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lia href = http://www.laborradio.org/node/10615Pro-Worker Labor Secretary Hilda Solia Vows To Enforce Worker Protectiona//li
lia href = http://www.laborradio.org/node/10616New York State Ponders Slashing Tax Incentives To Filmmakersa//li
lia href = http://www.laborradio.org/node/10617Microsoft Workers Protest Cuts As Company Makes $4 Billion Quarterly Profita//li
lia href = http://www.laborradio.org/node/10618SEIU Trustees Sue Former Officers Of United Healthcare Workers Locala//li
lia href = http://www.laborradio.org/node/10619Economic Report: Younger Workers Facing Especially Tough Timesa//li
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pEconomic Report: /p
pYounger workers are facing a tougher job market. The unemployment rate for 20-24 year olds hit 13.5 percent in January up nearly four points from the same time last year. Those aged 25 to 29 saw a similar jump with unemployment rates jumping from 6.4 percent in January 2008 to 10.1 percent in January 2009. The national unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in January./p
pBy Doug Cunningham/p
pSEIU International trustees who took over the United Healthcare West local union in California have filed suit against the former officers of that local. In response to the SEIU International takeover, those officers are working to bring as many UHW members as possible into a new union called the National Union of Healthcare Workers United Healthcare Workers. SEIU International trustees filed a federal suit Tuesday accusing former UHW officers of trying to weaken and sabotage UHW while they were still serving as its officers./p
pMicrosoft contract workers who are watching the company slash their pay aren’t taking the decision lying down. On Monday workers gathered near the company’s Redmond, Washington campus to protest the decision to make the cuts at the same time the company was posting $4 billion in profits during the fourth quarter of 2008. Last week the software giant announced it would be slashing pay by 10 percent for contract labor. Microsoft plans to cut 2000-3000 jobs in the coming months./p
pFacing a budget deficit, New York State is looking to slash a tax incentive offered to filmmakers in that state. Proponents of the incentive say cutting the incentive could cost thousands of jobs. Jesse Russell reports:/p
pOn Monday members of New York’s film and television industry called on the state to make permanent a 30 percent tax credit intended to encourage production companies to film in the state. The credit, combined with a five percent tax credit in New York City covers 35 percent of production costs. According to advocates on Monday the credit will generate $2.7 billion for the state by 2010 and if funding continues would provide 19,000 jobs over the next two years. With funding drying up the number of television pilots filmed went from 19 in 2008 to zero scheduled for 2009./p
pBy Doug Cunningham/p
pU.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told a community forum in Miami that she will fully enforce labor laws that protect workers. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney introduced Solis by saying she’s the first Labor Secretary in recent memory from a working family union background. Solis told the community forum in a Miami church that she will work to pass and then enforce the Employee Free Choice Act labor law reform making it easier for workers to join unions. The reform bars employers from intimidating pro-union workers. Solis says an Obama administration priority is protecting workers in the workplace. Solis met with the AFL-CIO Executive Council at its winter meeting in Miami Tuesday ./p
|IBEW President Ed Hill, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney meet with workers at an IBEW training facility in Miami.|
In the AFL-CIO Executive Council’s first full day of meetings in Miami, union leaders today addressed vital aspects of reviving the nation’s economy for working families, including growing good jobs, reforming health care, strengthening Social Security and revising the nation’s trade practices, especially with China.
The economic recovery package is a good start to turning around America and putting workers back on the job, say union leaders, who emphasized that rebuilding the nation’s major economic engine—manufacturing—will require strong compliance with the Buy American provisions in the package.
The council also called for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act to help boost the economy by restoring workers freedom to form unions and bargain for better wages and benefits.
Meeting at the union hall of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 349, the Executive Council began the day with a video address from President Obama. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis—who on Monday night joined the council and 700 community members in a forum—spoke with the council during the morning session today.
She later accompanied AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and other council members on a visit to the neighboring IBEW training center where young workers are learning skills that will prepare them for jobs in the growing green job market. Here is a summary of AFL-CIO Executive Council statements approved today.
In outlining the key components needed to rebuild the economy and create and maintain good jobs, the council points out that nearly 4 million manufacturing jobs were lost from the time former President George W. Bush was inaugurated in January 2001 to the November 2008 elections. In addition, another 520,000 disappeared between November and January. Says the council:
America’s economic and national security relies on a strong manufacturing sector. Millions of good, family-supportive jobs depend on manufacturing employment.
Obama’s economic recovery package provides nearly $800 billion to jump-start the economy—focusing on transportation, school and other infrastructure projects to clean energy to investments in education and health care and crucial funding for state and local governments. The package’s strong Buy American provisions mean that not only will jobs be created for specific projects but throughout the economy’s food chain if the Buy American rules are enforced. Says the council:
Ensuring the proper implementation of the Buy American provisions, as well as the most effective use of state and local funds, will require sustained vigilance. From teachers to building inspectors to sheet metal and transit workers and countless other occupations, union members will be on the front lines helping to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure and ensure that state and local governments can continue to provide vital public services. As they do so, we need their help in ensuring that contractors follow Congress’s mandate that American-made products be used wherever possible.
However, the recovery package is just the first step in a sustained economic revival. There must be major infrastructure rebuilding—from bridges and roads to broadband networks to the air traffic control systems, says the council. More must be done to revitalize and ensure survival of the U.S. automobile industry—which accounts for a quarter of the nation’s manufacturing jobs—including moves to thaw the frozen credit market.
Click here to read the full statement.
Health Care and Retirement Security.
In the weeks since Congress enacted the economic recovery package and Obama proposed his first budget, far-right ideologues are citing the growth in government spending to call for “fiscal responsibility”—a pretext to hide their true intentions to cut vital social programs. In a statement, the council warns:
Of course, we must be concerned with long-term fiscal stability, but we cannot allow fiscal responsibility to be used as a pretext for cutting the social safety net. In this time of growing economic insecurity, we should be strengthening rather than dismantling the social safety net.
A misdiagnosis of our budget problems can too easily lead to prescriptions that are worse than the disease.
Under the guise of an “entitlement crisis,” some groups have called for deep cuts in Medicare, Medicaid. and Social Security. But those calls are ignoring the real problem, out of control health care costs—$2.2 trillion a year. Says the council:
There is a long-term budget problem caused by the unsustainable growth of health care costs. Indeed, the CBO projects that if nothing were done to slow the growth in health care costs overall, we would be spending 49 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care by 2082.
There is no practical way to control public health care costs without addressing private health care costs as well. The price of admission to the debate over long-term fiscal responsibility is support for comprehensive health care reform. To fix our long-term structural deficits, we have to fix Medicare and Medicaid, and to fix Medicare and Medicaid, we have to control health care costs in the private sector.
On Social Security, the council warns:
Under no circumstances should we be considering proposals to undermine retirement security through benefit cuts….As President Obama has said consistently, the finances of Social Security are essentially sound and will remain in balance far into the future with only modest adjustments.
“Fixing” Social Security by lowering living standards is no solution at all.
Click here to read the full statement.
Trade With China
In 2008, the U.S. trade deficit with China hit $266 billion, and the top imports from China are manufactured goods, many of which used to be made in the United States. As the council asks:
What is wrong with this picture, how did we get to this point and what new policies do we need to reverse this course? This distorted trade and investment relationship is not only damaging to America’s workers and producers, but it also is robbing Chinese workers of a decent living standard and their basic human rights.
The imbalanced and unfair U.S.-China trade relationship reflects much of what is wrong with our government’s approach to trade policy to date, with multinational corporate strategy and with the framework of global economic rules.
The council says that China has used a number of unsavory and illegal tactics to gain its trade advantage over the U.S. and other global competitors including:
- Currency manipulation;
- Systematic repression of workers’ fundamental human rights;
- Illegal export subsidies;
- Lax enforcement of environmental, consumer and workplace protections; and
- Tax measures designed to favor domestic production.
Says the council:
It is time for our government to stand up for America’s workers, producers and farmers and insist that the Chinese government play by the rules of the global economic system—and respect its obligations under international human rights, labor and environmental conventions as well.
Click here to read the full statement.
Employee Free Choice Act
In the long battle to restore workers freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life, “the next few weeks are critical” to the success of the Employee Free Choice Act, says the council.
We also know that those who have always opposed workers’ rights, freedoms and advancement—the radical right wing and corrupt, corporate bullies—will fight us with everything they have and every advantage they can employ. They have spent vast sums and will spend even more-up to $300 million.
Union leaders on the council vowed to help build a warchest to combat the massive corporate onslaught against the bill; ramp up the nationwide grassroots campaign for the workers’ rights legislation; build on the success of the Million Member Mobilization to keep union members active and educate lawmakers; and reach out to employers.
We will have more on the Employee Choice Act mobilization tomorrow. Click here to read the full council statement.
The council also called for the restoration of collective bargaining rights for the 43,000 Transportation Security Officers in the Transportation Security Administration, the resignation of Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue, and federal funding to solve serious correctional officer understaffing and inmate overcrowding in the federal Bureau of Prisons.
Thanks to a strong pro-worker majority in Congress, the support of President Obama and a unified movement of union members and grassroots allies, the Employee Free Choice Act is closer to becoming a reality than ever.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz is the latest to throw his support behind the bill. Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University, was one of 38 leading American economists who endorsed the bill last week.
Annie Hill, CWA executive vice president, says:
If we want to turn around our economy, if we want to counteract some of the worst income inequality our nation has seen, Employee Free Choice is the way to do it. Despite unsourced rumors in the press, we are confident that Senate Democrats, led by Harry Reid, are going to pass the Employee Free Choice Act and make real bargaining rights a reality for millions of American workers.
With waves of misconceptions coming from the Chamber of Commerce and corporate front groups, disseminated by reflexively anti-union pundits like Mickey Kaus, and trickling into the language and themes of credulous journalists, it’s important to cut through the spin and talk about what the Employee Free Choice Act actually does.
Last weekend, Kaus attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and apparently was quite taken with Richard Epstein, a management lawyer and fellow at the far-right Hoover Institute who’s built a one-man industry around claiming the Employee Free Choice Act is unconstitutional. (University of California-Berkeley labor history professor David Brody rebuts Epstein’s distortions here.)
Taking Epstein at his word, Kaus wrote a long-winded blog making many erroneous assertions based on nothing but Epstein’s word. Kaus touts these scary themes, but neglects to mention:
- The right of workers to seek contract arbitration under the Employee Free Choice Act is meant to provide an incentive for companies to bargain in good faith. It would not affect all, or even most, employers—only those who fail to agree on a contract.
- Not only do many successful U.S. companies thrive with unions, but the wage, health care and pension improvement for union members help lift standards of living across the economy. Many of America’s top economists agree that wider access to collective bargaining will be a help, not a hindrance, to the economy.
- The exemptions for small businesses that already exist under the National Labor Relations Act would remain in place under the Employee Free Choice Act.
Kaus seems to be taking the word of corporate front groups whose sudden concern for workers’ rights is a cover for panic about the legislation and its ability to ensure that workers can bargain for a fair share of the prosperity they create.
Despite the flood of careless misinformation and intentional falsehoods about the freedom of workers to form unions, the Employee Free Choice Act has earned broad support and is likely to be passed by Congress and signed into law by Obama. The corporate hacks and anti-union groups are spending millions (an estimated $72 million in 2008 alone, reports The Hill) in a losing battle against the bill.
For more information on what you can do to push back on the disinformation campaign against the Employee Free Choice Act, click here.
When every employee in a workplace asks to be represented by a union, it should be a simple matter. They should get a union and be able to bargain for a better life. For workers at one Minneapolis company, however (see video), these basic freedoms were thwarted by their bosses. And all too often, what happened here takes place in workplaces across the country when employees seek to form a union.
Andy Aldrich, a fire safety worker, was one of the workers who, faced with arbitrary changes in pay and workplace rules, tried to form a union and negotiate with management for better work conditions and consistent pay.
That’s why we went for a union. We were looking for some fair and balanced treatment across the board, for every single employee.
Instead of accepting the wishes of the workers, management refused to recognize the union and instead pushed for a delayed election. Despite coercive one-on-one management meetings with employees, the company wasn’t able to block their wishes and the workers won their election for a union. But the fight wasn’t over. After seven months of negotiating, the employees still don’t have a contract. In the meantime, three of the workers who voted for a union have been fired.
If the Employee Free Choice Act was law, it would have protected the workers’ fundamental freedom to form a union and bargain. Across the country, a grassroots mobilization is pushing for quick passage of the Employee Free Choice Act to restore workers’ ability to bargain.
Many members of Colorado’s delegation to the U.S. Congress already have stepped forward to support the Employee Free Choice Act, including Rep. Betsy Markey, who won a tough race to oust an anti-worker incumbent last fall. Colorado union members are writing letters and attending town hall meetings to make sure the rest of the state’s delegation in Washington will fight for the freedom to form unions and bargain.
On Saturday, hundreds of union members attended a town hall meeting in Pittsburgh, where community leaders and union members talked about the need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. In addition, Sandra Telep of Pride At Work will speak tomorrow about the Employee Free Choice Act on an upcoming edition of Pittsburgh’s Union Edge radio show. (You’ll be able to download a podcast of the show here.)
In Alaska, Sam Rhodes of AFSCME Local 52 reports that more than 300 union members visited the state Capitol to show their support for workers’ rights and the Employee Free Choice Act. Rhodes says that union members from around Alaska visited their members of the state House and Senate to talk about the issues that matter to working families.
In Wisconsin, both AFSCME and the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association dedicated their monthly meetings to writing letters to Congress in support of the Employee Free Choice Act. And in Maine, the February meeting of the Maine AFL-CIO focused on political training and letter writing in support of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Carla Buschjost, a member of Sheet Metal Workers (SMWIA) Local 36, in St. Louis, is the new director of the Division of Labor Standards in the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DOLIR). Meanwhile in New York, Scott Murphy, a candidate in the special election for the 20th Congressional District seat, won the backing of the New York State AFL-CIO this weekend. Murphy is the son of a postal worker and a teacher.
Appointed late last month, Buschjost will oversee the division’s worker safety sections as well as the state’s child labor and prevailing wage laws. Says Buschjost:
I am passionate about stronger enforcement of laws that create stronger and safer workplaces.
Her most recent duties at Local 36 included monitoring compliance with the state’s prevailing wage laws on public construction projects. Prevailing wage laws ensure contractors on state projects don’t exploit workers by paying low wages to win state contracts. DOLIR Director Larry Rebman says:
Carla’s background and experience make her the ideal candidate to oversee the essential duties of the Division of Labor Standards.
In New York, voters on March 31 will select a successor to former Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) who was appointed to former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) Senate seat after she became U.S. Secretary of State.
State AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes says that Murphy
…has cultivated a strong relationship with local unions in his district and has shown a keen awareness and understanding of the issues, needs and concerns of working men and women.
The endorsement means Murphy will benefit from the state federation’s grassroots operations that include such member-to-member initiatives as phone banks, door-to-door visits and worksite fliers.
Murphy says if he gets to Washington, he will
fight to create jobs, provide middle-class tax relief and offer new ways to meet our most pressing challenges so we can turn our economy around.