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A Better Way to Vote

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 10:40
A Better Way to Vote yaquina

Imagine a state where voters never have to even wait in line or present a photo ID in order to get their ballot. Where bad weather, traffic jams, working late or child care duties never have to interfere with a citizen’s intent to exercise his or her democratic franchise.

A state where it’s the government’s obligation—if it knows a citizen is a registered voter—to deliver the ballot, not force the voter to go to a specific polling location or arrange for an absentee ballot.

Such a state is Oregon, where voters in 2000 approved by a more than 2-1 margin to create what can best be called a "Vote at Home" election system. Two other states—Washington and Colorado—have now adopted the same system, as have 21 of Utah’s 29 counties.

In Vote at Home systems, U.S. Postal Service letter carriers deliver a ballot to every active registered voter about two weeks before every election. Voters typically mark their ballots at home, then have the option of returning them by mail or taking them to any one of hundreds of ballot drop-sites around the state. Voters’ signatures on the return envelope are verified against voter registration cards before ballots can be counted, to ensure election integrity.

This week, former Oregon Secretary of State Phil Keisling will be in Washington, D.C., for an event the AFL-CIO is co-sponsoring with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) to talk about the many benefits of Vote at Home elections. Voters strongly approve of the system; it saves millions in taxpayer dollars in reduced election costs; and, perhaps most important of all, it spurs significantly higher voter turnout, especially in midterm elections. Keisling will be joined by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who was elected in 1996 in the nation’s first-ever federal election that used this system.

As America’s working men and women look ahead to future elections, Vote at Home seems like a simple, common-sense reform with exceptional power to reinvigorate American democracy. Just recently, a new organization—National Vote at Home Coalition—was launched to help support such efforts as a Vote at Home ballot measure campaign that was recently launched by progressive activists in South Dakota. Other ballot measure efforts also are being discussed for several other states, as well as legislative efforts in several other states.

In 2016, an estimated 60 million already registered voters didn’t cast a ballot—and more than 100 million didn’t in 2014. Maybe it’s time to start relying on the genius of Benjamin Franklin—and the U.S. Postal Service he created nearly 250 years ago—to start fixing that.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 10/17/2017 - 11:40

Partnership Brings Relief to Puerto Rico

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 09:20
Partnership Brings Relief to Puerto Rico AFL-CIO

As part of the response to the devastation in Puerto Rico, working people and United Airlines teamed up to fly more than 300 first responders and skilled volunteers to help with relief and rebuilding. The partnership was a response to an urgent request from Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz for highly skilled workers.

In response, Cruz said:

I will always remember and, most importantly, San Juan will never forget the sight of hope and redemption of brotherhood and sisterhood of more than 300 union brothers and sisters stepping out of their buses with open hearts to help those whose cry for help some have tried to dismiss and diminish. Your compassion, your skills, but most of all, your great heart has strengthened our bodies have rebuilt our buildings, but most of all has touched our souls. We know we are not alone, for we know the union movement will never forsake us....

Where there are problems to be fixed, you do not run away, you stand by us every step of the way....

You embody the true nature of the American spirit of compassion, ingenuity, and resilience....

Your presence here reassures us with our minds and with our hearts that all Puerto Ricans have seen that not only is it the right thing to do, but it is the path for the future. San Juan will never be able to pay the debt of gratitude, brotherhood, and sisterhood that will forever bond us together.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said:

Last week, I joined more than 300 hardworking union men and women who volunteered to help their fellow U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico and flew with them to San Juan in an airplane operated in partnership with United Airlines.

Nurses, doctors, engineers, carpenters, electricians, truck drivers and working people from different backgrounds joined together in a heartbeat and responded to the recovery efforts. Since landing, they have been working around the clock to help devastated communities.

Whether delivering critical aid, restoring power or saving lives—they are real life heroes and they’re making a real difference. And we’re in it for the long haul.

I could not be more proud to be part of a movement alongside these selfless and brave working women and men. We are proud of their work and honored to have a few of them join us today to tell you their personal accounts.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 10/17/2017 - 10:20

Texas Unions Partner with Mayor Turner to Send Supplies to Puerto Rico

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 15:05
Texas Unions Partner with Mayor Turner to Send Supplies to Puerto Rico AFL-CIO

The Seafarers (SIU) union and other Houston-area unions organized a relief drive to collect supplies for Puerto Rican hurricane survivors.

Yesterday, leaders from the Texas labor movement joined together with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner to load containers with vital supplies for a ship bound for Puerto Rico.

The Seafarers secured the shipping containers and organized with other local unions and the mayor’s office to collect materials being donated to Puerto Rican communities impacted by Hurricane Maria. Recent reports state that 85% of the island is still without electricity and 40% of the population still lack access to clean drinking water.

The cargo ship is delivering water, nonperishable food, toiletries, battery-powered electronics, mops, brooms and other desperately needed items to the Puerto Rico AFL-CIO in San Juan. The supplies will be shipped on the National Glory, a U.S.-flagged vessel owned and operated by National Shipping of America, that will be crewed by SIU members under the Jones Act. Plans to send more cargo to Puerto Rico are in the works.

"The labor movement is at its best when we work together during times of great need. We saw that here in Texas after Hurricane Harvey, and now we want to extend that help to Puerto Rico," said Zeph Capo, president of the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation.

Dean Corgey, vice president of the Gulf Coast Region of the Seafarers, said, "Mayor Turner has been a stalwart supporter of Houstonians and others harmed by hurricanes recently. We’re proud to be partnering with the mayor on this effort to bring aid to Puerto Rico."

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 10/16/2017 - 16:05

Why the Best Protectors for Workers Are Other Workers

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 15:05
Why the Best Protectors for Workers Are Other Workers IAFF

As concertgoers fled the mass shooting at the country music festival outside the Mandalay Bay in Clark County, Nev., at the end of the Las Vegas strip, dozens of off-duty fire fighters attending the concert sprang into action. Twelve were among the wounded by gunfire.

At the same time, more than 150 fire fighters and paramedics from Clark County Local 1908 and surrounding locals rushed to the scene to save lives, treat the wounded and help the survivors.

"Our members–including those attending the concert off duty–reacted as they always do," said IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. "They put their training to work immediately, without hesitation and without regard for their own safety, making quick and difficult decisions on how best to save lives."

As the news of the unfolding tragedy flashed across the nation, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) – the union representing more than 310,000 professional fire fighters and paramedics–also took action, reaching out to Clark County Local 1908 and other affiliates in the area to provide assistance.

On Monday morning after the shooting, Patrick Morrison–a retired Virginia fire fighter who heads the health and safety division at the IAFF, was on the phone with affiliates across the country to organize and mobilize experienced teams of peer support counselors and trauma specialists to help members involved in the response to the mass shooting. Within hours, he too was on a plane to Las Vegas.

"It’s easy to see a broken arm and treat it. It’s more difficult to see trauma to our brains or hearts," Morrison said. "Everyday, work for fire fighters and paramedics can be traumatic. Mass-casualty events can be much worse. We want to make sure our members understand the signs and symptoms of traumatic stress injuries, so we can treat them."

Many of the peer support counselors who arrived in Las Vegas have been through similar events. Some pulled bodies from the attack at the 2016 Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla., where 49 people were killed and 59 wounded. Others got a crash course in trauma from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, or from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

All of them brought their personal stories to Las Vegas to help their union brothers and sisters.

At the school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Col., Ray Rahne was a fire fighter who had responded like everyone else in his department. Afterwards, the Vietnam veteran, who is also a husband and father, would find himself crying at times. And he was skittish and jumpy.

"I would go from happy to depressed at the snap of the fingers. People started asking, ‘What’s going on?’ This went on for over a year. Finally, I thought, I don’t know. I’ve got to go see somebody," Rahne said.

Now retired from Littleton Fire and Rescue and a IAFF district vice president, Rahne got help and then joined his union’s growing movement to treat mental and emotional injuries to fire fighters, paramedics, and dispatchers.

Two years ago, the IAFF hired its first full-time and permanent behavior health specialist. This year, the union plans to hire a second. And, last March, the union opened the Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery in Upper Marlboro, Md., exclusively for IAFF members.

"Health and safety is a big priority for us. We want to make sure all of our members are as safe as possible," Morrison said.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 10/13/2017 - 16:05

Joining Together: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 11:34
Joining Together: 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.

NAFTA Negotiators Send Corporate Whiners Back to Swamp: "Giant corporations, loyal to coin and faithless to country, staged a public display of blubbering in the run up to this week’s fourth round of negotiations to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)."

Las Vegas Dad Sells His Harley to Go to Puerto Rico and Drive Trucks to Help Hurricane Victims: "When Marcos Cruz heard about the need for truck drivers to help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, he knew he could help. The single dad of two teenagers was born in Puerto Rico but has lived in Las Vegas for over 40 years."

From the Mountains of Puerto Rico: 'We Won’t Have Electricity Up Here for at Least a Year': "Adela Fígaro wasn’t worried when high winds began to lash her home, high on a hill in Las Marias, an area in the west-central region of Puerto Rico. The Dominican Republic native, with a quick wit and a big smile, had been through other serious storms in her 30-plus years living deep in the mountains of the island, about 60 miles from San Juan, where much of the island’s coffee and fruit is grown."

SEC Asked to Probe Trades of Student Loan Firm Navient: "A series of well-timed trades in shares of student loan giant Navient Corp. immediately before the Labor Day holiday weekend, after which a critical Trump administration policy announcement was made public, spurred the AFL-CIO to request that federal securities regulators review what it labeled potential insider trading."

United Airlines and Unions Fly Through Sham Attacks on Labor to Help Out in Puerto Rico: "Last week a United Boeing 777-300 flew from Newark to San Juan, carrying the assistance that Puerto Rico needs most after Hurricane Maria. Not just supplies, but 300 workers from 20 unions, all willing to work free to help the island rebuild."

5 Things You Need to Know About TPS or Temporary Protected Status: "In a turbulent world, countries with more privilege have a powerful ability to protect people from countries experiencing crises such as war, natural disaster or ongoing violence and prevent them from returning to conditions that could cost them their lives. Since 1990, the United States has allowed more than 300,000 immigrants from such countries to live and work here under Temporary Protected Status."

What Working People Are Saying About the Janus Supreme Court Case: "The U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in the case Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, meaning the court will hold a hearing and make a ruling on the case. The case started with the billionaire governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, attempting to undercut the voice of public service workers through the courts. Janus is part of a broader strategy by corporate-funded organizations like the State Policy Network, which admits that the whole point of Janus is to strike a 'mortal blow' and 'defund and defang' unions. Working people are speaking out against these attempts to use the courts to attack their rights."

World Day for Decent Work: Immigrant Protections Essential for Achieving Decent Work: "Oct. 7 marks the 10th annual World Day for Decent Work, a day when unions across the globe mobilize for decent work. In local events, workers highlight issues of corporate greed, low wages, inequality and injustice. In the United States, immigrant workers and communities are under attack as the Donald Trump administration threatens some of the few protections available to immigrants in vulnerable circumstances. This undermines decent work and the ability of all working people to come together to assert their rights on the job."

NAFTA Negotiations Still Need Improvement: "On Sept. 27, the United States, Canada and Mexico finished the third round of the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation talks. We’ve been told these talks will 'get a better deal for our workers,' but the negotiating goals seem to prioritize getting a better deal for corporations that want to offshore jobs and decrease wages. That means NAFTA will continue to make it harder for you to get a raise."

Working Families Join Together to Help Puerto Rico: "As the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico continues, working people from across the country are joining together to help with recovery and rebuilding."

Miners Working with Congress to Solve Pension Crisis: "Strong bipartisan legislation has been introduced in recent congressional sessions to solve the pension crisis currently facing America's mine workers. The Miners Protection Act is a response to a growing insolvency problem with the Mine Workers (UMWA) 1974 Pension Plan. The legislation would protect the pensions of 87,000 current beneficiaries and 20,000 more who have vested for their pensions but have not yet begun drawing them. We've waited too long to see this problem addressed, and Congress should act now."

Working People Need Fair Currency Rules in #NAFTA: "One of the reasons that so-called U.S. 'trade' deals (such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA) should really be called 'offshoring' deals is that they do not contain any enforceable restrictions on currency misalignment and manipulation. Without such restrictions, countries can game the value of their currency to gain a trade advantage that provides corporations an incentive to strip jobs and wages from the U.S."

Working Families Respond to Mass Shooting in Nevada: "After yet another mass shooting last night, this time in Las Vegas, working families and their allies responded to the tragic evening. Below are their responses. Steve Sisolak, chair of Clark County Commission in Las Vegas, has set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations to aid the victims and their families. Please visit the Las Vegas Victims' Fund and contribute what you can."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 10/13/2017 - 12:34

5 Things You Need to Know About TPS or Temporary Protected Status

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 08:10
5 Things You Need to Know About TPS or Temporary Protected Status

In a turbulent world, countries with more privilege have a powerful ability to protect people from countries experiencing crises such as war, natural disaster or ongoing violence and prevent them from returning to conditions that could cost them their lives. Since 1990, the United States has allowed more than 300,000 immigrants from such countries to live and work here under Temporary Protected Status.

Anti-immigrant groups are pushing the administration to end TPS status, which would strip away work authorization from hardworking men and women and risk sending them back into harm's way. Although we hear a lot about the refugee program, too little is known about TPS. Here are five things working people need to know about this important program:

1. TPS immigrants receive provisional protection against deportation and temporary permission to work in the United States. The majority of current TPS holders have been working in and contributing to our communities for more than 15 years. They pay taxes, join unions, own homes and raise families.

2. TPS status for each country must be renewed at least every 18 months, and each time workers renew their permits they undergo a new security screening.

3. In all, more than 320,000 people from 10 countries are at risk of losing protected status in 2018.  El Salvador leads the way with nearly 200,000 people, followed by Honduras and Haiti, as countries with the largest population to be affected. Other TPS countries include Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

4. TPS designations are made based on extreme circumstances that persist. Sudan, for instance, is still under a State Department travel advisory that warns travelers not to visit the country because of ongoing risks of terrorism, armed conflict and violent crime. Haiti is in turmoil after being hit not only with a devastating earthquake, but by a massive cholera epidemic and multiple category 4 hurricanes.

5. The AFL-CIO opposes this attack on working people. Failure to renew TPS will actively harm our economy, our communities and our unions. We want more working people to have rights on the job, not fewer.

Take action today to hold the line on workplace rights for TPS holders.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 10/13/2017 - 09:10

What Working People Are Saying About the Janus Supreme Court Case

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 08:28
What Working People Are Saying About the Janus Supreme Court Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in the case Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, meaning the court will hold a hearing and make a ruling on the case. The case started with the billionaire governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, attempting to undercut the voice of public service workers through the courts. Janus is party of a broader strategy by corporate-funded organizations like the State Policy Network, which admits that the whole point of Janus is to strike a "mortal blow" and "defund and defang" unions. Working people are speaking out against these attempts to use the courts to attack their rights. Here's what they are saying:

Stephen Mittons, AFSCME Council 31 member, child protection investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services:

My work as a child protection investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is vital to the safety of our state’s most vulnerable children and families. This court case is yet another political attack on the freedom of my colleagues and I to speak up to ensure that we can safely and adequately manage our caseloads, which reflects our commitment to safety and public service to our communities.

Jeff Price, AFT Local 3 member, teacher at Central High School, School District of Philadelphia:

My union just went through a lengthy contract fight in Philadelphia. We had to fight hard to protect our students’ basic needs, such as having at least one nurse and counselor in each school and ensuring that kids had necessary textbooks and materials. And we had to fight back against the district's desire to eliminate class sizes and get lead testing for the school's water fountains. Most people assume that the union only fights for teachers' rights, when in reality, most of our contract is there to protect the basic rights and needs of our students. Those rights are at grave risk in Janus.

Sonya Shpilyuk, NEA member, high school English teacher, Montgomery County, Maryland:

More and more, the economy is working against working people, including the families whose children I teach. My union gives me a voice and a seat at the table to advocate for my students, my colleagues and my community.

Edna Logan, SEIU Local 99 member, custodian at Esteban Torres School, Los Angeles Unified School District:

By sticking together in our union, we've lifted the wage floor to a $15 minimum wage, protected and expanded health care benefits for our families, and won more funding for our schools. Together, we’ll continue to fight to ensure all students have the support and services they need to succeed in school. That’s why the extremists are attacking us, to stop our progress. But we plan to stick together no matter what and keep standing up for quality public services.

Lee Saunders, president, AFSCME:

This case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor. When working people are able to join strong unions, they have the strength in numbers they need to fight for the freedoms they deserve, like access to quality health care, retirement security and time off work to care for a loved one. The merits of the case and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent and sound law are on our side. We look forward to the Supreme Court honoring its earlier rulings.

Randi Weingarten, president, AFT:

Unions are all about fighting for and caring about people—and in the public sector that includes those we represent and those we protect and teach in communities across America. Yet corporations, wealthy interests and politicians have manufactured Janus as part of their long and coordinated war against unions. Their goal is to further weaken workers’ freedom to join together in a union, to further diminish workers’ clout.

These powerful interests want to gut one of the last remaining checks on their control—a strong and united labor movement that fights for equity and opportunity for all, not just the privileged few. And under the guise of the First Amendment, they want to overturn a 40-year precedent that’s been reaffirmed numerous times. In other words, this would be a radical departure from well-established law. We believe that after resolving a similar case last year, the Supreme Court erred in granting cert in Janus, and that the trumped-up underpinnings of the plaintiff’s argument will rapidly become clear before the full bench.

Lily Eskelsen García, president, NEA:

For decades, corporate CEOs and the wealthy have fought to enrich themselves at the expense of the rights and pocketbooks of working people, and that harms families in communities across the country. As the nation’s largest union, we know this fight will not only impact the lives of educators, but it also impacts the families of the children we educate. We won’t back down from this fight and we will always stand up to support working people, our students and the communities we serve.

Mary Kay Henry, president, SEIU:

The anti-worker extremists behind this case want to divide working people, make it harder to pool our resources and limit our collective power. But SEIU members won't let any court case stand in our way of sticking together for good jobs and strong communities.

A statement from the four biggest public sector unions (AFSCME, AFT, NEA and SEIU):

The Janus case is a blatantly political and well-funded plot to use the highest court in the land to further rig the economic rules against everyday working people. The billionaire CEOs and corporate interests behind this case, and the politicians who do their bidding, have teamed up to deliver yet another attack on working people by striking at the freedom to come together in strong unions. The forces behind this case know that by joining together in strong unions, working people are able to win the power and voice they need to level the economic and political playing field. However, the people behind this case simply do not believe that working people deserve the same freedoms they have: to negotiate a fair return on their work.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 10/12/2017 - 09:28

Tags: Janus

World Day for Decent Work: Immigrant Protections Essential for Achieving Decent Work

Sat, 10/07/2017 - 10:35
World Day for Decent Work: Immigrant Protections Essential for Achieving Decent Work

Oct. 7 marks the 10th annual World Day for Decent Work, a day when unions across the globe mobilize for decent work. In local events, workers highlight issues of corporate greed, low wages, inequality and injustice. In the United States, immigrant workers and communities are under attack as the Donald Trump administration threatens some of the few protections available to immigrants in vulnerable circumstances. This undermines decent work and the ability of all working people to come together to assert their rights on the job.

The Trump administration has announced that it will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which will strip away work authorization from nearly 800,000 productive members of our society. Further, the administration is currently assessing if it will recertify Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a designation that protects some 330,000 people who fled war, natural disaster and instability and allows them the opportunity to rebuild their lives in the U.S. Ten countries in all currently have TPS designation: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The labor movement will work tirelessly to defend these important protections.

DACA and TPS holders are our co-workers, union sisters and brothers, and neighbors. Tens of thousands work in industries such as hospitality, construction, food processing, education and retail. They are leaders in our unions and communities. Many have lived in the U.S. for decades. Many fear returning home.

The longtime failure of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and create a pathway to citizenship for millions of hardworking immigrants has created a crisis in which one out of 20 workers in our country lacks formal work authorization. Rather than expanding rights and protections to this population, the Trump administration is expanding the pool of vulnerable workers in our labor force. The resulting threat of deportations weakens our unions and labor rights for all workers.

The entire workforce will suffer if these working people are stripped of their rights and status. The labor movement strongly condemns the efforts to criminalize immigrant communities. Instead of deporting immigrants, we need to ensure that all working people have rights on the job and are able to exercise them without fear of retaliation.

On World Day for Decent Work, we must hold the line on workplace rights and defend these important protections. A future of decent work, equality and shared prosperity is only possible if all workers are free to join together regardless of where they came from. Call on lawmakers today to defend DACA and TPS by signing our petition.

Kenneth Quinnell Sat, 10/07/2017 - 11:35

The Economy Loses 33,000 Jobs in September, and Unemployment Was Little Changed at 4.2%

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 09:43
The Economy Loses 33,000 Jobs in September, and Unemployment Was Little Changed at 4.2%

The U.S. economy lost 33,000 jobs in September, and unemployment was little changed at 4.2%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The decline likely reflects the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

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

September's #JobsReport clearly shows labor market is still recovering (as long term unemployment falling) not a structural shift @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/UuterBTuzw

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) October 6, 2017

Over the year, from last September, wages up 2.9% That is too modest for the @federalreserve to consider sticking to raising interest rates

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) October 6, 2017

#JobsReport may show effect of Hurricane Irma. Payroll employment fell by 33,000. Household survey shows employment up unemployment down.

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) October 6, 2017

Black Employment-to-Population ration continues to show its climb back that started in 2011 @CBTU72 @dchometownboy @rolandsmartin @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/BIrRhFO7Gj

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) October 6, 2017

Broadest measure of unemployment U-6 falls from 8.6 to 8.3% in September (this includes part time workers who want full time work) @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) October 6, 2017

The sign of Hurricane Irma and remnants of Harvey is the 105,000 drop in food service and drinking establishments payroll @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) October 6, 2017

Last month's biggest job gains were in health care (23,000), transportation and warehousing (22,000), financial activities (10,000), and professional and business services (13,000). Employment in food services and drinking places dropped sharply in September (-105,000) and manufacturing (-1,000) also saw a decline. Employment in other major industries, including mining, construction, wholesale trade, retail trade, information and government, showed little change over the month.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for teenagers (12.9%), blacks (7.0%), Hispanics (5.1%), adult men (3.9%), adult women (3.9%), Asians (3.7%) and whites (3.7%) showed little or no change in September.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was down slightly in September and accounted for 25.5% of the unemployed.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 10/06/2017 - 10:43

On Manufacturing Day, Let’s Salute the Dreamers — and Make Sure They Can Succeed

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 07:57
On Manufacturing Day, Let’s Salute the Dreamers — and Make Sure They Can Succeed

This Manufacturing Day post is for all the dreamers out there. For the young men and women who will imagine and invent things that will make the world a better place. And for the folks who will make those incredible things right here in America.

These dreamers will join a long line of change-makers. As a nation, we’ve always risen to the challenge to make a better future for the next generation, although we often take a step or two back before getting it right. As we honor our nation’s makers — past, present and future — it’s important to take stock of what we’ve done well and where we need to make some changes.

Think of the Rosie the Riveters who built the indefatigable Arsenal of Democracy but were forced from work after World War II—and whose daughters and granddaughters still face entirely too much unequal pay, discrimination and harassment. Nevertheless, CEOs such as General Motors’ Mary Barra, female entrepreneurs who launch start-up manufacturers, and a new surge of women embracing the age of digital manufacturing hint at the possibilities (if policies and practices change).

Or think of the black steelworkers who spent decades fighting for opportunity and equality, only to achieve a taste of it just as their mills were shuttered by a lethal combination of imports and advances in automation beginning in the 1970s. Their sons and daughters still reel from instances of police violence, discrimination and horrors, like the white supremacists we all witnessed in Charlottesville just a few weeks ago. But when I see programs like Austin Career and College Academy on the West Side of Chicago and Focus: HOPE in Detroit, I see a glimpse of the future (if we can just get it right).

And think of the proud factory workers who, over the course of our nation’s history, built the world’s largest and most innovative manufacturing economy, only to see it outsourced, devalued and held hostage to a philosophy that placed a premium on cheap consumer goods at the expense of good, stable, middle-class jobs.

The consequence of that job loss has rippled through millions of workers’ lives and thousands of communities. It has even altered our life expectancy rates, our marital rates and, of course, our politics. It’s more than an economic side effect. Deindustrialization has led America down a dead-end alley from which we’ve yet to emerge.

Still, some amazing entrepreneurs are still betting on making things in America, and we’ve managed to add back 1 million manufacturing jobs since the Great Recession, so all is not yet lost.

When some manufacturers grumble about not being able to find skilled workers, wondering why young people can’t see job opportunities right in front of them, I have to bite my tongue. These folks often assume it’s the inaccurate image of manufacturing as dirty and dangerous that’s keeping those doors shut, or perhaps the next generation doesn’t want to work hard.

I don’t want to minimize the challenges we face in replacing a rapidly retiring factory workforce or developing talent within an educational system that for decades squeezed out technical training before realizing that was a mistake. There’s a lot of important work to do here.

These kids — these dreamers — are woke. Now more than ever, job applicants want to know the values of the men and women they’ll be working for. How did their employers respond to these challenges I’ve mentioned? And how will they invest in developing the skills and careers of their workers?

Manufacturing Day should be a two-way street.

Even in an age of automation and globalization, there are a lot of reasons to think that millions more Americans can be working in manufacturing over the next decade. We have a strong energy advantage. We have a robust consumer market. We have an entrepreneurial culture. While more robots will be found on factory floors, the industry is already highly automated. With new products, more market share and sharpened skills, we can create more factory jobs. With the right mindsets in the public and private sectors, we can guarantee that the next generation of really amazing things can be made right here.

So keep dreaming, young dreamers. But remember to keep your eyes wide open while you do. Happy Manufacturing Day — now let’s go make something together.

This guest post from Scott Paul, president of Alliance for American Manufacturing, originally appeared at Medium.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 10/06/2017 - 08:57

NAFTA Negotiations Still Need Improvement

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 09:35
NAFTA Negotiations Still Need Improvement

On Sept. 27, the United States, Canada and Mexico finished the third round of the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation talks. We’ve been told these talks will “get a better deal for our workers,” but the negotiating goals seem to prioritize getting a better deal for corporations that want to offshore jobs and decrease wages. That means NAFTA will continue to make it harder for you to get a raise

The negotiations are held behind closed doors. The public does not have access to the negotiating texts. This means we know few details—and the devil is always in the details when we’re talking trade. That alone means there is cause for concern: Transparent and democratic negotiations are the AFL-CIO’s #1 recommendation for creating a fair and progressive trade policy.

In other areas, there have been a number of public statements about the negotiations that make us skeptical that these negotiations will reduce corporate power and replace it with rules that protect working people across North America. And if it isn’t fair for all of us, it won’t be fair for any of us. After all, we don’t live or work in an isolated economy. We must bring up standards for working people in all three NAFTA countries.

Get involved by signing this petition and texting TRADE to 235246. 

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 10/05/2017 - 10:35

Tags: NAFTA

Working Families Join Together to Help Puerto Rico

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 07:11
Working Families Join Together to Help Puerto Rico

As the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico continues, working people from across the country are joining together to help with recovery and rebuilding.

The AFL-CIO is teaming up with the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), Machinists (IAM) and United Airlines to fly more than 300 first responders and skilled volunteers to Puerto Rico to help with relief and rebuilding efforts. The flight was a response to the urgent need to get highly skilled workers to Puerto Rico to help people seeking medical and humanitarian assistance, as well as to help with the rebuilding effort. The nurses, doctors, electricians, engineers, carpenters and truck drivers on the flight will engage in various efforts, including helping clear road blockages, caring for hospital patients, delivering emergency supplies, and restoring power and communications. More than 20 unions have members on the flight.

The flight will be operated by members of ALPA and AFA-CWA who volunteered their time, and IAM members will work as ramp employees to support the flight. The flight also will transport more than 35,000 pounds of emergency relief supplies, including food, water and essential equipment. So far, United has carried nearly 740,000 pounds of relief-related cargo. The return flight will bring evacuees back. United, so far, has evacuated more than 1,300 Puerto Ricans in the wake of Hurricane Maria's devastation.

About the flight, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

The working families of Puerto Rico are our brothers and sisters. And this incredible partnership will bring skilled workers to the front lines to deliver supplies, care for victims and rebuild Puerto Rico. Our movement is at its best when we work together during times of great need. But we are even better when we find common ground and partner with business and industry on solutions to lift up our communities. This endeavor is entirely about working people helping working people in every way possible. In times of great tragedy, our country comes together, and we are committed to doing our part to assist the people of Puerto Rico.

AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson said:

When our union sisters and brothers see a need in our national or international community, we don’t ask if we should act, we ask how. Today is the result of our collective strength, compassion and commitment to action. I am proud United responded to the call to carry a union of relief workers among America’s working families to care for our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico. We are united in lifting up our fellow Americans. It is an honor to serve on the volunteer crew of Flight Attendants and Pilots transporting skilled relief workers and returning to New York with hundreds needing safe passage out of Puerto Rico.

The chairman of ALPA United Airlines, Capt. Todd Insler, said:

Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico need help and this is a race against time. The ALPA pilots of United Airlines are honored to fly these skilled workers and medical professionals to San Juan today and will continue to support the humanitarian efforts going forward. We applaud these brave volunteers who are dedicating their time, selflessly leaving their homes and families, and answering the call to help. The strength of the unions represented on this flight comes from workers joining together to help one another. Likewise, the strength of this joint relief effort comes from all of us—labor, management and government—standing together to help our fellow citizens in their time of need.

IAM General Vice President Sito Pantoja said:

This flight carries not only much-needed supplies and skilled union labor, but also the love and support of more than 33,000 IAM members at United who will continue helping the people of Puerto Rico recover.

Here are some of the other comments about the trip and the overall efforts by working families to help out in Puerto Rico:

AFT President Randi Weingarten said:

These nurses and health professionals represent who we are as a union—caring and springing into action to help people when needed. To the people of Puerto Rico, tu lucha es mi lucha; your fight is our fight. We will be with you every step of the way to ensure our members and the people of Puerto Rico are cared for, the island is rebuilt and public schools are reopened.

Ready to launch the #UnionsUnited relief flight to #PuertoRico with talented @NationalNurses union members volunteering their skills #1u pic.twitter.com/k8giRZNSdn

— Liz Shuler (@lizshuler) October 4, 2017

Liz Shuler secty treas @AFLCIO & @IBEW local 3 union electricians on #PuertoRicoRelief #PuertoRico --some of the 300 pic.twitter.com/G2EH0d5gbZ

— Damon Silvers (@DamonSilvers) October 4, 2017

Proud to be with over 300 volunteers at Newark airport who will fly to help with #PuertoRicoRelief #unionsunited https://t.co/l8BkoWvWDo

— Liz Shuler (@lizshuler) October 4, 2017

It was an honor to join allies and @32BJSEIU members in demanding an immediate & sufficient aid to relieve & rebuild Puerto Rico. #RebuildPR pic.twitter.com/wFiDYHFMm8

— Mary Kay Henry (@MaryKayHenry) October 4, 2017

Our movement is at its best when we work together during times of great need. https://t.co/PZaPUbD9I8 #PuertoRicoRelief #UnionsUnited pic.twitter.com/UNuX8eV4Fb

— AFL-CIO (@AFLCIO) October 4, 2017

 

Teamster volunteers depart for #PuertoRico to assist with relief efforts: https://t.co/1mgZjibjjq #UnionsUnited #PuertoRicoRelief #1u pic.twitter.com/tpNAejzslA

— Teamsters (@Teamsters) October 4, 2017

25 @AFTHealthcare members boarded a plane full of @AFLCIO members to do recovery work in Puerto Rico this AM. pic.twitter.com/MosbprLCZt #1u

— AFT Pennsylvania (@AFTPA) October 4, 2017

Help working families in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands: https://t.co/i5Hw62YTxk

— OPCMIA International (@opcmiaintl) October 3, 2017

Luis lived through Hurricane Maria & says the thing you can do right now is make a donation https://t.co/OUVW1bX9BR https://t.co/2u7Fufg9QL

— United Steelworkers (@steelworkers) October 3, 2017

Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 3010 members who work for AT&T Mobility splicing fiber at a damaged cell tower:

CWA Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 10/05/2017 - 08:11

Miners Working with Congress to Solve Pension Crisis

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 11:37
Miners Working with Congress to Solve Pension Crisis

Strong bipartisan legislation has been introduced in recent congressional sessions to solve the pension crisis currently facing America's mine workers. The Miners Protection Act is a response to a growing insolvency problem with the Mine Workers (UMWA) 1974 Pension Plan. The legislation would protect the pensions of 87,000 current beneficiaries and 20,000 more who have vested for their pensions but have not yet begun drawing them. We've waited too long to see this problem addressed, and Congress should act now.

The pension fund for America's mine workers began as a promise from President Harry Truman in 1946 that America would protect the health and welfare of coal miners, who were vital to the country's safety and growth. In 1974, changes were made to the plan to strengthen these protections. But in recent years, a combination of extremely depressed coal markets, coal company bankruptcies and other factors have caused a significant dropoff in the employer contributions to the fund. In the past two years, contributions to the plan have fallen by more than $100 million, setting up significant problems in the near future, with the fund currently projected to go bankrupt in 2022 or 2023.

Specifically, the legislation would:

  1. Include a provision from the original Miners Protection Act allowing transfers of excess funds in the Abandoned Mine Land program to the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan.
  2. Direct the Treasury Department to loan the 1974 UMWA Plan funds annually to prevent insolvency.
  3. Cap the annual loan amount at $600 million and set the interest rate at 1%.
  4. Require the fund to pay interest only for the first 10 years and then pay back the principal plus interest over a 30-year term.
  5. Require the fund to certify each year that the pension plan is solvent and able to pay back the remaining principal and interest.
  6. Actuarial analyses indicate that the UMWA 1974 Plan would need to take loans for as little as four years.

Learn more about the legislation.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 10/04/2017 - 12:37

Working People Need Fair Currency Rules in #NAFTA

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 09:53
Working People Need Fair Currency Rules in #NAFTA CLKer.com

One of the reasons that so-called U.S. “trade” deals (such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA) should really be called “offshoring” deals is that they do not contain any enforceable restrictions on currency misalignment and manipulation. Without such restrictions, countries can game the value of their currency to gain a trade advantage that provides corporations an incentive to strip jobs and wages from the U.S.

China’s currency manipulation and misalignment in recent decades helped displace 3.4 million U.S. jobs and cost America’s working families $37 billion in wages in 2011 alone. You see, when trade between countries gets out of balance, with one country racking up mounting deficits and another racking up mounting surpluses, the currencies of each country are supposed to adjust, making the exports of the deficit country (in this case the U.S.) relatively cheaper, which would eventually create a rough balance of trade.

But when currencies don’t adjust properly—which can happen when a country purposely holds the value of its currency down, as China did for a couple decades—balance won’t be achieved. Misaligned currency creates incentives for global companies to invest in the countries with the lower valued currency, such as China (where they are also confident they can exploit workers) and to disinvest in the countries with the higher valued currency, such as the U.S., where employers can use the threat of offshoring to drive down wages.

Trade deals like NAFTA should fight this trend, not exacerbate it. But they never have. NAFTA and other trade deals (such as the WTO, CAFTA and the TPP) were written to benefit global companies, not working people. That can change with a new NAFTA, but we still don’t know yet if a final deal will create new, people-centered trade rules. So far, we don’t know if enforceable currency rules will be in the new deal. If the administration fails to propose enforceable currency rules, it will signal that the “new” NAFTA isn’t very new at all, but the same old corporate power grab that continues to push down wages all across North America.

You can help by calling the U.S. Trade Representative’s office at 202-395-6135 and demanding that negotiators include enforceable currency rules in NAFTA. Then text TRADE to 235246 to learn what else you can do to join the fight for a new and better North American economy!

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts on what rules are needed to create a new North American economy.  Read more.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 10/03/2017 - 10:53

Tags: NAFTA

Working Families Respond to Mass Shooting in Nevada

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 12:18
Working Families Respond to Mass Shooting in Nevada

After yet another mass shooting last night, this time in Las Vegas, working families and their allies responded to the tragic evening. Below are their responses.

Steve Sisolak, chair of Clark County Commission in Las Vegas, has set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations to aid the victims and their families. Please visit the Las Vegas Victims' Fund and contribute what you can.

Thank you to all the first-responders caring for the victims in this terrible attack. https://t.co/G0glCXbaX3

— Richard L. Trumka (@RichardTrumka) October 2, 2017

Thoughts and prayers are with tourists and workers tonight on the Las Vegas Strip.

— The Culinary Union (@Culinary226) October 2, 2017

BREAKING: Statement by Culinary Union's Geoconda Argüello-Kline regarding the mass shooting in Las Vegas last night: https://t.co/q3h4qLuKgn pic.twitter.com/6pilcgiRGg

— The Culinary Union (@Culinary226) October 2, 2017

pic.twitter.com/GwwCyaPcdQ

— IATSE LOCAL 720 (@iatselocal720) October 2, 2017

2 off-duty @UFLAC #firefighters among #CA 1st resp. injured in #VegasShooting. Non-life threatening #PrayForVegas https://t.co/O2VQm8qZHt

— CPF (@CAFirefighters) October 2, 2017

TY to @NVAFLCIO, @smartunionworks, Bartenders, @TheIronworkers, @LIUNA & all labor brothers & sisters who've helped today! #LasVegas pic.twitter.com/vHraIMFll9

— Michelle White (@MickyWhiteNV) October 2, 2017

Thank you to all the first-responders caring for the victims in this terrible attack. https://t.co/G0glCXbaX3

— Richard L. Trumka (@RichardTrumka) October 2, 2017

These are locations where you can donate blood. SPREAD THE NEWS! pic.twitter.com/t9g1f0GXwn

— Marlene (@Marlenec_c) October 2, 2017

Union members, see below. Lend a helping hand. https://t.co/0GGnV6TQP0

— AFL-CIO (@AFLCIO) October 2, 2017

We thank the fire fighters, police, and medical professionals for their quick response and the work they've done to save lives.

— DPE (@DPEaflcio) October 2, 2017

Mass Shooting in #LasVegas: How to Talk to Students https://t.co/LDIAt5JiqP

— CA Teachers Assoc. (@WeAreCTA) October 2, 2017

Thinking of those who died & were wounded in #Vegas #shooting. Our hearts go out to first responders trying to help https://t.co/uOYcfr3LEr pic.twitter.com/xUni1QFYsy

— Bonnie Castillo (@NNUBonnie) October 2, 2017

Pray for the victims and their families in Vegas today.Another reminder how precious life is and how we must watch and care for one another.

— D. Taylor (@DTaylorUH) October 2, 2017

If you are trying to locate a loved one in Las Vegas, call 1-866-535-5654.

— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) October 2, 2017

Thoughts and Prayers are with our Las Vegas @ActorsEquity members. BAZ company is safe. Will continue to update.

— Christa Jackson (@AEARepChrista) October 2, 2017

There have been more mass shootings than days this year. It is long, long overdue for Congress to take action on gun safety.

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 2, 2017

Our thoughts and hearts are in Las Vegas with victims & their loved ones.

— Transp. Trades Dept. (@TTDAFLCIO) October 2, 2017

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families in Las Vegas. #PrayingforVegas pic.twitter.com/kxNsyLUbNQ

— AFSA Leadership (@AFSAUnion) October 2, 2017

Our condolences to the victims and families of the #LasVegasShooting. #1u

Statement from President @IAMBobMartinez: https://t.co/FsPmzrB6wH pic.twitter.com/P5aSnMDTql

— Machinists Union (@MachinistsUnion) October 2, 2017 Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 10/02/2017 - 13:18

The Great Con: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 14:21
The Great Con: 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.

AFL-CIO Leader Trumka Hits Trump Tax Plan: "AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka hit hard at GOP President Donald Trump’s tax plan. He predicted it would eventually lead to Republican agitation for more cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Trump unveiled the plan, after weeks of work by his business-dominated economic team. It calls for a cut in the corporate tax rate from its current 35 percent to 20 percent and eliminates the estate tax, a favorite GOP cause."

GOP Tax Plan Is 'The Great Con,' Says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: "Trumka said a tax plan that would be good for working people should have corporations and the rich paying their fair share. It should also create enough revenue to create jobs and should destroy all incentives to offshore jobs and profits, he added. 'This tax plan fails miserably on all three of those things.'"

Cecil Roberts: Graham-Cassidy a Bad Song That Gets Worse Every Time We Hear It: "President Trump was right when he said health care is complicated. What is not complicated, however, is what working people want from our health care system. We want to be able to get the care our families need — when we need it — at a price that does not leave us bankrupt."

A Tax Plan That Works for the People, Not Wall Street: "Working people are tired of hearing how tax giveaways for Wall Street billionaires and corporations will supposedly trickle down to the rest of us. Too many politicians and pundits want us to believe our country is broke, and we have no choice but to demand sacrifices from working people, yet they have no trouble finding trillions of dollars to waste on tax giveaways for people who do not need them. They want to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education and infrastructure to pay for tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy."

Unions Are Our Best Chance for Changing Our Economy and Politics: "This month, MaryBe McMillan made history when she was unanimously elected as the first woman president of the North Carolina AFL-CIO. A native of Hickory, North Carolina, and a leading advocate nationally for building labor's presence in the South, McMillan has served as secretary-treasurer of the state federation since 2005, working alongside outgoing president James Andrews, the first African American to hold that post. After the convention, Facing South publisher Chris Kromm talked with McMillan about the state of labor in North Carolina and the South, and why unions are a key piece of the broader progressive movement."

Fact-Checking Inaccurate News About the Jones Act: "On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced he would be waiving the Jones Act in response to devastation that has hit the island of Puerto Rico. Much of the reporting about this has included inaccurate information. Here are the real facts about the Jones Act and Puerto Rico."

Republican Tax Plan a Con Game Against Working People: "Yesterday, President Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress released their new tax plan. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka responded to the proposal."

Iowa Teachers Overwhelmingly Reject Attack on Working People: "In February, then-Gov. Terry Branstad (R) signed into law a bill that was a direct attack on the rights of working people. In the first major test of the new law, Iowa's teachers and faculty rejected the attacks and recertified 13 bargaining units overwhelmingly yesterday."

Students Work Together to Create Change at Nike: "In a powerful illustration of the ability of grassroots activists to challenge corporate power, United Students Against Sweatshops, the nation’s leading student organization focused on issues of worker rights and economic justice, has just scored a crucial victory over the world’s biggest sports apparel and footwear brand: Nike."

Time Is Short to Renew DACA Status: "The Donald Trump administration recently announced it will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an outrageous decision that will strip status and work permits away from nearly 800,000 productive members of our society. The labor movement strongly condemns these efforts to criminalize young working people and will work tirelessly to defend and extend these important protections. While we continue to push Congress and the administration, there are some important things that you need to know if you or a family member, co-worker, neighbor or friend have DACA."

Check Out the More Than 250 Union-Made Options for National Drink Beer Day: "Our friends at Labor 411 inform us that National Drink Beer Day is totally a real thing and that it takes place on Sept. 28. Don't worry, though, they have the definitive list of union-made beers ready for you to check out. Make sure that while you enjoy your beers in celebration of the totally real holiday of National Drink Beer Day, you choose ethically made beers that treat their workers fairly. You have options. More than 250 of them."

Americans in Every Way—Except on Paper: "This month, the Donald Trump administration announced it was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provided temporary permission for more than 800,000 undocumented young people brought to the United States as children to live and work in the country. The young people covered by DACA include teachers, journalists, entertainers, behavioral health specialists and many other young professionals. As the place in the labor movement for professionals, the members of the affiliate unions of the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees (DPE) bring to the table a diverse array of backgrounds, nationalities and immigration experiences — including Dreamers.’"

How One AFSCME Local Is Helping Florida Dry Out and Rebuild: "Most times, you can find longtime AFSCME member Bert Walthour serving the city of Miami Beach as a heavy equipment operator. He and his co-workers at Local 1554, AFSCME Florida, where he serves as vice president, make one of the world’s most iconic cities function every day."

NFL Players Association Responds to Attacks on Free Speech: "After President Donald Trump and others attacked the free speech rights of athletes, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) responded to the president's comments."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/29/2017 - 15:21

Working People Are Stepping Up to Help Puerto Rico

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 13:47
Working People Are Stepping Up to Help Puerto Rico Seafarers

In the wake of the disastrous effects of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, union members are stepping up to help with recovery efforts. The situation is so terrible that 100% of the island lacks power, 40% of Puerto Ricans do not have safe drinking water and 60% of the island's vegetation has been knocked down, covering roads and houses, which makes recovery efforts even more challenging.

The labor movement stands with our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico, and we're here to help make sure that the work that needs to get done will get done.

José Rodríguez Báez, president of the Federation of Workers of Puerto Rico, spoke with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka about recovery efforts:

In the conversation, we explained to Trumka that there has not been enough help with the speed that is required and that we are already in a humanitarian crisis. He assured us that he will communicate with President Trump and congressional leaders to demand the help our people need.

In a call with union leaders in Puerto Rico, Trumka explained the labor federation's response:

We want you and your families to know that they are our priority, and we will not fail them....

We have the skills they need in Puerto Rico. The caregivers and first responders. The heavy equipment operators and truck drivers. The electricians and linemen. The waste disposal workers.

Literally paths have to be cleared through debris. People have to be kept alive in hospitals. Temporary power has to be set up to critical sites like hospitals and telecommunications hubs.

We have been in contact with the Puerto Rican Federation of Labor and with the city of San Juan. Some of you may have seen the Mayor of San Juan on MSNBC talking about how badly they need help.

And we have an opportunity to help. Thanks to the work of the Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) and the Pilots (ALPA), United Airlines has offered us a plane to fly needed skilled workers and relief supplies to San Juan. The plane is available to leave Newark Airport on Wednesday.

The mayor of San Juan and the Puerto Rican labor movement have given us a list of needed workers. They need nurses and doctors, truck drivers, heavy equipment operators, clean up workers, electricians, plumbers, carpenters and other skilled trades.

We can fly volunteers from Newark to San Juan, we have housing and food arranged with the city of San Juan and FEMA, and we can fly volunteers back to Newark. We need union members with the right skills, and a readiness to spend two weeks helping to save their fellow Americans who frankly have been abandoned by their government.

Whenever disaster strikes, union members are on the front lines making sure that their families, friends and fellow Americans recover and rebuild. We will do the same in Puerto Rico.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/29/2017 - 14:47

Fact-Checking Inaccurate News About the Jones Act

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 09:35
Fact-Checking Inaccurate News About the Jones Act

On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced he would be waiving the Jones Act in response to devastation that has hit the island of Puerto Rico. Much of the reporting about this has included inaccurate information. Here are the real facts about the Jones Act and Puerto Rico.

True or False: The Jones Act was impeding relief efforts to Puerto Rico.

False: Foreign-flag ships with cargo from ports outside the United States have always been allowed entry to Puerto Rico.

True or False: Unions oppose waiving the Jones Act in an emergency so that ships can access Puerto Rico.

False: Maritime labor has never, not once, opposed a waiver of the Jones Act in an emergency when there were not enough ships or mariners to handle the job. We have never let a ship sail shorthanded.

True or False: Waiving the Jones Act is critical to aiding Puerto Rico at this time.

False: One of the biggest challenges in Puerto Rico is unloading the current cargo ships that are docked as well as the containers at port, not getting more foreign cargo ships. About 9,500 containers of goods were moved by domestic maritime companies to help its residents recover. In the immediate aftermath, one state-of-the-art large container ship arrived with more than 35 million pounds of cargo. This is the equivalent carrying capacity of 1,900 cargo planes. In anticipation of the island’s needs, the domestic American maritime industry stowed some 3,000 containers filled with goods in the terminals prior to the hurricane landing. Jones Act vessels have the capacity to carry more than 4,000 containers per week to Puerto Rico.

True or False: Waiving the Jones Act would add efficiency to delivery of goods.

False: Because of infrastructure challenges, a Jones Act waiver could hinder, not help, relief efforts. A Jones Act waiver could overwhelm the system. There are logistical bottlenecks as a result of the inability to distribute goods within Puerto Rico due to road blockages, communications disruptions and concerns about equipment shortages, including trucks, chassis and containers.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/29/2017 - 10:35

Republican Tax Plan a Con Game Against Working People

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 13:29
Republican Tax Plan a Con Game Against Working People

Yesterday, President Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress released their new tax plan. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka responded to the proposal:

The tax plan Republicans put out [yesterday] is nothing but a con game, and working people are the ones they’re trying to con. Here we go again. First comes the promise that tax giveaways for the wealthy and big corporations will trickle down to the rest of us. Then comes the promise that tax cuts will pay for themselves. Then comes the promise that they want to stop offshoring. And finally, we find out none of these things is true, and the people responsible for wasting trillions of dollars on tax giveaways to the rich tell us we have no choice but to cut Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, education and infrastructure. There always seems to be plenty of money for millionaires and big corporations but never enough money to do anything for working people.

Here are some of the terrible proposals included in yesterday’s plan:

  • Allowing multinational corporations to pay little to nothing on their offshore profits, which would be a giant tax break for sending jobs overseas and a giant loophole for corporations to avoid paying taxes.
  • Eliminating the estate tax, which would benefit only the wealthiest 0.2% of estates, those worth more than $5.5 million.
  • Eliminating the alternative minimum tax, which helps keep the wealthy from exploiting loopholes to avoid paying taxes.
  • Reducing the top individual tax rate from 39.6% to 35%, which would mainly benefit the rich.
  • Reducing the top individual tax rate for business owners from 39.6% to 25%, which would mainly benefit Wall Street hedge fund managers, real estate developers and law firms.
  • Reducing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%, which would overwhelmingly benefit the rich.
  • Increasing the bottom tax bracket from 10% to 12%.
  • Eliminating the tax deduction for state and local taxes, which would punish states that make the kind of investments that boost economic growth for the whole country.

We already know that Trump and Republican leaders in Congress want working people to pay the price for these tax giveaways to big corporations and the wealthy. We know this because the budgets they have proposed for the coming year include trillions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, education, infrastructure and other programs benefiting working people.

This is what a tax plan that actually works for working people looks like. It has three overarching principles. First, Wall Street, big corporations and the wealthy must pay their fair share of taxes. Second, tax reform must raise enough additional revenue now and in the future to create good jobs and make the public investment we need in infrastructure, education, and meeting the needs of children, families, seniors and our communities. Third, tax reform must eliminate all tax incentives for corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore.

Unfortunately, the tax plan unveiled yesterday goes in the exact opposite direction. It does not even qualify as "tax reform." It’s just tax cuts for rich people.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 09/28/2017 - 14:29

Iowa Teachers Overwhelmingly Reject Attack on Working People

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 11:44
Iowa Teachers Overwhelmingly Reject Attack on Working People

In February, then-Gov. Terry Branstad (R) signed into law a bill that was a direct attack on the rights of working people. In the first major test of the new law, Iowa's teachers and faculty rejected the attacks and recertified 13 bargaining units overwhelmingly yesterday.

The new law is designed to make it harder for workers to exercise their freedom to stand together in union. It requires that public sector unions re-certify every time they negotiate a new contract, a process that usually happens every two to three years. Also, the law requires that the recertification votes must win the majority of all employees covered under the contract, not just the majority of those who participate in the recertification vote.

The two-week recertification process for the 13 bargaining units saw very strong participation, with 89% of eligible voters participating. They sent an overwhelming message, when 1,101 out of 1,291 voters cast their ballots for recertification.

Iowa State Education Association President Tammy Wawro condemned the law: "I think it’s silly we had to do this, but our people understood what’s at stake and they voted, and I think they sent a message."

This is the beginning of the process. In October, nearly 500 local unions and employee associations will face similar recertification votes.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 09/28/2017 - 12:44

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