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Workers Memorial Day Reminds Us Why We Need Unions and Worker Safety Laws

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 09:55
Workers Memorial Day Reminds Us Why We Need Unions and Worker Safety Laws AFL-CIO

The voice of history, the subject I taught in a community college for two dozen years, could hardly be louder or clearer when it comes to unions and to worker safety and health laws.

We need them both.

In an ideal world, everybody would live by the Golden Rule, some form of which can be found in just about every religion. But we live in a real world where greed is the gospel of many employers.

If many bosses had their way, we wouldn’t have unions or worker safety and health laws. For a long time, we didn’t have either in the United States. Not until the 1930s did a Democratic-majority New Deal Congress pass legislation giving workers the right to bargain collectively and requiring their employers to recognize unions.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, signed the legislation into law.          

Not until 1970 did Congress create the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The landmark bill passed with bipartisan support. Even Republican President Richard Nixon, who was less than labor-friendly, hailed the bill.

Hogs will fly and kids will stop shooting hoops in my native Kentucky before the current Republican president and his GOP-majority Congress would approve anything close to the Occupational Safety and Health Act that created OSHA.

OSHA was needed because many, if not most, state and local worker safety and health laws were inadequate or were not rigorously enforced.

Before strong unions and meaningful protection for worker safety and health, most workers toiled long hours at low pay in jobs that threatened—and often claimed—life and limb.

This month marked the 100th anniversary of United States’ entry into World War I, the bloodiest conflict in history to that point. 

The war—called the Great War before World War II—started in 1914, when some 35,000 U.S. workers were killed in industrial accidents, according to historian Howard Zinn. That death toll equals two-thirds of all U.S. battle deaths in the war, which ended in November 1918.

A century ago, railroads, mines and factories were slaughterhouses. Many children were among the dead. Child labor was widespread in American industry. Adults were so poorly paid that boys and girls as young as 10 had to go to work to help their parents make ends meet.  

Industrialists praised child labor as a godsend. They claimed work taught children responsibility and kept them off the streets and out of trouble. Also, mine and factory owners saw a practical side to child labor. They could pay children less than grown-ups.

Many industrialists bragged about how often they went to church. Some said God gave them their money. Christian "Captains of Industry" hated Charles Darwin’s scientific theory of evolution. But they loved Social Darwinism, a philosophy which claimed that business works like nature.

It was "survival of the fittest" in both, Social Darwinists said. There was nothing anybody could do—or should do—about it, they added. Hence, Social Darwinists argued that unions and worker safety and health laws should be opposed because they interfered with the "natural operation" of the "free market." One Social Darwinist said such laws were a waste because they only protected "those of the lowest development."

With Social Darwinism, millionaires didn’t have to worry about workers losing a leg, an arm, an eye or their lives on the job. Social Darwinists said workers were inferior beings; otherwise they would be millionaires. Besides, worker safety and health laws would cost the millionaire industrialists a few bucks.

Social Darwinist millionaires had friends in high places. The plutocrats bankrolled politicians to bust unions and to keep worker safety and health laws off the books or to ensure such laws were toothless.

Sound familiar? How many union-despising politicians enjoy the largess of rich reactionaries today?

Here are a few, all of them well-heeled enough to afford store-bought: President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton, Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers and Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover.

Anyway, while employers and their puppet politicians are still fighting organized labor and government safety and health regulations, a lot of the media is still cheerleading for American business and industry.

Not so long ago, right-wing newspapers editorialists smeared unions as "un-American" and "communist." They slammed union leaders as "labor bosses" and rank-and-filers as "union thugs."

Since the demise of the "Evil Empire," uber-conservative editorial writers and TV and radio bloviators mostly stop as "socialist." But they still trot out "union bosses" and "union thugs."

History teaches that employers, helped by their bought-and-paid for politicians and a sympathetic media, ensured that a strong union movement and something like OSHA would be a longtime coming. But come they both did.

Since 1989, unions have been observing April 28 as Workers Memorial Day because OSHA was born on April 28. OSHA did much to improve worker safety and health for all workers, not just union members.

But if the Tea Party-tilting reactionaries who run the GOP these days had their way, unions and OSHA would disappear. When Republicans extol "free enterprise," they mean free of unions and free of laws that safeguard workers on the job.

When we pause this Workers Memorial Day to remember those who lost their lives on the job, let’s remember the words of one of the greatest union heroes from history—Mary Harris "Mother" Jones: "Mourn the dead; fight like hell for the living!"

This is a guest post from Berry Craig, who is a lifelong Kentuckian, webmaster-editor for the Kentucky State AFL-CIO and a member of the state AFL-CIO Executive Board. It originally appeared at the Kentucky State AFL-CIO.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 04/28/2017 - 10:55

Tags: OSHA

Mourn for the Dead, Fight Like Hell for the Living

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 09:29
Mourn for the Dead, Fight Like Hell for the Living AFL-CIO

Today, on Workers Memorial Day, people all over the world remember workers who were killed, injured or made sick by their jobs. It's also a day we commit to fighting for safer working conditions. Most importantly, it is the day we remind ourselves that safe jobs are every worker’s right.

In the United States, 150 workers die each day from job injuries and diseases and millions more suffer serious injuries because of their work. But no person should have to sacrifice his or her life and livelihood for a paycheck. This is why communities hold vigils, rallies, marches and other events to mourn the loss of loved ones and rally for stronger safety and health job protections.

Find a Workers Memorial Day event near you.

In 2015, 4,836 workers died from traumatic injuries such as those related to falls, machines and fires. At least another 50,000–60,000 workers died from occupational diseases that are caused by chemicals, dusts, fumes and other toxic agents. Commonsense safeguards would have prevented these deaths, but winning these protections for workers is incredibly challenging. Big Business continues to attack any gain for working people.

Read about the state of workplace safety and health in the 2017 Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect report.

Working people and their unions have won stronger safety and health protections. Most recently, unions celebrated the release of the final OSHA silica standard, the final OSHA beryllium standard, new safeguards to protect construction workers in confined spaces and from cranes and derricks, stronger protections for workers who report injuries to OSHA, several new mine safety rules, and many more. Since January, the Trump administration already has begun rolling back these protections, and has threatened to remove many more and prevent new safeguards from ever being issued. Recently, Republican leaders in Congress have threatened to remove important protections for first responders.

Unions fought for laws that protect hardworking people in the United States over the corporations that profit from the labor. Under these laws:

  • Workers have the right to refuse unsafe work, without fear of retaliation.
  • Workers have the right to report unsafe working conditions, without fear of retaliation.
  • Workers have the right to report work-related injuries and illnesses, without fear of retaliation.
  • Employers are required to make sure workplaces are free from hazards. 

We will continue to fight for stronger safety and health protections, but this year we also are defending new attacks on workers’ rights. And we will keep pushing forward. There is much more work to be done to prevent people from becoming sick or injured or being killed on the job.

On Workers Memorial Day, we remember all working people who have lost their lives, have been maimed or are fighting chronic disease because of the work they do. We join together to mourn for the dead and fight for the living. "Working people should not have to risk their lives to make a living and support their families," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Safe jobs are every worker’s right.

Find more information on Workers Memorial Day and the digital toolkit with infographics from the report.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 04/28/2017 - 10:29

Get Ready for a Month of Labor Cultural Events at DC LaborFest

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 14:42
Get Ready for a Month of Labor Cultural Events at DC LaborFest DC LaborFest

From its semi-humble beginnings 17 years ago as a weekend film festival focusing on labor-related movies, the DC LaborFest has grown, diversified and blossomed into a monthlong cultural event. The 2017 lineup, which kicks off Monday, includes 22 films, 17 labor tours, walks, bike rides, cultural tours and—new this year—a union beer and whiskey tasting, sponsored by Labor 411.

"It’s an interesting demographic," said Chris Garlock, the festival’s director and founder. "There are some folks who are really into music, some who are really into films and some folks who are really into soccer. I’m getting requests from people who want to do a union wine tasting, so I guess we’ll be talking about that for 2018. It’s kind of cool to find new and different audiences for different things."

With a few days to go before a month of events, kicked off with a May Day screening of the James Franco-directed film "In Dubious Battle," Labor 411 chatted with Garlock on all things DC LaborFest.

Q: Where did the idea for this film festival come from? How did it originate?

Chris Garlock: I’m from Rochester, New York, where my dad and I created the Rochester Labor Film Series. My dad brought [union leader] Tony Mazzocchi up to Rochester for a screening of "Silkwood," and Tony came back all excited. My dad told him, "Well, Chris works for the Metropolitan Washington [D.C.] Council. You should talk to him." Tony was a force of nature, so with his vision, organized by me and Katherine Isaac and the full support of Metropolitan Washington Council President Jos Williams, we were able to pull the first film fest together in just a few months.

Q: Can you talk about the growth of the festival over the 17 years of its existence?

CG: Oh my goodness, a couple of things. We have partnered up with American Film Institute from the beginning and it’s just grown and grown over the years. The main festival is at AFI, which has a beautiful three-screen theater in Silver Spring, and we’ve expanded, so we do a whole free film noon time series at the AFL-CIO on Fridays. At various times we’ve done screenings at different international unions. We co-hosted a Whistleblower Film Festival for a couple of years. There’s a DC Immigration Film Festival that we helped to start. It was a separate film festival for a few years, and we’re kind of absorbing it back in this year.

Q: One doesn’t typically find the breadth of offerings of DC LaborFest in a standard film festival. How did that variety develop for the DC LaborFest?

CG: About four years ago, we made the jump and we’ve never looked back. We went from having just a film festival to adding music events, theater, a labor soccer game, labor history walking tours, labor history biking tours, basically any sort of labor-ific cultural event that people could come up with and sounded like somebody might be interested in. We have had some great partners—including Labor 411, of course, and I have to mention American Income Life, which has been our prime sponsor from the beginning.

Q: What are some of the film highlights of this year’s lineup?

CG: The big one, of course, is the May 16 screening of "Matewan," and director John Sayles is going to be here. It’s the 30th anniversary of the film so we’re very excited about that, and he’s a personal hero of mine. We’re opening on May 1 with "In Dubious Battle," directed by James Franco, from a book by John Steinbeck, and that’s a book about California migrant workers that is very much in tune with all of the immigration demonstrations going on that day.

We have two films about [the anarchists] Sacco and Vanzetti and this is the 70th anniversary of their execution, so that’s very appropriate. This year, for the first time, we will be having labor tours of four different museums in town. It’s going to be a really great opportunity to see some really amazing art work or artifacts about work and workers. And then, of course, there’s our union beer and whiskey tasting with Labor 411. Those tickets are going like hot cakes.

Q: Now that the DC LaborFest is 17 years running, does the festival’s reputation open certain doors that might not have opened in early years?

CG: There are only a few dozen labor film festivals in the world, and we’re one of the largest and oldest. By virtue of our being in Washington, D.C., and our connection with the AFL-CIO and all the other unions, it definitely opens a lot of doors and I think people take it more seriously.

Q: How about your audience? Is it a mixture of union workers and film fans?

CG: Absolutely. I do mobilization and communication for the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO, and my whole argument for why we should do the film festival and then expand it to the LaborFest was because it mobilizes and communicates. We do lots of rallies and picket lines on a weekly, if not daily, basis in town, but those tend to be more for people who are in the movement or sometimes for people who are just in a particular local. At a screening at AFI, you’ll look out at the audience and more than half the audience will be people who are there because they want to see the film. Film is a very accessible medium, so it brings in the general public. It brings in union members who might not be so involved, and it’s a real opportunity for folks to get together and socialize in a way that’s not just on the picket line or at a rally or at a union meeting.

Q: Can you recount some great events from past festivals?

CG: The first year, we showed "Live Nude Girls Unite" which is a great film about dancers at the Lusty Lady organizing. Again, that was a chance to reach a different kind of audience. We have given out our Labor Arts Award both to Jane Fonda—who came here for "9 to 5"—and Barbara Kopple, who has done a number of great labor films. Ramin Bahrani, who has become a really big filmmaker…we’ve shown almost all of his films here, and I remember when he was a young, aspiring filmmaker. For him to screen at DC LaborFest was a big deal at the time.

There are a lot of great films out there about work and workers, and we don’t just show the usual documentaries that people expect us to show. We have shown romantic comedies that have a labor angle, science fiction films, children’s films. We really want to be able to have a whole variety of stuff.

Q: Any last words?

CG: The labor film poster collection is in the AFL-CIO lobby now. It’s gorgeous and it’s free, and people can drop by and enjoy it anytime they want. The big poster out front is "Matewan."

For more information, visit dclabor.org/dc-laborfest.html.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 04/27/2017 - 15:42

Tags: DC LaborFest, Labor 411

IUPAT Members Take a Day to Give Back

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 12:55
IUPAT Members Take a Day to Give Back IUPAT

On April 22, more than 2,000 members of the Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) across the United States and Canada put their hearts and skills to work for their neighbors to honor the union’s second annual IUPAT Community Day of Action.

With materials donated by the IUPAT, union employers and industry partners, volunteers teamed with community groups to clean up, paint, and replace the windows of churches, schools and community centers across North America. IUPAT volunteers also worked with a number of organizations to collect food and to cook for and feed those in need.

The goal of the Community Day of Action is to show the world that the members of the IUPAT and the rest of the labor movement are more than advocates for fair wages, rights and benefits on the job. They are good neighbors who have a long tradition of building up their communities. The IUPAT Community Day of Action is yet one more example of how organized labor is a positive force for working families—both union and nonunion.

IUPAT General President Kenneth Rigmaiden said:

It is our hope that the work we have done today, coast to coast in the United States and Canada, will inspire others to do their part for our communities. I'm proud of our members who have dedicated their time, their skills and their hearts to such worthy causes, and I truly believe that we made a difference. It shows just how much a united group of volunteers can accomplish in one day. My thanks to our community partners for helping us make our second annual Community Day of Action a success.

It was a great day (that's not over yet) where one union made a difference across North America in just one day!

The Painters and Allied Trades represents men and women in the United States and Canada who work in the finishing trades—commercial and industrial painting, drywall finishing, glazing and glass work, sign and display, and floor covering installation, among other crafts. Learn more about the IUPAT at IUPAT.org and follow us on Twitter @GoIUPAT.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 04/27/2017 - 13:55

Call Now to Oppose the Harmful New Republican Health Care Plan

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 12:20
Call Now to Oppose the Harmful New Republican Health Care Plan AFL-CIO

Public opposition to Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act has been overwhelming. Americans have flocked to town halls across the country to speak out against these plans. Poll after poll shows that Americans don't want their health care taken away by Republicans who know that their own legislation is so bad that they are trying to exempt themselves from it. They claim they have a new plan, but the new one is even worse than the old plan.

The latest version of the Republican health care repeal plan will:

  • Gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions by eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee of affordable coverage, allowing insurance companies to charge some people as much as they want.
  • Strip health care from about 24 million people and raise premiums for millions by 20%.
  • Eliminate the guarantee that insurance companies cover maternity care, cancer treatments and substance abuse care.
  • Give away nearly $600 billion in tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, including nearly $200,000 each in a single year for the wealthiest 0.1% of Americans.
  • Increase out-of-pocket premiums for older Americans by as much as $12,900 and allow health insurance companies to charge older Americans five times what they charge younger people—effectively establishing an "age tax."
  • Slash Medicaid by $839 billion and end the program as we know it, leading to the rationing of care for children, seniors and people with disabilities.
  • End Medicaid expansion, meaning 11 million working families, children, people with disabilities, hardworking families and seniors would have lost their insurance.
  • Subsidize tax cuts for the wealthy by maintaining a scheduled 40% tax on the health benefits of millions of working families.
  • Eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, putting care for 2.5 million patients nationwide at risk.
  • Disproportionately hurt Americans living in rural areas and in some cases it would have caused a consumer’s plan to exceed their annual income.

Call your representative today at 866-829-3298 and tell them to vote NO on this desperate attempt by the GOP to make health care worse for Americans while enriching the few.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 04/27/2017 - 13:20

Top Findings from the 2017 Death on the Job Report

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 14:55
Top Findings from the 2017 Death on the Job Report AFL-CIO

In 2015, 150 workers died each day from hazardous working conditions. This year is the 26th year the AFL-CIO has published a report on the state of safety and health in the workplace, Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, which compiled 2015 injury and fatality data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and FY 2016 enforcement data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Here are some of the findings from the report:

What industries are most dangerous?

Deaths on the job are increasing for people who work in construction, transportation, agriculture, forestry and fishing. People working in logging, fishing, roofing, truck-driving and landscaping occupations were particularly at high risk of dying on the job.

Who is at the highest risk of dying on the job?

In 2015, the number and rate of Latino worker deaths increased significantly, while other workers’ risks decreased. Almost the entire increase in Latino deaths was among immigrant workers, and workers in construction, transportation and agriculture. California accounted for half of the increase in Latino worker deaths. Latino workers have a fatality rate that is now 18% higher than the overall working population.

Older people are dying on the job at a higher rate than the overall workforce population. People ages 65 and older are nearly three times more likely to die from work-related causes.

What about serious injuries or getting sick from work?

Many working people have work-related injuries and illnesses that are severe and debilitating, and impact their livelihoods. It’s estimated that 6-9 million people become seriously injured at work, or become sick from toxic chemicals. We need to make sure workers can report injuries at work without fear of retaliation, and need a better system for counting occupational illnesses.

The number of workplace violence injuries is a growing problem, particularly in health care. In 2015, more than 26,000 workplace violence injuries were reported and the rate of injuries in state government health care facilities is staggering. These injuries can and should be prevented through commonsense prevention programs in a workplace violence standard.            

What are we doing to prevent workplace deaths?

OSHA—the agency in charge of protecting all working people in the United States—has consistently been underfunded, understaffed and penalties remain too low to be a deterrent for employers. The average federal OSHA penalty for a serious violation is only $2,402. Twenty-six years ago, federal OSHA had the capacity to inspect each workplace once every 84 years; now that capacity is once every 159 years.

Unions are fighting to keep the job protections that we have won, for stronger safeguards on the job, and for improved OSHA resources to keep workers safe.

Have workplaces gotten safer and what does the future hold?

Since the OSHA law was passed in 1970, workplaces have gotten safer and job fatalities and injuries have declined: More than 553,000 workers’ lives have been saved. Under the Obama administration, OSHA and MSHA strengthened enforcement, issued new safeguards on silica, coal dust and other hazards, and expanded workers' rights. But now, under the Trump administration, this progress is threatened. President Trump already has repealed two worker safety rules and delayed others. He has proposed to slash the budget for the Department of Labor and job safety research and to eliminate worker safety and health training programs and the Chemical Safety Board. Workers’ safety and health is in danger. 

What can be done to prevent workplace deaths?

We must defend the worker safety and health protections we have won, and we must move forward. We will continue working for safe jobs for our union brothers and sisters, as well as fighting for protections and representation for all working people.

The nation must renew its commitment to protect workers from injury, disease and death.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 04/25/2017 - 15:55

Tags: Death on the Job Report

Trump’s Tax Plan Is a Massive Giveaway to the Wealthy Few

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 15:10
Trump’s Tax Plan Is a Massive Giveaway to the Wealthy Few 401(k) 2012

President Donald Trump is working on a new tax plan. Reports suggest that Trump wants to cut the corporate tax rate to 15%. That proposal could have serious long-term consequences for the United States—estimates show this will reduce revenue by $2.4 trillion in the first decade—and it amounts to little more than a massive giveaway to big corporations. Trump proposed the same tax cut for big corporations during the presidential campaign, as part of a larger tax plan that also included tax giveaways for the wealthy at a total cost of $7.2 trillion. We'll have to wait to see what the details of the plan are, but it's important that any tax plan help working people.

This is what a plan that actually works for working people would look like:

Big corporations and the wealthy must pay their fair share of taxes: Our rigged and broken tax system lets big corporations and the wealthy avoid paying their fair share of taxes, sticking the rest of us with the tab. Any tax reform proposal must not cut taxes for big corporations or the wealthy. On the contrary, tax reform should restore taxes on the wealthiest estates and tax the income of investors as much as the income of working people. It's imperative that tax reform make our tax system more progressive than it is now. Big corporations and the wealthy must pay more in taxes than they pay now, so we can build an economy that works for all of us.

Tax reform must raise significantly more revenue: Tax reform must raise enough additional revenue over the long term to create good jobs and make the public investment we need in education, infrastructure and meeting the needs of children, families, seniors and communities. Any tax reform that reduces revenues in the short term or the long term is unacceptable. Additionally, cost estimates must be honest and not rely on gimmicks that hide the true long-term cost of tax cuts.

Tax reform must eliminate the tax incentive for corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore: Taxing offshore profits less than domestic profits creates an incentive for corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore, while giving global corporations a competitive advantage over domestic corporations. Tax reform must eliminate the tax incentive for corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore, a move that would raise nearly $1 trillion over 10 years. Reform must not include a “territorial” system that further reduces taxes on offshore profits and would increase the tax incentive for global corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore. Tax reform also must encourage investment in domestic manufacturing, production and employment to ensure a robust manufacturing sector.

Global corporations must pay what they owe on past profits held offshore: Global corporations owe an estimated $700 billion in taxes on the $2.6 trillion in past profits they are holding offshore. Tax reform should use these one-time-only tax revenues to increase smart public investment in infrastructure rather than cut corporate tax rates permanently. The higher the tax rate on these accumulated offshore earnings, the more funding will be available for public investment in infrastructure.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/24/2017 - 16:10

Tags: Donald Trump

Another Organizing Victory in the South: Georgia’s Nestlé Workers Vote to Join RWDSU

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 14:28
Another Organizing Victory in the South: Georgia’s Nestlé Workers Vote to Join RWDSU

Contrary to many claims by pundits, amateur or professional, working people are showing, more and more, that they do want to organize their workplaces in the South. The latest victory comes from McDonough, Georgia, where employees at Nestlé’s logistics and shipping center voted to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

The Nestlé employees are fighting for a voice on the job, fair treatment, job security and fair wages. More than 100 working people will be represented by RWDSU. The workers handle shipping and logistics for Nestlé’s food product packaging.

Stuart Appelbaum, RWDSU’s president, said:

These workers have been through a lot in the past few months both personally and at work, and it is time that their voices are heard and that they are treated both respectfully and fairly by Nestlé. Nestlé’s workers deserve a strong union voice at the bargaining table, and we are proud to be representing the 102 workers in McDonough, Georgia, as we work to secure a fair contract.

Edgar Fields, president of RWDSU’s Southeast Council, lauded the Nestlé employees:

The people of Georgia are fighters, and the workers at Nestlé here in McDonough are a force to be reckoned with—and I could not be prouder to represent them. Neither union-busting efforts nor flood and gale-force winds could deter these workers from defending their right to organize, and now it’s our turn to fight for them. We are ready.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/24/2017 - 15:28

Tags: RWDSU, Nestlé

Yes, the Republican Health Plan Is Still that Bad

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 12:39
Yes, the Republican Health Plan Is Still that Bad

Big health care cuts and huge tax cuts for the wealthy few are back on the front burner for Congress. President Donald Trump is now saying he expects to have a deal with congressional Republicans for a health plan this week or shortly thereafter.

Just a month ago, Trump said he was moving on to do tax cuts instead of health care after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) failed to get enough votes in the House of Representatives for their bill repealing the Affordable Care Act.

The deal Trump and congressional Republicans are trying to cut now is really just the old plan from March with a few changes trying to paper over differences among House Republicans.

The old plan was clearly bad for working people and retirees. Congress’ budget experts said it would take health benefits away from 24 million people, including by cutting the number of people with Medicaid by 14 million and those with benefits at work by 7 million, and spike out-of-pocket premiums and other costs for millions more people. At the same time, the Republican plan would also be a massive wealth transfer to the wealthy few. It would give the average millionaire household a $50,000 per year tax cut and prescription drug and insurance companies hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks.

So, what is in the plan now? Pretty much all of the bad stuff from the old plan—that is, it is still a massive tax cut paid for by cutting health care for working families and retirees—plus more.

Based on news reports, the Republican plan still:

  • Jacks up individual premiums for older people, as well as those with lower incomes and living in areas with high medical costs.
  • Takes away help for people who struggle to pay high insurance deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance.
  • Guts Medicaid by phasing out the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility to more working-age adults and ending the federal funding guarantee in favor of a fixed-dollar contribution.
  • Cuts Medicare funding to give a huge tax break to the wealthy few and prescription drug companies.
  • Taxes the health benefits of millions of working people with high-cost health coverage.

What changes in their revised plan? To meet the demands of some House Republicans who want even bigger health care cuts, the new Republican plan also lets states decide whether to get rid of certain protections.

According to a leaked document, states will be given the option to get rid of the so-called “essential health benefits” rules, which require insurance to cover a minimum set of benefits, such as prescription drugs, emergency care and maternity coverage. The earlier plan would have eliminated this minimum benefit requirement outright. Now, a state will have to ask the federal government for a waiver. In exchange for a waiver, a state will simply have to say—but not prove—that the purpose of these changes is to reduce premiums, increase coverage or advance some other benefit to the state.

Under the new plan, a state also can get rid of the ACA protection against an insurance company charging higher premiums for someone with a pre-existing condition. Where this happens, someone with a pre-existing condition could end up paying a whole lot more just to get basic health insurance. According to a recent estimate by the Center for American Progress, insurance companies likely would charge a 40-year-old with diabetes an extra $5,510 per year and someone with certain cancers as much as $140,510 more.

In exchange for letting insurance companies do this, a state would need to have a so-called high-risk pool. These are arrangements set up by governments to offer coverage to people who cannot get or afford insurance anywhere else because they have costly conditions. These pools existed before the ACA and were notorious for not working very well. Premiums were still high, and the programs were so poorly funded that only a small fraction of the people who needed them could get in.

The new Republican plan also would create a so-called “invisible” reinsurance program. Very little has been revealed about this, but the basic idea is each state would run a program that pays for some of insurance companies’ costs for people with expensive conditions. The federal funding for this would be so low, however, that the big cuts in the rest of the Republican plan swamp any impact from it. The Center for American Progress estimates the average enrollee would have to pay $3,000 more by 2020 under this plan.

What’s the bottom line for the revised Republican plan? The more things change, the worse they get.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/24/2017 - 13:39

Tags: ACA

The Working People Weekly List

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 09:53
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.

Retired Miners Lament Trump’s Silence on Imperiled Health Plan: "Donald J. Trump made coal miners a central metaphor of his presidential campaign, promising to 'put our miners back to work' and look after their interests in a way that the Obama administration did not. Now, three months into his presidency, comes a test of that promise. Unless Congress intervenes by late April, government-funded health benefits will abruptly lapse for more than 20,000 retired miners, concentrated in Trump states that include Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Many of the miners have serious health problems arising from their years in the mines."

Six Questions for Labor's Top Workplace Safety Expert: "Already we’ve seen the Trump administration repeal two important workplace safety rules. They’ve proposed the elimination of funding for worker safety and health training programs."

AFL-CIO: Tax Reform Should Increase Taxes for Wealthy: "The AFL-CIO on Monday pressed its tax reform priorities, pushing back against concepts likely to be included in a Republican bill. 'Big corporations and the wealthy must pay more in taxes than they pay now, so we can build an economy that works for all of us,' the group said."

The Human Cost Of Trump’s Rollback On Regulations: "After numerous efforts under other presidents failed, the Obama administration finally tightened the regulations covering silica last year, further restricting the amount of dust that employers can legally expose workers to. The tougher standards were 45 years in the making, the subject of in-depth scientific research and intense lobbying by business groups and safety experts. When the rules were finalized in March 2016, occupational health experts hailed them as a life-saving milestone. But now the enforcement of the rules has been delayed ― and the rules themselves could be in jeopardy."

Unionized Scientists March in Protest of Attacks on Science and Jobs: "Of all the attacks on our civil society, the attacks on evidence-based science pose perhaps the greatest existential threat. Decisions being made about climate science and environmental protection at this critical time will shape the future of our planet."

We Need Tax Reform That Works for Working People: "Tomorrow, Americans will fulfill our civic duty of paying taxes to a system that is far from perfect or fair. As Congress reportedly is working on a plan to reform it, the AFL-CIO has a simple framework for what a serious proposal should include and what should not be included. These are the standards we will judge it by..."

Joe Arpaio's Infamous Arizona Tent City Closing: "By the time former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio lost his re-election bid in 2016, he was widely thought of as one of the worst sheriffs in the country, if not the worst. He was known for harsh anti-immigrant policies, accusations of racial profiling, misuse of funds and any number of other complaints—and the perfect symbol of everything wrong with his way of approaching law enforcement was Tent City."

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/24/2017 - 10:53

Bluegrass State Union Members Accept Teacher’s Invitation to Teach Labor History at Her High School

Sun, 04/23/2017 - 09:48
Bluegrass State Union Members Accept Teacher’s Invitation to Teach Labor History at Her High School Berry Craig

A bumper sticker was John Coomes’ “teacher’s certificate” at Henderson County High School in Henderson, Ky., his hometown.

“It said, ‘China is a right-to-work state since 1949,’” explained the Henderson-based Tri-County Labor Council president, who just finished a second daylong labor history presentation at HCHS, one of the largest schools in western Kentucky.

Coomes’ cup runneth over.

“We were there last year and have been invited back next year,” said the 66-year-old retiree from Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 136, based in Evansville, Ind., across the Ohio River from Henderson.

“Everybody—the teachers, the students—has been very supportive. This is a great way to teach these millennials about unions, which have gotten beaten up pretty badly in Kentucky lately.”

The just-concluded session of the Republican-majority state Legislature passed a trio of union-busting bills—“right to work,” prevailing wage repeal and a paycheck deception measure.

Tea party-tilting, union-despising GOP Gov. Matt Bevin gleefully signed the legislation.

“We wanted the students to know how these bills hurt everybody and not just union members,” Coomes said.

“We” included a trio of helpers: Marty Owens, Larry Parsons and Butch Puttman, all from Laborers Local 1392 in Owensboro, Ky., about 30 miles upriver from Henderson.

“We were in the auditorium all day,” said Coomes, who also sits on the Kentucky State AFL-CIO Executive Board.

The session was a reprise from the 2016 program, which stemmed from the bright red sticker showing an outline of China and the familiar hammer-and-sickle Communist symbol.

Coomes, who worked out of Local 136 for 47 years, happened to be handing out the stickers last year. When HCHS history and government teacher Ginger Stovall spied them, she had to have one.

“She’s my niece,” Coomes explained.

Uncle John wasn’t sure whether to give her one. “Knowing that her family is Republican, I asked her what she was going to do with it. I said, ‘If you put it on your car, your family is going to be upset.’

“She said, ‘Oh, no. I’m going to put it on my bulletin board in class.’ She also said she spends a week teaching about unions.”

Then she popped the question to her kin: “Could you bring someone in to help me teach the history of unions?”

Uncle John was happy to oblige. He summoned Louisville, Ky., labor lawyer Dave Suetholz. “Dave was very gracious to do this for us last year. He taught five classes and probably saw over 500 kids.”

Coomes got the stickers from Tim Donoghue, president of the Erlanger, Ky.-based Northern Kentucky Central Labor Council. “We are using the bumper stickers to educate our new members as well as the public,” he explained.

“I get to teach labor history at Lloyd High School in Erlanger, and l have contacted several other schools. I like to stress to our council delegates and union leaders that we must get involved in school board elections and demand our story be told.”

This year, Coomes’ program grew into seven classes with about 700 students participating. It was held in conjunction with career day.

He said representatives of unions, mostly building trades, constituted about “a third of everybody who was there. I felt really good about that.”

He said Parsons did most of the history teaching. “After he finished, I’d talk about my career and plug the building trades at career day,” Coomes said.

Meanwhile, he and Madisonville, Ky., resident Kevin Walton of United Steelworkers Local 9443 in Robards, Ky., are working on a labor history CD. Walton, the central labor council vice president and COPE director and a state AFL-CIO board member, helped with the 2016 program. But this year he was away at the USW’s convention in Las Vegas.

“We really want the CD to have a wow factor with slides and photos,” Coomes said. “We want it professionally done. It’s a great way to show high school students how bad unions have been mistreated and what unions do for all working people, not just union members.”

This is a guest post from Berry Craig, a retired member of AFT Local 1360. It originally appeared at Kentucky State AFL-CIO.

Kenneth Quinnell Sun, 04/23/2017 - 10:48

Unionized Scientists March in Protest of Attacks on Science and Jobs

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 12:34
Unionized Scientists March in Protest of Attacks on Science and Jobs IFPTE Local 20

Of all the attacks on our civil society, the attacks on evidence-based science pose perhaps the greatest existential threat. Decisions being made about climate science and environmental protection at this critical time will shape the future of our planet.

Advances in research are produced by the twin pillars of dedicated scientists and an activated citizenry who demand that the best science be applied to today’s most pressing problems. Because scientists produce the facts that expose the lies currently being purveyed, the tip of the spear is pointed at the heart of science-based policy and research.

But the imminent threat also presents an extraordinary opportunity for the scientific community to unify around a message of resistance, one in which organized labor has a critical role to play. Unionized scientists are well-positioned to fight back against the false narratives being pushed by the administration and to advocate collectively for continued funding of crucial basic research. Science professionals need a workplace free from fear of corporate power and political malfeasance influencing their results. We are the protectors of truth and facts, and in that way we all are in service to the public. With scientific integrity, we speak truth to power.

Budget cuts are the beginning of the attack. For example, the Donald Trump administration is proposing a 31% cut in funding and 21% cut in workforce at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on top of less-heralded budget cuts over the past three years. Such low funding levels have not been seen since the 1970s, prior to the enactment of most of our national environmental laws. Enforcement is also targeted, crippling the EPA’s ability to protect human health.

Is this a good way to save money? Investments in environmental protection pay huge dividends for the country. For example, air pollution reductions will avoid 230,000 premature deaths and produce total benefits valued at $2 trillion in 2020, according to a 2011 study. This benefit exceeds costs by more than 30-to-1, to say nothing of the human suffering.

Scientists have long held the view that with enough data and evidence we will be able to convince skeptics that climate change is real, that humans are responsible and that immediate action must be taken. It is increasingly clear that this approach has not worked.

For the nearly 7,000 postdoctoral researchers at the University of California and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab represented by UAW Local 5810, having a union ensures strong workplace protections as well as a powerful, nationwide platform for advocacy when research comes under threat. And the collective power of the union is not limited to the workplace.

With a diverse membership that includes both higher education and the manufacturing sector, the UAW has been a leading advocate for climate change policies that both create healthy communities and address economic and racial inequities. And at the EPA, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 20/Engineers and Scientists of California (ESC) has rallied in opposition to the cuts and will continue to speak out, including in San Francisco at the March for Science.

Make no mistake. As organized scientists, we are in solidarity with our union brothers and sisters who have lost jobs and real income steadily over the past several decades. We support the creation of jobs in clean energy sectors and in green infrastructure projects. 

It is time for scientists and the citizenry who depend on science to embrace our responsibility to advocate for sound policies. Our very lives and livelihood are now dependent on stepping collectively forward into the realm of political advocacy and action.

Together we will March for Science on April 22, in opposition to the damage that the current administration seeks to do to research and in solidarity with scientists, researchers, and concerned citizens who remain resolved, undeterred, and organized in the face of these threats.

Carly Ebben Eaton is a postdoctoral scholar and executive board member of UAW Local 5810. Kathy Setian was a project manager at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a steward of IFPTE Local 20, Engineers and Scientists of California. She will be a speaker at the April 22 March for Science in San Francisco.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 04/18/2017 - 13:34

We Need Tax Reform That Works for Working People

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 10:00
We Need Tax Reform That Works for Working People Getty Images

Tomorrow, Americans will fulfill our civic duty of paying taxes to a system that is far from perfect or fair. As Congress reportedly is working on a plan to reform it, the AFL-CIO has a simple framework for what a serious proposal should include, and what should not be included. These are the standards we will judge it by:

Big corporations and the wealthy must pay their fair share of taxes: Our rigged and broken tax system lets big corporations and the wealthy avoid paying their fair share of taxes, sticking the rest of us with the tab. Any tax reform proposal must not cut taxes for big corporations or the wealthy. On the contrary, tax reform should restore taxes on the wealthiest estates and tax the income of investors as much as the income of working people. It's imperative that tax reform make our tax system more progressive than it is now. Big corporations and the wealthy must pay more in taxes than they pay now, so we can build an economy that works for all of us.

Tax reform must raise significantly more revenue: Tax reform must raise enough additional revenue over the long term to create good jobs and make the public investment we need in education, infrastructure, and meeting the needs of children, families, seniors, and communities. Any tax reform that reduces revenues in the short term or the long term is unacceptable. Additionally, cost estimates must be honest and not rely on gimmicks that hide the true long-term cost of tax cuts.

Tax reform must eliminate the tax incentive for corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore: Taxing offshore profits less than domestic profits creates an incentive for corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore, while giving global corporations a competitive advantage over domestic corporations. Tax reform must eliminate the tax incentive for corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore, a move that would raise nearly $1 trillion over 10 years. Reform must not include a “territorial” system that further reduces taxes on offshore profits and would increase the tax incentive for global corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore.  Tax reform must also encourage investment in domestic manufacturing, production, and employment to ensure a robust manufacturing sector.

Global corporations must pay what they owe on past profits held offshore: Global corporations owe an estimated $700 billion in taxes on the $2.6 trillion in past profits they are holding offshore. Tax reform should use these one-time-only tax revenues to increase smart public investment in infrastructure rather than cut corporate tax rates permanently. The higher the tax rate on these accumulated offshore earnings, the more funding will be available for public investment in infrastructure.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/17/2017 - 11:00

Tags: Tax Fairness

Joe Arpaio's Infamous Ariz. Tent City Closing

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 10:57
Joe Arpaio's Infamous Ariz. Tent City Closing

By the time former Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio lost his re-election bid in 2016, he was widely thought of as one of the worst sheriffs in the country, if not the worst. He was known for harsh anti-immigrant policies, accusations of racial profiling, misuse of funds and any number of other complaints—and the perfect symbol of everything wrong with his way of approaching law enforcement was Tent City.

Bearing signs with the horrible pun “In-Tents unit” (“intense,” get it?), Tent City was Arpaio’s silly “get tough on crime” idea. And it quickly gave Maricopa County, and Arizona, a reputation as a place where revenge and hate were the driving principles behind law enforcement, an approach as inefficient and ineffective as it is immoral.

Since 1993, as many as 1,700 inmates at a time were housed in a 7-acre plot of tents. Inmates were forced to wear stereotypical black-and-white striped prison uniforms and, seriously, pink underwear. This is the type of man Arpaio is. He wants prisoners not only to pay their debt to society but to be humiliated—and he thinks making men wear pink underwear is the way to do it.

More serious were accusations of inhumane conditions at the facility, where the Arizona heat could reach 110 degrees during the hottest parts of the year. Prisoners complained of expired food and undrinkable water.

Contrary to Arpaio’s claims, evidence shows that Tent City was not only an ineffective crime deterrent, but expensive as well. Newly elected sheriff Paul Penzone said closing it will save millions of dollars, making the prison more efficient, more effective, and safer for both inmates and prison employees:

The image of the tents as a deterrent to recidivism, and as a symbol of being tough on crime may have been true in the past. Today it is only a myth. Tent City is no longer an effective, efficient facility. It has been effective only as a distraction. The circus is over; the tents are coming down.

It’s good to see that this shameful part of Arizona, and American, history is finally ending.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 04/13/2017 - 11:57

Tags: Joe Arpaio

The Plan Behind a Chicago Project to Lift Up Working People

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 10:23
The Plan Behind a Chicago Project to Lift Up Working People Brooke Collins City of Chicago

Manufacturing jobs have been on a steady decline for several years because of trade deals, technological advancements and economic recessions. Despite this, manufacturing remains one of the most important sectors of the U.S. economy, employing more than 12 million workers, or about 9% of the total U.S. employment.

American cities continue to spend billions each year to buy major equipment, such as buses and railcars for public transportation systems. This spending has the potential to support tens of thousands of good manufacturing jobs. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, there will be 533,000 good middle-skill manufacturing jobs available over the next decade.

Jobs to Move Americais working with labor, business, community and governmental groups around the country to ensure money spent on building transportation infrastructure is also used to promote equity and bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States. The organization also is advocating for workforce development and training programs that prepare working people for high-skilled careers that will help them succeed in the 21st-century economy.

Jobs to Move America and community partners recently managed to ensure a project in Chicago will create good jobs and long-term economic opportunities for the community. JMA worked with the Chicago Federation of Labor, the city of Chicago and the Chicago Transit Authority for four years to ensure that the U.S. Employment Plan was included as part of the CTA’s latest $1.3 billion project, which will supply up to 846 new railcars and replace about half of the CTA’s current fleet. The employment plan is a toolbox of policy resources transit agencies can include as part of their request for proposals to encourage bus and rail manufacturers to train and create good high-skilled U.S. jobs in communities that need it most.

The company that won the contract, CRRC Sifang America committed to building a new $100 million unionized facility on Chicago’s South Side, the first in 36 years. The company will spend $7.2 million to train 300 factory and construction workers. Additionally, CRRC has signed on to a community benefits agreement guaranteeing support for South Side residents and is part of a workforce-labor-business consortium that received a $4 million Department of Labor grant to develop an apprenticeship and training program, and a pipeline into manufacturing jobs in Chicago.

The work of JMA with labor and community partners leveraged a robust manufacturing jobs program that will strengthen the middle class, stimulate increased investment in new domestic manufacturing facilitie, and create opportunities for low-income communities. Most importantly, the Chicago work has set a precedent for the rest of the country, lifting up standards and creating a model for how communities and business can and should work together.

The idea behind JMA’s work is simple. There is a need to reframe the discussion about good jobs and economic prosperity away from a "cheapest is best" approach to a broader discussion about the economic impact of using taxpayer dollars to create good jobs, especially for those historically excluded from the manufacturing sector, like women and people of color.

Take, for instance, Kristian Mendoza in the Los Angeles area, a veteran who was struggling to find a good-paying job after his service. He was forced to commute to a job an hour-and-a-half each way from his home. The job paid so little he could barely afford the gas to get there and did not have the resources to take care of his two young children.

Because of the work of the JMA coalition in Los Angeles, a U.S. Employment Plan was implemented in a project of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Part of the agreement is a community-labor partnership with Kinkisharyo, the company that won that bid. The company committed to hiring and exploring skills training for disadvantaged U.S. workers. To date, the company has exceeded its commitments, employing some 400 workers, most of whom are people of color in a unionized factory.

Mendoza is one of the 400. After struggling for years, he has been able to move out of his family’s home and into a place close to the Kinkisharyo factory.

The JMA team is now working on multiple projects across the country, monitoring the industry for upcoming opportunities to maximize public transportation dollars and ensure there are more success stories like Mendoza’s.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/12/2017 - 11:23

Tags: Jobs to Move America

100 Days into the 115th Congress, We Examine How They've Spent Their Time

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 11:47
100 Days into the 115th Congress, We Examine How They've Spent Their Time Gage Skidmore

In his first address to the newly sworn in 115th Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) posed the following question: “Find one person [in this chamber] who doesn’t want to help the unemployed, or care for the sick, or educate the young…who here among us does not want to open wide the door to opportunity?”

Now as we're 100 days and counting into the 115th Congress, their actions give us the answer.

Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are certainly trying to “open wide the doors of opportunity,” but only if you are a CEO who profits by cutting corners on workers' health and safety, or siphoning off millions from their retirement accounts.

For people who are unemployed, both Ryan and McConnell supported a budget plan that would drastically cut back on job training, Meals on Wheels and education funding for children with disabilities.

For the sick, the Republican leaders tried to gut Obamacare and replace it with a plan that would deprive 24 million Americans of health insurance, tax working peoples’ benefits, slash Medicaid benefits for the elderly and people with disabilities, and jeopardize the future of Medicare for seniors.

And for education, they confirmed an education secretary who spent her billions undermining public education and attacking teachers.

During the first 100 days, the House voted 15 times and the Senate 13 times to wipe out Obama-era regulations that were protecting Americans from workplace hazards. They even removed one rule that requires corporations to simply keep accurate records of injuries, so they can be avoided in the future. 

They voted to let CEOs cover up their past employment violations when they apply for new taxpayer-funded government contracts. The House passed several bills that will give corporations more power to stop federal regulators from passing commonsense safeguards in the future.  

Just this week, they put a champion for corporate America on the U.S. Supreme Court and are working on a tax plan that would further reduce taxes on corporations and the rich while starving programs that support needy families.

One thing Congress didn’t seem to have time for was passing critical legislation that would keep the promise made to more than 22,000 retired coal miners who will lose their federally guaranteed health benefits on April 30.

Find one person in Congress who isn’t for helping the unemployed, the sick and the young? During the first 100 days, there were enough of them to form a voting majority in the U.S. House and Senate.

Jackie Tortora Tue, 04/11/2017 - 12:47

Register for Webinar on Union Support for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Workers

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 10:46
Register for Webinar on Union Support for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Workers Labor Project for Working Families

It isn't just the rights of union members that increasingly are under attack in the current political environment; we are also seeing a growing number of attacks on the rights of women in the workplace. It's critical that pregnant and breastfeeding workers are included in our efforts to fight corporate greed and the legislative attacks that come along with that greed. During and after pregnancy, working women face increased job security and unfair treatment. Unions are in a good position to fight back in solidarity with those workers.

Join us Tuesday, April 18, for a live webinar from 2-3 p.m. ET, as the Labor Project for Working Families, the Center for Worklife Law and the AFL-CIO host a workshop on the role that unions can play in promoting protections for pregnant and breastfeeding workers. The presenters include: Carol Joyner, the director of the Labor Project for Working Families; Tiffany Beroid, a United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) member and past leader of "Respect the Bump"; Yona Rozen, associate general counsel for the AFL-CIO; and Liz Morris, the deputy director of the Center for WorkLife Law. The program is ideal for shop stewards and labor educators looking to understand what legal rights pregnant and breastfeeding workers have under federal and state law, and how to use common collective bargaining agreement terms to ensure fair treatment.

Register now for the webinar at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5292752489627736066.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 04/11/2017 - 11:46

Tags: Labor Project for Working Families

Congress Should Keep Promises to Mine Workers

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 12:57
Congress Should Keep Promises to Mine Workers UMWA

Starting in the years after World War II, mine workers were an important part of the American economy. They did the hard, dangerous work that helped make sure the country prospered. Without them, the country could have been a much different place. And we promised them that we, as a country, would take care of their health care and retirement for their service. If Congress doesn't act soon, many retired mine workers could lose their health care and pensions.

Congress has until April 30 to pass legislation that would make sure we continue to keep this promise. On that day, the extension Congress passed in December will expire, as will funding for many retired mine workers' health care.

Call 855-976-9914 to tell Congress to pass the Miners Protection Act.

UMWA President Cecil Roberts spoke to the importance of passing the Miners Protection Act, which was introduced this year by West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin (D) and Shelley Moore Capito (R):

We believe something will be done about the health care for 22,600 retirees and their dependents by the end of April, because if that doesn’t happen, they will lose their health coverage. I don’t believe the leadership on either side wants to see that happen.

We’ve got bipartisan support to this. It’s got to happen with respect to the health care.

No other group of workers actually was promised this by the United States government. These people earned these benefits. This is not a handout. This is not welfare. This is something these people are entitled to because they worked for it and energized this nation.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addressed the legislation in his speech before the National Press Club last week:

Today UMWA retirees are on Capitol Hill lobbying for a fair retirement deal. Over 20,000 health care cut-off notices have been sent out and benefits are set to expire on April 30. We have a responsibility to keep our promise to America’s coal miners. Congress should send the Miners Protection Act to President Trump’s desk today.

Mining was a dangerous and difficult job and my family was not rich by any stretch. But unionism gave us a ladder to the middle class, and I got to climb it.

For too many people, that ladder is gone. We’re going to have to rebuild it. Rung by rung.

Follow the story with the hashtag #TheyEarnedIt and watch the video below to hear more about the story: 

 

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/10/2017 - 13:57

98,000 Jobs Added to the Economy in March, Unemployment Is 4.5%

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 07:22
98,000 Jobs Added to the Economy in March, Unemployment Is 4.5%

The U.S. economy added 98,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate declined to 4.5%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The U.S. economy added 98,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate declined to 4.5%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

While the job growth was tepid in March, and the revisions for the numbers for January and February are weaker than earlier reported, the economy is continuing close to the trend of job growth that started under President Barack Obama. If we continue the trend of job growth over the past seven years he established, the economy will add another 25 million jobs in eight years. Oddly, the claim President Donald Trump has made is that he will create 25 million jobs.

Still, wage growth needs time to recover as does the share of workers employed so household incomes can recover to their 1999 peak. With modest job gains in March, the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy needs to pause ahead of its proposed interest rate hike in June. The higher interest rates are meant to signal a return to normal, but we are not there, yet.

The biggest gains were in professional and business services (+56,000) and in mining (+11,000), while retail trade lost jobs (-30,000). Other sectors of note include health care (+14,000) and financial services (+9,000). According to BLS, construction employment saw little change in March (+6,000).

Employment in other major industries, including manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, leisure and hospitality, and government, showed little or no change over the month.

Among the demographic groups of working people, the unemployment rates for adult women (4.0%), white people (3.9%) and Hispanic people (5.1%) declined in March. The jobless rates for adult men (4.3%), teenagers (13.7%), black people (8.0%) and Asian people (3.3%) showed little or no change. 

Jackie Tortora Fri, 04/07/2017 - 08:22

Tags: jobs

Two Strangers and a Lifesaving Act of IBEW Brotherhood

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 14:52
Two Strangers and a Lifesaving Act of IBEW Brotherhood IBEW

This is a story about two brothers. One, a single father from Delaware, spends his days lashed to a painful but lifesaving dialysis machine, valuable time away from his three kids. The other, a first-year apprentice from Chicago, is ready to make an unthinkable sacrifice to put an end to that suffering.

This is a story about two brothers. 

One, a single father from Delaware, spends his days lashed to a painful but lifesaving dialysis machine, valuable time away from his three kids. The other, a first-year apprentice from Chicago, is ready to make an unthinkable sacrifice to put an end to that suffering.

Last August, we brought you the story of Dave Amalfitano, a journeyman wireman with Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 313, from Wilmington, Delaware. He suffers from polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder that causes cysts to grow on the kidneys, inflating them to many times their normal size.

His diagnosis, which killed his father and afflicts his brother as well, requires a kidney transplant. There is no other medical solution. Without it, he’ll be tied to a dialysis machine until he dies.

So Amalfitano reached out to everyone he knew. When that failed to turn up a match, last summer he asked his business manager, Doug Drummond, to put up an appeal for a kidney donor on the union hall’s marquee. Local news coverage turned up dozens who were willing to undergo blood tests looking for a match, but none were successful.

When the electrical worker called, Amalfitano hoped to reach a wider audience, but the odds were still stacked against him—until Robert Vargas, a complete stranger, called.

“I put myself in his shoes,” Vargas said after seeing the story on the back page of the union newspaper. “I don’t know what my family would do without me, so I called Dave and told him, ‘If I’m a match, you can have my kidney.’”

Vargas, a member of IBEW Local 9 in Chicago, is a husband to Gabriela and a father to 3-year-old daughter Mia. He chalks his chance encounter with Amalfitano’s story to a higher power. “God wanted me to read that story,” he said. “I don’t read the paper very often. I was brought to that page.”

After speaking to Amalfitano, he connected with a University of Maryland hospital caseworker and started a battery of tests, parting with nearly 20 vials of blood to see if he and Amalfitano were compatible.

“The results came back and our blood was a perfect match,” Vargas said. “I’d been telling people the entire time, if I pass, it’s for a reason, and now I know that reason is to save Dave and to help him live a long, healthy life with his kids.”

Now, Vargas just needs to complete a physical, which he’ll do partially in Chicago and partially at the University of Maryland, and then doctors will schedule the surgery.

“Dave and I talk almost every day now,” Vargas said. “We’ve become really close over the course of this, and I’m hopeful that the next steps happen quickly so we can get him back up and running.”

IBEW Local 9 first-year apprentice Rob Vargas, from Chicago, pictured here with wife, Gabriela, and daughter, Mia.

The major obstacles now are financial. Vargas is the sole provider for his family and could lose up to two months of work between doctors’ appointments, the surgery and a four-to-six-week recovery.

For Amalfitano, things have been hard since a medical complication forced him to quit working early last year. Despite an outpouring of generosity from members of Local 313 and the Wilmington community, he is in over his head financially. COBRA health insurance payments have been crippling, and the home he shares with daughter Anna, 15, and twin boys, Matthew and Leo, 13, has fallen into foreclosure.

“We’ll be OK,” Amalfitano said, “but Rob can’t make this enormous sacrifice of giving me a kidney unless we figure out a way to make up for the wages he’ll lose so he can keep taking care of his family. If we can raise enough to help save my house at the same time, that would be amazing.”

Vargas’ wife, Gabriela, has set up a fundraising page for the two of them, with the hopes of gathering enough to pay for both her family’s associated expenses and to help Amalfitano get out from under the foreclosure so he can have time to recover from the operation and return to work.

“So many people reached out wanting to help,” Amalfitano said. “But their blood type was wrong, or they weren’t a match. Rob is saving my life, but this is a way for other people who are touched by our story to help.”

IBEW 6th District International Vice President David Ruhmkorff said the sacrifice brother Vargas is prepared to make is in keeping with “the truest sense of brotherhood and solidarity.”

“It’s remarkable how the original article touched him, and it’s amazing what he’s stepping up to do,” Ruhmkorff said. “We talk about being the union of hearts and minds, but brother Vargas is showing us what the ‘heart’ part of that is really all about.”

For Amalfitano, he still hardly can believe Vargas found him and that his long, painful journey with this disease may finally be reaching its end.

“Rob is my lifesaver,” he said. “We both want this to work out so badly, and we’re so close to making it a reality. Thanks to the IBEW, thanks to the brotherhood we share through our union and, most of all, thanks to the gigantic heart of this young guy who’s willing to go through hell for me—a guy I didn’t even know until a few months ago—I can have a second chance.”

“That’s what it’s all about,” Vargas said. “I believe in second chances, and my brother Dave deserves his as much as any of us.”

 You can donate to help Dave and Rob at GoFundMe.com/HelpRobSaveDave.   

This post originally appeared on IBEW's website.           

Jackie Tortora Thu, 04/06/2017 - 15:52

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