Communications Workers of America Statement on Harris Vs. Quinn Ruling

Larry Cohen CWA

Statement by the Communications Workers of America on the Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn decision:

Washington, D.C. — Today’s Harris v. Quinn decision by the U.S. Supreme Court undermines the ability of direct care workers to collectively bargain, by determining that these workers are “partial public employees” and may not be required to pay representation fees.

This decision may affect hundreds of thousands of direct care workers from California to New York. The case was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, whose goal is to eliminate all bargaining rights for U.S working women and men. That’s completely out of step with every other global democracy.

It’s ironic.  Two-thirds of all U.S. public workers currently have no collective bargaining rights. The public policy question we should be considering is ‘why is the U.S. the only democracy in the world that is cutting workers’ rights?’

In New Jersey, direct care providers, employed by the New Jersey Department of Human Services, are represented by CWA Local 1037. This year workers bargained and ratified a new contract that compensates workers for mandatory trainings, defines an eight-hour day and provides additional pay for workers caring for children with special needs.

These direct care workers will continue to work to join together, bargain collectively and improve their lives.

Small Gathering Of People In Nashua Talking About May Day, Immigration, and Voting

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“Your Vote is Your Voice” — Rep. Sylvia Gale (Nashua)

Sylvia Gale and many others gathered to celebrate May Day and to push for immigration reform.

Before you vote, Gale said, make sure you know where they stand on the issues that matter to you.  Watch her short speech here.  Special thanks to ProfJoseph4855 who recorded it.

Video Description

Published on May 2, 2014

A great assembly of concerned folks rallied at Nashua City Hall on Thursday, May 1, 2014 to call for immigration reform so that hard working families can stay together without fear and that worker’s rights are extended to all, including immigrant families seeking a better life for themselves and their children. State Representative Sylvia Gale and champion of immigrant rights Eva Costello Stefani address the crowd.

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
― Emma Lazarus [Statue of Liberty]

Minneapolis Federation Of Teachers’ Ratify Contract That Strengthens Public Education

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Editor’s Note: Today it was announced that the Minneapolis Federation of Teacher ratified a new contract.  While ratifying a contract is good news, the details of their contract are even better.  This is why I decided to share this with all of the NH Labor News. — MATT

AFT President Weingarten on Minneapolis Teachers’ Contract Ratification

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WASHINGTON—Statement from AFT President Randi Weingarten on the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers’ ratification of a new contract agreement with the Minneapolis Public Schools:

“This agreement helps reclaim the promise of public education in Minneapolis. It opens a new chapter in the relationship that includes the Minneapolis community, Minneapolis educators and the city’s public school system. The agreement enables partners to work together to create community schools tailored to meet students’ needs, and it recognizes and values the voice and experience of educators in strengthening Minneapolis schools and helping all children succeed.

“The agreement ratified today was a product of nine months of tough negotiations and mediation. The vote by MFT members to approve it is a statement of their continuing commitment to the collective bargaining process as the best way to define the solutions that will serve all children.

“By taking important steps toward limiting class sizes—particularly in the city’s high-priority schools—this agreement advances the goal that teachers, parents and all who care about Minneapolis children share: making sure that all students, no matter what neighborhood they live in, receive the support they need to succeed, with equity in resources across the school district.

“I commend MFT President Lynn Nordgren and her bargaining team for working through many challenges in negotiations with the school district to reach an agreement that will be good for both teaching and learning. This agreement:

  • For the first time ever, makes class size targets public, sets a limit of 18 students for K-3 classes in high-priority schools, and includes a commitment from the district to respond to class size issues within five days.
  • Establishes an audit of standardized assessments, with the stated goal of reducing the time devoted to testing and test preparation beginning with the 2014-15 school year.
  • Establishes a collaborative process for creating Community Partnership Schools that will allow teachers to take a lead role in developing site-based educational models designed to meet the particular needs of students at individual schools.
  • Includes small increases in compensation in each year of the contract. These raises recognize the value of MFT members’ contributions and commitment to the children of Minneapolis—and they come after four straight years in which teachers received no cost of living increases.”

The new two-year agreement covers the current and the 2014-15 school years. It will take effect following approval by the board of education, which is expected at the board’s next regular meeting.

Senate Passes D’Allesandro Bill to Help Critically Injured First Responders

N.H. Senator Lou D'Allesandro 
Image from Canadian Consulate

Bill Adds New Protections for Police, Firefighters, Other First Responders

N.H. Senator Lou D'Allesandro  Image from Canadian Consulate

N.H. Senator Lou D’Allesandro
Image from Canadian Consulate

Concord – Today the Senate passed SB 204, a bill that extends compensation benefits for critically injured first responders for conditions not currently covered by worker’s compensation.

“This is about Officer Doherty and all of the brave men and women like him who put their lives on the line for us every day in our communities,” said Senator D’Allesandro.  “I believe that our police, our firefighters, and all of our first responders deserve to know that these kinds of life-changing injuries will not be ignored, and that we will stand by them to help them if they are critically injured.”

The bill was introduced by Manchester Senator Lou D’Allesandro based on his experience advocating on behalf of Manchester Police Officer Daniel Doherty who was critically injured in the line of duty after being shot 6 times.  During his recovery, Officer Doherty discovered that wounds to limbs can be covered under worker’s compensation, but many internal injuries that can profoundly alter a person’s quality of life and ability to work are not covered.

Senator Andrew Hosmer, a member of the committee that worked on a bipartisan amendment to the bill, added: “This bill helps to close a hole in our worker’s compensation system.  It shouldn’t matter whether an injury is to a limb or an internal organ.  What matters is that when we ask our first responders to do dangerous work to protect our communities, they should know that if they are critically injured they will have the support and help they deserve.  I commend Senator D’Allesandro for leading this effort to take a big step in the right direction for our first responders.”

Wage Theft And The Misclassification Of Workers, Fill Out NH’s ‘Top Ten Labor Violations’

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This week the State of New Hampshire released their ‘top ten’ list of labor violations. To those of us who are working in the labor movement, none of these are really surprising.  The majority of these violations stem from employers stealing workers pay.

Top 10 New Hampshire Labor Law Violations

  1. Failure to pay all wages due for hours worked, fringe benefits, breaks less than 20 minutes, etc. *RSA 275:43 and Lab 803.01
  2. Failure to keep accurate record of all hours worked. *RSA 279: 27 and Lab 803.03
  3. Failure to have a written safety plan, joint loss management committee and safety summary form filed biennially, as required. *RSA 281-A:64 and Lab 602.01, 602.02, 603.02, and 603.03
  4. Employing Illegal Aliens (not having proper documentation). *RSA 275-A: 4-a
  5. Failure to secure and maintain workers compensation coverage and misclassification of employees. *RSA 275:42 I & II and RSA 281-A
  6. Failure to provide written notice to employees of their wage rate, pay period, pay day and a description of fringe benefits, including any changes. *RSA 275: 49 and Lab 803.03
  7. Failure to pay 2 hours minimum pay at their regular rate of pay on a given day that an employee reports to work at the request of the employer. *RSA 275:43-a and LAB 803.03 (h),(i),(j)
  8. Illegal employment of workers under 18 (not having proper paperwork, hours violations, or working in a hazardous environment). *RSA 276-A: and Lab 1000
  9. Illegal deductions from wages.  *RSA 275: 48 and Lab 803.02(b),(e),(f)
  10. Failure to pay minimum wage for all hours worked. * RSA 279:21

Wage theft is real and people have to deal with it in many jobs, especially those who work in service industry.  The “Failure to pay minimum wage for all hours worked” goes right against the right wing, anti-minimum wage advocates who like to go around saying that tipped employees make $20.00 per hour.   For those who do not know, the minimum wage for tipped employees in NH is $3.25 (45% of $7.25 minimum wage).  The sheer fact this this violation is on the list means that people in the service industry are not making enough in tips to reach the mandated $7.25 minimum wage.

The other violations on this list are egregious, but the ‘misclassification of workers’ and ‘employing illegal aliens’, are two violations that are hurting all hard working  Granite Staters.

By allowing undocumented aliens to work and then misclassifying them allows companies to pay workers far less than a comparable American worker would make.

I have heard stories of construction companies hiring a person to be a ‘janitor’ and then have that same employee doing carpentry on a job site.  Of course you would be hard pressed to find a real carpenter who would work on a construction site for janitor’s wages.  The other problem is what skills does this person really possess?  Are they really qualified to do carpentry?

We need the State Department of Labor to come down hard on employers who violate these labor laws.  The more they litigate employers for violations, the more others will fall in line and follow the rules.

Private-Sector Union Membership Grows in 2013

Richard Trumka (The Nation / AP-Photo)

Public-sector workers remain under attack; Unions grow in the South;
Total percentage of workforce unchanged

(Washington, D.C.) In 2013 the total number of workers in unions rose by 162,000 compared with 2012, led by an increase of 281,000 workers in private-sector unions. There were strong gains in construction and manufacturing, against a background of strike actions by low-wage workers in the private sector.  But destructive, politically motivated layoffs of public-sector workers continued to hurt overall public-sector union membership, leaving the total percentage of the workforce that is unionized virtually unchanged.

“Wall Street’s Great Recession cost millions of America’s workers their jobs and pushed already depressed wages down even further.  But in 2013, America’s workers pushed back,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said of the figures released Friday by the Department of Labor. “At the same time, these numbers show that as unorganized workers have taken up the fight for their right to a voice on the job, union employers are hiring—creating good jobs our economy desperately needs.”

Despite the overall gains of 2013, workers in the public sector continued to bear the brunt of the continuing economic crisis, weak labor laws and political assaults on their rights on the job.  In Wisconsin, political attacks on public-sector workers’ right to collectively bargain resulted in bargaining coverage falling. Broadly, federal, state and local governments continued to lay off needed public workers, leading to an overall loss of 118,000 union members.

“Make no mistake, the job of rebuilding workers’ bargaining power and raising wages for the 99% has a long way to go,” said Trumka. “Collective action among working people remains the strongest, best force for economic justice in America. We’re building a stronger, more innovative movement to give voice to the values that built this country. From Walmart workers to fast food workers to homecare workers, the rising up of workers’ voices against inequality – both inside and outside of traditional structures – is the story of 2013.”

We Can’t Abdicate Trade Policy to Secret Negotiations and Non-Elected Officials

Larry Cohen CWA

Washington, D.C. — In testimony at the Senate Finance Committee’s hearing on “Advancing Congress’s Trade Agenda: the Role of Trade Negotiating Authority,” Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America called for a strong and enforceable role for Congress in setting trade policy and priorities.

Last week, legislation calling for “fast track” authorization of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements was introduced.

“Trade agreements are no longer just about tariffs and quotas. They are about the food we eat, the air we breathe, the jobs we hold. We cannot abdicate this process to non-elected representatives. We cannot let foreign policy objectives trump domestic concerns and in the process unravel our own democracy instead of strengthening others,” Cohen said.

“Nor should we abdicate the decision to determine with whom the U.S. should negotiate. Vietnam is a 90 million person nation that is a party to the TPP negotiations.  The minimum wage in Vietnam is 28 cents an hour, and the average hourly wage is 75 cents. Vietnam’s is a record of non-existent workers’ rights and an extensive roster of human rights violations, including the documented use of child labor,” he said.

Cohen was the only witness testifying in opposition to “fast track” authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals. He addressed the issues that a broad coalition of unions, environmental organizations, consumer groups, fair trade advocates and others have joined to work for trade policies that benefit everyone.

“We recognize the reality that we are living in a global economy. Trade policy, done correctly, is a win for the U.S. economy and U.S. workers.

“It is critical that we work to stop the global race to the bottom that has been the result of old-style trade agreements. As a nation, we strive to improve our standard of living and provide a better life for our children and grandchildren. We should not compromise on these values and reduce the quality of life for Americans through our trade policies.” Cohen said.

Congress should establish these priorities for fast track legislation, Cohen said.

1. Document that any new trade deal is not likely to add to the nearly $1 trillion in annual trade deficit in goods. This deficit has increased by five times since we adopted NAFTA.

2. Document the net effect on employment, don’t look only at increases in exports. Each trade deal comes with the promise of job growth, yet the overall impact has been job loss, due to a wave of imports and offshoring.

3. Document the effect on pay and workers’ standard of living. Since NAFTA was negotiated, U.S. wages have stagnated and workers’ weekly take home pay is $100 less than 40 years ago.

4. Ensure that consumer protection regulations by federal, state and local governments are not diminished.

5. Ensure that all trading partners comply with ILO principles and convention. The U.S. has ratified just two of those eight principles that cover workers’ rights, child labor and freedom of association.

6. Ensure that environmental standards are not degraded and are enforceable.

7. Ensure that these social goals are enforceable at least at the same level as all other sections, like patents, investment protection and intellectual property rights.

8. Ensure that Congress plays a meaningful role in setting priorities and limits the authority the U.S. Trade Representative to negotiate on basic governance and human rights.

 

Read the full testimony here: http://www.cwa-union.org/fasttrack-cohen-testimony

Read the executive summary here: http://www.cwa-union.org/fasttrack-cohen-summary

The NLRB Finds Merit In Anti-Union Complaints At Orlando Health

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Yesterday it was announced that the NLRB has begun the settlement process stemming from complaints by workers organizing at Orlando Health hospitals.

At the end of 2013 the National Nurses United filed multiple complaints of harassment with the NLRB.

Jennifer Lemmon, Assistant Director of Organizing for National Nurses United explained the charges in an email to the NH Labor News.

The National Labor Relations Board contacted the Union and indicated that the Tampa Regional Office found merit to many of the Union’s allegations that Orlando Health hospitals have been violating federal labor law during the nurses’ Union organizing campaign.  The NLRB informed the Union that the hospitals will be allowed a chance to settle these allegations but that if they don’t, the NLRB’s General Counsel will prosecute the hospitals before a federal administrative law judge, alleging:

•     at Winnie Palmer Hospital : the employer created the impression that employees are under surveillance because of their union activity; interrogated employees about their Union activity;  made threats of unspecified reprisals to employees because of their Union activity;  and  discriminatorily denied access to off-duty nurses to hospital property because of nurses’ Union activity. 

 •     at Dr. Phillips Hospital : interrogated employees about their Union activity;  and  discriminatorily denied access to off-duty nurses to hospital property because of their Union activity. 

•     and at South Seminole Hospital also  discriminatorily denied access to off-duty nurses to hospital property because of their Union activity. 

The NH Labor News reported on these anti-union tactics back in September before charges were officially filed. What Orlando Health did not expect is that by pushing back against the organizing efforts it would solidify the workers and their strengthen their resolve to form a new union.

“We hope the hospitals do the right thing and settle these charges against them and allow nurses their federally protected right to organize a union without their interference,” said Jennifer Lemmon. “But if it comes to a trial and the Judge finds in  favor of the NLRB’s General Counsel, the Judge will make recommended findings to the NLRB’s 5-member Board, who are appointed by the president, and will order the hospitals to refrain from their unlawful actions.”

Organizing efforts began as Orlando Health arbitrarily cut workers pay and laid off hundreds of workers which began taking effect just this week.

“We’ve expressed our concerns many times to OH administration, but it has fallen on deaf ears,” said Sarah Collins, RN, who works in the critical care nursery. “Now Orlando Health wants to worsen the blow with the second round of shift differential cuts. These cuts directly impact patient care. That’s why we’re holding a candle light vigil to mourn the loss of our experienced nurses and the loss of community health.”

In a recent interview with Channel 9 WFTV in Orlando, the spokeswomen for Orlando Health, Kena Lewis, stated: “We haven’t done anything wrong and we’ll see what happens, but we don’t believe we’ve done anything wrong.”

If you have done nothing wrong why are you in resolution discussions with the NLRB?

 

 

Why I Will Always Do My Grocery Shopping At MARKET BASKET Over Wal-Mart

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Many New Englanders have been shopping at DeMoulas Market Basket for many, many years.  They have always been known for their low prices and friendly staff.

Many years later Wal-mart got into the grocery store business and tried to undercut Market Basket. Since I have not been in a Wal-Mart in many years, I will assume that they are basically equal.  There has always been one difference between the two stores, the people who work there, and how they are treated.

Both stores employ good hard working people. There is no question about that.  The difference is how the people are treated.  While cashing out at the new Market Basket in Bedford, NH today, I overheard a conversation between Mary (the cashier) and Mike (the bagger).  Mary was bragging a little about how she just got a 25-cent raise.  She was saying that the extra 25-cents does make a difference in her pay.

Being the friendly guy that I am joked that Warren Buffet’s millions started with just one penny too.  (It may not be true, but the idea what really matters.)

After my joke fell flat on the floor I said, well it is good that Market Basket takes care of its employees by giving them a little raise.  She quickly responded, “we get a 25 cent raise every 6 months.”  I said “that is great news. They must start you out at the minimum $7.25 an hour then?”  She surprised me again by saying “no, we start out at $8.00.” She also said how she likes working Sundays because she gets “time and a half”.

This whole thing took me aback.  A store that values employees, gives bi-annual raises, and BONUSES!  That is right, she told me she got a $180 bonus for Christmas.  Mike (the bagger) said he also got a bonus, which surprised him.  He only started one month before bonus checks were given out.  He still got an extra $40 in his check.

(After a little research, I found out the the bonus Mary and Mike received is actually the company’s profit sharing bonus, and they have been giving them out at the end of the year for many years.)

This is how you show your employees that you value their work.  Treat them with respect.  Let the employees and executives take part in the success of the company, together.

This is also why there was such a huge outcry when the board of directors tried to oust Market Basket CEO Arthur T. DeMoulas from his position.

One last thing, try to count how many people are working at your local Market Basket?  I would bet dollars to donuts it is twice as many as your area Wal-Mart.  They have a bagger for almost every check out line, dozens of people stocking the shelves throughout the day, and managers roaming the aisles making sure that everyone is keeping up.

This is why I will always shop at Market Basket over Wal-Mart.

(For the record, I was not paid by Market Basket to say any of this. I have been shopping at Market Basket for most of the seven years I have been back, living in New England.)

Raising The Minimum Wage Would Lift Families Out Of Poverty (By NH AFL-CIO Pres Mark MacKenzie)

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NH AFL-CIO LogoWhen thinking about the minimum wage, it is easy to conjure up the outdated image of teenagers flipping burgers or making milkshakes at the neighborhood restaurant. Minimum wage jobs are seen as a rite of passage into adulthood, something to be left behind once young people graduate from school and settle into permanent jobs.

Yet for too many workers, these minimum wage jobs are permanent jobs. Every day, millions of Americans struggle to support families while earning the minimum wage. These workers are frequently forced to forgo basics — food, housing, clothing — or even rely on public assistance to make ends meet. As we approach the new year, legislation has been proposed on both the federal and state levels to increase the current $7.25 per hour minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and New Hampshire’s minimum to $9. The New Hampshire AFL-CIO supports these proposals as good economic policy and a much-needed boost to millions of families struggling to make ends meet.

As our economy struggles out of recession, many Americans have been forced to take jobs previously held only by teenagers or housewives looking to earn a little extra money. Today, less than a quarter of minimum-wage workers are teenagers. Most are breadwinners in their families, and 55 percent work full time. The median age of a low-wage worker is 34 years old. And 56 percent of all minimum-wage earners are women, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Even as the demographics of minimum-wage workers have shifted, their pay remains too low to support a family. The annual income for a full-time employee making the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is $15,080. Living below the poverty line, that is not enough to afford rent on a two-bedroom apartment in New Hampshire and all of the other 49 states, The New York Times has reported.

According to a study by researchers at the university of California-Berkeley, more than half (52 percent) of front-line fast-food workers must rely on at least one public assistance program to support their families. As a result, the fast-food-industry business model of low wages, non-existent benefits, and limited work hours costs taxpayers an average of nearly $7 billion every year, the National Employment Law Project reports. Jobs should lift workers out of poverty, not trap them in poverty.

If the federal minimum wage had kept up with inflation, today it would be about $10.75 an hour, instead of $7.25. If the minimum wage had kept up with productivity, it would be $18.75. If it had grown at the same rate as wages for the wealthiest 1 percent, it would be over $28 per hour.

Raising employee wages would increase purchasing power, create more jobs and lift the economy.

On the federal level, the benefits of the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would incrementally increase the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015, are more than apparent. More than 30 million workers would be positively affected by this bill. It would boost consumer demand, generate $32 billion in new economic activity, and create 140,000 new full-time jobs, NELP has shown. The law would have a significant impact on the millions of children living in poverty in this country, as 23.3 percent of all children in the U.S. have a parent who would be helped by a raise in the minimum wage, according to Economic Policy Institute data.

More than four out of five economists say the benefits of increasing the minimum wage would outweigh the costs. Further, a study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would create jobs while causing no reduction in the availability of minimum wage jobs.

Raising the minimum wage is crucial to our future economic growth. Five of the six fastest-growing sectors of the American economy are in low-wage industries — home health aides; customer service representatives; food preparation and serving workers; personal and home care aides and retail salespersons, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show. To rebuild a strong middle class and create an economy of shared prosperity, our country must pay fair wages in these growing sectors.

More than 80 percent of the American public supports raising the wage to $10.10 an hour, and 74 percent say it should be a top priority for Congress. It is time for the actions of our elected representatives to reflect the wishes of their constituents. Only by ending this vicious cycle will we be able to help America achieve an economy that truly works for all Americans.

Mark S. MacKenzie is president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.