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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)


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.


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.

Stakeholder Capitalism vs. Shareholder Capitalism; How Workers Lost Everything

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

Stakeholder Capitalism vs. Shareholder Capitalism

HRSmith 4There are two very different perspectives about how a business should be run.  On one hand there is the view – best described by Henry Ford – that a company is there to produce something, and pay people a wage high enough that they could become your customers.  This is commonly referred to as ‘Stakeholder Capitalism’.

There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.”

On the other hand, there is the current business philosophy that companies are only there to make their owners and shareholders money.  This is called ‘Shareholder Capitalism’.

This difference is a major focus in Hedrick’s new book.  He spent a majority of the time during last week’s discussion talking about the differences between these two views – and how ‘Shareholder Capitalism’ has led to the decline of the middle class.

Hedrick explained that ‘Stakeholder Capitalism’ drove the American economy after World War II.  From 1945-1970, the productivity of American workers went up by 96%.  At the same time, the average median income grew by 94%.  “Growth in productivity lead to shared prosperity,” Hedrick observed.  Everyone from the poor to the wealthy prospered during these years – in fact, those at the bottom of the wealth spectrum benefitted even more than those at the top.

Then, beginning in the 1970s, businesses moved into ‘Shareholder Capitalism’.  Productivity continued to rise by leaps and bounds, yet workers’ wages stayed flat.  The added revenue the company received from the higher productivity had to go somewhere – and it went right to the executives and shareholders. This is why the average CEO’s salary is now 380 times higher than the average worker’s salary.  [Read Citigroup’s report “Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances” here.]

Through the 1970s, CEOs knew that shared prosperity was good business. “The job of the CEO was to balance the needs of all the Stakeholders,” Hedrick explained.  That means balancing the wages of the workers with the cost to consumers, and the need to turn a profit for the shareholders.  This was the job of the CEO.  Some of those needs were very simple.  The workers needed money.

The middle class had been the major consumer in our economy.  Middle class Americans are spenders, not savers: they spend 90% or more of what they bring home.  For the majority, the only savings they accrue is paying off their mortgages.   If the middle class does not have money to spend (like our current situation) then the economy is very slow to recover from any economic downturn.

In 1948, the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the CEO of General Motors Charlie Wilson signed the first collective bargaining agreement that included a lifetime pension.  This means that after you put in your many years of service to GM they would pay you a salary for the rest of your life.  This trend continued in union and non-union companies for the next few decades.  GM became the model for industry and labor relations throughout the country.

By 1980, 84% of all companies with 100+ employees had a full pension for their retired workers; 70% of them had full healthcare coverage for retirees as well.

Hedrick ArnieAlpertNow that ‘retirement security’ has all but disappeared.  Only 30% of companies with 100+ employees offer a pension; and only 18% offer retiree healthcare.  Those numbers go down every year, as workers who retired with these ‘outdated’ pensions are passing away.

GM used to be the template for a successful industry, now Wal-Mart is the template,” said Hedrick.  Wal-Mart is the modern day success story in the world of ‘Shareholder Capitalism’: they have experienced massive growth and high stock returns.  Just disregard the fact that they do not offer healthcare to the majority of their employees, or pay wages that would keep their workers out of poverty.

In ‘Shareholder Capitalism’ the stakeholders (consumers, shareholders, and workers) are in conflict with each other.  The shareholders are the only people the CEO cares about: business is all about profits and stock prices.  This is also why corporations like Wal-Mart buy back their stock to continue to drive up stock prices.

The middle class is not getting their share of the pie,” said Hedrick.  “The system (economy) will not work until the middle class get more of the pie

BCTGM Calls On Kellogg To Unlock The Gates, Let The Workers Go To Work!

KelloggsFactSheet_WebHead-550x204On Monday, October 28, BCTGM International Union President David B. Durkee issued the following statement regarding the lockout of BCTGM Local 252G members by Kellogg in Memphis, Tenn.:

“The work stoppage at Kellogg’s Memphis plant is not a strike by workers who are demanding more from the company.  Kellogg’s employees, most of whom have given decades of dedicated service to the company, want to work but have been locked out of their jobs by a company demanding that they take less.  Kellogg is a highly-profitable, $14 billion food company whose very success depends on middle-class families buying its products.  Yet in these negotiations with the Memphis local of the BCTGM, Kellogg’s demands – if they were ever accepted – would convert good, middle-class Memphis jobs to jobs for the working poor.

“Like so many companies that depend on American consumers to buy their products, Kellogg’s short-sighted demands, if successful, would continue the erosion of the middle class – the back bone of the Memphis and American economies.  Moreover, Kellogg has chosen to lock out its workers over issues that always have been a part of national – not local – negotiations. Kellogg’s lockout proposal, if adopted, would effectively replace every significant term negotiated in the national agreements – wages, hours, benefits and scheduling – and would make irrelevant the national agreement that the union entered into in good faith.

“Since this lockout began, the workers and the BCTGM have asked one simple question, ‘Why Memphis?’ We call on Kellogg to end this lockout, open the gates and let your workers, our members, go back to their middle-class jobs so they can continue supporting their families and producing high-quality cereal products for American families as they have for decades.”

Check out the  FACT SHEET on the lockout of Kellogg workers in Memphis!


Transportation Trades Department; Government Shutdown Impacts Transportation System and Jobs

Transportation Trade Department Logo
Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues this statement on the impact of a government shutdown on transportation:

“This is a dark day for our nation as extremists in Congress have managed to lock out 800,000 federal workers who have done nothing wrong, and have decided to hold Americans hostage to their destructive tactics.

 “We’ve seen this irresponsible act before and we know that government shutdowns impact our transportation system, its users and the public and private sector employees who hold the system together.

 “Washington’s destructive politics make it impossible to run a national transportation system. As federal transportation officials have announced, most grant-making operations are suspended because the dedicated professionals needed to distribute these vital investments will not be on the job. This means that critical resources for all modes of transport will not flow in a timely fashion as the shutdown gets deeper into the new fiscal year. This could have a severe impact on the states and their transportation authorities and private contractors.

 “The government shutdown will send home FAA aviation safety inspectors who are responsible for oversight, certification and surveillance of both commercial and general aviation—from overseeing foreign-based facilities that maintain our aircraft to certifying pilots and flight instructors. In addition, several thousand other aviation safety professionals who directly run our National Airspace System have been furloughed. And here we go again: the critical work of advancing the Next Generation (NextGen) air traffic management system will be suspended again, as it was during the partial FAA shutdown in 2011.

 “Make no mistake, an extended shutdown, especially this one estimated to cost our economy up to $10 billion a week, will have a negative impact on vital transportation programs. And the blackmail tactics of a minority bloc of politicians will deal another blow to working people struggling in an already slow economic recovery. This will be the message to our members in days ahead.”

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