Category: From AFL-CIO

Are We in a Trade War?

Celeste Drake

Celeste Drake Trade and Globalization Policy Specialist, AFL-CIO

TV pundits keep repeating that we’re in a “trade war.” What does that even mean?

Now, let’s tone down the rhetoric just a bit. Real wars, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, are deadly, dangerous, scary affairs. No one should confuse tariffs with real wars.

In terms of economics, the closest thing we have to a “war” is the relentless attack on workers that has been taking place for several decades as economic elites (including corporate CEOsbad actor employers and the 1% who don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes) have worked to rig global economic rules to benefit themselves at the expense of ordinary working people.  

The attack on workers has been waged on many fronts, from so-called “right to work” laws that deny our freedom, to regressive tax laws such as the recent Republican tax bill giving big tax breaks to companies that outsource jobs, to attacks on overtime pay and workplace safety, to defunding schools and meals for our children. The attack on workers also comes in the area of trade policy, and includes unfair, predatory actions by China. Trade attacks on workers are aided and abetted by greedy corporations that outsource jobs and abuse workers, and by U.S. officials of both political parties who have failed to stand up for us.

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A Dark Veil

From the AFL-CIO

The Trump administration yesterday rescinded the Department of Labor’s “persuader rule” requiring companies to disclose any consultants or lawyers contracted for anti-union persuasion efforts. The most recent in a series of anti-worker regulatory rollbacks, the decision has drawn harsh condemnation from union leaders and working people.

When the Labor Department issued its persuader rule in 2016, it was hailed as a win for workplace transparency. Workers would have the right to know when their bosses hired outside union-busters to influence organizing decisions.

Then-Secretary of Labor Tom Perez explained it would “ensure that workers have the information they need to make informed decisions about exercising critical workplace rights….Informed decisions are the best decisions.”

In the wake of yesterday’s announcement, AFL-CIO National Media Director Josh Goldstein slammed the administration’s decision to shield the “sinister practices of employers and their hired guns.” “By repealing the persuader rule, the Department of Labor is siding with corporate CEOs against good government and transparency,” Goldstein said. “They have thrown a dark veil over the shady groups employers hire to take away the freedoms of working people.”

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If You Live in Missouri, Vote 'No' on Proposition A

On Aug. 7, Missouri voters will have the chance to vote against Proposition A, a divisive attack on working people funded by big corporations and their wealthy allies. The misleading measure is a direct attack on the rights of the working people of Missouri.

Here are the key reasons why Proposition A is wrong for Missouri:

  • Proposition A will drive down wages for Missouri families: If it passes, Proposition A will drive down wages for all Missourians. New research from the Economic Policy Institute shows that “right to work” laws like Proposition A are associated with lower wages and a weaker middle class. EPI found that wages were 3.1% lower in states with right to work laws like Proposition A. EPI’s Heidi Shierholz said, “If Missouri goes in the direction of right to work, we will see that the wages of workers, including those that are not in unions, will decline. Most middle-class workers spend their wages on things like food and clothes at local retailers.” The wage decline will harm businesses where middle-class workers shop.

  • Proposition A is not what it seems. Don’t trust it: While supporters of Proposition A claim it will benefit working people, the reality is that it will take away choices from Missourians. The Supreme Court already has ruled that workers don’t have to join a union if they choose not to. The court also has ruled that working people have the freedom to organize and join together to bargain for a better return on our work. These things are at stake with Proposition A.

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After Janus, Electrical Workers Show the Power is in Our Hands

By John Weber

The Supreme Court’s recent Janus decision was despicable, spitting in the face of decades of common-sense precedent. There’s no question about that.

But Janus is not the end of our fight.

Through every punch thrown at working people in our history—every wage-slashing boss, every union-busting law, every strike-breaking massacre—we have rallied together, stronger for our shared struggle.

Our future is and always has been in our own hands. We have never looked to Washington to strengthen or validate our movement.

So while pundits rush to blather in front of a camera, we’re doing the painstaking business of organizing—building the labor movement, person by person.

A few locals in particular are offering up powerful models for success.

Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1245, faced with a likely union-busting decision from the Supreme Court, knew that inaction wasn’t an option. Management and other anti-worker interests would be eager to launch an aggressive, well-funded anti-union campaign, undermining the local’s collective voice wherever they could.

The local’s members haven’t surrendered to a future decided by those forces. Instead, they’ve been rallying together and strengthening their union one conversation at a time.

At the direction of Business Manager Tom Dalzell, the local established and trained volunteer organizing committees (VOCs) at each of their 34 public sector worksites.

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That Which Is Justly Ours

From the AFL-CIO

Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt 83 years ago yesterday, the National Labor Relations Act marked a critical step forward for working people’s right to join together in unions and bargain collectively. As Roosevelt said at the time, “By preventing practices which tend to destroy the independence of labor, it seeks, for every worker with its scope, that freedom of choice and action which is justly his.”

More than 80 years after our leaders proudly advanced the rights of working people, corporate interests are still ruthlessly fighting to deny us that which is justly ours. Just as the labor movement helped secure passage of the NLRA, today we are demanding an even better deal that fully guarantees our fundamental economic rights and freedoms.

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Respect for Human Dignity

From the AFL-CIO

It was 54 years ago this week that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “to promote a more abiding commitment to freedom, a more constant pursuit of justice and a deeper respect for human dignity.” More than half a century later, the labor movement is continuing that fight.

Just this weekend, working people took the struggle for social and economic justice to the streets, joining together at the White House and across the country to stand up for the rights and dignities of our immigrant brothers and sisters.

While in Memphis, Tennessee, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination earlier this year, AFL‑CIO President Richard Trumka reflected on the intertwined fight at the heart of the labor movement.

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Working People Stand Resolute in the Face of Janus Ruling

While a narrow and ideologically driven majority on the Supreme Court ruled against working people in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, working people will not allow this attack to silence our collective voices. We will continue to organize and bring our collective voices together in opposition to the ongoing assault on our rights.

Advocates for working people soundly rejected the ruling in Janus. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, abandons decades of commonsense precedent. In this case, a bare majority of the court, over the vigorous dissent of four justices, has conceded to the dark web of corporations and wealthy donors who wish to take away the freedoms of working people. Until it is overturned, this decision will be a political stain on what is intended to be the most honorable, independent body in the world. But more importantly, it will further empower the corporate elites in their efforts to thwart the aspirations of millions of working people standing together for a better life.

But here’s the thing: America is heading in a different direction. All over the country, workers are organizing and taking collective action as we haven’t seen in years. More than 14,000 workers recently formed or joined unions in just a single week. This followed a year where 262,000 workers organized and the approval rating of unions reached a nearly 14-year high. Working families know the best way to get a raise, better benefits and a voice on the job is through a union contract. The corporate narrative of the labor movement’s downfall is being dismantled by working people every single day.

We have never depended on any politician or judge to decide our fate and we aren’t about to start now.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders:

Unions will always be the most effective force and vehicle to propel working people into the middle class. Despite this unprecedented and nefarious political attack—designed to further rig the rules against working people—nothing changes the fact that America needs unions now more than ever. We are more resolved than ever to fight like hell to win for our members and the communities they care so much about. AFSCME members don’t do this work to get rich. They do it because it’s a calling—and for that service, they deserve respect. They deserve the same freedoms as the CEOs and billionaires who continue to rig the rules against everyone else. The American labor movement lives on, and we’re going to be there every day, fighting hard for all working people, our freedoms and for our country.

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Congress and the President Need to Listen to Workers on Trade

Celeste Drake AFL-CIO

If you read this blog regularly, you already know that the United States has a ginormous, humongous trade deficit with China. The goods trade deficit with China reached $375 billion in 2017. This deficit has cost 3.4 million U.S. jobs between 2001 and 2015.  About 2.6 million of those lost jobs were in manufacturing, including more than 1.2 million in computer and electronic manufacturing. You probably also know that the loss of all these jobs pulls down wages, and that bad trade policies lower an average U.S. worker’s pay by $2,000 every year.

The labor movement has been working to fix U.S. trade policy for more than 20 years. After years of having our trade recommendations ignored by both Democratic and Republican presidents and Congresses, President Donald Trump has started to take some of our advice. He announced tariffs on China to deter it from stealing patents and copyrights and pressuring companies to transfer technology and jobs from the United States (many companies are ready to outsource anyway—working people don’t need extra threats from China!). The real test will come in what happens in negotiations with China and with Canada and Mexico over the North American Free Trade Agreement.

We have to hold both Trump and members of Congress in both parties accountable and make sure they actually make real change in the trade rules that will help working people.

Labor has been fighting for stronger trade enforcement for years. So we think these tariffs are a good start, if used strategically. But alone, they aren’t enough to reform and undo decades of bad trade rules. The president can’t fix the trade deficit, create jobs and raise wages if he ignores the rest of our advice.

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Study: Popularity of Joining Unions Surges

From the AFL-CIO

After holding steady for decades, the percentage of American workers in all jobs who would say yes to join a union jumped sharply this past year, by 50%, says a new, independent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The evidence is clear: The popularity of the labor movement is surging as more people want to join unions than ever before. Every worker must have the freedom to negotiate in a union over pay, benefits and working conditions.

The national narrative that the economy is doing OK, while working people struggle and billionaires bask in their latest round of massive tax cuts, is all wrong.

The truth is more working people want collective power. From 1977 to 1995, the percentage of all workers who would say yes to a union drive stayed flat, at about 32% of nonunion workers. Today, that number is 48%, a remarkable 50% increase.

This independent study from MIT confirms a broad trend we’ve seen in recent months as teachers have marched and rallied en masse for better school funding and higher pay, as tens of thousands of workers have voted to join unions and as the concept of unionism has spread in countless other ways in America.

The rich and powerful still hold many of the levers of power in America, but working people are claiming our seat at the table. We demand that every worker have the freedom to form or join a union.

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Reposted from the AFL-CIO

Working People Say Neither the U.S. nor Canada Gets Trade Policy Right

Celeste Drake AFL-CIO

Working people can’t afford any more trade policies written by and for corporations. But neither should we be pawns in a misguided power struggle that antagonizes allies or empowers corporations but fails to fix our economy.

A recent Global News/Ipsos poll revealed that more Americans support Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s actions on trade than President Donald Trump’s. In part, that may be because Trudeau seems more "likable." It may be because Americans have been treated to a steady stream of pundits who—like the global corporations who profit from unfair trade—oppose all forms of trade enforcement and who are purposely trying to make trade enforcement a dirty word. Wall Street has been working overtime to spook us with the specter of a "trade war," and the scare tactics have apparently been working.

The truth is that Trudeau, likable though he may be, is hurting Canadians by advancing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) trade deals, both of which are rigged to favor corporations over working families. Both deals are mostly about restricting the power of citizens to make decisions about how to run their own countries and rein in outrageous and irresponsible behavior of powerful corporations. The deals are only a little about actual trade.

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Union Matters

Home Health Care Workers Under Attack

By Bethany Swanson
USW Intern

Home health care workers have important but difficult jobs that require them to work long hours and chaotic schedules to care for the country’s rapidly growing elder population.

Instead of protecting these workers, the vast majority of whom are women and people of color, the current administration plans to make it harder for them to belong to unions, stifling their best chance for improving working conditions and wages.

The anti-union measure would roll back an Obama-era rule that allows home care workers, whose services are paid for through Medicaid, to choose to have their union dues deducted directly from their paychecks.

The goal of the rule, like the recent Janus decision and other anti-union campaigns, is to starve unions out of existence, so they can no longer protect their members.

Home health care workers bathe, dress, feed and monitor the health of the sick and elderly, but they often cannot afford to provide for their own families.

On average, they make little more than $10 an hour and more than half rely on some sort of public assistance. Most receive few or no benefits, even though home care workers and other direct care workers have some of the highest injury rates of any occupation.

That’s why many home care workers have turned to labor unions.

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The Dirty Truth about Janus

The Dirty Truth about Janus