Fifteen years after the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) became law, workers have used the unpaid leave some 100 million times to take care of a newborn, a sick child or other family member or themselves. But workers may have a harder time taking family leave if changes to the law proposed by the Bush Department of Labor are adopted.
This morning at a House hearing, which marked the 15th anniversary of the landmark law, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Education and Labor Workforce Protection Subcommittee, said she is
…disappointed the department is proposing changes to make it harder on workers to utilize FMLA…It’s disturbing to me because they shift the balance more in favor to employers. They create more hoops for the workers to jump through.
Marcy Rein, a communications specialist in the ILWU Organizing Department, describes how the city of Sacramento put its weight behind the efforts of workers who for years have been seeking to form a union at Blue Diamond Growers in the face of massive company intimidation.
The Sacramento City Council in California on April 1 threw its support in a big way behind workers at Blue Diamond Growers struggling for the freedom to organize and join the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). The Council voted 7–1 to create an ad hoc committee that would talk with the company, the workers and the union to try to work out a fair election process agreeable to all.
This marks the second time the Council had taken action for the Blue Diamond workers. At a packed and dramatic meeting Dec. 5, 2006, the Council passed a resolution urging the company to sign a neutrality agreement with the ILWU. Company management has not responded to that or any other input from the community it has called home for nearly 100 years—the community that gave it some $21 million in public aid in 1995 to keep it from leaving town. Blue Diamond Organizing Committee member Carlos Saraiva said the workers “are very happy with the Council’s decision.”
Good news from the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center. Iranian labor leader Mahmoud Salehi was released from Sanandaj prison in Iran’s Kurdistan Province on April 6, following a one-year prison term for “acting against national security.” Salehi, former head of the Saqez Bakery Workers’ Union, was arrested May 1, 2004, for organizing a May Day rally in his home city of Saqez. He was released on bail, pending a new charge.
This from a Solidarity Center e-mail (and more here):
Both Salehi and Mansoor Osanloo, president of the Tehran bus drivers union Sherkat-e Vahed, had received strong support from the global labor community. On March 6, thousands of worker and human rights supporters from more than 35 countries mobilized in a Global Day of Action organized by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and Amnesty International. A week later, Iranian authorities leveled new charges against Salehi, accusing him of sending messages of solidarity from prison on the eve of the demonstrations.
The U.S. House of Representatives, this afternoon, told President Bush there will be no Fast Track for his flawed U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). By a 224–195 vote, the House removed Fast Track’s 90-day deadline for an up or down vote on the deal.
The vote will delay consideration of the deal indefinitely, probably until Bush leaves office in January.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says the time limit should be lifted because Congress and the president should be focusing their energy on the needs of America’s working families as the economy staggers toward a recession, not on the flawed trade deal.
Most people agree our nation is heading in the wrong direction—from health care to the economy to global warming to the war in Iraq. We want to know how you think we can “Turn Around America” and put us back on the right track.
Today, the AFL-CIO launches a “Turn Around America” video contest for you to tell us what’s not working in this country and how we can fix it. You can use songs, poetry, comedy, animation or any visual art to send us your thoughts and ideas.
Contest winners will be featured in TV ads to get the “Turn Around America” message out to voters and candidates this election year, and winners also will walk away with some cash.
The Bush administration has continued to turn its back on the health and other needs of the first responders and rescue and recovery workers exposed to the toxic stew at Ground Zero. A study by doctors at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City finds nearly 70 percent of firefighters, police officers, emergency medical crews, construction workers, utility workers and volunteers have suffered lung and other health problems.
Bush’s most recent outrage came in his budget proposal, cutting health care funding for Sept. 11 first responders by 77 percent and in December when he canceled a health monitoring and treatment program for Ground Zero workers.
In recent years, our nation’s social contract has been radically re-written. Despite growth in productivity and the overall size of the economy, most of us aren’t seeing our share of U.S. prosperity. Economic health has been redefined as corporate health. The result is that the economy as we know it is broken.
Fixing it starts with empowering workers.
This week, the Roosevelt Institution sponsored an all-day conference, “Toward a New New Deal,” where scholars and activists talked about the challenges facing the country and the policies needed to turn it around.