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AFL-CIO, Allies Award Grants to Innovating Community Organizers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grantees are:

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

NH Senate Democrats Condemn Sen. Paul’s Demonization Of Disabled Workers

Woodburn calls on Senator Kelly Ayotte
& NH GOP Senate to Join Him

Rand Paul (image via Rand Paul For Senate FLIKR)

Rand Paul (image via Rand Paul For Senate FLIKR)

CONCORD, NH — New Hampshire Senate Democrats condemn KY Senator Rand Paul’s comments suggesting half of the people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance are cheating the system faking a disability.

“Senator Paul’s comments demonize injured workers who are getting only what they paid for through an insurance program,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn of Dalton. “I call upon my Republican State Senate colleagues and Senator Paul’s colleague Senator Kelly Ayotte to join me in setting the record straight and stand up for working families.”

While up in New Hampshire, yesterday Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, said the following, “Everybody in this room knows somebody who is gaming the system. What I tell people is if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting a disability check. Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts, join the club.”

Senator Rand Paul’s comments are eerily similar to failed Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s 47% comments that nearly half of Americans back President Obama because they rely on government support.

“Social Security Disability Insurance is public insurance program that can only be accessed by work and payment into the system,” said Sen. Woodburn. “The vast majority are hard-working, older people who have paid into the system for decades and receive a small share of what they earned.”

“I am sick and tired of Republicans attacking the most vulnerable sector of our population, especially when such attacks have no basis in fact,” said Senator Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth).

“For decades, we’ve made progress toward the goal of full societal inclusion for persons with disabilities,” added Senator Dan Feltes (D-Concord), “Senator Paul’s comments don’t serve that goal.  His comments were divisive and reflect nothing more than the tired assumptions of a bygone era.”

Los Angeles TSA Officer Shares His Story in Debut “I Am AFGE” Documentary

AFGE member and LAX Officer Victor Payes recalls harrowing Nov. 1 shooting, threats to TSOs and flying public

WASHINGTON – An American Federation of Government Employees member who serves as a Transportation Security Officer at Los Angeles International Airport and witnessed the aftermath of the fatal Nov. 1 shooting there shares his story in the debut video for AFGE’s documentary series, “I Am AFGE.”

Victor Payes raced to the airport as soon as he heard the news that a gunman had opened fire at the airport, fatally shooting his coworker Gerardo Hernandez and wounding two other TSA officers and a civilian. Victor wasn’t scheduled to report to work for another three hours but he knew he had to be there to support his colleagues and serve his country.

“The shooting had happened at 9 a.m. By four o’clock we were back to business,” Victor says in the AFGE video, which is being released today.

The shooting was a stark reminder to Victor and his colleagues of the reason why TSA was created in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: to protect the American public from harm. It also highlighted the threats that security officers face every day in doing their jobs.

“As time has gone on, unfortunately that threat has not just developed to the American public, it’s developed as a threat to us as well,” Victor says. “That serves as a reminder and a reinforcement to us that we’re there for more than just a paycheck. We’re there truly to provide a service to the public.”

A son of immigrants, Victor Payes takes pride in his job because it allows him to provide for his family while giving back to America.

“As an AFGE member, working at TSA, I know millions of people count on us to make sure they make it to their destination safely, and I’m proud to say that we do our job to make sure they get there safely,” he says.

Victor’s story is the first to be featured in AFGE’s year-long campaign to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation of the women and men who work for them each and every day. The centerpiece of the “I Am AFGE” campaign is 15 short-form documentaries that will be released every three weeks through the end of the year, highlighting individual federal employees like Payes who carry out important work across the country.

The campaign kicked off last week with the release of a two-minute video that highlights the invaluable services federal employees deliver and explains how federal employees have much in common with the citizens they are sworn to serve.

All of the videos will be posted online and distributed to hundreds of news outlets across the country. The campaign also will be promoted through social media, an employee photo contest and other events.

In addition, a special toll-free phone line has been established to record and share testimonials from federal employees or citizens who value the services that federal employees provide. The number to call is 1-844-IAM-AFGE (426-2343).

“AFGE is proud to represent the more than 45,000 TSA officers who protect our skies each and every day under demanding and sometimes dangerous circumstances,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “They and all other federal employees are the most dedicated workers you could ever have the fortune of meeting. This campaign is our way of shining a light on them and reminding the public why the work that they do matters.”

Unionization Continues to Boost Pay and Benefits of Black Workers

SOURCE: AP/Ted S. Warren

SOURCE: AP/Ted S. Warren

Washington DC – For over 50 years, black workers in the United States have found union representation to be a source of higher quality jobs than would otherwise be available. These jobs played an important role in creating a path to the middle class for many African Americans and their families. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), demonstrates that despite a long decline in unionization rates in the United States, unions continue to boost the wages and benefits of black workers.

“Unionization rates are down for all workers, including black workers, but the pay and benefit boost for unionized black workers is very clear in the data,” said Janelle Jones, a research associate at CEPR and an author of the report. Jones and her co-author, John Schmitt, note that black workers continue to have a higher unionization rate (15 percent) than the rate for all workers (13 percent).

Among the highlights of the “Union Advantage for Black Workers” report:

  • Unionized African-American workers earn, on average, 15.6 percent more than their non-union counterparts.
  • Almost three-fourths of unionized black workers had health insurance through their employer or union, compared to less than half of non-unionized black workers.
  • Almost twice as many black workers had an employer-sponsored retirement plan as black workers who were not in a union.
  • While unionization boosted the wages and benefits of black workers at all levels of educational attainment, the benefits of union representation were largest for less-educated workers.

The report is based on CEPR’s analysis of the most recent Current Population Survey (CPS) data available, covering the period 2008-2013.

New Poll: Strong Support for Raising Wages in 2014 Battleground States

Gains for Candidates Who Support Critical Issue

View the Poll http://bit.ly/McBmJn

“Politicians who ignore the surging interest in raising wages do so at their own peril”

(Houston, TX) – Voters in five diverse, politically crucial states have made their priorities emphatically clear: they want political leaders, especially at the gubernatorial level, to focus squarely on wages, living standards and fair treatment.

A new poll conducted by Hart Research Associates found that nearly 60 percent of voters in the 2014 battleground states of Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are dissatisfied with their state’s economy. A full 91 percent of respondents say that they are falling behind economically or just keeping even. By an overwhelming 72-23 margin, voters are asserting that raising wages is “good for the state” and soundly reject the notion that it would hurt the state by increasing prices or costing jobs. Ultimately, the poll concludes that candidates have a lot to gain by making wages a central element in their economic agenda and campaign messages.

“Voters are way ahead of politicians on the issue of raising wages,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “From the minimum wage to paid sick leave to wage theft, voters across America are elevating basic paycheck issues to a new national prominence. Politicians who ignore the surging interest in raising wages do so at their own peril.”

The AFL-CIO Executive Council, currently meeting in Houston, has made the issue of raising wages a centerpiece of their work. The Council will be integrating raising wages into all aspects: from politics to immigration and organizing. This new poll reinforces the fact that the American public shares in these goals.

“America’s attention is more focused on workers, wages and fairness than ever in my lifetime,” Trumka said. “Behind this energy and commitment, the possibilities are enormous for working people.”

View the new poll results at http://bit.ly/McBmJn 

From February 8 to 11, 2014, Hart Research Associates conducted a survey of 1,012 registered voters in five gubernatorial battleground states: Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The survey explored voters’ economic concerns, and how those might impact their voting preferences this year. Approximately 200 interviews were conducted by telephone (landline and cell) in each state, with the overall sample weighted to reflect the actual voter population by state. The margin of error is ±3.1 percentage points for the overall survey, and higher for subgroups. This memo reviews the survey’s key findings.

How Immigration Reform Will Help All Workers

Our ultimate goal should be to help Americans find good paying jobs. Abusing the guest worker program is hurting the millions of Americans who are currently looking for employment.

Every year thousands of people legally enter the United States on temporary work visas.  They use the guest worker program as a way to get their foot in the door, and begin chasing their own version of the American Dream.

Many people, like Senator Orin Hatch, want to see the guest worker program expanded to fill a hole in the US labor market and “meet the demands for workers in the STEM fields.”

Senator Hatch is not alone in his belief. Many business leaders say there is a shortage of workers in these specialized STEM fields.  Why is that?  With the US unemployment rate still above 7%, millions of Americans are out there every day looking for work.  Are we really saying that none of these people have the qualifications to work in these jobs?

No, the problem is that corporations do not care about the workers or their local communities; they only care about one thing, their bottom line.  They are only interested in lowering their labor costs, and they do this by bringing in thousands of immigrant workers.

In a free market two things, supply and demand, determine the value of a product.  The same is true in the labor market. Why else would millions of people take low-wage jobs? Unemployment is high, which means there are plenty of people looking for work. This drives wages down.  If you are not willing to work for the wages offered, chances are there is someone else who will.

This is where the guest worker program comes in to ‘save the day’.  For many years companies have been saying that they do not have enough qualified applicants seeking employment in STEM fields.  Instead of raising the wages they offer, companies began to look outside the US for new workers.  Guest workers flood the market and are willing to work for much less.

Just for the privilege to work in in the United States guest workers are charged outrageous fees by ‘head hunters’.  This has led to numerous instances of worker abuse.   Guest workers become indentured servants, and are treated as such.

Image from REUTERS

Image from REUTERS

In Louisiana, workers in a shrimp processing facility were forced to work 20 hours a day, seven days a week, at minimum wage.  They were not paid overtime, or provided any of the provisions guaranteed to American workers by US labor laws.

Ronil Hira an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the author of Outsourcing America, says the guest worker program (H-1B) is “deeply flawed.”  Hira goes on to say that many companies are hiring guest workers before offering the job to American workers.

This is why we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  Unfortunately the current immigration bill that passed the US Senate includes and expansion of the guest worker program.  The good thing is that it also includes stronger regulations on employers who use the guest worker program.

As part of the comprehensive reform package new laws will increase the wages for H-1B workers, and protect American workers with new regulations against the ‘displacement of US workers’.

We need to pass immigration reform to help the 11 million aspiring Americans as well as the millions of unemployed Americans.  We need stronger labor laws to protect against the abuse of the guest worker program, for the betterment of American workers.  Reducing the number of guest workers will decrease the supply of qualified workers, in turn increasing the wages for new and existing workers.

Nelson Mandela A Hero To All

Nelson Mandela (RICHARD LEWIS/AP)

Nelson Mandela (RICHARD LEWIS/AP)

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
Nelson Mandela

With the extraordinarily sad news of the passing of Nelson Mandela, a man of unrivaled humility, virtues and compassion. I am reminded of his unbridled determination to improve the lives of working people both in his country but around the world. Mandela’s greatest attribute that can be connected to our current state of politics in America is don’t sell out your idealism .

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Nelson Mandela

The Labor movement is being harmed as expected by the Obstructionist GOP but also by some corporate owned Democrats. These corporate Democrats balance their position on legislation between what they know is in the best interests of working people and what is the best way to raise money to get re-elected. These hollow members of congress are quick to embrace the fight’s we conduct in the labor movement for economic justice when they are fund-raising but just as quick will cast us aside if its politically expedient.
I am not quite sure what would prompt them to get involved in public service when they truly don’t care about anything but their own personal political career. If Mandela was that way he would be just another ordinary political hack. Instead Mandela is the shining light that should be followed by any person involved in the political process. Never compromise your ideals , never sell out your constituents for personal political gain.

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
Nelson Mandela

How long are we in the labor movement going to accept getting frequently sold out by these Corporate Democrats without any type of accountability?

When Congressman Charlie Bass told me and a few other NALC reps that Congressman Issa was pressuring him to remove his support of a bill that would benefit letter carriers and the Postal Service. We were not surprised because it’s widely accepted the GOP National Leadership clearly supports almost every anti union and anti worker piece of legislation. More disturbing is when we get word of Blue Dog Democrats like Tom Carper pressuring progressive Democrats against legislation that benefits working people. Honestly that is simply betrayal to all of us.

We are constantly put in a position to be confronted by our own members who are agitated that candidates we supported are selling us out. Leaving us with the tired argument explaining “well, it would have been worse if the Republican was elected”. Though this is clearly true we shouldn’t constantly be put in that position . Mandela didn’t sacrifice his ideals for constantly choosing the lesser of two evils . The time is nearing where the labor movement has to say enough is enough and move on to a new political dynamic

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Nelson Mandela

 

Activist Protest Walmart on Black Friday For Better Wages (Somersworth, NH)

OSCNH-2A

On Friday November 29th millions of Americans went out well before dawn to try to save a few dollars on that hot new toy.  The annual event now known as ‘Black Friday,’ is the biggest annual revenue draw for retailers.  However not everyone who was out on Black Friday was out to shop.

Millions of low wage retail workers were forced to give up their holiday celebrations to go into work Thanksgiving night and work straight through the Black Friday madness.

Walmart the nations largest private employer has been leading the race to the bottom by paying most of the their workers just above minimum wage.  Walmart also does not guarantee that employees will get a full 40-hour workweek either.  These actions by Walmart’s corporate executives have fueled the union organizing efforts of OUR-Walmart.

Organization United for Respect (OUR-Walmart) is a grassroots coalition of workers and union organizers who are trying to help workers find their voice and speak out against their employer.  OUR-Walmart made national news on Black Friday last year when they held their first worker’s strikes.  The turn out was not as big as they hoped for but they made their point.

This year OUR-Walmart’s Black Friday protests were much bigger.  Thousands of protests were held nation wide.  Some were massive like the ones in White Plains New York where hundreds of people gathered to protest.  Others were small like the one in Somersworth New Hampshire where about twenty protesters showed up at the Walmart Supercenter.

OSCNH-1

Image courtesy of Occupy Seacoast NH

In a recent interview, David Holt, a member of Occupy Seacoast NH, which organized the Somersworth protest, told me:

We came out to support Walmart workers who are not paid a living wage. We were also protesting Walmart as the poster child for corporate America, driving for profits for the wealthy in America despite the damage it is doing to hardworking Americans, the economy, and the planet.” 

While the group was small they were very diverse. “Attendees included members of the Occupy Seacoast NH group, UNH students who are part of the UNH Peace and Justice League, members of various unions, as well as several concerned citizens,” Holt explained.

David is not a Walmart employee, so I asked David why he chose to take part protesting Walmart?

“Just look at the news,” Holt said. “One Walmart store had a food drive for it’s own employees, they are also currently under investigation for bribery in Mexico, and have been tied in the past to a factory catastrophe in Bangladesh. The list of reasons to protest Walmart is almost limitless, they have caused countless small business to close including smaller chains and their sourcing practices are causing environmental damage all over the world.”

Workers deserve dignity and respect no matter where they work.  Walmart does not respect their workers.  They pay them the absolute minimum, provide no benefits, and do their best to avoid allowing workers to be ‘full time’.    I was very glad to see all of the news coverage and people who took a stand for workers on Black Friday, instead of feeding the corporate greed.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster Calls For Immediate Extension Of Unemployment Insurance

 With Clock Ticking, Congress Must Extend Unemployment Insurance for Granite State Families, Focus on Job Creation

Unveils new report showing that without Congressional action, 1.3 million Americans – including 1,300 Granite Staters – will be cut off from vital unemployment insurance just days after Christmas

Kuster: We must provide critical assistance to long-term unemployed and focus like a laser on helping create jobs

 WASHINGTON, D.C. With critical unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed set to expire just days after Christmas, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) today called on Congress to immediately extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and take aggressive steps to help boost job creation in New Hampshire and across the country. Kuster highlighted a new House Ways and Means Committee report which estimates that without Congressional action, 1.3 million Americans – including 1,300 Granite Staters – will immediately be cut off from unemployment insurance on December 28 if Congress does not reauthorize the program.

“If Congress fails to act soon, more than one thousand Granite Staters will lose their unemployment benefits at the end of the year,” Kuster said. “Losing these vital benefits will be a body-blow to New Hampshire families who are already struggling to find work and make ends meet. After wasting weeks on a pointless government shutdown that hurt our economy, Congress needs to come together to extend these benefits and focus on helping create jobs and opportunity for Granite Staters.”

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was first authorized in 2008 and has been reauthorized on several occasions since then, most recently as part of the Jan. 1, 2013 fiscal cliff agreement, with the number of weeks of federal benefits substantially reduced over the last two years.

Key points from the report include:

  • 1,300 Granite Staters will lose unemployment insurance on December 28, 2013
  • Failure to extend unemployment insurance would cost economy 310,000 jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute
  • 37% of unemployed have been without a job for longer than six months
  • Economy still has 2 million fewer jobs than before Great Recession began

A member of the House Small Business Committee, Kuster has prioritized efforts to foster job creation, grow the economy, and expand opportunity for middle class families.

In November, Kuster is hosting a Career and Opportunities Fair in Nashua that will bring together local employers and job seekers.

Rebuilding America with excess money from the DOD

Editors Note: This is a part of the larger post on Hedrick Smith’s lecture to the NH AFL-CIO about his new book ‘Who Stole The American Dream’.  You can read the entire post here

Rebuilding America with excess money from the DOD.

Hedrick Smith talked about how we need to rebuild our infrastructure and get Americans back to work, how we need to focus on what is happening here, and stop spending all of our tax dollars fighting in other countries.  “Why are we building bridges in Kandahar, and not in Kansas?” Hedrick asked.  He explained that too much of our federal budget is going to the Pentagon; Defense spending is higher now than it was in the Cold War – even though, during the Cold War everyone was afraid of an all-out nuclear war.

In his book (Who Stole The American Dream), Hedrick details how much money we have spent on the current ‘wars’ that we are involved in: an estimated $3.5 to $4.5 trillion dollars have been spent, even though taxes have not been increased to pay for it.  Even now, as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down, the “extra” money Congress spent on those war efforts is still in the federal budget.  That means Defense is enjoying grossly inflated appropriations – even though there are no actual ‘wars’ to fight.

Hedrick suggested that if we need to find the money to rebuild our roads and bridges, we should start by looking at the Pentagon budget.  He also proposed the idea of mandatory military service, if not for everyone then for everyone in Congress.  “We would go into a lot less wars if we had mandatory (military) service,” he said.  Hedrick also questioned Congress’ ability to make decisions about war if the representatives have never served themselves.

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