• Advertisement

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. 

Union for Co-op Workers AND Co-op Food Stores Settle Unfair Labor Practice Case

Settlement agreement resolves charges that The Co-op Food Stores violated worker rights

UFCW_logo.svgLEBANON, N.H.– After a contentious union election at its Lebanon location, The Co-op Food Stores has signed a settlement agreement with the National Labor Relations Board and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). The settlement contains multiple actions ensuring that workers at The Co-op Food Stores know their rights and do not have those rights violated by their employer.

As part of the agreement, The Co-op Food Stores reinstated a terminated employee with back pay, will remove discipline from another vocal union supporter’s file and will change eight sections of its handbook to ensure that its policies do not restrict workers’ rights to organize. They will also post a notice at all four of its locations informing all their employees of their rights to organize and pledging not to violate federal law. These postings include a pledge not to surveil, threaten, discipline or fire workers for discussing their working conditions or forming a union.

“We believe that this election was not free from intimidation and interference by management, and this settlement agreement begins to right some of the wrongs” said UFCW Local 1459 President Dan Clifford. “As at The Co-op Food Stores, Local 1459 stands by every retail worker who wants a voice at work and feels intimidated and harassed for standing up.”

UFCW Local 1459 represents hundreds of co-op workers across five co-op stores in Western New England. The local will continue to support workers at the Co-op Food Store locations who want to join other workers across the country and work together for improved wages, hours, and working conditions.

“Although the election was unsuccessful, we have made real change at the co-op and will continue to stand up for what’s right,” said Kristin Henault, Cheese Clerk at The Co-op Food Stores Lebanon location. “Workers and member-owners have been coming together to improve this co-op for several years and much more will be done to ensure Co-op Food Stores lives up to its cooperative principles.”

Stand Up for Workers at Voters First Forum

Pro-Worker Visibility at NH Voters First Forum

This coming Monday, August 3rd, the New Hampshire Union Leader will be hosting the first Republican Primary (debate) Forum.  All the major players in the GOP Primary are scheduled to attend including Governor Scott Walker, Governor John Kasich, Governor Chris Christie, Senator Rand Paul, Governor Jeb Bush, and the list goes on.  Reportedly there could be as many as 16 candidates on the stage for this forum on Aug. 3rd, just days before the big official Fox News debate.

We want to show that in New Hampshire, workers matter! Many of these politicians are trying to make their career by attacking working families.  Slashing our rights, stealing our pensions, and gutting the programs we have paid into all of our lives.

Come join us for a pro-worker visibility and tell the world that attacking working families is not the road to the White House.

Sign up on Facebook

New Hampshire AFL-CIO members and community allies will join the gathering of pro-labor & progressive voices outside the New Hampshire Union Leader Voters First Forum at St. Anselm College on Monday, August 3. The forum will feature comments by 14 GOP presidential primary candidates, including anti-worker Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Monday, August 3, 2015 | 5:30pm

St. Anselm College, Manchester NH

Sign up on Facebook

New Article Highlights Work Of Progressive Labor Activist Matt Murray

New article focuses on the work of Matt Murray, a local labor blogger, and his work pushing back against the right wing attacks on labor and progress.

Murray Head ShotFor five years now Matt Murray has been dedicated to fighting back against the right wing attacks on working families.  In an attempt to push back against the main-stream media’s mis-information about labor unions, Murray created the NH Labor News (NHLaborNews.com).

Today, Communique New England released an in depth article on the work that Murray has been doing over the past five years.

“No self-respecting reader of Communique New England who cares about workers and the labor movement can afford to ignore or overlook NH Labor News, the state’s only source for daily, hourly, even real time updates pertaining to any and all labor-related activity in the state.”

“Murray’s tendency to look on the bright side is both infectious and consistent – he also holds a great deal of optimism with regard to labor’s future, even as the movement assumes a more nontraditional and at times asymmetrical structure.”

The looks at the humble beginnings of the NH Labor News and a look into the future as the NH Labor News continues to grow and expand. 

“The NH Labor News is truly a labor of love,” said Matt Murray, creator and managing editor of the NH Labor News. “I have dedicated my life to supporting working families and pushing for progress in New Hampshire and the entire United States. Attacking the hard-working men and women of this country has become a political talking point for some politicians, even going as far as to call us ‘terrorists’. We need to band together to fight back against the attacks on working families.”

“I would like to thank Jay Monaco for his great work on this article and highlighting the work of all of those involved in the NH Labor News, and look forward to bringing you more as the First In The Nation primary ramps up,” added Murray.

To read the entire article from Jay Monaco go to: http://communiquenewengland.com/2015/07/22/the-soul-of-the-new-hampshire-labor-movement/

Granite State Legislators to Scott Walker: Good Luck. You’ll Need it.

Scott Walker 1 (Image by Gage Skidmore CC FLIKR)

CONCORD, N.H. – Today, several members of the New Hampshire state legislature penned an open letter to Gov. Scott Walker in advance of his trip to the Granite State. See below for full letter.

Dear Governor Scott Walker,

We wanted to welcome you to the First in the Nation Primary. You are a little late to the game, so we decided to help you out with some information about New Hampshire.

Last night, you said that raising the minimum wage was a “lame idea.” Lame idea? Really? Well, it’s an idea that 76% of Granite Staters support.

You should know that New Hampshire has no state minimum wage, which means we follow the federal minimum wage, which puts us at the bottom of any other state in New England. But it’s not for a lack of trying… or a lack of public support. People here don’t think the minimum wage is lame. They want it, and they want to raise the minimum wage so their families have more opportunities to succeed and achieve the American dream you talk so much about.

But frankly, your statement last night doesn’t shock us, given how you’ve favored the wealthy and corporations in Wisconsin.Time and time again, your budgets have favored the wealthy and corporations over working class families. In fact, your home-state newspapers have called out your budget the top earners in Wisconsin “would likely receive the majority of a $444 million proposed cut to tax rates and fees.” Even the Associated Press said that your proposed income tax cut “would give more money back to the rich,” despite your “billing it as a boon to the middle class.”

You’ve left working families in Wisconsin behind, and we don’t want you to do the same to our neighbors in New Hampshire. The fact is more than 100,000 workers in New Hampshire would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage. Nationally, more than half of all workers that would benefit from this increase are women. These are the same women who make less than their male counterparts, and who surely couldn’t count on you to fight for equal pay given your track record in Wisconsin.

So it seems we are at an impasse on this issue, Governor Walker. It is already obvious that your priorities don’t include helping everyday Granite Staters get ahead.

Good luck on the campaign trail. You’ll need it.


Representative Michael Cahill, Newmarket

Senator Dan Feltes, Concord

Senator Andrew Hosmer, Laconia

Representative Doug Ley, Jaffrey

Senator Bette Lasky, Nashua

Senator Donna Soucy, Manchester

Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff, Penacook

Senator Jeff Woodburn, Dalton

Representative Andrew White, Lebanon

Baltimore Steelworker Invites Pres. Obama to Witness Results of Past Failed Trade Policies

AFL-CIO, USW Launches New Trade Ad

(Washington, DC) – A new ad from the AFL-CIO and USW highlights how the loss of manufacturing jobs due to bad trade policy over the past 30 years has hit African-American populations especially hard in cities like Baltimore. The video makes clear that the battle over Fast Track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is not about politics: it’s about people like former steelworker Mike Lewis.

“One can’t help but be saddened. This was once called the ‘Beast of the East.’ We made the steel that went into the Golden Gate Bridge…” Lewis says in a video message to President Obama, while standing on the decimated site where he proudly worked for 32 years as a full-time crane operator. The dream of economic opportunities disappeared in August of 2012 when Mike and 2,100 of his steelworker brothers and sisters who permanently lost their jobs at the steel plant in Sparrows Point in Baltimore.

The union hall where workers came together for so many years in good times  has been a food bank that many rely on to feed their families. The closing of the steel plant and other manufacturing plants started the economic downfall that many in the African-American community have not recovered from.

“We want the American people to know that bad trade policies have terrible consequences for workers. This battle isn’t about a political party, it’s about the thousands of people just like Mike Lewis who simply want a fair chance to earn a good living and put food on their table,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Mike has a simple message for the President: “President Obama, we welcome you to come to the site of what failed trade policies have brought, the devastation of this facility. Please come, please take a look at the devastation of three decades of failed trade policies.”

The ad will begin as an initial web buy with key targeted audiences and escalate based on the timing of the Fast Track trade fight.

Worker Wins Organizing Update: Organizing Efforts Pay Off in Big Spring for Workers

Workers have stood up in the face of low wages and unacceptable conditions to organize new workplaces. Below are some recent major organizing wins:

Philadelphia Charter School Teachers Organize with AFT: Teachers and other staff members at Olney Charter High School voted to organize a union earlier this week, becoming the largest charter school in Philadelphia to organize. The teachers and staff will be represented by the Alliance of Charter School Employees, which is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

UConn Graduate Teaching Assistants Win Big with First Contract: Last month, approximately 2,300 graduate teaching assistants reached a tentative agreement on a first contract with the University of Connecticut. The assistants, represented by the Graduate Employee Union, a branch of the United Auto Workers, ensured an increase in stipends, a break in university fees, and greater health benefits.
Big Easy Teachers Work Hard to Form Union: Last month, teachers belonging to the United Teachers of New Orleans, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, secured its first collective-bargaining contract in the past decade at Benjamin Franklin High School. The teachers began to organize in 2014, citing issues with pay inequality.

Sheet Metal Workers Hammer Out Major Victories Across the Country: Earlier this spring, transportation workers in South Florida voted overwhelmingly to join the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation (SMART) union. SMART workers have also organized in Buffalo, NY, and secured a major Project Labor Agreement in Long Beach, CA.

Aircraft Mechanics Flying High After Organizing Win: Over 100 aircraft mechanics and other technicians at the Beechcraft Service Center in Wichita, KS joined International Association of Machinists District 70 last month. IAM’s organizing efforts took off recently with several thousand workers organizing at Textron Aviation, which includes Cessna and Beechcraft aircraft.

DoubleTree Workers Outsmart Harvard Union Opposition: Thanks to a major organizing win last month, approximately 130 workers at the Hilton DoubleTree Suites Hotel in Cambridge, MA will become members of UNITE HERE! Local 26.  The hard-fought, two-year campaign was opposed by Hilton and Harvard University. The workers, many of them immigrant housekeepers, cited unfair hours and unsafe conditions as reasons for voting to form a union.

Union Brothers and Sisters Win in ‘City of Brotherly Love’: Workers for the Philadelphia-based manufacturing company Chemson voted to join ICWUC/UFCW after uniting over issues with poor pay and unfair hours. Workers also pointed to lack of respect on the job and unsafe working conditions as reasons to form a union.

Labor Leaders, Workers, and Community Leaders Stand in Support of Immigrant Workers’ Rights and Executive Actions

(Photo by Bill Burke, Page One Photography)

(Photo by Bill Burke, Page One Photography, May 2014)

On the eve of what should have been a historic expansion of deferred action to millions of workers, the labor movement continues pressing for immigrant workersprotections

(Washington, DC) – At an event today, labor leaders, workers and community activists sent a clear and loud message: the labor movement will continue pushing forward with its efforts to build worker power for immigrants and will not wait for Congress, the courts, or the elections to act.  The event took place a day before the expansion of deferred action was scheduled to start, granting millions of workers the opportunity to live and work without fear.

AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre was joined by UFCW Executive Vice President Esther Lopez, BAC President Jim Boland, NDLON Director of Legislative Affairs Salvador Sarmiento, and immigrant workers who are members of UNITE HERE and the Ironworkers unions together vowed to defend the new deferred action programs and continue pushing for immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship, while raising grave concerns about enforcement programs that undermine workers’ rights and destroy communities.

“Far from paralyzing us, the current legal injunction of the deferred action programs further highlight something that we in the labor movement know very well: that organizing is the only real force that moves our country forward,” said Gebre.

The three labor leaders pledged to keep pushing forward with the AFL-CIO’s We Rise! (¡Adelante!) national immigration implementation initiative. Gebre, Lopez and Boland announced that despite judicial roadblocks, labor unions across the country have opened their halls and successfully empowered immigrant workers through immigration and citizenship services; education and training; and organizing around campaigns to advance immigrant and workers’ rights.

“Tomorrow should have started a process where undocumented workers could apply for legal rights and some peace of mind,” said Lopez. “It was about taking a step forward, however modest, in the fight to fix our broken immigration system. But instead DAPA remains in limbo. And for that we say to the politicians who have held it up—shame on you. We know the lawsuit is a political stunt—an effort to scare away immigrant workers from applying for DAPA. The best way to fight back is to continue getting ready for this program. So that is exactly what we are doing. When the legal ruling finally comes down, UFCW members will either be ready to file for DAPA or fight for it.”

Carlos Castillo, an immigrant worker, who works as a day laborer and who representsTrabajadores Unidos de DC (United Workers of DC), took the stage to speak on the necessity of implementing the deferred action program so immigrants can get long overdue protections in the workplace.

“Tomorrow was to be a day of hope for people like me and for many families, but politicians have chosen to continue playing games with our lives. It’s clear now, we can no longer wait for justice from the courts and instead we must turn to each other as we organize ourselves on the job and in our communities to continue this fight for our rights,” said Castillo.

Jim Boland, who also is chair of the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council Immigration Committee, stated that his union will continue pressing forward to support deferred action programs to empower hardworking immigrant workers.

“As a former immigrant worker myself, now a U.S. citizen, I am proud to stand with my union brothers and sisters and millions of hard-working immigrant workers in our ongoing struggle to secure legal status for all eligible workers now under the provisions of DACA and DAPA,” said Boland. “Labor, worker and community advocates will not be deterred from helping to expand opportunity for the nation’s most vulnerable workers. It’s unconscionable for a country that prides itself on being a ‘nation of immigrants’ – we can and will find a better way forward.”

Speakers called upon officials in all levels and branches of government to continue to do more to protect immigrant workers against retaliation.  They demanded transparency in implementation of the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) and asked the administration to use its enforcement discretion to protect workers brave enough to raise concerns about unsafe conditions, unpaid wages, and abusive treatment.

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement