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The Answer to Exploding Inequality: Working People Standing Together

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 13:09
The Answer to Exploding Inequality: Working People Standing Together New York Times

The New York Times published a chart this week that perfectly summarizes how the United States has gone from having the healthiest middle class in the world to a land of increasing economic inequality that shuts out far too many families from the American dream.

A well-known team of inequality researchers—Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman—has been getting some attention recently for a chart it produced. It shows the change in income between 1980 and 2014 for every point on the distribution, and it neatly summarizes the recent soaring of inequality.

The line on the chart (which we have recreated as the red line above) resembles a classic hockey-stick graph. It’s mostly flat and close to zero, before spiking upward at the end. That spike shows that the very affluent, and only the very affluent, have received significant raises in recent decades.

While instructive, this chart leaves one very important question unanswered: Why? When you dig a little deeper into the data, one striking fact simply can’t be ignored: The decline of union membership tracks perfectly with the rise of inequality.

In 1979, roughly 25% of all U.S. workers were union members. For those workers, that meant regular raises, decent benefits such as health care and retirement security, and workplace safety protections on the job. But even if you didn’t belong to a union, you indirectly benefited from high union density. Strong unions drove wages in nonunion industries upward, CEO-to-worker pay ratios were much lower than they are today, and there was a powerful counterbalance to corporate greed.

But in the ensuing years, corporate special interests, backed by the politicians they bankroll, engaged in an all-out assault on unions. As union membership declined, the wages that used to go into workers’ pockets instead went straight into the bank accounts of corporate CEOs and well-heeled executives. Today, just 1 in 10 workers belongs to a union. And with current attacks through the courts and the Trump administration on working people’s freedom to stand together in unions, that number could dip even lower in coming years.

The bottom line is this: There’s only one way out of this abyss. It’s giving working people the opportunity to stand together to negotiate with their bosses for fair wages, good benefits and a better life. All other solutions to inequality are just nibbling around the edges of the problem. Without strong unions, inequality and its disastrous consequences for our future will never go away. Time to give workers back some of the power they’ve lost. Time for America to become #UnionStrong once again.

This post originally appeared at California Labor Federation.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 08/10/2017 - 14:09

Strong as Hell: In the States Roundup

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 08:36
Strong as Hell: In the States Roundup

It's time once again to take a look at the battles for the rights of working families in the states. Here is what the unions in the states are talking about this week. Click on any of the links to follow the state federations and labor councils on Twitter.

Alaska AFL-CIO:

The Alaska AFL-CIO supports .@NissanUSA workers in their fight to organize. #DoBetterNissan #1u https://t.co/X3qnfMwyag

— Alaska AFL-CIO (@AKAFLCIO) August 3, 2017

Arizona AFL-CIO:

There's good news coming out of Tucson. Contract aircraft-maintenance workers employed by DynCorp International... https://t.co/BunNGXoyYs

— Arizona AFL-CIO (@ArizonaAFLCIO) July 28, 2017

Arkansas AFL-CIO:

https://t.co/XPtDIdYtUM

Arkansans should not remain the cheap labor hub of the country. We deserve better. #1u #arkansaslabor #arpx

— Arkansas AFL-CIO (@ArkansasAFLCIO) August 1, 2017

California Labor Federation:

One month till our favorite holiday: #LaborDay2017! Celebrate working people at an event near you! Find one at https://t.co/E9tFFHds2E pic.twitter.com/N1xyBXPlW6

— California Labor (@CaliforniaLabor) August 4, 2017

Colorado AFL-CIO:

Black women in the labor movement are #strongashell and deserve equal pay for equal work #BlackWomensEqualPayDay https://t.co/lEthVCNnjz

— Colorado AFL-CIO (@AFLCIOCO) July 31, 2017

Connecticut AFL-CIO:

State Rep. Mike D’Agostino: Our state employees have done their part, now it’s time for us to do ours. https://t.co/eN8F8NdKwT @AFTCT @c4mc

— Connecticut AFL-CIO (@ConnAFLCIO) July 31, 2017

Georgia AFL-CIO:

Demand @Nissan respect everyone's right unionize ,have democracy @ work. Sign the petition: https://t.co/AMH3KFNMGh #1u #organizethesouth

— AFL-CIO Georgia (@AFLCIOGeorgia) August 2, 2017

Idaho AFL-CIO:

.@USTradeRep If NAFTA is going to be renegotiated, it MUST put working people first https://t.co/Hw1TPStl96 via @AFLCIO #1u

— Idaho State AFL-CIO (@IdahoAFLCIO) July 28, 2017

Illinois AFL-CIO:

The pay gap for black women is extreme, only 63 cents on the dollar, costing each woman’s family more than $800,000 over her lifetime

— Illinois AFL-CIO (@ILAFLCIO) July 31, 2017

Indiana State AFL-CIO:

Teachers should NEVER have to pay out of pocket for supplies, especially when they are underpaid as is. #1uTeachers https://t.co/xG65Wm4L5s

— Indiana AFL-CIO (@INAFLCIO) August 1, 2017

Iowa Federation of Labor:

Leveraging the Power of Black Women - Center for American Progress https://t.co/nphomRITzJ

— Iowa AFL-CIO (@IowaAFLCIO) August 7, 2017

Kansas State AFL-CIO:

KOSE and lawmakers alike speak out to the urgent dangers facing Correction Officers and call for action. https://t.co/c4kkr9yihF

— Kansas AFL-CIO (@KansasAFLCIO) August 2, 2017

Kentucky State AFL-CIO:

Check out our partners at Kentucky Together, as we work to ensure that "tax reform" in KY works for working... https://t.co/rN7WuHrGNm

— Kentucky AFL-CIO (@aflcioky) August 2, 2017

Massachusetts AFL-CIO:

It's #BlackWomensEqualPay Day! Hey Congress: we need tools & solutions to close the gender #paygap NOW! https://t.co/CFuvWb6VX4

— Massachusetts AFLCIO (@massaflcio) July 31, 2017

Michigan AFL-CIO:

This looks like a smart plan to fighting outsourcing and help Michigan manufacturers and workers compete https://t.co/3mcvRDe4tr

— Michigan AFL-CIO (@MIAFLCIO) August 2, 2017

Minnesota AFL-CIO:

Workers Remember the I-35W Bridge Collapse, Fight for Change https://t.co/8eZ9xlX2l7

— Minnesota AFL-CIO (@MNAFLCIO) August 7, 2017

Missouri AFL-CIO:

Union members providing some light for America's favorite past time. https://t.co/pfUtU3dl92 pic.twitter.com/GhIGmP8zS3

— Missouri AFL-CIO (@MOAFLCIO) August 6, 2017

Montana AFL-CIO:

Don't buy into the Family Foundation's bigotry and fear mongering. #mtpol #No183 #dontsign

— Montana AFL-CIO (@MTaflcio) August 2, 2017

Nevada State AFL-CIO:

Exec Sec Treasurer Rusty McAllister calling on NV labor, community, and activists to keep up the fight on campaign to #ProtectOurCare pic.twitter.com/R0o6UIgWGQ

— Nevada State AFL-CIO (@NVAFLCIO) July 29, 2017

New Hampshire AFL-CIO:

Our @PresBrackett & @evergreen707 presenting @NHAFLCIO #LindaHoranScholarship award prize to a young #laborwarrior! #NHLabor pic.twitter.com/ai8F0DV8p8

— NewHampshire AFL-CIO (@NHAFLCIO) July 31, 2017

New York State AFL-CIO:

Wealthy lobbyists want to control the state of New York. You can stop it from happening. #VoteNoNY
https://t.co/xovIqmKWyh

— VoteNoNY (@VoteNoNY) July 31, 2017

North Carolina State AFL-CIO:

What does labor want? https://t.co/JeNEZYMTp7

— NC State AFL-CIO (@NCStateAFLCIO) August 4, 2017

Ohio AFL-CIO:

Thanks @dscc & @SenSherrodBrown for sponsoring "Medicare at 55 Act" & advancing real solutions to fixing healthcare https://t.co/moksVNfoxm

— Ohio AFL-CIO (@ohioaflcio) August 4, 2017

Oregon AFL-CIO:

Labor can go on the offensive, as proven by the 2017 Oregon Legislaturehttps://t.co/nIt1QR9fOy

— Oregon AFL-CIO (@OregonAFLCIO) August 4, 2017

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO:

I have stood w/ @CWAUnion members on the Verizon & ATT picket lines in their fight for fairness! @GovernorTomWolf #CWAStrong #CWA2017 #1u pic.twitter.com/aj6Ec5t1m6

— PA AFL-CIO (@PaAFL_CIO) August 7, 2017

Virginia AFL-CIO:

Real #WomenWhoWork : The home health aide supporting her family on less than $20k/year. https://t.co/1rmtAIUUkT

— Virginia AFL-CIO (@Virginia_AFLCIO) August 3, 2017

Washington State Labor Council:

Thank you for your principled opposition, Sen. Murray. https://t.co/9I5ojOl8FF

— WA State AFL-CIO (@WAAFLCIO) August 2, 2017

West Virginia AFL-CIO:

A statement on behalf of the WV AFL-CIO Executive Board regarding @WVGovernor #wvpol #wvgov https://t.co/NVnwL1nSVK

— West Virginia AFLCIO (@WestVirginiaAFL) August 4, 2017

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO:

WPR: WI AFL-CIO tells Assembly committee Foxconn incentive deal "lacks guarantees related to working conditions" https://t.co/ZkKL0ZJHAY

— WI AFL-CIO (@wisaflcio) August 4, 2017 Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 08/08/2017 - 09:36

In Missouri, a Race to the Bottom

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 13:41
In Missouri, a Race to the Bottom

The NAACP took the unusual step this week to declare a travel advisory to African Americans for the state of Missouri. This bold action came in response to legislation passed by the Missouri Legislature limiting workers’ ability to sue over discrimination. "With the Missouri Human Rights Act gutted, employers who want to engage in illegal workplace discrimination will have no fear of being held accountable," Missouri House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty told Ebony magazine. "While S.B. 43 might not quite return us to the days when businesses were free to hang 'minorities need not apply' signs in the window, it certainly reinforces the sentiment." For that reason, the Missouri AFL-CIO opposed S.B. 43.

Since legislators in Missouri passed a "right to work" law undermining the freedom of workers to negotiate for a better life, they have continued to expand these unfair attacks. Earlier this year, they overturned local powers to set minimum wages, effectively lowering the wage floor in St. Louis from $10 an hour to $7.70. This will have a major impact in one of the nation’s poorest cities.

Right to work is deeply rooted in racism. A 1915 South Carolina law mandated total racial segregation in textile mills, from separate bathrooms, entrances, punch clocks and even windows. This was the real agenda of right to work: preventing the appearance of equality that cross-racial membership in a union implies. Vance Muse, the greatest advocate for right to work, made his sentiment clear about the failings of the Wagner Act: "From now on, white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes whom they will have to call 'brother' or lose their jobs." The result of this animus is that black workers are more likely to live in states with right to work laws, the lowest minimum wages and the least access to unemployment insurance.

Yet the problem does not stop there. Right to work states are highest in incarceration, lowest in per student investment in education and lowest in supporting the incomes of single mothers. People misconceive these problems to only affect communities of color, which causes elected leaders to manipulate this into a wedge issue that will pass over white workers. Union members know that nothing could be further from the truth.

The problem doesn’t start or stop with state-sanctioned discrimination, and it is more than black workers who need to be on guard while traveling to Missouri. The state is racing to the bottom—a race that hurts all workers.

At the bottom of these worst practices now is Mississippi, a state whose laws insure it will continue to have the highest poverty rate in the nation. Today, the brave workers at Nissan in Canton, Mississippi, can strike a blow against the poverty machine. Rather than be meek, they are standing up. They get the vote they have fought so hard for to have their own voice—to bargain as equals with their bosses and start the process of reversing trends.

"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent." —Martin Luther King Jr.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 08/04/2017 - 14:41

Medicare for All: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 13:01
Medicare for All: The Working People Weekly List

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s this week’s Working People Weekly List.

In Missouri, a Race to the Bottom: "The NAACP took the unusual step this week to declare a travel advisory to African Americans for the state of Missouri. This bold action came in response to legislation passed by the Missouri Legislature limiting workers’ ability to sue over discrimination. 'With the Missouri Human Rights Act gutted, employers who want to engage in illegal workplace discrimination will have no fear of being held accountable,' Missouri House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty told Ebony magazine. 'While S.B. 43 might not quite return us to the days when businesses were free to hang 'minorities need not apply' signs in the window, it certainly reinforces the sentiment.' For that reason, the Missouri AFL-CIO opposed S.B. 43."

Counterpoint: How We Invest in Our Infrastructure Matters: "Strong infrastructure and a well-functioning transportation system are vital to the health of our economy, but for too long we’ve treated our infrastructure as though it doesn’t matter. And for too long, working people have paid the price."

AFL-CIO Executive Council Backs Medicare for All: "The council’s health care statement, issued from the three-day meeting in late July at the George Meany Center in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Md., first denounced congressional Republicans for trashing the Affordable Care Act."

While Boeing Touts Profits, Workforce Shrinks: "Boeing executives are gushing over the company’s stock, up a whopping 58% over the last 12 months. Washington state’s homegrown aerospace giant left the Paris Air Show with 571 orders worth $75 billion. Its chief competitor, Airbus, had 336."

The Economy Adds 209,000 Jobs in July, and Unemployment Little Changed at 4.3%: "The U.S. economy added 209,000 jobs in July, and unemployment was little changed at 4.3%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This continues the recovery of the labor market at a tempered rate, which means the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee should continue to let the economy grow and not raise interest rates."

Joe Smith Jr.: Laborer by Day, Boxing Champion by Night: "Quick, what's the first thing you think of when you hear about a boxer who holds the World Boxing Council international light heavyweight championship and who sent boxing legend Bernard Hopkins into retirement with a TKO that literally knocked Hopkins out of the ring? You certainly wouldn't think of Joe Smith Jr., the boxer who ended Hopkins' career and who is an active member of Laborers (LIUNA) Local 66."

Bull Connor, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Labor Movement: "In the first week of May 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. faced a painful dilemma as he sought to conclude the great Birmingham, Ala., campaign. The labor movement helped solve this dilemma and a great civil rights victory was won. Jerome A. 'Buddy' Cooper, my mentor in the Birmingham union law firm where I worked years later, told me and others of his small but fascinating role in these events. It’s a story of how our labor movement has sometimes lived up to its role in the larger civil and human rights movement."

Organizing in Digital Media Continues to Grow: Worker Wins: "Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with a hard-fought victory at The New School. Other successes include the growing trends of digital media newsrooms organizing and progressive organizations living up to their professed values by voluntarily recognizing employees who choose to join together for collective bargaining purposes."

Black Women's Equal Pay Day: "Today, we commiserate Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. The gap between the earnings of black women and white men is so large that, essentially, up to today black women have been working for free. Think of it as the modern-day equivalent of the constitutional count of slaves as three-fifths of a person."

A Big Week for Your Health Care: "Sometimes failure is a good thing. That was especially true last week when the U.S. Senate failed to pass legislation repealing the Affordable Care Act. It meant that Congress was stopped from taking health care away from tens of millions of Americans, at least for now."

‘Skinny Repeal’ and the Senate Health Debate: "Yesterday, two major proposals that would have rolled back the Affordable Care Act’s progress in expanding coverage were defeated by bipartisan majorities. Senate leadership is now pulling together a so-called 'skinny' bill, which they hope will attract the 50 votes needed to pass the chamber and move to a conference committee with the House."

AFL-CIO Honors Korean Labor Leader Han with Human Rights Award, Call for His Release from Prison: "President Han Sang-gyun of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions has spent his life fighting for the rights of workers and has paid a high price. Han has been in jail since December 2015, serving a three-year sentence for defending trade union rights and fighting back against corporate corruption and the repressive government of former President Park Geun-hye. For his perseverance in the face of anti-democratic repression, the AFL-CIO Executive Council this week honored President Han with the AFL-CIO’s annual George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award, and joined the global labor movement in calling for his release."

Republican Joint Employer Legislation Takes Away Worker Freedoms: "In our fragmented workplaces with perma-temps, contracted workers, agency employees and subcontracting, we must be vigilant so every worker is protected and paid fairly, and that goes double when it comes to protecting the freedom to stand in unity for better pay and working conditions."

Trump Administration Attacks Overtime Pay: "The Trump administration has begun a process to undo President Obama’s overtime pay rule and deny working people a pay raise."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 08/04/2017 - 14:01

Bad Faith and Bad Service: Charter Turns Its Back on Customers, Union Members

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 12:46
Bad Faith and Bad Service: Charter Turns Its Back on Customers, Union Members IBEW

Charter/Spectrum is one of the most profitable cable companies in the United States, taking in more than $29 billion in revenue in 2016. And Tom Rutledge is the highest-paid CEO in the nation, making nearly $100 million last year.

Yet Charter is demanding cutbacks that would be devastating to some 1,700 members of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 3 in New York, who have been on strike against the company since March 28. These include:

  • Forcing employees to bear most of the burden of health care costs.
  • Elimination of company contributions to the pension and medical.
  • Elimination of weekend overtime pay.
  • Flexibility to subcontract work normally done by union members.

Charter/Spectrum has refused to come to the table, much less negotiate. It also has ignored New York City’s political leaders, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and many members of the City Council, who have called on the company to negotiate a fair contract.

And while the company is making record profits, customer service continues to deteriorate. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued the company earlier this year for reneging on a promise to upgrade internet speeds. And former Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster sued the company in 2015, alleging it made telemarketing calls to consumers on the state’s Do Not Call list.

That’s why IBEW members have handed out leaflets at Charter/Spectrum pay stations across the county, letting consumers know about the company’s unfair practices.

"We would much rather be partners with companies we do business with, but IBEW members are battling a corporation that has little regard not just for its employees’ welfare, but also for the customers it serves," IBEW President Lonnie R. Stephenson said. "That’s disheartening, but it’s a battle we can win."

This is a guest post from Alex Hogan of IBEW.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 08/04/2017 - 13:46

The Economy Adds 209,000 Jobs in July, and Unemployment Little Changed at 4.3%

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 10:26
The Economy Adds 209,000 Jobs in July, and Unemployment Little Changed at 4.3% BLS

The U.S. economy added 209,000 jobs in July, and unemployment was little changed at 4.3%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This continues the recovery of the labor market at a tempered rate, which means the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee should continue to let the economy grow and not raise interest rates.

In response to the July jobs numbers, AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs tweeted:

Job numbers up 209,000 in July, May revised down, June up for a net adjustment of +2,000 @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) August 4, 2017

 

Wages show a tiny improvement, up 2.5% over last year. Still much room for the Fed to slow rate increases over the year @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) August 4, 2017

 

Job gains in 2016 averaged 187,000 a year, a little ahead of this year's 184,000 so we can still thank @POTUS44 Trump's done nothing @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) August 4, 2017

 

Those out of the labor force in June were 2.4 times more likely to land a job in July than end up unemployed, holding steady @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) August 4, 2017

ACA repeal still showing effects, overall healthcare up 39,400 but nursing homes down 1,000 and medical labs down 1,200 @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) August 4, 2017

Last month's biggest job gains were in food services and drinking places (53,000), professional and business services (49,000), health care employment (39,000), and mining (1,000). Employment in other major industries, including construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, and government, showed little change over the month.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for teenagers (13.2%), blacks (7.4%), Hispanics (5.1%), adult men (4.0%), adult women (4.0%), whites (3.8%) and Asians (3.8%) showed little or no change in July.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was up slightly in July and accounted for 25.9% of the unemployed.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 08/04/2017 - 11:26

Joe Smith Jr.: Laborer by Day, Boxing Champion by Night

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 11:25
Joe Smith Jr.: Laborer by Day, Boxing Champion by Night

Quick, what's the first thing you think of when you hear about a boxer who holds the World Boxing Council international light heavyweight championship and who sent boxing legend Bernard Hopkins into retirement with a TKO that literally knocked Hopkins out of the ring? You certainly wouldn't think of Joe Smith Jr., the boxer who ended Hopkins' career and who is an active member of Laborers (LIUNA) Local 66.

The New York Times recently profiled the boxer and union member:

Between fights, Smith, the World Boxing Council international light heavyweight champion, becomes just plain Joe, a member of Laborers Local 66, a union on Long Island. On the job, Smith might sweep a floor one day and break one up with a sledgehammer the next.

“We do it all in the six-six,” he said.

Smith has been laboring to make ends meet since he graduated from William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach, N.Y., a decade ago.

He went back to work a couple of weeks after beating Andrzej Fonfara to win the W.B.C. international light heavyweight title 13 months ago, and a couple of weeks after knocking Bernard Hopkins out of the ring last December.

Read the full profile.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 08/03/2017 - 12:25

Bull Connor, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Labor Movement

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 13:03
Bull Connor, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Labor Movement

In the first week of May 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. faced a painful dilemma as he sought to conclude the great Birmingham, Alabama, campaign. The labor movement helped solve this dilemma and a great civil rights victory was won. Jerome A. "Buddy" Cooper, my mentor in the Birmingham union law firm where I worked years later, told me and others of his small but fascinating role in these events. It’s a story of how our labor movement has sometimes lived up to its role in the larger civil and human rights movement.

Weeks of massive civil rights protest marches had led Alabama Public Safety Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor to order vicious attacks on African American protesters, including school children, using police dogs and powerful fire hoses. The nation watched with revulsion as these violent attacks on plainly peaceful protesters were televised on the nightly news. As the attacks continued, the persistence, nonviolent discipline and courage of the local protesters, both adults and children, brought the movement to the cusp of achieving its first citywide victory in the fight to eliminate segregated bathrooms, drinking fountains and other public accommodations in the Deep South. King and the movement badly needed a victory in Birmingham after failing to achieve anything through mass marches in Albany, Georgia, the year before.

The attention of the whole world to these riveting events quickly created a political and international crisis for the John F. Kennedy administration, which regarded the civil rights movement as a distraction from its electoral and legislative goals, and as an embarrassment on the world stage. The president and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, were forced to respond. They sent a senior representative to Birmingham to pressure both sides toward resolution.

On May 8, a tentative agreement was reached with merchants agreeing to desegregate public facilities and to implement modest employment goals in Birmingham’s downtown stores. But King threatened to blow up the deal because local authorities refused to reduce the exorbitant bail fees—about $240,000 (nearly $2 million today)—set for the release of the child protesters who, after being set upon by dogs and blasted head-over-heals down city streets by fire hoses, had been arrested and jailed on charges of disturbing the peace. Adult marchers already filled all surrounding jails (a key tactic of the movement), and the children were incarcerated in outdoor animal pens at the Alabama State Fairgrounds, exposed to the rainy and often chilly Alabama spring elements.  Kennedy and the attorney general, along with King’s colleagues in the movement’s leadership, urged King to sign the agreement and worry about the jailed children later. They argued that victory would weaken Connor’s resolve and lead to the children’s early release once the furor abated, and that it was not worth risking the precarious agreement with the merchants who were being pressured by powerful forces to abandon the deal.

King would have none of it. Desperate as he was to declare victory, he dug in. He had addressed distraught parents in mass meetings in churches, assuring them their jailed children were "suffering for what they believe, and…to make this nation a better nation." He told them their children were involved in "a spiritual experience, to be welcomed, even longed for." Almost all the parents accepted this transcendent message as justification for allowing their eager children to take on terrifying roles in the streets and in jail, to advance the movement. King was not about to leave the children incarcerated in outdoor pens while he celebrated a victory. Robert Kennedy, worried that a continuing crisis would harm his brother’s re-election prospects, was furious, telling King repeatedly that his stubbornness "doesn’t really make a lot of sense." King returned fire, condemning publicly the administration’s inaction in the face of violations of federal law by Birmingham authorities, including arrests of African Americans sitting at the lunch counter in the federal building’s café. King also pointed out that the attorney general had raised more than $60 million to gain release of the Bay of Pigs prisoners, so this much smaller bail amount should be easy for him to handle.

King announced to reporters gathered from all over the world that if the settlement didn’t include release of the children, the deal was off and demonstrations would recommence the next day—May 9. The deadline arrived with no resolution—but no marches either—as frantic private negotiations continued.

The impasse was broken only when King and the attorney general, both under immense pressure, agreed to work together to raise the bail money. King called the famous black singer and activist Harry Belafonte, securing a pledge of $90,000. Robert Kennedy, in turn, called three union presidents: Walter Reuther of the UAW, George Meany of the AFL-CIO and David McDonald of the United Steelworkers (USW). Each agreed to contribute tens of thousands of dollars, as did Michael Quill of the Transport Workers (TWU) at Belafonte’s request. The National Maritime Union had earlier sent money as well. All the bail money had to be delivered and paid the next day—or else King would recommence the marches.

To implement this urgent plan, late that night USW General Counsel David Feller phoned Birmingham union lawyer Buddy Cooper. Feller wanted Cooper to accept delivery of the bail money the next morning and deposit it at a local bank that had agreed to post the bail while concealing the source of the funds. UAW lawyer Joseph Rauh would coordinate delivery of the money to Cooper.

Cooper had been the CIO’s first lawyer in the Deep South starting in the 1930s. He had represented several CIO unions in "Operation Dixie," the largely unsuccessful effort to organize the South. He had been the first law clerk to Justice Hugo Black on the U.S. Supreme Court, and the justice’s son, Hugo Jr., was one of Cooper’s law partners when Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954, drawing intense and almost universal local white hostility toward their union-side law firm as a result of Black joining the unanimous decision. Cooper accepted this scorn as a badge of honor, and he actively supported the civil rights movement for the rest of his life as he continued to help build the labor movement in the South.

But Cooper was taken aback by Feller’s request, pointing out that this use of union funds was probably unlawful and asking, "Why don’t the damn merchants put up the money?" Feller’s answer was that this was "what the president of the United States wants us to do." He advised Cooper that the president had directed the attorney general to phone the union presidents with the request. Cooper told me years later he figured he would have to rely on that lofty, but dubious, defense if the lawyers and union officials were all indicted under the Landrum–Griffin Act for using union dues money for this purpose and in this secret manner.

Cooper received the money by courier on the morning of May 10, and it was used to bail out the children. He recalled that Rauh later visited Birmingham and together they recovered most of the money after the criminal cases against the children were dismissed.

Late that same afternoon, after waiting many hours to confirm payment of the bail, King asked the local black leader the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth to speak to the press. Shuttlesworth, fresh from the hospital after having been knocked down a stairwell by water from a fire hose during a march, began by telling the world, "The city of Birmingham has reached an accord with its conscience."

The agreement with the city of Birmingham became part of history, helping pave the way for passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which codified federal protection for equal access to public accommodations and employment. Soon after the agreement in Birmingham was achieved, the world would be mesmerized when King published his "Letter from the Birmingham Jail," penned while he was in solitary confinement, where Connor had thrown him for nine days in April 1963, in an attempt to stop the Birmingham campaign.

In June 1963, President Kennedy finally added his eloquent voice in a televised address to the nation, endorsing for the first time the full range of civil rights goals, but before the end of the year he would be dead, along with four young girls killed in a Ku Klux Klan bombing of their Birmingham church. The years ahead saw yet more white violence—and more courage and suffering by activists—but the movement gained lasting momentum in Birmingham. In 1964, King led the movement to Selma to fight for voting rights, and in 1965, the new president, Lyndon B. Johnson, signed the Voting Rights Act.

The decisive and risky actions of the labor leaders in this matter, and of their lawyers, pale in comparison to the physical and moral courage of King, his colleagues, and especially the marching children and their parents. But Dave Feller, Buddy Cooper, Joe Rauh and many others proved in May of 1963 that the labor movement is best understood as the "workers division" of the larger movement for civil and human rights. Let us resolve anew to honor, protect and advance the efforts of those brave men, women, girls and boys who risked so much in the desperate but shining days of the movement a half-century ago.

This is a guest post from Jay Smith, a labor lawyer who has represented the United Steelworkers and other unions for more than 25 years.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 08/01/2017 - 14:03

Organizing in Digital Media Continues to Grow: Worker Wins

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 09:47
Organizing in Digital Media Continues to Grow: Worker Wins UAW

Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with a hard-fought victory at The New School. Other successes include the growing trends of digital media newsrooms organizing and progressive organizations living up to their professed values by voluntarily recognizing employees who choose to join together for collective bargaining purposes.

New School Graduate Workers Overwhelmingly Vote 'Yes': Research and teaching assistants at The New School in New York voted 502-2 to be represented by the UAW. Over three years, the graduate workers faced opposition and legal delays from the school administration and the overwhelming margin of victory in the vote is a testament to the hard work put in to fight for recognition of their right to collectively bargain.

Chicago Sun-Times and the Reader Employees 'Flying High' After Ownership Victory: After it was announced that the Chicago Sun-Times and the Reader were for sale, Tronc Inc., the publisher of the right-wing Chicago Sun-Times, was seen as a front-runner to become the new owner. The staff at the smaller paper fought back and pushed for an alternative solution. Now the paper is being bought by an investment group led by former Alderman Edwin Eisendrath and the Chicago Federation of Labor, a victory that maintains the independence of the paper from corporate interests.

Aircraft Maintenance Workers at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Vote to Join IAM: Some 220 workers working for DynCorp International at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona voted to join Machinists (IAM) Local 2949. The contract workers, who maintain A-10 Thunderbolt II jets, will now elect a committee to negotiate their first collective bargaining agreement.

Cafeteria Workers at Facebook Vote to Join UNITE HERE: More than 500 workers who serve food in the cafeteria at Facebook's California headquarters will be joining UNITE HERE Local 19 as part of a trend of tech company workers fighting for union recognition.

Raw Story Editorial Staff Join The NewsGuild-CWA: Editorial staff at progressive news organization Raw Story sought and won voluntary union recognition. They join The NewsGuild-CWA (TNG-CWA) as part of a growing trend of progressive organizations and digital media whose workers are exercising their freedom to come together to bargain with their employers.

Center for Community Change Staff Ratify First Union Contract: Staff at the Center for Community Change voted unanimously to ratify their first union contract. Leaders at International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 70, which the staff members are represented by, described the contract as a strong one that affirms progressive workplace policies.

Staff at Democratic Socialists of America Join TNG-CWA: The staffers at the largest socialist organization in the United States, Democratic Socialists of America, asked for and received voluntary recognition of their union.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 08/01/2017 - 10:47

Black Women's Equal Pay Day

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 12:41
Black Women's Equal Pay Day

Today, we commiserate Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. The gap between the earnings of black women and white men is so large that, essentially, up to today black women have been working for free. Think of it as the modern-day equivalent of the constitutional count of slaves as three-fifths of a person.

Undoubtedly, those fighting to preserve the status quo will say black women need only to get off welfare, work harder and gain more skills to achieve equal pay. This, of course, ignores the fact that a higher share of black women are employed than any other racial group.

Black women also are significantly more likely to pursue postsecondary education than their counterparts in other racial groups. The problem for black women is neither work ethic nor educational achievement. Instead, systemic barriers are preventing too many black women from turning their education into earnings, including a refusal of many companies to promote black women into management.

Another part of the problem is that black workers are far more likely to live in states that enact laws that undermine our freedom to come together and negotiate on the job. These laws originally were designed to divide black and white workers in the Jim Crow South. Today, they threaten solidarity and starve unions of precious resources.

This hurts black women directly, holding down their wages and limiting access to important benefits like employer-provided health care and pensions. This is confirmed in a report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, by Asha DuMonthier, Chandra Childers and Jessica Milli, which looks at the employment and earnings, work and family, and poverty and opportunity of black women, among other things.

So fighting discrimination in promotions and guaranteeing the freedom of every worker to negotiate a fair return on their labor is the best way to finally eliminate Black Women’s Equal Pay Day.

AFL-CIO

Raising the minimum wage is another key element. The report by IWPR is in coalition with the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Black women are disproportionately affected by the lower wages that characterize care work. And black workers are more likely to live in states where the minimum wage is still at the federal floor of only $7.25 an hour. This makes the fight for $15 an hour a union essential to achieving equal pay for black women.

The motion picture "Hidden Figures" helps remind us that black women, in the face of the numbing segregation of opportunity, were optimistic, educated and skilled enough to write the computer code that literally launched America into the space age. And, before they wrote the computer code, they were smart enough to do the arithmetic behind the math to find the answers ahead of the computers.

Karl Zielinski: Mary, a person with an engineer's mind should be an engineer. You can't be a computer the rest of your life.

Mary Jackson: Mr. Zielinski, I'm a Negro woman. I'm not gonna entertain the impossible.

Zielinski: And I'm a Polish Jew whose parents died in a Nazi prison camp. Now I'm standing beneath a spaceship that's going to carry an astronaut to the stars. I think we can say we are living the impossible. Let me ask you, if you were a white male, would you wish to be an engineer?

Jackson: I wouldn't have to. I'd already be one.

Tim Schlittner Mon, 07/31/2017 - 13:41

A Big Week for Your Health Care

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 10:39
A Big Week for Your Health Care

Sometimes failure is a good thing. That was especially true last week when the U.S. Senate failed to pass legislation repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It meant that Congress was stopped from taking health care away from tens of millions of Americans, at least for now.

What happened? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) desperately pushed the Senate to pass something he could describe as repealing the ACA. That would have allowed the Senate to negotiate with the House of Representatives on a final bill, since the House already had passed a repeal and replace bill in the spring. McConnell tried three different versions of repeal, and the Senate voted against all three:

  • Repeal and Replace: This bill was the latest version of Senate leadership’s proposal to repeal and replace major parts of the ACA. It would cut taxes for the wealthy few and corporations, while slashing Medicaid, jacking up premiums and deductibles for individual plans, and making permanent a 40% tax on high-cost workplace plans. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that an earlier version of this bill would take health care away from 22 million people by 2026. This bill failed by a vote of 43 to 57.
     
  • Repeal and Run: Like a bill passed by Congress in late 2015 and vetoed by then-President Barack Obama, this bill would repeal major parts of the ACA and leave it to a future Congress to come up with any replacement. This bill would take health care away from 32 million people. The Senate rejected this by a vote of 45 to 55.
     
  • Skinny Repeal: A last-ditch effort to get at least 50 senators to vote for something, this bill would repeal a few parts of the ACA, like the individual mandate. It would take health care away from 16 million people. The Senate rebuffed this by a vote of 49 to 51. All 48 Democrats plus Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) voted against it. Had this bill passed, Senate leaders then would have tried to negotiate a comprehensive repeal and replace plan with Republican leaders in the House.

Why did repeal fail for now? Although Republican leaders got very close to getting the 50 votes they needed, they could not overcome how bad each of their proposals compared to their campaign promises. President Donald Trump himself had assured Americans that under his plan, “We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” and that insurance would have “much lower numbers, much lower deductibles.” He also promised repeatedly he would not cut Medicaid. In reality, the Republican plans would do the opposite. The CBO showed that the proposals would take health care from between 15 million and 32 million people, spike premiums for many and lead to individual deductibles as high as $13,000 a year. In addition, their main plans gutted Medicaid, jeopardizing health care for millions of people already struggling the most to make ends meet.

What could this failure of repeal mean? Americans made it clear they want health care to be better and see it increasingly as a basic right. That is why millions of people called and wrote their senators and members of Congress and showed up at public events to protect health care.

If Congress and the president were listening to Americans, they would start doing things to make that happen. Some Democrats and Republicans in Congress are now talking about ways to stabilize the individual insurance markets. Others are working on plans to lower deductibles and out-of-pocket premiums, tackle unjustified spikes in prescription drug prices, and create alternatives to profit-centered insurance companies, like expanding Medicare eligibility.

Unfortunately, it appears many of the key health care players have not gotten the message. President Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, says the Senate should vote on repeal yet again, before it does anything else. Trump, himself, is threatening to destabilize the individual insurance markets, something that could cause people to pay much more or to lose their health insurance. He says he might do this by stopping reimbursements to insurance companies for the extra financial help they are required by law to provide certain low- and middle-income people.

The labor movement will continue to vigorously oppose any attempts to gut or undermine our current health care system and insist the debate be shifted toward how to build on what we already have.

 

Tim Schlittner Mon, 07/31/2017 - 11:39

‘Skinny Repeal’ and the Senate Health Debate

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 16:25
‘Skinny Repeal’ and the Senate Health Debate AFL-CIO

Yesterday, two major proposals that would have rolled back the Affordable Care Act’s progress in expanding coverage were defeated by bipartisan majoritiesSenate leadership is now pulling together a so-called “skinny” bill, which they hope will attract the 50 votes needed to pass the chamber and move to a conference committee with the House.

The “skinny” bill would likely end selected ACA provisions—the ACA's requirement that individuals have health coverage, the employer coverage requirement, and perhaps the tax on medical device manufacturers. No legislative language has been released, so we do not know the bill’s precise contents. But the CBO produced a score showing that, by destabilizing the individual insurance market and sharply increasing premiums, such a bill would cause 15 million Americans to lose their health insurance in 2018, rising to 16 million soon thereafter.

Yesterday, this bill sparked an extraordinary outpouring of opposition, including from governors, doctors, and insurers:

Brazenly playing games with Americans’ health care

Proponents of this new and still secret proposal have brazenly advertised its purpose. Pieced together from abandoned elements of rejected Republican legislation, the “skinny Frankenstein” bill is primarily a tactical ploy.

By enabling a health care conference committee, the Senate's passage of this bill would let Republican leaders meet behind closed doors and devise the biggest possible health care repeal that can be jammed through the House and Senate on a party-line vote.

Once the final “Trumpcare” plan emerges from the conference committee, congressional leadership will try to push it through at warp speed, hoping to keep the American people from learning about the plan until it is too late to stop.

Believe it or not, Senate Majority Leader McConnell has yet another fallback plan in his pocket. If the bait-and-switch ploy fails, the House could simply agree to the “skinny repeal” bill, producing the enormous, immediate coverage losses warned about by the CBO, the bipartisan governors’ letter, the AMA, and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

Health care for millions of Americans is at stake

If the Senate approves this as-yet-unveiled skinny Frankenstein bill, a conference committee could produce almost any legislation that takes away health insurance from millions of Americans. Health coverage and care thus remain on the chopping block for 74.5 million people who rely on Medicaid for their coverage, 12.2 million people who have private coverage through health insurance marketplaces, and millions more who purchase individual coverage outside a marketplace.

So far, every health care proposal put forth by the current Republican leadership would take away health insurance from more than 20 million people while raising costs, cutting benefits, and ending consumer protections for millions more. There is no reason to expect anything markedly different to emerge if the Senate authorizes a conference committee to devise a final bill.

What to do now

The top priority is ensuring a defeat of whatever skinny Frankenstein plan emerges in the Senate, since such a plan would authorize continued covert efforts to take away health insurance from millions of Americans.

So far, constituent pressure—in the form of phone calls, rallies, emails, and more—has prevented the Senate from approving any repeal legislation. That is an extraordinary achievement, but the fight continues.

This post was originally published by Families USA

Tim Schlittner Thu, 07/27/2017 - 17:25

AFL-CIO Honors Korean Labor Leader Han with Human Rights Award, Call for His Release From Prison

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 15:48
AFL-CIO Honors Korean Labor Leader Han with Human Rights Award, Call for His Release From Prison

President Han Sang-gyun of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions has spent his life fighting for the rights of workers and has paid a high price. Han has been in jail since December 2015, serving a three-year sentence for defending trade union rights and fighting back against corporate corruption and the repressive government of former President Park Geun-hye. For his perseverance in the face of anti-democratic repression, the AFL-CIO Executive Council this week honored President Han with the AFL-CIO’s annual George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award, and joined the global labor movement in calling for his release.

KCTU President Han’s career as an organizer and labor leader is defined by militant action against long odds. During the years of military rule in 1980s South Korea, Han, a former student activist, helped organize a union in his auto manufacturing plant. He went on to lead that union in an occupation of the auto plant with 1,700 other workers, demanding an end to layoff and severance concessions. For that, he served his first three-year sentence in prison, but helped protect hundreds of workers’ livelihoods.

In 2014, Han was elected president in the first direct vote in KCTU history, promising to organize a general strike to protest austerity economics and precarious work. Under his leadership, workers have mobilized against anti-worker labor legislation and government corruption in a series of massive peaceful demonstrations. President Park frequently responded to dissent with police brutality, mass arrests and harsh jail sentences targeted at leaders. Han—charged with inciting violence after riot police disrupted a peaceful march—eventually was forced to turn himself in to authorities.

The Korean labor movement and civil society forced the ouster of President Park, who was impeached and charged with bribery, abuse of power and other charges this year. Although South Koreans voted in a new, more pro-labor administration under President Moon Jae-in, the fight for justice is ongoing. Han and many other activists still are imprisoned, and Korean workers continue to struggle against regressive labor laws and for accountability from Korea’s major corporations.

The AFL-CIO joins the global labor movement, United Nations officials and numerous human rights groups in calling for the release of Han and other activists. In awarding President Han, the AFL-CIO recognizes and honors his many personal sacrifices, as well as the bravery and perseverance of Korean workers and activists.

Worker activism is the bulwark against closing civil society space and right-wing, corporate threats to basic labor rights and democratic norms. Han and the Korean labor movement serve as an inspiration to worker movements everywhere. From the United States, the United Kingdom and the Philippines to Brazil and Egypt and everywhere workers are under attack, Korean workers have shown that collective action can create real, far-reaching change.

Tim Schlittner Thu, 07/27/2017 - 16:48

Republican Joint Employer Legislation Takes Away Worker Freedoms

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 15:35
Republican Joint Employer Legislation Takes Away Worker Freedoms

In our fragmented workplaces with perma-temps, contracted workers, agency employees and subcontracting, we must be vigilant so every worker is protected and paid fairly, and that goes double when it comes to protecting the freedom to stand in unity for better pay and working conditions.

A bill just introduced by Republicans called the “Save Local Business Act” takes us in the opposite direction.

The bill would take away essential freedoms that have been protected by the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act since they were adopted in the 1930s.

The bill achieves this through a ridiculously narrow definition of an employer. The definition is narrower than any used by any agency or court, and it would take freedoms from too many workers and allow irresponsible companies to violate workers’ rights.

We call on all members of Congress to reject this harmful and misguided proposal.

Tim Schlittner Thu, 07/27/2017 - 16:35

Trump Administration Attacks Overtime Pay

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 14:03
Trump Administration Attacks Overtime Pay

The Trump administration has begun a process to undo President Obama’s overtime pay rule and deny working people a pay raise.

The Obama overtime pay rule would make 4.9 million more workers eligible for overtime pay, and make it tougher to deny overtime pay to another 7.6 million workers who already are eligible.

For years, working people had pushed President Obama to restore overtime protections that were eroded by inflation in recent decades.

The way overtime works is that salaried workers who make less than $23,660 are guaranteed overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a week. The Obama overtime pay rule would raise this threshold to $47,476, with future increases built in.

This threshold still is too low. Back in 1975, President Ford set the overtime salary threshold at the equivalent of about $58,000 in today’s dollars.

But the Trump administration's Labor Department has said the Obama threshold is too generous, and now has taken the first step to revise the rule, with an eye toward denying working people pay raises.

This is yet another example of Trump’s record not matching his rhetoric when it comes to supporting regular working people.

The Obama overtime pay rule should go forward, and the overtime salary threshold should be kept at $47,476 with future increases built in, so millions of Americans finally can get paid for every hour on the job.

Tim Schlittner Thu, 07/27/2017 - 15:03

Tags: Overtime

Some Wins, Some Major Disappointments in Oregon Legislature

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 13:51
Some Wins, Some Major Disappointments in Oregon Legislature

The 2017 Oregon Legislature began with a simple math problem: Subtracting expenses from revenue equaled a $1.8 billion deficit. After the defeat of Measure 97 last November, Oregon’s business community promised to work with the governor and legislative leadership to find new revenue. Oregon already has one of the lowest overall tax rates on corporations in America. Yes, lower than Mississippi, Idaho and Alabama. Corporations in Oregon are not paying their fair share.

The linchpins to these discussions were cuts to Public Employees Retirement System benefits and a tightening of state spending. Public employee unions activated their members, explained the issue and challenges, and worked hard to find resolutions. At every turn, Oregon’s business community refused to sit down and find a solution. In the end, there were no major cuts to PERS benefits, but also no new revenue or corporate tax increases.

While our legislature did pass the Oregon health care protections bill, which provides coverage for 350,000 low-income Oregonians and reduces premiums for nearly 220,000 Oregonians (but is now under attack), it failed to pass additional meaningful revenue reform at a critical moment. This failure leaves hundreds of thousands of working Oregonians unsure about our state’s ability to fund vital services—and with an ongoing need to restructure our tax system that still allows corporations to pay some of the lowest tax rates of any state.

Simultaneously, the legislature prioritized and passed cost-containment measures that stripped away public employee benefits. Despite these cuts, our state still will be in the position of scrambling to find revenue to fund vital services in the coming years.

Another loss was the failure to pass HB 2004, Stable Homes for Oregon Families. While this legislation passed the House, it failed to get any movement in the Senate. This is a major setback for besieged renters. Portland rents increased 13% in 2016, compared with a 4% bump for rents nationally.

Oregon workers did score some major victories:

  • SB 1040, The Rural Oregon Worker Protection Act: This legislation already signed by the governor prohibits local governments from implementing “right to work.” This is the first legislation of its kind in the country.
  • SB 828, Fair Work Week: Creates protections for workers in retail, hospitality and service jobs related to scheduling. Again, this groundbreaking legislation is the first statewide policy of its kind in the country.
  • HB 2017, Transportation Package: At $5.3 billion invested over eight years in Oregon’s infrastructure, this may be the largest transportation package in Oregon history.
  • HB 3170, Expands Collective Bargaining Rights for Public University Faculty: Expands collective bargaining rights for some supervisory faculty at public universities.
  • HB 3458, Overtime Protections for Manufacturing Workers.

The wins that workers achieved in the 2017 Oregon Legislature set a national tone that the union movement can go on the offensive with to improve the lives of workers. But the failure to hold corporations accountable, and balancing budgets on the backs of public employees, are unacceptable. For more than 20 years, Oregon governors and legislatures have tried to restructure our tax system to generate revenue to match the needs of our people. Time and time again, those efforts have been stymied by an army of corporate lobbyists, forcing our budgets to be cobbled together in a patchwork of revenue increases, public service cuts, and reduced wages and benefits for public employees.

Oregon deserves better.

This post originally appeared at nwLaborPress.org.

Tim Schlittner Thu, 07/27/2017 - 14:51

For UFCW President, Union Roots Run Deep

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 13:39
For UFCW President, Union Roots Run Deep IAMAW

For more than 45 years, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International President Marc Perrone has been part of what he calls his “union family.” It’s a bond that dates all the way back to when he was a teenager working at Weingarten’s food store in Pine Bluff, Ark. On Sunday, Perrone’s hometown newspaper, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, published a feature on his life and career.

Perrone called the UFCW’s affiliation with the AFL-CIO a source of great pride. He recently served as co-chairman of the AFL-CIO’s Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice. The group held six hearings in as many cities between fall 2015 and spring 2016 and issued a report with recommendations for improving relations. Perrone was presented the At the River I Stand Award in January at the AFL-CIO’s 2017 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Awards Luncheon.

Perrone describes the benefits of union membership this way: “If you want to go somewhere fast, go by yourself. If you want to go long-distance, go with a group.”

Read the full profile here. Excerpts are below:

Working for the union has been Perrone’s only full-time job. He has a remarkable knack for remembering the first and last names of people he has encountered and the circumstances that led to his rise to the union’s top: a sit-down at Weingarten’s with that first union rep he met (Perrone insisted that they talk while he was on the clock); a connection made at a dinner hosted by a union boss at Little Rock’s Cajun’s Wharf (Perrone was waiting tables there at the time); and a store manager who denied him a snack break.

Perrone’s job as an organizer led to others within the UFCW: crew coordinator for manufacturing and food processing; executive assistant in a regional office in Dallas; and assistant to the organizing director in Washington at age 28. When his boss in that position was made UFCW international president, Perrone went with him as his assistant. Perrone was a regional director in New York for five years before landing back in Washington as a strategic programs director.

Lori Werner, assistant to Perrone and director of benefits and union administration for the UFCW, describes her boss as a good listener who is open to ideas from staff. “It’s always been a very collaborative working relationship,” she says. He’s engaging and relates well to everyone, even those who don’t share his views on things, she says. “I think they view him as someone who will speak his mind and not be shy.

“He’s not one to just talk ideas and not see them come to fruition. Execution, to him, is very important,” Werner adds.

When the UFCW international president—for whom Perrone previously worked—retired, Secretary-Treasurer Joe Hansen took the helm. Perrone was elected secretary-treasurer in 2004.

Perrone admits he didn’t have a lot of financial know-how, but he had experience managing pensions. Rather than depending on hired professionals to help manage the union’s assets, Perrone got the schooling he needed through programs at the Wharton School of Business and Harvard to do it himself. He managed two pension funds—one for staff and one for members—totaling about $6.5 billion. He continues to have a hand over those funds in his role as international president, to which he was elected in 2014.

Protecting the pensions of the UFCW’s membership is Perrone’s crowning achievement. “These are folks that depend on that money every month, to make sure they can pay their bills,” he says.

Perrone swung through Little Rock recently on a cross-country tour aimed at assuring members that their union is working for them. “I’m of the belief that, as time has gone on, they’ve lost touch with the value of their collective bargaining agreement,” Perrone says. “We’re actually, mathematically, putting a pencil to every portion of the contract to show them what the value is,” he says. “They’re starting to see the differences.”

The UFCW is also doing focus groups with members and nonmembers, asking them for ideas on how the UFCW can better serve their needs. “Basically we’re trying to really dig down deep and find out what the members and nonmembers’ perception of what [the union] is.” Perrone has hit more than 50 cities to date and says he will continue as long as he’s president.

Tim Schlittner Tue, 07/25/2017 - 14:39

Trumka Talks Economy and Jobs with House Blue Collar Caucus

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 12:34
Trumka Talks Economy and Jobs with House Blue Collar Caucus

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka met Wednesday with members of the House Blue Collar Caucus to talk about ways to work together to advance policies that lead to greater prosperity for working people.

Reps. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) and Marc Veasey (D-Texas) formed the caucus in December to provide direct attention to the economic hardships and anxiety felt by working-class Americans.

Trumka said Democrats must continue to fight back against policies designed specifically to help the rich at the expense of working Americans. He added that Democrats should push for a more progressive tax structure and use the money raised to invest in jobs, health care and infrastructure.

Caucus members also discussed ways to strike the right balance between jobs and the environment. Trumka made clear that this choice is not an “either/or” and that we can both create a thriving economy and protect the environment.

Finally, the caucus sought advice on how to effectively build an economic message and platform that champions working people, not Wall Street and corporate interests. Trumka advised the members to always think about what working Americans are discussing around their kitchen tables—issues such as health care, education and wages—and focus their attention on that.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 07/21/2017 - 13:34

Dodd-Frank Law Protects Working People, We Should Protect It

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 09:51
Dodd-Frank Law Protects Working People, We Should Protect It

Wall Street greed, unregulated, leads to things like the Great Recession. Letting the richest 1% of Americans, big corporations, and their political allies write the rules that govern our economy cost working people trillions of dollars. As a response, the labor movement and our allies mobilized to pass some powerful reforms, notably the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

The act did a lot to rein in Wall Street excess and prevent banks from preying on working people. The centerpiece of the law was the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to protect working people from tricks and traps in consumer financial products like mortgages and credit cards. Since its creation, the CFPB has returned $12 billion to consumers who were harmed by lenders.

But President Trump and congressional Republicans are more than willing to do the dirty work for Wall Street and the 1%. Through the misleadingly named Financial CHOICE Act, they are attempting to gut Dodd-Frank and the CFPB. Working people aren't going to stand for attempts to erase the progress we've made and strip away the protections we've instituted to protect our freedom to provide for our families.

Here are what people are saying about Dodd-Frank and the CFPB:

Congress should strengthen financial regs so greedy Wall St bankers are not allowed to gamble with the lives of working people #doddfrank

— Richard L. Trumka (@RichardTrumka) July 21, 2017

Politicians attacking #doddfrank didn’t have their lives ripped apart the way too many working people did from Great Recession WallSt caused

— Richard L. Trumka (@RichardTrumka) July 21, 2017

The @CFPB was created by Congress to make the financial marketplace fair for consumers. #CFPBTurns6 #DefendCFPB

— AFL-CIO (@AFLCIO) July 21, 2017

Get ready for a fight.

cc: @CFPB pic.twitter.com/ISzh6zhEcs

— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) July 20, 2017

Without a financial cushion, families of color are more vulnerable to predatory lending. That's why we need a strong @CFPB. #DefendCFPB

— Demos (@Demos_Org) July 20, 2017

We need a strong @CFPB to protect our servicemembers. #DefendCFPB #CFPBturns6 https://t.co/CTH0PdkdWa pic.twitter.com/oPRxvBapEJ

— MoPIRG (@MoPIRGtweets) July 21, 2017

The @CFPB was created by Congress to make the financial marketplace fair for consumers. #CFPBTurns6 #DefendCFPB #StopTheDebtTrap pic.twitter.com/191cFAROVJ

— CRL (@CRLONLINE) July 20, 2017

Consumers paid for the 2008 crisis. Thanks to @CFPB, scammers have to pay people back. #CFPBTurns6 #DefendCFPB pic.twitter.com/meXykTlPU8

— Consumer Federation (@ConsumerFed) July 20, 2017

.@CFPB is a true ally to consumers who have faced unfair and discriminatory auto lending. #CFPBTurns6 #DefendCFPB https://t.co/yD7UV1ss99 pic.twitter.com/LRC5jEWckV

— Consumers Union (@ConsumersUnion) July 20, 2017

So what would you miss if the CFPB suddenly disappeared? Read: @GinaCalabrese3 Ann Goldweber & @jsovern: https://t.co/vARqZMEd3u #DefendCFPB

— New Economy Project (@NewEconomyNYC) July 12, 2017

Happy birthday, @CFPB! Show your support for America's consumer watchdog. #CFPBTurns6 #DefendCFPB pic.twitter.com/Wsxn2e1H4B

— Stephen Rouzer (@StephenRouzer) July 21, 2017

The #CFPBturns6 today!

In its six years, the @CFPB has returned $12B to consumers. That's real money back in our pockets. #DefendCFPB pic.twitter.com/qSBqtA7kRG

— Civil Rights (@civilrightsorg) July 21, 2017

Tell Congress to protect regulations that guard working people against a rigged financial system.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 07/21/2017 - 10:51

Tags: CFPB, Dodd-Frank Act

'Made In America' Week Should Be More Than Just A Slogan

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 10:55
'Made In America' Week Should Be More Than Just A Slogan AFL-CIO

The White House has declared this "Made in America" week. At AFL-CIO, we applaud the focus on buying products made by America’s working people. We’re a bit skeptical about President Donald Trump’s record matching his rhetoric, though. Here’s why:

1. Focusing on "Made in America" would ring truer if Trump brand products were made here in the United States. The Trump family has had many opportunities to make its products here at home and instead has chosen to do business in countries where labor is cheap and worker rights are few.

2. The administration had another opportunity to promote American-made products and jobs through its principles for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, released earlier this week. Unfortunately, the White House’s plans fell woefully short. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka had this to say:

The NAFTA objectives don’t inspire confidence that the Trump administration’s actions will meet its rhetoric on trade. If the administration is serious about renegotiating NAFTA in a way that raises wages and creates good jobs, it cannot continue to promise significant trade policy changes on the one hand, and produce vague, unambitious objectives in its official communications on the other. These objectives largely replicate those of the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership and won’t satisfy the expectations the president created for a revival of America’s manufacturing heartland. It’s also ironic that these objectives, released during the administration’s “Buy American” week, leave in place federal purchasing commitments that bypass “Buy American” laws. While we applaud the trade remedies objectives in particular, working families are disappointed with the document as a whole. We will continue to fight to create trade deals working people deserve.

3. It is important that Trump’s talk about being tough on companies that outsource production to other countries be connected to real action. Early on, Trump bragged about saving jobs at Carrier. Yet the company this week laid off more than 300 workers, sending their jobs to Mexico. Trump previously threatened to place a tax as high as 35% on products made by companies that ship jobs overseas and try to sell those products back to the U.S. We’re waiting to see how much Trump is going to tax Carrier and other companies that outsource, and how much of that additional cost is passed along to American consumers.

We like the idea of the president using his platform to promote American-made products. Now it’s time to see some real commitment to America’s working people through action, not just words.

Learn more about which products actually are Made in America.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 07/20/2017 - 11:55

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