Category: From AFL-CIO

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.

More ...

How the Canadians Are Trying to Use NAFTA to Raise Your Wage

Celeste Drake AFL-CIO


Finally, after nearly a quarter of a century, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is being renegotiated. This is a good thing. NAFTA is called a "trade deal," but it’s mostly a collection of rules that give corporations more power over the three economies of North America. It gives companies tools to undermine laws and rules that protect America’s working families. It increased threats by U.S. employers to close workplaces and move to Mexico. And once the companies got there, NAFTA provided strict rules for them, but only vague guidelines to protect working people’s rights and freedoms.

NAFTA negotiations have not progressed very far, and it is too early to say whether the effort will bring a New Economic Deal to working people or simply more crony capitalism. But there was some fantastic, surprising, excellent news recently.

The Canadian negotiating team did something big: They told the U.S. negotiators that U.S. laws that interfere with people’s freedom to negotiate on the job are dragging down standards for Canada and need to be abolished. Guess what? Canada is right.

More ...

The Senate Is in a Hurry to Cut Our Health Care

Shaun O'Brien AFL-CIO

Do you remember "Repeal and Replace," "Repeal and Run" and "Skinny Repeal"? Those were all plans pushed by the Senate Republican leaders at the end of July in a frantic, failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and make massive cuts in our health care. Millions of working people stood up and spoke out to stop those cuts. Now, however, Republican leaders are back, just as desperate but hopeful they can sneak something through.

The media are calling the new Senate Republican proposal the Graham-Cassidy plan because two of its lead authors are Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.). A more accurate way to think of it is as "Repeal, Replace and Run."

This plan wipes out major parts of the ACA. There are no more federal tax credits to help the middle class pay health insurance premiums. No more Medicaid expansion for low-income working people. No airtight ban on discriminatory premiums for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Insurance companies can impose an age tax by charging older Americans up to five times what they charge young adults. Employers are let off the hook completely: No employer would be required to contribute toward any worker’s health care; but the 40% tax on middle-class worker health benefits would be made permanent.

More ...

OSHA's Claims About Hiding Information on Worker Deaths Fall Flat

Rebecca Reindel AFL-CIO

Since January, government agencies under the Donald Trump administration have taken steps to hide information from the public--information that was previously posted and information that the public has a right to know. 

But a recent move is especially personal. Two weeks ago, the agency responsible for enforcing workplace safety and health—the Occupational Safety and Health Administration—removed the names of fallen workers from its home page and has stopped posting information about their deaths on its data page. In an attempt to justify this, the agency made two major claims discussed below. Like many efforts to decrease transparency by this administration, these claims are unfounded, and the agency whose mission is to protect workers from health and safety hazards is clearly in denial that it has a job to do. Here's how:

OSHA claim #1: Not all worker deaths listed on the agency website were work-related because OSHA hasn't issued or yet issued a citation for their deaths.

Fact: It is public knowledge that 1) OSHA doesn't have the jurisdiction to investigate about two-thirds of work-related deaths but does issue guidance on a wide variety of hazards to workers that extend beyond their enforcement reach, and 2) OSHA citations are not always issued for work-related deaths because of a variety of reasons, including limitations of existing OSHA standards and a settlement process that allows employers to remedy certain hazards in lieu of citation. (The laborious process for OSHA to develop standards deserves a completely separate post.) But neither of those points mean the agency cannot recognize where and when workers are dying on the job, and remember and honor those who sought a paycheck but, instead, did not return home to their families.

More ...

Expand Health Care Coverage; Don’t Shrink It

Once again, Senate Republican leaders are pushing their incredibly unpopular and destructive plan to take health care from millions of Americans to line the pockets of corporate CEOs. Working people will continue to oppose transferring wealth from workers to Wall Street under the guise of health care.

Republican leaders in the Senate should stop trying to find ways to make health care worse.

The latest plan is yet another attempt to deny health care to people who need it to give tax breaks to those who don’t.

More ...

Attention, Kentucky: Closing a Pension Is Never a Good Idea

Jennifer Watkins

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it—and it’s prime time for Kentucky lawmakers to learn a history lesson.

Kentucky’s public pension funds face very real challenges, caused by decades of underfunding on behalf of the state. While public employees contributed with every paycheck, the state continuously kicked the can down the road. Now, rather than address the state’s pension problems with sound economic policy, political interests seek to close Kentucky’s pension systems and place newly hired employees in a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan.

A report released today by consulting firm PFM recommends the switch away from pensions, while also suggesting several other radical changes, including increasing the retirement age for public employees. The report relies upon junk math that has been discredited in other states in the past, in order to push Gov. Matt Bevin’s political agenda. PFM promotes a failed model, recommending measures that will damage both the fiscal health of the state and the recruitment and retention of public servants.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Closing a pension system is never a good idea. One need look no further than the states and cities that have closed their pension systems to learn of the costly ramifications that follow.

More ...

Labor Day 2017: Working People Take Fewer Vacation Days and Work More

Working people are taking fewer vacation days and working more. That's the top finding in a new national survey, conducted by polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the AFL-CIO in collaboration with the Economic Policy Institute and the Labor Project for Working Families. In the survey, the majority of America's working people credit labor unions for many of the benefits they receive.

In response to the poll, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

Union workers empowered by the freedom to negotiate with employers do better on every single economic benchmark. Union workers earn substantially more money, union contracts help achieve equal pay and protection from discrimination, union workplaces are safer, and union workers have better access to health care and a pension.

Here are the other key findings of the survey:

1. Union membership is a key factor in whether a worker has paid time off. While 78% of working people have Labor Day off, that number is 85% for union members. If you have to work on Labor Day, 66% of union members get overtime pay (compared to 38% of nonunion workers). And 75% of union members have access to paid sick leave (compared to only 64% of nonunion workers). Joining together in union helps working people care and provide for their families.

2. Working people go to work and make the rest of their lives possible. We work to spend time with our families, pursue our dreams and come together to build strong communities. For too many Americans, that investment doesn't pay off. More than half of Americans work more holidays and weekends than ever before. More than 40% bring home work at least one night a week. Women, younger workers and shift workers report even less access to time off.

More ...

9 Things You Need to Know About the Role of Unions in 2017

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute takes a deep look at the role and importance of unions as the key avenue for working people to come together and negotiate for an expansion of their rights and freedoms. Here are nine things you need to know about the state of the labor movement in 2017.

 

1. Unions amplify the voices of working people on the job: Organized labor is one of the largest institutions in America: One in nine U.S. workers—16 million of us—are represented by unions. Joining a union means that you and your co-workers have a say in the workplace. When working people come together to negotiate, it means they are more likely to have their voice heard, which means they are more likely to win wage increases, better access to health care and workplace safety, more reasonable and predictable work schedules, and more satisfactory avenues for settling workplace disputes.

2. Working people in unions are as diverse as Americans as a whole: Union members are much more diverse than we are depicted in the media. Nearly two-thirds of union workers from 18-64 are women and/or people of color. Almost half of union members are women. More than one-third of union members are people of color. Black workers are more likely to be union members than white or Hispanic workers.

3. Working people in unions come from a variety of sectors: Nearly 40% of working people in unions are in education and health services. Nearly 14% are in public administration. More than 12% are in transportation and utilities. Just over 9% of union members are in manufacturing.

More ...

Working People Have 17 Recommendations for NAFTA. Here’s #2

Celeste Drake AFL-CIO

By now, you’ve probably heard of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). You might have heard that some businesspeople think it’s a great deal, while average working families—and those who stand with us—think it only works if you’re already at the top.

If you’ve been reading our blog regularly, then you know NAFTA is being renegotiated. That means working people like us have an opportunity to fix it. And we laid out the first step: open the negotiations so that average citizens, not just corporate lobbyists and CEOs, can participate. So far, it’s not clear the negotiators heard us—but you can help us keep up the pressure.  

Even if they do keep the doors closed on the talks, we have to address the rules of the deal. The first rules that need replacement are the labor rules. The labor rules determine whether the playing field is fair for all workers or whether global corporations can treat us like pawns, bidding down our wages and working conditions as they increase their profits at our expense.

Given our long experience of trying to use trade rules to protect rights and freedoms for working people, we know what works and what doesn’t. We won’t fall for vague promises about NAFTA being the best deal ever for working people. Instead, we will be looking for specific provisions.

More ...

Right-to-Work Founder Was a Klan Fan

Berry Craig Kentucky AFL-CIO

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka didn’t pull punches when he announced Aug. 15 that he and Thea Lee, former AFL-CIO deputy chief of staff, were exiting President Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council.  

"We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism," Trumka said in a statement. "President Trump’s remarks [last Tuesday] repudiate his forced remarks [last Monday] about the KKK and neo-Nazis. We must resign on behalf of America’s working people, who reject all notions of legitimacy of these bigoted groups."

Today, the North Dakota AFL-CIO posted a statement on its website pledging that the federation "will always stand against such racist, hateful and vile beliefs. Nazism, fascism and white supremacy are abhorrent to everything labor stands for and they always have been."

The statement, written by North Dakota AFL-CIO President/Secretary-Treasurer Waylon Hedegaard, pointed out that "one of the Nazis’ first acts in Germany was to crush the labor unions. Knowing that organized labor was a real threat to Nazi control, the fascist government spent two years outlawing unions, jailing leaders who stood up for workers and setting up a state-run system of worker control. Using ruthless violence, intimidation and murder, the Nazis destroyed everything unions had fought for."

More ...

Union Matters

Turkish Sentencing of Wall Street Journal Reporter Horrifies News Guild

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Turkey’s sentencing of Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak horrifies The News Guild-CWA, which sees it as part of the government’s campaign to shut down criticism, Guild President Bernie Lunzer says.

On October 10, A Turkish court sentenced Albayrak to 25 months in prison on charges that she engaged in “terrorist propaganda in support of a banned Kurdish separatist organization,” the Journal reported.

The “propaganda” was an article two years ago about the Kurdish insurgency in eastern Turkey and its local impact.

More ...

America Needs Fairer Taxes

America Needs Fairer Taxes