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Leo W Gerard: Canadian Mounties to the Rescue of American Workers

The Canadian Royal Mounties have offered to ride to the rescue of beleaguered American workers.

It doesn’t sound right. Americans perceive themselves to be the heroes. They are, after all, the country whose intervention won World War II, the country whose symbol, the Statue of Liberty, lifts her lamp to light the way, as the poem at the statue’s base says, for the yearning masses and wretched refuse, for the homeless and tempest-tossed.

America loves the underdog and champions the little guy. The United States is doing that, for example, by demanding in the negotiations to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that Mexico raise its miserable work standards and wages. Now, though, here comes Canada, the third party in the NAFTA triad, insisting that the United States fortify its workers’ collective bargaining rights. That’s the Mounties to the rescue of downtrodden U.S. workers.

This NAFTA demand from the Great White North arrives amid relentless attacks on labor rights in the United States, declining union membership and stagnant wages. To prevent Mexico’s poverty wages from sucking U.S. factories south of the border, the United States is insisting that Mexico eliminate company-controlled fake labor unions. Similarly, to prevent the United States and Mexico from luring Canadian companies away, Canada is stipulating that the United States eliminate laws that empower corporations and weaken workers.

The most infamous of these laws is referred to, bogusly, as right-to-work. Really, it’s right-to-bankrupt labor unions and right-to-cut workers’ pay. These laws forbid corporations and labor unions from negotiating collective bargaining agreements that require payments in lieu of dues from workers who choose not to join the union. These payments, which are typically less than full dues, cover the costs that unions incur to bargain contracts and pursue worker grievances.

Lawmakers that pass right-to-bankrupt legislation know that federal law requires labor unions to represent everyone in their unit at a workplace, even if those employees don’t join the union and don’t make any payments. These dues-shirkers still get the higher wages and better benefits guaranteed in the labor contract. And they still get the labor union to advocate for them, even hire lawyers for them, if they want to file grievances against the company.

The allure of getting something for nothing, a sham created by right-wing politicians who prostrate themselves to corporations, ultimately can bankrupt unions forced to serve freeloaders. Which is exactly what the right-wingers and corporations want. It’s much easier for corporations to ignore the feeble pleas of individual workers for better pay and safer working conditions than to negotiate with unions that wield the power of concerted action.

Canada is particularly sensitive about America’s right-to-bankrupt laws because they’ve now crept up to the border. Among the handful of states that in recent years joined the right-to-bankrupt gang are Wisconsin and Michigan, both at the doorstep of a highly industrial region in Ontario, Canada.

So now, the governors of Wisconsin and Michigan can whisper in the ears of CEOs, “Come south, and we’ll help you break the unions. Instead of paying union wages, you can take all that money as profit and get yourself even fatter pay packages and bonuses!”

Then those governors will make American workers pay for the move with shocking tax breaks for corporations, like the $3 billion Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker promised electronics manufacturer Foxconn to locate a factory there. That’s $1 million in tax money for each of the 3,000 jobs that Foxconn said would be the minimum it would create with the $10 billion project.

Right-wing lawmakers like Walker and U.S. CEOs have been union busting for decades. And it’s been successful.  In the heyday of unions in the 1950s and 1960s, nearly 30 percent of all U.S. workers belonged. Wage rates rose as productivity did. And they climbed consistently. Then, one wage-earner could support a middle-class family.

That’s not true anymore. For decades now, as union membership waned, wages stagnated for the middle class and poor, and compensation for CEOs skyrocketed. And this occurred even while productivity rose. By January of 2016, the most recent date for which the statistics are available, union membership had declined to 10.7 percent. The number of workers in unions dropped by nearly a quarter million from the previous year.

This is despite the fact that union workers earn more and are more likely to have pensions and employer-paid health insurance. The median weekly earnings for non-union workers in 2016 was $802. For union members, it was $1,004.

It’s not that labor unions don’t work. It’s that right-wing U.S. politicians are working against them. They pass legislation and regulations that make it hard for unions to represent workers.

It’s very different for unions in Canada. For example, union membership in Canada is growing, not dwindling like in the United States. In Canada, 31.8 percent of workers were represented by union in 2015, up 0.3 percentage points from 2014. That is higher than the all-time peak in the United States.

And it’s because Canadian legislation encourages unionization to counterbalance powerful corporations. In some Canadian provinces, for example, corporations are prohibited from hiring replacements when workers strike; striking workers are permitted to picket the companies that sell to and buy from their employer; labor agreements must contain “successorship” rights requiring a corporation that buys the employer to recognize the union and abide by its labor agreement; and employers must submit to binding arbitration if they fail to come to a first labor agreement with a newly formed union within a specific amount of time.

The second round of negotiations to rewrite NAFTA ended in Mexico this week. The third is scheduled for later this month in Canada. That’s a good opportunity for the northernmost member of the NAFTA triad to showcase its labor laws and explain why they are crucial to defending worker rights and raising wages.

Getting language protecting workers’ union rights into NAFTA is not enough, however. The trade deal must also contain penalties for countries that fail to meet the standards. This could be, for example, border adjustment taxes on exports from recalcitrant countries.

Canada’s nearly 20,000 Royal Canadian Mounted Police only recently filed papers to unionize. That occurred after the Canadian Supreme Court overturned a 1960s era federal law that barred them from organizing.

Canada’s Supreme Court said the law violated the Mounties’ freedom of association, a right guaranteed to Americans in the U.S. Constitution. Now, Canada is riding to the rescue of U.S. and Mexican workers’ freedom of association by demanding the new NAFTA include specific protections for collective bargaining.

Shame On Salerno Protective Services: Follow Up To ‘Concord’s First Baby Story’

For those who did not read the original story, “Concord’s First Baby Of The Year Highlights The Need For Paid Sick And Family Leave,” it was the story of Lamar Austin who was terminated on New Years Day for choosing to be with his wife as she delivered their child.

The Concord Monitor did a follow up story on Lamar this morning: “Companies can fire employees for most reasons, including missing a shift due to birth of baby boy.”

The follow up story sheds a lot of light on Lamar’s situation and in my personal opinion it does not make his termination any better.

Lamar was a “probationary” employee with Salerno Protective Services and was only hired a month ago for a 90 day trial.  The trial for the part-time security job required Lamar to be on-call 24/7. How bad are our labor laws that a person can be “on call” 24/7 for 90 days and still be classified as a “part time” employee? But that is a completely different issue.

As part of their mission statement posted on the front page of their website, Salerno states:

“We will make a very strong commitment to our people, as they are ultimately responsible for our success. We seek to create and maintain an environment where every employee is rewarded according to their contribution to the success of our collective efforts.”

Yes, the company that just fired a man for being there for his wife while she delivered their child, boasts about how they are “committed” to their people.

Lamar missed work on Friday and Saturday because his wife was in labor, and at 1 am on New Years Day he received the group text from his employer that he was terminated.

Andru Volinsky, a lawyer and the Concord area’s next Executive Councilor told the Monitor it may be legal to fire Lamar, but not humane:

“Legal niceties aside, this company could have acted more humanely.”

Supporting employees is the “cost of running a good business,” Volinsky said. However, that support doesn’t often come willingly from employers.

“We’ve seen over the years that there are many good employers that act fairly and some that act unfairly, but it’s only when the employees are organized and act collectively that they are able to negotiate for protections that include paid family leave.”

The story also talks about Lamar’s time in the Army,  a few of his other jobs, and how he still relies on support from his church and local charity groups. Might have something to do with the NH’s low minimum wage, but again I digress.

This update really shows how horrible some of the state’s labor laws are.  Being an “at will” state means that you can pretty much be fired for anything, at anytime, with no recourse.  When added with the fact that NH does not require any paid sick or family leave, if you choose to stay home with a sick child, that could be your last day of work.  The system is rigged for the benefit of the employer without any regard for the workers.

Lamar said would like a job in the “trades,” possibly an electrician.  Hopefully he finds his way to IBEW 490 in Concord and puts in for an apprenticeship.  I hope Lamar also looks into the Helmets to Hardhats program that helps Veterans find work in the building trades.

I truly hope that Lamar finds a better job now that hundreds if thousands of people are talking about his story.

At AFSCME Conference, Clinton Pledges to Fight for Working Americans as President

‘We have to send a loud, clear message: “right to work” is wrong for workers and wrong for America’

AFSCME_Hillary_ClintonIn remarks at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Hillary Clinton reiterated her commitment to fighting for working families as president and defending labor unions from Republican attacks.

“I can’t imagine how we could run our country if we didn’t have people like you, and the members you represent, working on our behalf every day,” Clinton said.  “That’s why it’s so outrageous when Republican governors steamroll public employees and stomp on workers’ rights.  In Wisconsin, the cradle of the labor movement, Scott Walker has ripped the heart, he’s ripped the heart, out of public-sectors workers’ right to bargain collectively for better wages and benefits.  In Illinois, Bruce Rauner has been holding the budget hostage for months, endangering public colleges and universities, hurting families, and demanding outrageous concessions from public-sector unions.”

“And even though workers’ rights won the day in the Supreme Court in the Friedrichs case, make no mistake—we haven’t seen the last of efforts to use the courts to undermine your rights,” she said.  “So I promise you this: I will be by your side in this fight every step of the way. When I am President, working people will always have a seat at the table and a champion in the White House.  Because I believe that when unions are strong, America is strong.”

Clinton highlighted Trump’s plan to repeal Wall Street reform laws passed in the wake of the Great Recession. “I predict that Donald will try to con you with tough talk about Wall Street.  Don’t believe him,” she said.  “Donald Trump wants to tear up Dodd-Frank and let Wall Street run wild again.”

Clinton also highlighted Trump’s hiring of a union-busting firm, his consistent practice of shortchanging contractors – driving some out of business – and a consensus among economists that his policies would plunge us back into a recession.

“Unions helped build the strongest middle class in the history of the world. You pioneered the basic bargain that made our country great. You know what it is: if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead,” she said. “And you’ve been on the frontlines of the fight for affordable health care, safe working conditions, fair schedules and fair wages. And I know you’re not just fighting for your members, as important as that is – you’re fighting for all working families.”

“I’m proud to be in the trenches fighting alongside you to raise wages, protect pensions, and keep the ‘public’ in ‘public sector.’  That includes ending private prisons and detention centers that profit off our criminal justice and immigration system,” Clinton said.  “And we have to send a loud, clear message: ‘right to work’ is wrong for workers and wrong for America.”

“We will pursue a bold, progressive agenda that lifts our country up. So that no one is left out or left behind,” she said.  “AFSCME helped to make our 2016 Democratic platform a strong vision.  It’s wonderful to be with people who want to build America up, not tear Americans down.”

A transcript of Clinton’s full remarks to the AFSCME Annual Conference is available here.

The US Chamber Of Commerce Releases New Legislative Guide To Steal Workers Rights

Chamber of Commerce Labor Report

The US Chamber of Commerce releases a new legislative guide with suggested legislation gut workers rights and block union organizing efforts.

 

If you ever thought the US Chamber of Commerce was working on your behalf, man were you wrong. Their only agenda is to screw workers out of their rights so they can maximize their corporate member’s profit margins.

Yesterday, the US Chamber of Commerce released their 2016 “Tools for Growth” report that details how states can reform their labor laws to “promote a favorable business climate.”

The report is basically a guideline for state legislators to push anti-union, anti-worker legislation that serves to line the pockets of wealthy business owners and corporate executives.

These laws are not designed to help workers in any way. They are intended to weaken or outright break unions by attempting to legislate away our rights.

Here are just a few of their legislative goals in their “Tools for Growth:”

  • Passing Right to Work – A law that does provide any benefit to jobs or the economy and has only been proven to lower wages.
  • Prohibiting City Ordinances to Raise the Minimum Wage – This legislation would make it illegal for any city or township to raise the minimum wage above the state’s minimum wage. Dozens of cities have already enacted higher minimum wages including New York City, Sea-Tac, and San Francisco to combat the high cost of living in these cities.
  • Legislating a reversal of the NLRB’s “Franchise” decision – The NLRB ruled that corporations could be held accountable for labor law violations in franchised shops.
  • Banning Project Labor Agreements – PLA’s ensure that workers are paid a fair wage, provided healthcare and retirement options, and ensure strong workplace safety protections and workmen’s compensation insurance.
  • Legislating away workers rights to organize and demonstrate – This includes multiple legislative reforms like: Prohibiting card check agreements, prohibiting union-management neutrality agreements, and prohibiting mass picketing [strikes, boycotts, picketing businesses for any reason, or any other demonstration intended to bring harm or attention to a specific business].

This report is nothing more than a legislative roadmap on how to screw workers, allowing corporations to further line their pockets with our lost wages.

The majority of their supporting evidence and legislative proposals in this new report are backed by, none other than the National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation, who have spent years trying to block unions and limit workers rights.

The US Chamber of Commerce will stop at nothing to prevent workers from organizing and forming unions and fighting for higher wages.

“Gig” Or “On-Demand” Workers Should Be Considers Employees Under The Law

AFL-CIO Asserts that Gig Economy Workers Are Employees

Read Gig Economy Council Statement Here

uber-logo

One example of the “gig” economy workers are those who drive for UBER

(Washington, DC) –The AFL-CIO Executive Council affirmed that working people in the gig economy share a single common designation: employees.

The Council further affirmed that working people deserve the full benefits that come with that status. On-demand economy companies are increasingly leaving workers without the full rights and protections of regular employees. 

Innovation and technological progress have bolstered productivity, yet too many working people have not reaped the benefits of their labor. In a statement passed by the council labor leaders noted that:

“Making the right policy choices begins with ensuring people who work for on-demand companies enjoy the rights and protections of employees.  Under current law, only workers who are defined as ‘employees’ are protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and enjoy minimum wage, overtime, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, and family and medical leave.”

“Unions have long been fighting back against employers who misclassify working people and create precarious, vulnerable work. This is what we do.  The AFL-CIO is committed to ensuring new technology – and new forms of employer manipulation – do not erode the rights of working people. Rest assured that if employers get away with pretending their workers aren’t employees, your job could be next.”

For decades, precarious and vulnerable work – such as part-time and temporary work with few benefits – have been the reality for a significant part of the workforce, especially for people of color, women and immigrants. The council is calling on companies to accept their responsibilities as employers and provide jobs that pay enough for working people to sustain themselves and their families.

“The AFL-CIO is committed to working with our allies, businesses and community partners to enact policies that will prevent gig economy workers from falling through the cracks,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. “If we act now, we can build a future of work that promises working people a better life.”

To read the complete statement, click here.

Is The TPP Really A Gold Standard For Workers Throughout The World?

The AFL-CIO released a new report highlighting the failures of current trade agreements and their ability to enforce worldwide labor standards.

 

Screen Shot of AFLCIO Report“Calling the TPP’s labor rights provisions a gold standard is a mirage,” said Celeste Drake, AFL-CIO Trade Policy Specialist, while on a nation wide conference call today. “We know from experience that the discretionary dispute settlement model does not work for vulnerable workers, and the highly touted ‘new’ labor provisions do not provide meaningful new protections for abused and exploited workers.”

Celeste Drake and Cathy Feingold, AFL-CIO Director of International Affairs, hosted the call to announce the release of the AFL-CIO’s blistering new report, to “shed the light on the state of labor rights and commitments among the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) partner countries.”

The report, “A Gold Standard for Workers? The State of Labor Rights in Trans-Pacific Partnership Countries,” talks in depth about the grim condition workers in TPP countries currently face and how the TPP fails to address these concerns in the new trade agreement.

Many of the countries involved in the TPP are currently known offenders of labor rights. Many are already “out of compliance” with current trade agreements. This brings even greater concern to enforceability of the new trade deal.

“The United States seeks to enter into the TPP with a number of Pacific Rim nations with troubling anti-worker practices. US Trade Representative gave away crucial negotiating leverage by not insisting that trade benefits be contingent on adherence and promotion of the core labor standards. To let the TPP enter into force without full compliance with all labor commitments from all 12 countries undermines the entire agreement,” wrote the AFL-CIO in their report.

TPP Countries from AFLCIO ReportFeingold also talked about the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit that President Obama is hosting and the TPP implications.

“The consistency plans fall woefully short of ensuring that all 12 TPP countries will be in full compliance with the TPP’s labor standard on Day One of the agreement,” said Feingold. “Vietnam will get a five-year free pass to deny freedom of association and there is no plan for Mexico at all. This problem would be compounded if countries such as Thailand and Cambodia join the TPP without first affording all of their workers fundamental worker rights and acceptable conditions of work.”

The AFL-CIO report focused a bright light on the anti-worker, anti-labor atrocities in these TPP nations but is willing to work with Congress to fix them now and for future trade agreements.

“The AFL-CIO urges Congress to only support a people-centered trade approach that will guarantee the benefits of trade can improve the working and living lives of millions of workers and their families in the United States and throughout TPP countries. Further, we stand ready to work with Congress and the administration to renegotiate the TPP so that it works for people who work.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka To Demand An End To Deportations At Pasadena’s Worker Center

(Photo by Bill Burke, Page One Photography)

(Photo by Bill Burke, Page One Photography)

During the event, day laborers, elected officials and immigrant and community leaders will highlight how failed enforcement policies undermine workers’ rights  

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will be at a worker center in Pasadena, Calif., today where he will oppose the ongoing deportations that undermine family unity and weaken rights for all workers. He will be joined by Los Angeles Labor Federation of Labor President Rusty Hicks; Pasadena City Mayor, Terry Tornek; Pasadena Councilmember, District 5, Victor Gordo; California State Labor Commissioner, Julie Su; and dozens of day laborers and workers who will share their experiences as immigrant workers.

During the event President Trumka plans to deliver the following remarks [Excerpts]:

“America’s deportation crisis is a bipartisan failure. 

“And I could not come here today without saying how disappointed I am with the Obama Administration’s recent decision to send women and children back to dangerous Central American nations.

“I have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for President Obama, yet the plague of immigration raids in America is nothing less than a travesty.  A human travesty.

“All over our country, those who fled violence and poverty to come here for a better life are being forced to live in fear.  This is wrong and today we say once again: stop the era of deportations!

“It’s time for us to ramp up the pressure on our elected leaders.  Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with America’s labor movement and our allies, we are going to protect all working people.

“We demand an end to deportations and safe haven for workers who speak up on the job.

“We call on the Supreme Court to give DAPA and DACA the green light.  But no matter what the justices decide, we will keep mobilizing and keep organizing.

“We shouldn’t be building walls.  We should be building bridges—to security and prosperity and a better life.

“The future of immigrant workers is not in detention centers.  It’s in worker centers like this one.

“So brothers and sisters, continue to stand up when your communities are under attack.  Your bravery is inspiring.  Your courage lifts us all.”

Safety Standards For Workers From Temp Agencies Are Truly Scary

Trick or Treat for Worker Safety: Rallying at Elite Staffing, Inc. on Chicago's South Side, 10/31/2015 - Courtesy Image by NATIONAL COSH

Trick or Treat for Worker Safety: Rallying at Elite Staffing, Inc. on Chicago’s South Side, 10/31/2015 – Courtesy Image by NATIONAL COSH

Activists Call For Improved Safety Standards At Elite Staffing, Inc.,
A Leading Chicago Temp Agency

CHICAGO – A delegation of workplace safety activists paid a surprise “Trick or Treat” visit to a south side office of Elite Staffing, Inc., one of Chicago’s leading temporary staffing agencies. 

The delegation, led by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) and the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative, delivered a letter addressed to Gary Cole, president of Elite Staffing.

Advocates are calling on the agency to provide appropriate safety training, provide Material Safety Data Sheets on hazardous chemicals, and recognize worker health and safety committees. The letter also states that Elite Staffing should pledge not to retaliate against any workers who raise safety, compensation, discrimination and other workplace issues.

“Workers are telling us about exposures to unknown toxic chemicals, machine hazards and other safety concerns,” said Leone José Bicchieri, Executive Director of the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative. “The time to take action is now, to prevent illnesses and injuries before they occur.”

Elite Staffing, Inc. provides temporary labor to Pactiv, a manufacturer of cups and other supplies for major national restaurant chains. Pactiv’s Bedford Park, IL, facility – with many workers on assignment from Elite Staffing – is currently under investigation by the U.S, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for alleged violations of federal safety laws.

“Temporary work can be extremely hazardous, especially when workers are assigned to unfamiliar tasks on equipment they may never have seen before,” said Jessica Martinez, Acting Executive Director of National COSH. “As one of the leading companies in the temporary labor industry, Elite Staffing is in a position to raise standards for all workers.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 800 contract workers died on the job in 2014, representing 17 percent of all workplace fatalities.

Ted Rigas, chief financial officer of Elite Staffing, Inc., is president of the Staffing Services Association of Illinois, a trade association whose temp agency members employ more than 250,000 workers a year.

“’Elite’ should be more than a brand name,” said Bicchieri. “A company that leads the temporary industry must be a leader in providing safe workplaces. Our goal is to work with Elite Staffing and other temporary agencies to improve conditions for all workers, and ensure that every worker – temporary, contract, or permanent – can go home safely at the end of his or her shift.”


National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace “Preventable Deaths 2015,” a National COSH report, describes workplace fatalities in the United States and how they can be prevented. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org.  Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.

California Judge Issues A Restraining Order Against Union Busting Tactics In Charter School

Judge Orders Temporary Restraining Order to Protect Teachers at LA’s Largest Charter School Chain from Harassment and Intimidation 

Alliance College-Ready Public Schools must immediately stop coercive tactics, along with surveilling teachers, blocking emails, and denying access to teacher union organizers 

LOS ANGELES – Late Thursday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant signed a temporary restraining order (TRO) forbidding managers at LA’s largest charter school chain, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, from continuing harassment of the 27-school chain’s 700 teachers.

“It’s very rare for the courts to find it necessary to issue a TRO to protect teachers from abusive behavior by charter school managers,” said United Teachers of Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl. “Alliance employs hard-working, dedicated educators who only want to improve their schools and advocate for their students. Instead of respecting their rights and treating them as professionals and valued employees, they’ve faced an onslaught of unfair and illegal actions. This behavior would be wrong in any workplace but is totally unacceptable in a publicly funded school setting.” 

Last week, the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) had asked the court for a TRO and also had filed for “injunctive relief” to stop illegal anti-teacher coercive activity by the charter school chain’s board and managers. PERB made the decision to take Alliance to court and seek an injunction after more than six months of an unlawful anti-union campaign by the Alliance against its own teachers and numerous unfair practice complaints.  A decision on injunctive relief will not be determined until after the parties meet in court on November 17. In the meantime, through the TRO, the court has ordered Alliance to immediately:

  • Stop coercing teachers; 
  • Stop polling teachers on their support for or against the unionization effort; 
  • Allow union organizers access to teachers at the worksite — after school; 
  • Forbid managers from coming within 100 feet of a conversation between union representatives and teachers; 
  • Not block union generated emails to teachers sent via the employer’s email system. 

Alliance has a very high teacher turnover rate, with 25 percent of the chain’s teachers quitting every year. Some schools lose 40 percent of their faculty members annually.  Motivated by a desire to improve student learning conditions and educators’ working conditions, Alliance teachers began exploring unionization last year so that they could address professional issues with the charter chain’s board and executives and better advocate for their students.

In May 2015, roughly a quarter of Alliance’s teachers (146 out of the then 600 teachers) publicly signed their names to a petition and called on the charter school chain’s management to remain neutral as teachers considered forming a union. Earlier, last spring, 70 teachers had announced their intention to form a union with UTLA.  Since that time, according to legal documents, Alliance and its managers have engaged in an unrelenting and illegal anti-union campaign. Among other actions, Alliance management:

  • Sent principals, assistant principals, and other administrators to illegally surveil teachers during discussions with union organizers;
  • Directed Alliance employees not to sign union authorization cards;
  • Interrogated employees about their views on union organizing, and pressured employees to take a position against the union;
  • Interfered with the right of Alliance workers to communicate with one another about workplace issues during non-work times in non-work area;
  • Refused to meet with Alliance employees and union representatives despite state labor law requirements.

The Alliance board of directors, composed primarily of business leaders such as Atlanta Hawks owner Tony Ressler, investment banker Frank Baxter and former Northrop Grumman Chairman and CEO Ron Sugar, has brought some of the worst private-sector anti-union tactics to these publicly funded charter schools. Alliance’s CEO and President is Dan Katzir, who previously served as the Managing Director for the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, became Alliance’s top manager earlier this year.

Sen. Rubio’s Flawed “VA Accountability” Bill Fails Unanimous Consent Vote

Marco Rubio (Gage Skidmore FLIKR CC)

Marco Rubio (Gage Skidmore FLIKR CC)

Extreme proposal targets basic workplace rights of VA employees and does little to protect whistleblowers

WASHINGTON – An attempt by Senator Marco Rubio yesterday to bring up the misleadingly-named VA Accountability Act (S. 1082) under unanimous consent failed as colleagues, led by Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal, immediately protested voting on the extreme legislation.

The measure would eliminate many of the basic workplace rights of every VA employee and give managers the discretion to fire any employee with little notice or recourse. This comes just one year after it was revealed that managers had fiercely retaliated against employees who exposed secret waitlists at VA medical centers across the country. In addition, the bill would increase terminations of recently hired veterans in the VA by extending the probationary period from one year to 18 months or longer. Probationary employees have no appeal rights, no right to improve their performance, and no right to advance notice of proposed termination.

Thousands of AFGE members called to urge their Senators to oppose Senator Rubio’s attempt to destroy civil service protections. If enacted, this bill would severely weaken the Department’s ability to expand and improve services to veterans by undermining VA’s efforts to fill more than 40,000 vacancies, including more than 30,000 unfilled physicians, nurse and other clinical provider positions.   In addition, S. 1082 would undermine other ongoing VA transformation initiatives including the work of the Commission on Care, and the Congressional mandate that the VA develop a plan to consolidate all non-VA care programs by November 1st.  

“Senator Rubio’s bill hurts veterans and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “You simply can’t fire your way to a solution. Our veterans and VA workforce need legislation that will address the root causes of VA’s troubles:  inadequate staffing levels and mismanagement.  Employees need protection from retaliation when they speak up for veterans. Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s bill, S. 1856, is the right tool for the job.”

S. 1856 is the only legislation before the Senate VA Committee that provides a multi-faceted, commonsense approach to ensuring real accountability. The bill gives managers broader authority to address dangers in the workplace, adds new whistleblower protections, limits paid administrative leave and curbs revolving door relationships between VA employees and contractors.  In contrast to the slash-and-burn, extremist proposals in S. 1082, Senator Blumenthal’s bill holds the few bad apples responsible while preserving the basic due process rights of honest, hardworking employees who serve veterans with distinction every day. 

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