institutions began to file for the ability to discriminate, national gay rights advocacy groups began pulling their support for ENDA.

“While we fully support strong protections for LGBT workers in the workplace, something that for many workers is currently only afforded by a union contract, after the recent Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case, it is clear that these broad religious exemptions would gut the intent and purpose of ENDA,” said Pride at Work interim Executive Director, Jerame Davis, in a written statement. “LGBT workers deserve strong, enforceable workplace protections and we look forward to supporting a bill to that end.”

The current version of ENDA has a religious exemption clause that would allow the “closely held corporations” and religious institutions to openly discriminate against workers because they are gay.

Carli Stevenson laid out the perfect example at Netroots Nation, when she explained that her partner works for a Catholic organization.  If the administration learned that Carli’s partner was in a same sex relationship, she could be immediately fired, and unable to collect unemployment.   “We’re not just talking about marriage, we’re talking about basic workers’ rights. Many of these religious and ministerial exemptions are an attack on basic protections most of us take for granted.” Carli continued. “We should not be pushing for any bill that will leave out any members of our LBGT family.”

Congressman Takano said that the staff from the Equality Caucus is working on the right language to protect the workers and the religious beliefs of religious institutions.

Roland Leggett, whose husband is a Lutheran minister, talked about the how “religious exemptions have been used a way to discriminate against people throughout history.”  He continued by saying, “there is a difference between a baker who does not want to make a cake for a gay wedding, and being fired for being gay.”

Some of this anti-gay messaging comes from the Catholic Church.  Kate Childs Graham, who does media affairs for the American Federation of Teachers, was raised Catholic and said she is “hopeful that this new Pope will make changes to move the church towards marriage equality.”


Moving Forward

After a long and moving discussion about how labor unions helped to push for many of the rights and protections that the LBGT community now enjoys, it was Kate Childs Graham who posed a question to the audience: “What can the LBGT community do to help labor?”

For decades, labor unions have seen a slow decline in membership and less of the private sector is covered by union contracts.  Over the past few years, labor unions have seen unprecedented attacks on workers rights.

Kate talked about the recent fight in Michigan, where Republican Governor Rick Snyder forced a “Right To Work (for less)” amendment through the state Legislature.  While that was happening, Kate talked to some of her friends at Equality Michigan, and asked for their help organizing people to rally against the legislation.  Without skipping a beat, Equality Michigan helped to gather hundreds of the LBGT community to a rally less than a week later.

In the 1970s when “gay rights” was a relatively new term, labor was there. Now these LBGT advocacy groups are very well organized, and very powerful.  Labor needs them to help push for better wages and better working conditions.  We need the LGBT community to help us push for a higher minimum wage.  We need the LBGT community to help us as we are organizing low-wage workers and restaurant workers.  We need the LBGT community to help us push for a single payer healthcare system. Sometimes, we just need people to stand with us at rallies. That is what the LBGT community can do for labor.


Closing Note

I have been running the New Hampshire Labor News for almost three years now.  My work has connected me with some wonderful people from around the country.  Many of the communications professionals inside the labor movement are gay.  They are some of the funniest, creative, and most dedicated people I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  I wanted to personally thank my friend Asher Huey (AFT Digital Media) for putting this panel together.  I also want to congratulate all the people who participated in this panel, and especially my friend, and fellow Granite Stater, Carli Stevenson, who plans on being married to the love of her life in 2016!


United Auto Worker Say: NLRB Wrong To Allow Right-Wing Groups To Intervene In VW Vote

UAW and VW

UAW and VWDETROIT –The UAW released the following statement in reaction to the NLRB ruling to let outside-funded groups participate in the hearing regarding the interference of state and federal politicians in the UAW election at Volkswagen in Chattanooga:

“It is an outrage that the Atlanta Region of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), deviating from the board’s own practice, is allowing groups with shadowy funding that are masquerading as legitimate worker representatives to participate in the process to determine whether the UAW election at Volkswagen was tainted by state and federal politicians’ threats of retaliation against workers if they exercised their right to choose UAW representation.

“Politicians subjected Volkswagen workers to a two-week barrage of anti-UAW propaganda, outright lies, distortions, and threats about the viability of their plant.  It is an outrage that their allies, who refused to reveal their funding sources and who openly republished the illicit threats in the media and among the Volkswagen workforce, will now be allowed to participate in the NLRB hearing.  They have mocked the NLRB process and have denigrated workers who are demanding that the federal government enforce their right to have an election free from outside interference.

“One of these groups, ‘Southern Momentum’ – an ally of outside groups like Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and the National Right-to-Work Legal Defense Foundation – claims to be an organic group of Volkswagen workers who came together of their own accord to participate in the election campaign.  Instead, Southern Momentum, registered at a management law firm, disclosed after the election that in two weeks, it raised “funding in the low six figures” from “businesses and individuals” rather than Volkswagen workers, according to Reuters news service.

“With this secret business funding, this “grassroots” organization also hired one of the nation’s largest anti-union firms, Projections, to create propaganda for their anti-union campaign.  Southern Momentum neglected to publicly disclose these facts during the election campaign.”

Of Southern Momentum, the UAW reiterated, “Its money speaks louder than its words, but it does not speak for Volkswagen Chattanooga workers.”

The UAW plans to appeal the NLRB Region 10 ruling to full NLRB.

Volkswagen Workers To Vote On Union Representation

UAW and VW

UAW and VWDETROIT –Volkswagen workers from the Chattanooga, Tenn., facility will vote in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Feb. 12 – 14, 2014.  The NLRB set the election as a result of an agreement reached between Volkswagen Group of America (VWGOA) and the UAW.

The Chattanooga workers will decide whether the UAW can move forward with a new collaborative approach with VWGOA based on the principles of co-determination that would include the formation of a works council at its Chattanooga facility. This would be the first works council established in the United States.

“Volkswagen is known globally for its system of cooperation with unions and works councils,” said UAW President Bob King. “The UAW seeks to partner with VWGOA and a works council to set a new standard in the U.S. for innovative labor-management relations that benefits the company, the entire workforce, shareholders and the community. The historic success of the works council model is in line with the UAW’s successful partnerships with the domestic automakers and its vision of the 21st century union.”

Chattanooga is the only major VWGOA assembly facility without labor representation. With a works council, the Chattanooga plant would have a seat at the VW Global Group Works Council. Ultimately, such a labor relations model would give workers an integral role in co-managing the company and providing input on workplace improvements that would contribute to the success of the company and the workers.

“With a local works council, workers would have a voice they can use to make Volkswagen stronger; in safety, job security and efficiency,” said Jonathan Walden, Volkswagen paint technician. “Global representation means Chattanooga workers may have a strong voice in seeking new products and bringing more jobs to Tennessee.”

Co-determination is a key factor in Volkswagen’s success.  Volkswagen has extensive experience with union representation and is globally recognized as being in the forefront of respecting the basic human rights of workers to organize and collectively bargain. Volkswagen’s Global Charter on Labor Relations and Social Charter go beyond international labor standards, establishing principles governing labor relations and social matters, even establishing principles on issues like the use of temporary workers.

“We have reached an agreement with VWGOA that will allow workers to express their opinion and decide on the question of union representation in an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation,” said UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel, who directs the union’s Southern organizing.  “The UAW commends the company and the Global Works Council for recognizing global human rights and worker rights in Tennessee.”

UAW President Bob King Submits Statement Against TPP In It’s Current Form (S1900)


Statement for the Record
Hearing: Advancing Congress’s Trade Agenda, The Role of Trade Negotiating Authority

By UAW President Bob King

United States Senate Committee on Finance
215 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C.  20510

The UAW strongly agrees with the Obama administration that the most important challenge facing the United States is the dramatic growth in income inequality, and we join President Obama in his conviction that trade agreements should serve to reduce rather than exacerbate this inequality. We support agreements that grow our economy, enhance domestic manufacturing, strengthen the enforcement of labor rights, and address climate change through enforceable standards.

The UAW strongly believes that President Obama’s first trade agreement, The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), must contain three essential objectives: 1) the preservation and expansion of U.S. manufacturing employment; 2) the recognition and protection through strong effective enforcement mechanisms of global labor rights under the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work; and 3) the enforcement of strong environmental standards.

The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work covers four fundamental principles regarding rights at work:

  1. Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
  2. Elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor;
  3. Effective abolition of child labor;
  4. Elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

We are deeply concerned that these three objectives are not being adequately addressed in current negotiations and could be severely compromised by the passage of S.1900, Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act. For example, a one-way trade agreement with Japan could devastate our automobile industry over time. Countries who are party to the TPP encompass more than 40 percent of global gross domestic product. This percentage is expected to increase over time, so the significance of the TPP and passage of S.1900 are difficult to overstate.

S.1900 also extends TPA by four years, with an option to renew an additional three years – allowing Fast Track authority for the next administration. In addition to the TPP, the bill could impact other important future trade agreements that, if completed and implemented, will have a lasting impact on our economy and working families for decades to come. Congress should not diminish its role on the TPP and future agreements. Therefore, the UAW opposes the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act and urges Congress to work with the administration to address economic inequality here and abroad.

The UAW position is informed by our experience with past trade agreements. In the case of the Korean Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), we were appreciative that the administration focused on and secured provisions that will protect the U.S. auto industry. Therefore, we supported the adoption of KORUS even though there were provisions with which we disagreed.

Earlier trade deals, in particular NAFTA, have shown the terrible impact on the middle and working class of agreements that lack strong enforceable labor and environmental protections, and that incentivize companies to offshore manufacturing jobs. Having learned from this experience, the UAW believes it is essential that we not repeat past mistakes, and that we work together to find an approach that supports our shared values and interests in a global economy where imports and exports account for more than 30 percent of our national economy.

NAFTA resulted in a net loss of nearly 700,000 jobs in the United States. In Mexico, NAFTA lead to a huge upheaval in which more than two million subsistence farmers were forced from their land. While some gained jobs in factories, they still lack the right to freely form independent unions. The UAW actively supports Mexican workers in their fight for the right to join unions that will negotiate for decent wages and safe working conditions. But NAFTA’s failure to include strong enforceable labor rights undermines our joint efforts to improve Mexican labor standards and motivates companies to outsource work to Mexico where they can exploit Mexican workers. Negotiating a trade agreement with some of the countries engaged in the TPP poses a serious risk that some of the deficiencies in NAFTA will be reproduced in the TPP.

Vietnam’s inclusion in the TPP provides an example of the problems posed by trade agreements with countries with poor labor standards. The average wage in Vietnam is 75 cents an hour; there is no right to freely form unions, and there is documented use of child labor in Vietnam. We must ensure that any trade agreement elevates the living standards of the people of Vietnam and other nations, but this will not happen automatically. There must be strong enforcement of international labor standards included in all trade agreements so that corporations cannot exploit workers.

Further, some Japanese corporations have a double standard regarding worker rights, respecting those rights in their home country while disregarding them outside their borders. Most Japanese car manufacturers manufacturing in the United States do not respect the right of American workers to freely form unions. For example, Nissan has a cooperative, respectful relationship with unions in Japan, and it works with unions elsewhere around the world. But when workers in the U.S. attempted to organize a union, the company implied in many ways that its facilities would close if workers unionized. Workers were called into individual and group meetings and warned of the negative consequences of forming a union. Entering into a trade agreement without strong, enforceable worker rights mechanisms could encourage Japanese companies to continue to adopt a double standard regarding their attitudes toward unions outside of their home country.

A trade agreement with Japan could harm the middle class and lead to the closing of work places across the country. The U.S. has a competitive and open market but Japan does not; its market is the most closed in the developed world and Japan could gain an ever greater competitive advantage if the TPP fails to create a level playing field.

Under the TPP as proposed, other countries are negotiating the reduction and eventual elimination of U.S. tariffs on cars imported from Japan. Removing these tariffs would be equivalent to a $1 billion tax break for Japanese auto companies.

Our lopsided trade imbalance could get much worse. In 2012, Japanese companies sold well over 5 million cars in the U.S., capturing nearly 40 percent of the American market. Sadly, for every vehicle we export to Japan, it exports 130 vehicles to the United States. And it’s not just a problem for American companies. Hyundai, KIA and many other auto companies have given up on selling in Japan, leaving in frustration with their closed system. S. 1900 does not directly address these serious problems and would prevent Congress from taking action to remedy the issue.

The UAW is extremely proud that the American auto industry leads the country in exports and is creating tens of thousands of new jobs a year, most of which were created as a result of collective bargaining. The hard work and enormous sacrifice of UAW members, retirees and auto companies have paid off. The administration and many in Congress also deserve a great deal of credit for taking bold action to save more than one million jobs in the auto sector during the economic crisis. We must pass trade agreements that will expand this growth and not diminish it.

We are also concerned that environmental standards being negotiated under the TPP are inadequate. Last fall, 24 environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman calling for a strong and legally enforceable environment chapter in the TPP that includes the elimination of subsidies for harmful fisheries which are a key driver of overfishing; a ban on trade in illegally harvested timber, wildlife, and fish; and obligations to uphold domestic environmental laws and commitments under multilateral environmental agreements.

“If the environment chapter is finalized as written in this leaked document, President Obama’s environmental trade record would be worse than George W. Bush’s,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “This draft chapter falls flat on every single one of our issues –oceans, fish, wildlife, and forest protections –and in fact, rolls back on the progress made in past free trade pacts.”

The UAW is proud that by working with our environmental allies, companies and the administration, we were able to achieve new progressive CAFE fuel efficiency standards.  It is important that we continue moving forward with cooperation in pursuing goals shared by labor, environmentalists, management and government to protect both the environment and our economic future.

Additionally, meaningful and enforceable provisions to prevent currency manipulation by potential trading partners must be part of any trade agreement. The UAW commends the supermajority of Senators and the majority of House members for their support of addressing currency manipulation with enforceable measures in the TPP. However, S.1900′s provisions have inadequate enforcement mechanisms and contain loopholes that would likely be exploited by countries that have a history of manipulating their currencies, like Japan. Congressional oversight and engagement can provide valuable input on these and other important matters.

Finally, workers who have been displaced by trade agreements must not be left in the cold. Trade Adjustment Assistance and Health Care Tax Credits need to be reauthorized.

Because of these concerns we urge the committee’s rejection of S. 1900 and instead urge it to work to combat inequality here and abroad. The UAW stands ready to work with all stakeholders to accomplish this important national objective.

UAW President Bob King on government shutdown


“Today is a sad day for working Americans and our democracy. Tea Party Republicans continued their extremist ways and shutdown the federal government in an attempt to implement their far, right-wing agenda. Congressional Republicans’ insistence on denying health care coverage to millions of Americans by undermining the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is immoral as well as practically futile. By refusing to fund the government they have ignored the wishes of the American people and have placed millions of jobs and economic recovery in jeopardy.

“House Republicans have done it again. In order to please the far right, they are taking money out of the pockets of working Americans, and costing our nation jobs. Any manufactured crisis that further slows growth and costs jobs is unacceptable. If the right wing in Congress were serious about preventing harm to Americans, they would pass a responsible budget and end sequestration, which is estimated to reduce employment by 900,000 in the next fiscal year. The House should pass a clean, temporary budget and debt limit increase without partisan wrangling, and work with President Obama and the Senate to strengthen our country.

“Along with millions of other workers, the livelihood of many UAW members is now in jeopardy because of this extremism. UAW members perform federally funded research at our nation’s colleges and universities, determine eligibility for social safety net programs, provide legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, build next generation vehicles for our military, and much more. A government shutdown harms all Americans now and in the future. The UAW stands ready to work with all who are serious about strengthening our economy and creating a brighter future.”

UAW Releases 2014 Union-Built Vehicles List


uaw-logo-largeQuality, variety and fuel efficiency – not to mention keeping good jobs in America – are the highlights of the UAW’s 2014 Union-Built Vehicles List, which was released today.

The new editions to the list include Ford Motor Co.’s Fusion sedan, made for the first time at the Flat Rock (Mich.) Assembly Plant as a result of 2011 bargaining between the UAW and Ford. The Fusion was previously only made in Mexico; the Ford Transit Connect van, insourced from Europe through collective bargaining to the Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Mo.; the Chevrolet Equinox, which is being made for the first time in Spring Hill, Tenn., as a result of 2011 bargaining between the UAW and General Motors. Also new on the list are GMs’ Cadillac ELR hybrid/electric-powered luxury sports car, which is made at the Detroit Hamtramck Assembly Plant, and the revival of the Jeep Cherokee, which is made at Chrysler Corp.’s Toledo (Ohio) North Assembly Plant.

MPG-conscious consumers might also take a look at Ford’s C-Max hybrid plug-in and Focus electric models, which are made at the Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne, Mich.

“In 2011 UAW members won investment and product commitments that led to some real increases in jobs for UAW members and others in jobs that support the auto industry throughout the United States,” UAW President Bob King said. “We continue to see the results from that round of bargaining and will continue to press for more jobs for communities that are still recovering from the economic recession.”

The UAW has seen increased jobs not only because of successful bargaining, but because members continue to build some of the best vehicles in the world. Earlier this year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, GM’s Cadillac ATS won the 2013 North American Car of the Year, while Chrysler’s Ram 1500 won the 2013 North American Truck of the Year. The Ford F series trucks remain the best-selling trucks in America, as they have for the last 36 years.

“There’s plenty to choose from on this list, no matter what kind of vehicle you are looking for,” King said. “Be assured that when you buy any car on this list that you are doing the utmost to support decent-paying jobs in communities across the United States.”

Canadian-assembled vehicles built by members of Unifor, formerly the Canadian Auto Workers union, have always been recommended because those vehicles include significant UAW-made content and support the jobs of UAW members. Mitsubishi’s Outlander Sport SUV is assembled by UAW members in Normal, Ill.

Vehicles marked on the list with an asterisk are assembled by UAW members in the United States and in another country. To be sure you are buying a UAW-made or Unifor-made vehicle, buyers should check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). A vehicle assembled in the United States will always start with the numbers “1” or “4” or “5.” Vehicles assembled in Canada will start with the number “2.” Not all vehicles made in the United States or Canada are assembled by union members, so it’s important to first check the list. If it’s on the list, then inspect the VIN for the above numbers.


Right To Work In Michigan: Democracy At Its Worst

Right To Work Michigan

Share this image via Facebook

Have you been reading about what has been happening in Michigan? 

Well just in case you have been unplugged from any social media for the last day let me explain.  A few days ago reports started to surface that the Republican led Legislature in Michigan were going to use their own ‘lame duck’ session to push a Right To Work for less bill.   Turns out the reports were all true.

The legislature and Governor Snyder knew there would be huge protests if they pushed Right To Work in Michigan.  Amid huge protests RTW was unveiled in the MI House.  The Detroit Free Press reported

“The goal isn’t to divide Michigan. It is to bring Michigan together,” the governor said, as hundreds of union protesters stormed the Capitol and the governor’s office, vociferously voicing their opposition to the plan.”

We all know this is a crock.  The goal of right to work is to lower wages and make it easier for companies to break labor unions down.

The day was moved on like a live action horror movie, directed by Americans for Prosperity and ALEC.  Even the Koch Brothers could not keep their hands out of this. The Koch funded group American For Prosperity, had members lined up in front of the State House in Lansing.

“Michigan passage of right-to-work legislation will be the shot heard around the world for workplace freedom,” AFP said in a press release Thursday.

Even though Right To Work has nothing to do with ‘freedom’.

“In the wake of this legislation, the only ‘freedom’ gained for Michigan workers will be the freedom to make less, the freedom to be disrespected at work, the freedom to struggle to pay their bills and the freedom to be left out of the American dream.
Working Michigan statement 12-6-12

Democratic lawmakers walk out in protest
via UAW

Protesters filled the capitol in Lansing and began chanting. Watch the video from the UAW.  At one point they were told to leave the capitol building and the police began using pepper spray on protesters.  The protests outside became even louder as people began chanting ‘Let us in’ (VIDEO).  However in a strong move by Democrats in the Michigan Legislature, they walked out.  They would not return until the people of Michigan would be allowed to return.

It would not take long for the MI House to pass the RTW bill.

As all of this was happening, President Obama issued a statement on the proposed RTW bill in Michigan.

“President Obama has long opposed so-called ‘right to work’ laws and he continues to oppose them now,” said White House spokesperson Matt Lehrich. “The President believes our economy is stronger when workers get good wages and good benefits, and he opposes attempts to roll back their rights. Michigan – and its workers’ role in the revival of the US automobile industry – is a prime example of how unions have helped build a strong middle class and a strong American economy.”

Even the Presidents strong words would have no effect on the GOP assault on Michigan working families.  The Michigan Senate began pushing their version of the MI Right To Work for less bill.  Of course it passed 22-16.  The only catch is that due to legislative laws in Michigan a bill has sit for five days before it can be moved from the Senate to the House.  Then all legislators would have to do is combine the two different bills and send it to the Governor.

This is a sad day for Michigan and the hard working people who live there.  Working Michigan, a broad coalition of faith, labor and community organizations released a statement (full below).

“The legislation passed tonight is nothing short of an attack on the middle class in Michigan by Republican leadership and their corporate CEO funders.  This is a divisive law that will hurt our state by driving wages down and pitting workers against each other.”

After the ‘auto bailout’ and the revival of the big three in Michigan lawmakers chose to repay these workers with a giant slap in the face.  Their unity and dedication help revive Michigan and helped preserve over one million jobs.   The only hope Michigan has now is that over the next five days the Governor comes to his senses and veto’s this bill.  Though it is not very likely.

Share this image on Facebook via SEIU

Michigan Republicans vote to unravel the state’s middle class, flatten wages and crush workers’ rights


LANSING, Mich. – In  devastating blow to the middle class in Michigan, Republicans, bankrolled by wealthy, corporate CEOs, passed anti-worker legislation tonight which promises to flatten wages and crush workers’ rights. Following the Republicans’ destructive vote, Working Michigan, a broad coalition of faith, labor and community organizations issued the following statement:

“The legislation passed tonight is nothing short of an attack on the middle class in Michigan by Republican leadership and their corporate CEO funders.  This is a divisive law that will hurt our state by driving wages down and pitting workers against each other.

“Study after study has demonstrated the devastating effects of this sort of legislation: Workers in ‘right-to-work’ states make $1,500 less per year, meanwhile the growth rate for ‘right-to-work’ states actually drops after legislation of this sort is enacted. Dressing the legislation up with benign sounding phrases like ‘workplace freedom,’ Michiganders understand what’s at stake here and will hold them accountable.

“In the wake of this legislation, the only ‘freedom’ gained for Michigan workers will be the freedom to make less, the freedom to be disrespected at work, the freedom to struggle to pay their bills and the freedom to be left out of the American dream. This bill is a blatant attempt by the richest in Michigan to silence the voices of working families in our democracy, build their own power, and make the growing gap between the rich and everyone else even bigger.

“Should Snyder sign this legislation, he will join a list of other governors – John Kasich, Scott Walker, and others – who have signed over the future of their respective states to big corporations and CEOs, making a decision to leave working families behind. Regardless of what might happen, working people have made it clear they will continue to fight for our vision of a better, stronger Michigan and work to hold elected leaders accountable.”

Danny Glover Delivers Special Message To The Attendees At The Labour Start Conference

Photo by Rebecca Cook

Workers at the Nissan Plant in Mississippi are still fighting for the same rights Nissan workers in Japan have received for many years? Why? Because Nissan USA is anti-union and are pushing to keep workers down!

To often we hear stories of union’s aggressively organizing.  Or rumors of unions bullying people to join.  The problem is that you hardly ever hear about the stories of the companies who are trying to block the unions from having an election.   At the Nissan plant in Canton Mississippi this is what is going on every day.

This intense anti-union campaign includes making implied threats to close the plant and interrogating and harassing pro-union workers.

Now the workers in Canton Mississippi are getting some help from labor unions around the world, and a very friendly (and very well known) spokesman.  Actor Danny Glover delivers a special message to the people at the international ‘Labour Start’ conference.

For those who do not know, Danny Glover is also very well known for his philanthropic endeavors.   As the son of postal workers he has spent millions of dollars supporting different organizations to promote social and economic justice, access to health care, and education programs in the US and Africa. (1).   Danny was also arrested in 2010 in a labor protest.

“On April 16, 2010 Danny Glover and 11 others were arrested for trespassing at a Service Employees International Union protest at the Sodexo headquarters. SEIU says it was protesting what it calls Sodexo’s unfair and illegal treatment of workers.” (From Wikipedia)

Photo by Rebecca Cook (UAW)

Danny also received one of the highest honors from the United Auto Workers.  Danny was presented with the UAW Walter Reuther Social Justice Award.

“He stood with protesting union members in several states. Wherever there’s a fight for workers’ rights, he has been there. Wherever workers are oppressed, Danny Glover has been there,” King told the more than 1,200 delegates and activists as he presented Glover the award.

Read the full article from the UAW Blog

Now Danny is calling on all the labor unions in the United States and around the world to send this message to Nissan’s Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Toshiyuki Shiga.  He is asking for Nissan to ‘DO BETTER’.  This treatment of US employees would not be allowed in Japanese plants and should not be allowed here.  Mr Shiga has the power to direct the managers of the Nissan Plant in Canton Mississippi to respect the workers and allow them to join the union if they choose.

Take one minute to go to the Labor Start Webpage and sign this letter to Mr Shiga.  Help the United Auto Workers give the workers in Mississippi find their voice. 

Dear Mr. Shiga,

I am writing to respectfully voice my concern regarding anti-union, anti-freedom of association activities including the intimidation and harassment of workers seeking to unionize at your Nissan facility in Canton, Mississippi, USA.

I feel this type of aggressive, anti-union, hostility is a dishonor to Nissan’s well- respected reputation as a global leader, a long-standing member of the UN Global Compact, and a role model for positive labor relations. Nissan Canton local management’s actions are in direct violation of the United Nations Global Compact principles and the ILO standards which Nissan corporate management has committed to abide by.

Nissan’s employees in Canton, Mississippi wish to exercise the same rights that Nissan workers in Japan and elsewhere enjoy. And like the many unionized Nissan workers around the globe, they proudly support their company, but they also want a voice on issues that affect them, their families, and their community.

I urge you to immediately intervene to bring local management in Canton, Mississippi in-line with the values and principles that has established Nissan as a successful and esteemed corporate citizen and allow workers in Mississippi the fundamental right to a fair union election, free of intimidation and fear.

UAW congratulates President Obama on his re-election

DETROIT – The UAW is proud to congratulate President Obama on his electoral victory in the 2012 election. It is with great pride that in large part because of a nationwide, grassroots effort by our active and retired UAW members, along with our progressive allies and dedicated community leaders, President Obama won re-election and remains our president for four more years.

“President Obama stood by American workers in their darkest hour, and UAW members and citizens in communities that are part of the thriving auto industry, are grateful for his willingness to bet on us,” said UAW President Bob King.

“Today, the domestic auto industry is roaring back, with investment in factories, new workers and manufacturing returned to our country. This remarkable turnaround is the product of government, labor and community working together to find solutions to our nation’s problems and today it is driving the country’s economic recovery,” added King.

This 2012 election was successful because of the tireless commitment of working people who held steadfast in their belief about the kind of leader America needs: someone who believes in a better America with middle-class jobs, a strong auto and manufacturing sector, Social Security and Medicare for our seniors, Medicaid for those in need, and a fair tax system that favors the 47 percent instead of rewarding the 1 percent.

Americans have spoken – and they want President Obama to stay on the path of continued improvement for our economy. This election illustrates the hope people have for social and economic justice for our entire country and creating a ladder to the middle class.

But our work is not done, and we will continue to fight for social and economic justice for all Americans.


Mitt Romney’s Auto Industry

Chinese Flag

Rally in Manchester tomorrow — Monday, November 5th — details below!

So, is Mitt Romney lying – or just confused?

Last week, Mitt Romney told a whopper:  he said that Jeep is “thinking of moving all their production to China.”

That’s not true.   Chrysler’s CEO immediately set the record straight: the company has no intention of shifting production of Jeep models out of North America.

But dig deeper behind the headlines, and you will find an auto industry company that is planning to ship production to China.  An auto-parts company based in Freeport, Illinois plans to close its factory in December 2012 and ship all 170 jobs to China.  Right now, the company is threatening its employees with an immediate shut-down, unless the workers stop protesting the decision to close the plant.  So far, employees have filed two unfair labor practice complaints against the company with the National Labor Relations Board.

That company, Sensata, is controlled by Bain Capital.  According to press reports, Mitt Romney owns about $8 million worth of the Bain fund that controls Sensata.

So yes, on one level, Mitt Romney is right: American auto industry jobs ARE being sent to China.  But not by Chrysler.  It’s Bain Capital that is sending even MORE jobs overseas.

So maybe Romney didn’t really mean to lie last week.  He apparently has multiple investments in the auto industry (read more about his Delphi investment, below).  Maybe he just got confused about which company was shifting production overseas.


Appearing in tomorrow’s edition of The Nation magazine:

Mitt Romney’s Bailout Bonanza

“Mitt Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout has haunted him on the campaign trail … But Romney has done a good job of concealing, until now, the fact that he and his wife, Ann, personally gained at least $15.3 million from the bailout…”

“It all starts with Delphi Automotive, a former General Motors subsidiary whose auto parts remain essential to GM’s production lines. … in addition to making massive loans to automakers in 2009, the federal government sent, directly or indirectly, more than $12.9 billion to Delphi—and to the hedge funds that had gained control over it.”

Read the complete article here.

The UAW is holding a rally in Manchester tomorrow, to draw attention to Mitt Romney’s profiteering off of federal bailout money.  You can join the UAW and other guests on Monday, November 5th starting at 2:30 pm at 40 Lake Avenue in Manchester.

Read more here and here.


 Learn more about what is happening at Sensata, in this YouTube video: