Category: From AFL-CIO

The Soul of a Union Man

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

I was raised in a company house in a company town where the miners had to buy their own oilers – that is, rubber coveralls – drill bits and other tools at the company store.

That company, Inco Limited, the world’s leading producer of nickel for most of the 20th century, controlled the town of Sudbury, Ontario, but never succeeded in owning the souls of the men and women who lived and worked there.

That’s because these were union men and women, self-possessed, a little rowdy and well aware that puny pleas from individual workers fall on deaf corporate ears.

As I prepare to retire in a couple of days, 54 years after starting work as a copper puncher at the Inco smelter, the relationship between massive, multi-national corporations and workers is different.

Unions represent a much smaller percentage of workers now, so few that some don’t even know what a labor organization is – or what organized labor can accomplish. That is the result of deliberate, decades-long attacks on unions by corporations and the rich. They intend to own not only workers’ time and production but their very souls.

I’d like to tell you the story of Inco because it illustrates the arc of labor union ascendance and attenuation over the past 72 years since I was born in Sudbury. 

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Union Member Brings Unemployment Benefit Increase Bill to Governor’s Desk

Delaware Gov. John Carney signed a bill Sunday that raises the region’s lowest unemployment benefit. Under the bill, the maximum weekly payment will rise from $330 to $400—a long-overdue increase since the last update in 2002.   

The bill was marshaled through the General Assembly by Rep. Ed Osienski, a member of Sprinkler Fitters Local Union 669. 

“The unemployment benefit provides a vital lifeline to residents who find themselves out of work due to no fault of their own. The bills don’t stop coming in, even if the pay does,” Osienski said after the bill was signed. “It’s troubling that we have not increased this weekly benefit since 2002, which has made it more difficult for Delawareans to make ends meet during these times when they’re most in need of this assistance.”  

The Delaware AFL-CIO worked with Osienski and other allies on the bill, which passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. The increase was the first in 17 years and comes long after the recession of 2008 and 2009. The high jobless rate at that time left no room for an increase.

This victory comes on the heels of several other legislative wins that the Delaware AFL-CIO has achieved by working with union members elected to state office. Earlier achievements this year include expanding collective bargaining rights and worker training programs.

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Reposted from AFL-CIO

Working People Win in Delaware

From the AFL-CIO

Delaware recently became the latest state to allow more public employees to collectively bargain for fair wages and working conditions and improve access to apprenticeship programs, thanks to the advocacy of union members in public office.

The first law, which Delaware Gov. John Carney signed on May 30, solidifies collective bargaining rights for 2,000 additional state employees.

“This is a proud moment for our unions that represent state workers,” said James Maravelias (LIUNA), president of the Delaware State AFL-CIO. “This shows our constant commitment to their livelihood and our ever-present representation.”

Carney signed a second bill into law on Friday during the 2019 Delaware Building and Construction Trades Council’s graduation banquet for apprentices at the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA) Local 74 Executive Hall in Newark.

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Delaware Governor Signs Bill Protecting Collective Bargaining Rights of 2,000 More State Employees

Michael Gillis AFL-CIO

Delaware Gov. John Carney signed a bill on Thursday that allows more public employees to collectively bargain for fair wages and good working conditions in the state. Previously, only select professions were afforded this protection and now more than 2,000 workers will have all the benefits that collective bargaining brings. Passage of the bill was possible through the direct and sustained involvement of a number of union members that have been elected to the state legislature.

The Delaware State AFL-CIO played a critical role in moving the bill through the legislature to the governor’s desk. "This is a proud moment for our unions that represent our state workers," said James Maravelias, president of the Delaware State AFL-CIO. "This shows our constant commitment to their livelihood and our ever-present representation."

"Allowing more state workers to collectively bargain for better wages is a critical step toward improving the lives of all Delaware families," said state Sen. Jack Walsh, the prime sponsor of the legislation. "As the state’s largest employer, we have led the way time and again when it comes to caring for our workers. From paid parental leave and loan forgiveness for public school teachers to cost-of-living wage hikes and stronger labor unions, we are creating a stronger workforce and a brighter future for thousands of our residents."

Michael Begatto, executive director of AFSCME Council 81, praised Carney for helping get the bill through the General Assembly. "It’s not just a big moment, this is a huge moment," he said. "I won’t use the words of our former vice president, but this is a big deal. Believe me, it’s that big of a deal."

Murdered Trade Unionists: The Truth Behind Colombia’s Trade Agreement

Cathy Feingold

Cathy Feingold Director of the International Department, AFL-CIO

Any mention of Latin America has become a synonym of mass migration, autocratic governments and unstable economies. Yet, Colombia continues to shine as the exception. This week marks the seventh anniversary since the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) entered into force. It can be argued that during these years this South American nation has become a haven of economic and social stability. Or not.

One only has to look behind all the fanfare and a “parallel reality” appears. Violence in Colombia is still harrowing. From the oil to the sugar to the flower sector, workers and trade unionists report a deterioration of their rights at the workplace, continued labor intermediation that weakens the power of workers, and an increase in the culture of violence and impunity. From January 2016 through April 2019, 681 social leaders and human rights defenders have been murdered; and between 2016 and 2018, 70 trade unionists have been killed. In fact, from the year the TPA went into force until today, 172 trade unionists have been murdered.

When the United States and Colombia began negotiating their trade agreement, we already saw the negative effects of the original NAFTA—from mass migration and a spike in violence in Mexico to widening inequality in the United States. After pressure from labor and human rights organizations, in April 2011, the U.S. and Colombian governments agreed to an “Action Plan Related to Labor Rights” (Labor Action Plan) that outlined specific steps to be taken by the Colombian government within a concrete timeline.

Colombia made commitments, both under the trade agreement and in other global fora, to improve worker rights, end attacks and murders of trade unionists, and bring perpetrators of violence to justice. The country also signed a peace accord with the FARC that committed to ending the conflict and addressing many of the core factors that continue to lead to high levels of inequality and violence.

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#BuildForTomorrow

From the AFL-CIO

It’s Infrastructure Week, a time to call on our elected leaders to rebuild and modernize America’s crumbling infrastructure.

This year’s Infrastructure Week comes at a time when 79% of voters say investing in America’s infrastructure is a top priority.

Here is what inaction is costing us:

Inaction is costing Americans an average of $3,000 every year.

It’s time to tell Washington to stop delaying. Take action and fix our infrastructure. Learn more at Infrastructure Week.

 “We cannot and will not tolerate more inaction. The future prosperity of working families and our communities across America is at stake, as is our national commitment to the simple but powerful idea that when we invest in the nation’s infrastructure, our economy expands and working people thrive.” —2017 AFL-CIO Convention Resolution 7: Reviving Our Communities and Putting Millions to Work Rebuilding the Country

 

Fighting to Fix the New NAFTA

From the AFL-CIO

For the better part of a generation, our global trading system has been rigged to enrich corporations at the expense of working people—and no deal has done more damage than NAFTA. We are hungry for a North American trade deal that lifts wages and improves livelihoods. The new NAFTA, also known as the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), as proposed falls short, and that’s why America’s working families will keep fighting to fix it.

Here are three reasons why the labor movement opposes the new NAFTA:

  1. There is nothing in the current deal to fix the outsourcing of good-paying American jobs to Mexico and other low-wage countries. 851,000 U.S. jobs were lost already due to NAFTA.
  2. Unless Mexico finishes and implements full labor reform and stronger rules and enforcements are added to the NAFTA text, Mexico’s workers will continue to face wages as low as $2 per hour or less and receive no protection from threats and violence when trying to unionize.
  3. Monopoly rights for Big Pharma would keep drug prices sky high, and new rules would undermine protections such as workplace safety.
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A Just, Inclusive and Sustainable Economy

From the AFL-CIO

This week, labor leaders from across the country descended on New Orleans to map out the path ahead for our movement. From trade and public education to equal pay and paid leave to back pay for federal contract workers and bargaining power for all, the AFL-CIO Executive Council tackled the issues that will define working people’s fight for economic justice in 2019 and beyond.

Sending waves through Washington yesterday, the Executive Council’s most notable decision was its announcement that, “if the administration insists on a premature vote on the new NAFTA in its current form, we will have no choice but to oppose it.” Here are a few highlights from the statement:

  • Trade policy must be judged by whether it leads to a just, inclusive and sustainable economy....By that measure, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has driven the outsourcing of so many good jobs, has been a catastrophic failure. More than 850,000 U.S. jobs were shipped overseas under NAFTA between 1993 and 2013.
  • By design, NAFTA distorted power relationships in favor of global employers over workers, weakened worker bargaining power and encouraged the de-industrialization of the U.S. economy.
  • After a quarter-century of this race to the bottom, workers in all three NAFTA countries find it more difficult to form unions and negotiate collective bargaining agreements.
  • The NAFTA renegotiation requires strong labor rights provisions and strong enforcement provisions that as of today are not yet in the agreement.
  • The current effort by the business community to pass the new NAFTA is premature, and if it continues, we will be forced to mobilize to defeat it, just as we mobilized to kill the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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Union Fights Back

From the AFL-CIO

As a wave of collective action continues to sweep the country, working people are taking on one of the country’s most powerful corporations. In the face of shameless union-busting, labor leaders and Boeing workers are fighting back for the rights and dignities they deserve.

First, Boeing announced that virulently anti-union former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was joining its board of directors.

This, for example, is one thing Haley said about labor organizations: “I'm not going to stop beating up on the unions....We're going to keep fighting the unions. I'm going to keep being a union buster.”

Machinists (IAM) International President Robert Martinez Jr. was quick to call out Boeing’s decision.

“The IAM has serious concerns about the nomination of Nikki Haley to Boeing’s board,” he said. “As governor of South Carolina, Haley had a record of using anti-union rhetoric and inserting politics into working people’s decisions.”

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Union Matters

Raise the Wage!

From the AFL-CIO

It’s been a decade since the federal minimum wage was increased—the longest period in American history without an increase. In that time, the cost of living has increased and working families have struggled to make ends meet. The Raise the Wage Act would finally bring the federal minimum wage up to $15 an hour.

The House of Representatives is voting tomorrow on the Raise the Wage Act, and we need to make sure lawmakers know where workers stand. Will you show your support and ask your friends to call their representatives?

One in 9 workers in the U.S. is in poverty—even when working full time and year-round. Passing the Raise the Wage Act as it stands would empower working families in need and build an economy that works for everyone.

Share our #RaisetheWage message on social media right now.

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The Richest Fantasy

The Richest Fantasy