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lia href= http://www.laborradio.org/node/10450Solis Nomination Vote Postponed After Husband Pays Old Tax Liensa//li
lia href= http://www.laborradio.org/node/10451The Obama Administration Tries To Make Recovery Act Spending Transparenta//li
lia href= http://www.laborradio.org/node/10452At Least 25,000 UHW Members Will Vote On Whether To Leave SEIUa//li
lia href= http://www.laborradio.org/node/10453AFL-CIO Creates Center For Green Jobsa//li
lia href= http://www.laborradio.org/node/10454Economic Report: U.S. Treasury Department May Have Overpaid On Bailout Investmentsa//li
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pA congressional oversight panel informed the U.S. Senate Banking Committee on Thursday that the U.S. Treasury may have overpaid as it invested portions of the $700 billion into financial institutions. A full report will be released today. The panel found that the Treasury Department spent $254 billion for assets worth $176 billion. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama called the Treasury’s funding decisions “haphazard,” “opaque,” and “disingenuous.”/p
pBy Doug Cunningham/p
pThe AFL-CIO Thursday announced creation of a new Center for Green Jobs to focus on helping unions, workers and their partners create the environmentally sustainable economy of the future. The center is already partnering with the AFL-CIO Building and Construction trades department to recruit and train green workers./p
pBy Doug Cunningham/p
pThe newly-formed National Union of Healthcare Workers says a total of 25,000 hospital workers in California at 101 facilities will be able to vote to quit SEIU and join the new union. Petitions were filed this week. NUHW was founded last week by leaders of United Healthcare Workers West, the big local taken over in a trusteeship action by SEIU International. SEIU International decided to reorganize the local over the objections of its former leaders and its rank and file workers. Efforts are underway to get elections for as many of the approximately 150,000 UHW members as possible. SEIU International’s Dave Regan says SEIU will fight every step of the way to keep UHW workers in SEIU rather than have them join the new National Union of Healthcare Workers./p
pThe Obama Administration is seeking to make spending under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan transparent. Jesse Russell reports. /p
pTransportation Secretary Ray LaHood unrolled a new plan on Thursday to make spending under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan accountable and transparent. Part of the plan is to have an oversight board post updates on a new government website called recovery.gov /p
p[LaHood]: See where the dollars are spent and which cities and towns the money is going to and for which projects./p
pLaHood said 75 percent of the package would be spent out in the first 18 months after passage. LaHood wasn’t sure how the money would be allocated state-by-state, but he will be meeting with all 50 transportation secretaries next Wednesday as decisions are made:/p
pBy Doug Cunningham/p
pThe U.S. Senate Thursday postponed a committee vote on the Labor Secretary nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis after her husband paid $6,400 to settle outstanding tax liens. Republicans had delayed action on Solis’ nomination earlier out of their opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act labor law reform. The Obama administration says the Solis nomination is not in trouble. Solis is the most pro-worker, pro-union Labor Secretary nominee in many years./p
At yesterday’s rally in support of the Employee Free Choice Act, a number of brave workers who have been hurt by our broken labor law system spoke out to explain why we badly need this vital new law to protect the freedom of workers to form a union and bargain.
These workers are just a few of the nearly 30,000 workers who are harassed, discriminated against and fired every year for trying to exercise the freedom to bargain for health care, pensions and fair wages and treatment. Their stories illustrate, on an honest and personal level, the real problem with the nation’s current labor laws: People who want to form unions are at the mercy of corporations because the laws are badly tilted toward companies, not workers.
A long-time journalist and mother of a young child, Sara Steffens met with her co-workers to try and form a union at the newspaper where they worked in Contra Costa County, Calif. Workers hoped that with a union they could have job security and more of a say in how the newspaper operates. Despite gathering the support of two-thirds of the paper’s employees, they were met with a hostile response.
“Our employer reacted the way a lot of companies do,” Steffens said. “They hired an anti-union consultant and began a pretty aggressive campaign to scare us into voting against the union. Despite all of that, we did win our election….A few weeks later, they announced a major layoff, and I was one….I had been the co-chair of our organizing committee.
“I think it’s important that workers feel like they can step up and tackle problems in their workplace, and not have to be afraid that if they speak out they’re going to lose their jobs for it,” Steffens said.
Theresa Gares and her fellow school bus drivers in New Jersey wanted to form a union to bargain for basic benefits like health coverage and sick leave. Like Steffens, she and her co-workers met strong resistance from management, including hostile mandatory meetings and misleading rhetoric from management.
“We decided we want a union, we want to bargain for our rights and fairness,” Gares said. “Once they found out we were trying to organize a union, they started having meetings. They’re trying to talk people out of it, discourage them. This is what we’re fighting for: We’re fighting for fairness in the workplace, a voice in the workplace, things that we deserve.”
Three-quarters of Gares’ co-workers signed petitions asking for a union, but during their effort, she and another worker were fired.
Bill Lawhorn, a forklift operator, was fired for joining with his co-workers in Ohio to try and form a union. Because of the weakness of current labor laws, his company faced virtually no penalty. After six years of legal action, his company reinstated him but has yet to pay him any back wages.
We tried to form a union to get a little respect and dignity, maybe a little retirement….We had majority support; then the company started to scare everybody, threatening to close the factory, threatening to take away wages, benefits. It scared enough people that we lost the election, and I was fired.
We need the Employee Free Choice Act so this doesn’t happen to anyone else. Nobody knows what it’s like until it happens to you for six years.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Asela Espiritu, a nurse who works for Kaiser Permanente in Orange County, Calif., discussed how Kaiser Permanente stayed neutral and allowed nurses at Espiritu’s facility to pursue a union through the legal majority sign-up process. Thanks to her and her co-workers’ successful efforts, the people who have the most direct experience in patient care have a voice when it comes to how the company operates. That’s good for nurses, for patients and for the company.
With us being unionized, we’re on the same page with management on how we can deliver the best care for our patients. The Employee Free Choice Act will empower workers of all kinds of industries….They will be able to be part of the solution to the crisis we have.
The high-dollar corporate attacks on the Employee Free Choice Act rely on the fiction that unions are sinister outside forces, separate from and unwanted by workers. That myth is leveled by the stories of real people like Steffens, Gares, Lawhorn and Espiritu, who are honest, hardworking people who just wanted the freedom to have a say in their workplace and the ability to bargain for a better life for themselves and their co-workers.
It’s stories like these that illustrate why the Employee Free Choice Act is so urgent and necessary to restore the balance for workers.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee postponed a scheduled vote today on the nomination of Hilda Solis for secretary of labor. President Obama announced his choice of Solis in December, and the Senate committee held a hearing on her nomination Jan. 9.
Some news reports have pointed to Republican opposition to Solis over the Employee Free Choice Act—she was a co-sponsor of the bill in the U.S. House—and suggested there may have been plans to place a hold on her nomination by a Republican senator.
But in a joint statement, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the committee chairman, and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the panel’s ranking minority member, said the vote was postponed
to allow members additional time to review the documentation submitted in support of Representative Solis’ nomination to serve in the important position of labor secretary. There are no holds on her nomination, and members on both sides of the aisle remain committed to giving her nomination the fair and thorough consideration that she deserves. We will continue to work together to move this nomination forward as soon as possible.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney this afternoon urged the committee to move ahead with a vote as soon as possible and move the confirmation to the full Senate.
Congresswoman Hilda Solis is eminently qualified for this post and will be a vigorous advocate for the kinds of programs that our nation’s working people need the most. She will fight to improve skills development and job-creation programs, including development of “green-collar” jobs. She will work to assure that workers get the pay they have earned and that they work in safe, healthy and fair workplaces. She’s ready to address the retirement security crisis and will work hard to protect every worker from job discrimination, regardless of race, sex, veteran status or disability.
She understands that working men and women deserve the freedom to choose whether to form a union without employer interference.
For nearly two years, Susan Ivey, the CEO of Reynolds American, the parent of the nation’s second-largest tobacco company, has refused to meet with workers to discuss the conditions of thousands of tobacco farm employees in North Carolina and other states who harvest the tobacco Reynolds uses to make its products.
As a dominant player in the big tobacco game, Reynolds American wields significant industry clout and can improve working conditions in the fields, but it has not developed the political will to bring about change, says the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC).
Instead, tobacco’s big player continues to rake in billions of dollars every year, while farm workers live in dire poverty on subminimum wages and toil in extremely dangerous working conditions. In fact, conditions for farm workers who harvest tobacco are far more dangerous than many realize.
FLOC is urging union members to call Ivey at Reynolds headquarters in Winston-Salem, N.C., tomorrow, Feb. 6, to urge her to meet with FLOC and the workers. The number is 336-741-5000.
Last year, FLOC President Baldemar Velásquez spent a week working as a field laborer in an all-male group at a North Carolina farm to see firsthand the conditions of tobacco workers.
In “A Week in the Tobacco Fields” on the AFL-CIO website, Velásquez used excerpts of his daily diary to relate his experiences and emotions working with the men in the hot fields.
Velásquez recounts how he had to wear rubber boots and a roll of plastic bags fashioned as a poncho to keep the morning dew from soaking his clothes. The workday, which began around 7 a.m., involved topping, suckering and weeding the plants. The flower had to be broken off the top and the suckers gleaned from the leaf.
He explains how tobacco farm workers live in poverty, suffer from nicotine poisoning and exposure to deadly pesticides and harsh conditions in the fields. They have few enforceable human rights protections. Read the entire column here.
While the farm workers are not employed directly by Reynolds, FLOC says Reynolds has the ultimate responsibility to ensure safe and fair working conditions for the thousands of tobacco harvesters in its supply chain.
As part of the AFL-CIO union movement’s commitment to fighting for green jobs, President John Sweeney and other union leaders today announced a major program to help working Americans prepare for the next generation of jobs by creating a Center for Green Jobs.
Starting with $1 million from the Working for America Institute, the AFL-CIO’s workforce and economic development arm, the center will partner with affiliated unions to help pave the way to good union jobs in a variety of the country’s unionized and greening industries. The center also will spread the lessons of AFL-CIO affiliates who have successfully joined the green economy, especially in manufacturing.
At a packed press conference this morning in Washington, D.C., Sweeney said the center is part of the AFL-CIO’s effort to “make progressive energy and climate change a first order priority.”
The mission of the center is not only to engage public policy but to also move beyond that to help our labor unions implement real green jobs initiatives—initiatives that retain and create good union jobs, provide pathways to those jobs and assist with the design and implementation of training programs to prepare incumbent workers as well as job seekers for these family-sustaining careers.
It is a think-do tank that will be a one-stop shop for our affiliates and partners, providing information and technical assistance on public policy, consortium development, workforce and economic development programs, economic analysis and even curriculum development.
The announcement coincides with the Green Jobs, Good Jobs National Conference in Washington from Feb. 4-6.
The Center for Green Jobs already has joined with the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) in its efforts to help construction unions recruit and train the “green workers” for tomorrow’s jobs.
The BCTD is working to engage its more than 1,100 training programs to create the skilled workforce needed for a clean energy future and provide new opportunities to join the middle class for workers in underserved communities, nontraditional workers, and communities of color.
At the press conference, BCTD President Mark Ayers held up a picture of his grandchildren and said the best reason to work together on environmental and economic issues is for the future generations.
A lot has been said recently about green jobs. But that conversation has been far too focused on the potential quantity of these jobs.
The core mission of the Center for Green Jobs will be to cultivate an equal focus on the quality of those jobs and to ensure that they are available to all Americans.
The Center also has formed a partnership with the National Labor College to develop a “green” certificate program for students of the college.
Sweeney announced that Jeff Rickert, who worked with the Apollo Alliance, will head the Center for Green Jobs. The Apollo Alliance is a coalition of business, labor, environmental and community leaders working to create a clean energy revolution in America.
Other speakers at the press conference included United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard; National Labor College President William Scheuerman; Oregon AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Barbara Byrd; Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, executive officer of the South Bay Central Labor Council in California; Dave Foster, executive director of the Blue Green Alliance; and Rickert.