Category: From AFL-CIO

NAFTA Can’t Be Fixed Behind Closed Doors

Celeste Drake AFL-CIO

This week, the governments of the United States, Canada and Mexico will begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, better known as NAFTA.

NAFTA, which has been governing our economy since 1994, is a bad deal. It has held down wages across North America. It has empowered global corporations to offshore jobs, shutter factories and drive small farmers out of business. It has driven away more than 850,000 U.S. jobs. It has made our economy more unequal and unfair.

Renegotiation offers a chance to give North America’s working families a new economic deal, so that any benefits of international trade can be shared broadly instead of being captured by the largest global corporations and their CEOs.

The first step to replacing NAFTA with a new economic deal is to negotiate in an open and transparent manner. If the proposals to fix NAFTA are only developed and discussed behind closed doors, how will ordinary people have a fair chance to review and influence these rules? If the negotiators claim we must trust them to do what’s best, but they won’t show us the new rules we will have to live under, the likelihood of a better deal is slim.

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Preventing Another Rana Plaza: A Model for Holding Corporations Accountable

Cathy Feingold

Cathy Feingold Director, AFL-CIO International Dept.

The roof collapsed, trapping thousands of workers for days. The world watched, in horror, as rescue crews scrambled to pull working people out of the debris. When the search was over, 1,134 had died and approximately 2,500 were injured.

This tragic incident occurred on April 24, 2013, in Dhaka District, Bangladesh. The collapse of Rana Plaza brought worldwide scrutiny to the poor and unsafe conditions of sweatshops in this Asian nation. The victims were garment workers who were sewing brand-name clothing for multinational corporations. Most of them earned just enough money to feed their families.

The tragedy in Rana Plaza shed light on the practices of multinational corporations that utilize the global supply chain to lower costs, even if this means risking the lives of hardworking and vulnerable people. At the same time, this unfortunate incident pushed many of these corporations to work with the global labor movement to reach agreements aimed at improving working conditions in Bangladesh.

As a result, today IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union joined leading fashion brands in signing a new Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.

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Working People Need to Know If We Can Trust Donald Trump’s NLRB Nominees to Protect Our Freedoms

Wikimedia Commons

President Donald Trump chose two nominees for the National Labor Relations Board whose commitment to the freedom of working people to come together and negotiate is seriously in doubt. These two men, Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel, have a terrible record of actively trying to strip working people of their freedoms. 

Republicans are rushing to get these nominations through, but it is imperative that Congress use upcoming hearings and meetings to find out whether these men will side with working people or with the richest 1% of Americans. NLRB decisions and actions have a real impact on the lives of working people, particularly their ability to join together with co-workers to advocate for positive change at work.

Of the nominations, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

Marvin Kaplan has never practiced labor law, and his experience comes from crafting legislation for politicians that rigs the rules against working people. William Emanuel has a long record of practicing labor law on behalf of employers, most recently at one of the most infamous union-busting law firms in the country. On their face, the resumes of both nominees appear to be in direct conflict with the mission of the NLRB.

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How to Have a Union-Made July 4th Barbecue

Whether it's Memorial Day, July 4 or Labor Day, make sure your barbecue is stocked with union-made in America products. 

Our lists are courtesy of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor's website Labor 411Union Plus; the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM); and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

  

Beer

  •  Budweiser
  •  Coors
  •  Miller
  •  Pabst
  •  Sam Adams

See more beers from Union Plus.

Coolers

  •  Rubbermaid

Flags

  •  Artflag

Games

  •  Battleship
  •  Candy Land
  •  Clue
  •  Connect Four
  •  Monopoly
  •  Twister
  •  Yahtzee
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How We Should Rewrite the Rules of NAFTA for Working People

Celeste Drake

Celeste Drake Trade and Globalization Policy Specialist, AFL-CIO

The North American Free Trade Agreement is typically called a "trade deal," but in reality it’s not much about trade. Its hundreds of pages of set rules for how the United States, Mexico and Canada can run their economies. Those rules give global corporations strong rights and privileges but don’t contain a single provision to ensure more jobs, better wages, clean air and water, affordable medicines, or any of the other benefits trade is supposed to bring.

By any measure important to working people, NAFTA was a failure. It didn’t raise wages. It didn’t help protect the environment or ensure that people who wanted to join together and negotiate on the job could do so. NAFTA’s rules are rigged—and they must change.

Trade is not inevitably bad for working people. A new NAFTA, with rules that working people help write, could create good jobs, raise wages, protect our natural resources and raise standards of living across North America.

These rules must ensure working people can join together to negotiate for better wages and working conditions. They must ensure citizens are free to make decisions about our economy, including being free from the threat of unlimited investor-state dispute settlement lawsuits by foreign corporations. They must promote investment in our roads, ports, and schools and promote "Buy American" provisions to create jobs locally.

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In Grim Times, Brazil's Young Workers Take Charge of Future

Tula Connell AFL-CIO

Among the millions of Brazilians who waged a recent 24-hour general strike to protest proposed legislation that would weaken labor regulations, many were young workers, some newly mobilized by the government’s attempts to impose drastic cuts on pensions, salaries and social security and dismantle labor rights, including provisions on vacations, overtime and working hours.

"The labor law reform bill being debated in the National Congress penalizes mainly young people and specifically young black workers, as young workers are primarily employed in precarious jobs and are the majority of the unemployed," said Julia Reis Nogueira, national secretary of Racial Equality in Brazil’s Central Workers’ Union (CUT), a Solidarity Center partner. "When you put together the generational and racial question, this group will be the main victims of this disastrous reform."

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5 Things You Need to Know from the AFL-CIO's New Executive Paywatch Report

Last week, the AFL-CIO released the 2017 edition of its Executive Paywatch report. The Executive Paywatch website, the most comprehensive, searchable online database tracking CEO pay, showed that in 2016, the average production and nonsupervisory worker earned some $37,600 per year. When adjusted for inflation, the average wage has remained stagnant for 50 years.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka explained the importance of these details:


This year’s report provides further proof that the greed of corporate CEOs is driving America’s income inequality crisis. Big corporations continually find ways to rig the economy in their favor and line their CEOs’ pockets at the expense of the workers who make their businesses run. Too often, corporations see workers as costs to be cut, rather than assets to be invested in. It’s shameful that CEOs can make tens of millions of dollars and still destroy the livelihoods of the hardworking people who make their companies profitable.

Here are five key things you should know from this year's Executive Paywatch report:

1. The average compensation for an S&P 500 CEO last year was $13.1 million. In contrast, production and nonsupervisory workers earned only $37,632, on average, in 2016. The average S&P 500 CEO makes 347 times what an average U.S. rank-and-file worker makes.

2. Last year, S&P 500 CEOs got a 5.9% raise while working people struggled to make ends meet.

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Indiana Republican Leader Admits Prevailing Wage Repeal Hasn't Saved Money

The Republican-led Wisconsin state Senate is discussing a bill to repeal prevailing wage laws for public works projects. As with most such attacks on working people in the United States, the arguments advanced in service of stripping rights from workers fall flat under even the slightest scrutiny.

Even Republicans admit that when pressed. Indiana passed a similar law in 2015 and video has surfaced from a forum April 24 in Milwaukee, where Indiana's House Assistant Majority Leader Ed Soliday (R) admits that the prevailing wage repeal in his state didn't save a penny.

Soliday said:

We got rid of prevailing wage and so far it hasn’t saved a penny. Probably the people most upset with us repealing [prevailing] wage were the locals. Because the locals, quite frankly, like to pay local contractors and they like local contractors to go to the dentist in their own town.

The exaggerations in those hearings that we were going save 22%. Well, total labor costs right now in road construction is about 22%, and I haven’t noticed anyone who’s going to work for free. [They claim] there’s some magic state out there that’s going to send all these workers into work for $10 an hour and it’s just not going to happen. There’s not 22% savings out there when the total cost of labor is 22%. It’s rhetoric. So far, I haven’t seen a dime of savings out of it.

Analysis of the Wisconsin legislation shows that $1.2 billion will be lost annually if the bill passes because of reduced economic activity. Study of the Indiana repeal shows that the state lost jobs because of it, and neighboring Kentucky saw a very similar number of new construction jobs appear in the aftermath.

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Reposted from the AFL-CIO.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Union Matters

NAFTA Must be Fought from the Ground Up

A group of local labor leaders, activists, and politicians met in Pittsburgh on Wednesday to take part in a forum regarding NAFTA renegotiations, which were set to begin this week in Washington. Of course, the main focus was how to rework the free trade deal to instead be fair for all workers instead of favoring CEOs.

“It’s urgent that workers’ voices be heard,” said USW President Leo W. Gerard. “If the agreement is renegotiated and doesn’t meet the standard that workers have a voice, we’ll have a very aggressive campaign to stop this new NAFTA.”

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey also touched on one point that perhaps many in the debate tend to miss, which is that NAFTA can't just be reworded with the hope that it solves all of our economic problems. The countries must also tackle policies put in place outside of the failed trade deal in all three nations involved—the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

One of these things, Casey pointed out, is tax reform. As of now, there is no financial incentive to keep U.S. companies operating on U.S. soil. Our tax code does the opposite and encourages them instead to ship jobs overseas and into Mexico.

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A New NAFTA for Workers

A New NAFTA for Workers