There is a new focus at the Department of Homeland Security toward employers who hire undocumented workers. Jesse Russell reports:
On Thursday the Department of Homeland Security sent down new guidelines for Immigration and Customs Enforcement that will help the organization target employers who employ undocumented workers. The Department acknowledged that workers would still be detained when the ICE raids workplaces, but such round ups will be used to for developing cases against the employers. The Department additionally intends to focus less on simply using tips that employers are using undocumented workers, but will now increase dependency on undercover operations and analyzing employment records. In 2008 135 employers or managers were arrested during ICE raids. According to the New York Times the new regulations stem from a raid in February where the ICE raided an employer, arrested 28 undocumented workers, but failed to seize the employer’s records. The new Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano ordered the ICE to return to the company and take into custody the employment files.
By Doug Cunningham
If there’s a flu pandemic, what happens if health care workers aren’t protected as they try to care for flu victims? A survey of more than a hundred health care facilities around the nation shows many are not adequately prepared to protect workers’ health and safety during a flu pandemic. The survey was conducted by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. AFSCME surveyed over a hundred health care facilities in fourteen states. AFSCME’s Katherine Cox.
[Cox]: “What we would like to see is that there be some kind of mandatory protections in place for workers, some kind of a plan like an OSHA standard where employers don’t really have a choice about protecting their health care workers.”
By Doug Cunningham
So what happens to workers and retirees in the Chrysler bankruptcy? The United Auto Workers union says under its agreement with Chrysler that will be presented to the bankruptcy court the UAW pension plan will continue in effect without change. The retiree health care trust will be funded with Chrysler stock as previously announced, giving the UAW 55 percent ownership of a restructured Chrysler. The UAW says Chrysler, the U.S. Treasury and Fiat all remain committed to the agreement negotiated with the UAW and ratified by its Chrysler membership. The bankruptcy filing was forced by hedge fund creditors who refused to settle with the government and Chrysler on debt reduction. President Obama said these hedge funds didn’t want to share in the sacrifices made by the union. Obama says he does not stand with the creditors. And the Obama administration says it doesn’t expect any more significant Chrysler job losses as a result of the bankruptcy.
Yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the threat of widespread human infection from the outbreak of swine flu to its second-highest level. The outbreak of swine flu originated in Mexico and is now spreading throughout the United States and around the globe.
But as an April 16 report released by the AFL-CIO and several unions, including the United American Nurses (UAN), warned, the nation’s health care workers—the first line of defense against the diseases—are at risk because many the nation’s health care facilities are not prepared to deal with a pandemic. The report, which surveyed 104 health care facilities in 14 states, found that while health care facilities have made some progress in preparing for an influenza pandemic, much more needs to be done. The survey found:
- More than one-third of the respondents believe their workplace is either not ready or only slightly ready to address the health and safety needs necessary to protect health care workers during a pandemic.
- 43 percent of respondents believe that most or some of their fellow workers will stay home.
- One-third of the facilities have yet to develop a written plan for responding to pandemic flu and only 54 percent of the facilities have identified health care workers who will be at some risk of occupational exposure to the pandemic flu virus.
- Fewer than half the facilities surveyed (43 percent) have provided pandemic flu training to their workers, one of the fundamental elements of protecting workers from occupational hazards.
The California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC) is urging broader national action to promote containment and prevention of a broader swine flu pandemic.
The nurses union says after years of neglect of the public safety net, the nation’s health care infrastructure is badly eroded. Says CNA/NNOC co-president Deborah Burger, RN:
From SARS to avian flu to the current escalating outbreaks of swine influenza, it has become increasingly clear that we are risking a major catastrophe unless we act to restore the safety net, and devote the resources that are needed to protect the public.
The CNA/NNOC’s pandemic action plan includes:
- Recruit and mobilize teams of scientists to create the appropriate effective vaccine for the virus.
- Cease and desist any reductions in public health programs at federal, state and local levels. Lift any freezes on public health funding currently in place.
- Implement a moratorium on any closures of emergency rooms, layoffs of direct health care personnel and reductions of hospital beds.
- Assure the availability of protective equipment for all health care personnel.
For more information, visit www.calnurse.org.
Meanwhile, the Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) is asking the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to enact flu safeguards that would include passenger screening tests for the swine flu. The AFA-CWA is also asking the FAA to order airlines to supply attendants with latex gloves and face masks and not to count sick day absences against contractually allotted sick days.
The union also wants the FAA to ensure that aircraft are equipped with proper and sufficient hand-washing materials and to emphasize the importance of regular and thorough hand-washing, and not touching one’s face, to crew and passengers.
In other swine flu developments, this week the Obama administration called on Congress to allocate $1.5 billion for combating the virus. That money to fight the swine flu outbreak would be available now if Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and “Bush’s Brain” Karl Rove” had not led the fight to strip $870 million from the Obama administration’s economic recovery package that was designated for pandemic preparation. Says John Nichols in the Nation’s blog The Beat:
The attack on pandemic preparation became so central to the GOP strategies [to attack the recovery package] that [the Associated Press] AP reported in February: “Republicans, meanwhile, plan to push for broader and deeper tax cuts, to trim major spending provisions that support Democrats’ longer-term policy goals, and to try to knock out what they consider questionable spending items, such as $870 million to combat the flu.
Sunday, Collins attempted to defend herself, dispatching a spokesman to declare that, “There is no evidence that federal efforts to address the swine flu outbreak have been hampered by a lack of funds.” But, as The Washington Post notes: “Collins and the others who led the fight to axe the flu money three months ago can only hope that doesn’t change.”
One the key recommendation to prevent the spread of swine is to stay home from work if you become infected with the virus. But as we reported in September, nearly 50 percent of private-sector workers have no paid sick days. For low-income workers, the number jumps to 76 percent. Says Pat Garofalo at the Think Progress Wonk Room.
Unfortunately, staying home due to illness is simply not possible for a large number of Americans….These workers have to decide between the health of themselves and their co-workers, and the wages that they lose by staying home.
This could be remedied by the Healthy Families Act, which Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) plan to reintroduce in Congress next month. The bill would “guarantee workers up to seven paid sick days a year to recover from an illness or care for a sick family member.” And if it helps prevent the spread of illnesses like swine flu, even better.
Yesterday in Norfolk, Va., union veterans held the first event of what will be a nationwide campaign for the Employee Free Choice Act, uniting union and nonunion veterans from across the country in support of the freedom to form unions and bargain.
In a dozen states, VoteVets.org, Veterans and Military Families for Progress (VMFP), Veterans’ Alliance for Security and Democracy (VETPAC) and the AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council are teaming up to host military veterans, family members and union members for rallies, roundtable discussions and mobilization events. More than 2 million union members—14 percent of all union members—are veterans and, along with national veterans’ groups, they’re ready to mobilize for a level playing field in the workplace and the freedom to bargain for the economic opportunity they deserve.
Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran and the chairman of VoteVets.org, says freedom of assembly and the right to bargain for a better life is a critical part of the American promise that needs to be kept.
The freedom to organize is an American value, one of the many values we veterans fought to protect. Past generations of veterans were able to enter the middle class because unions were there to fight for fair wages and benefits. The Employee Free Choice Act ensures that veterans and civilians in the workforce will continue to get a fair shake, which is why we’re proud to support it.
Richard Hatch, an Army veteran and member of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 2201 in southeast Virginia, attended the Norfolk roundtable yesterday. Hatch, who wrote letters to his senators asking them to support the Employee Free Choice Act, says that the freedom to form unions and bargain is a value he strongly believes in.
The reason I signed up to fight is that I believed in the ideal of freedom and why and how America was founded. You have to buy into that to put your life on the line. When you see the injustice that’s going on in this country right now—where corporations and their CEOs negotiate their own contracts but workers are stripped day in and day out of their basic rights—that’s not why I joined the military and that’s not what I was fighting for.
The voices of veterans will be a valuable addition to the broad national coalition behind the Employee Free Choice Act.
On the 100th day of the Obama administration, the U.S. House (233-193) and Senate (53-43) approved President Obama’s budget blueprint that rejects the failed economic policies of the Bush administration, makes a major down payment on comprehensive health care reform and signals significant investment in education, clean energy and green jobs.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called the budget resolution a
The budget includes tax cuts for middle-class working families, unlike Bush-era tax cuts for the extremely wealthy and Big Business. It also includes a 2.5 percent increase in non-defense, discretionary spending over last year’s budget on such programs as workplace safety, wage and hour protection, education, highway construction, transportation and other areas.
As they have since Obama took office, Republicans offered no new ideas, continuing along as the Party of No, in their opposition to rebuilding the middle class, fixing the economy and improving health care. Not a single Republican in either house voted for the budget resolution. So far this year, congressional Republicans have opposed health care coverage for children, equal pay protections for women and economic recovery legislation.
At his news conference last night, Obama said:
This budget builds on the steps we’ve taken over the last 100 days to move this economy from recession to recovery and ultimately to prosperity….We can’t go back to an economy that’s built on a pile of sand, on inflated home prices and maxed-out credit cards, on overleveraged banks and outdated regulations that allow recklessness of a few to threaten the prosperity of all.
We have to lay a new foundation for growth, a foundation that will strengthen our economy and help us compete in the 21st century. And that’s exactly what this budget begins to do.
|Jack Marion and North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue|
The Alliance for Retired Americans is proud of a recent honor given to one of its members, reports Marcie Kohenak, communications associate for the 3 million-member organization.
Alliance for Retired Americans North Carolina field organizer Jack Marion received the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute’s 35th Annual Community Service Award for his lifelong activism through the Machinists union and the Alliance. Said Marion, who discussed his involvement with the Alliance and other local retiree clubs:
I feel extremely honored to be recognized by the A. Philip Randolph Institute for my community service. Through the Machinists union, the AFL-CIO and now the Alliance for Retired Americans, I have had the opportunity to help my community become a better place to live.
North Carolina State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan keynoted the banquet, joining speaker Rev. Dr. Lawrence Miller, presiding elder of the A.M.E. Zion Church.
APRI, an AFL-CIO constituency group, was founded in 1965 by union leaders Asa Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin as a non-profit, non-partisan organization of black trade unionists to fight for racial equality and economic justice. Today, APRI has about 150 chapters in 36 states, including North Carolina. The North Carolina APRI chapters offer support for local unions during organizing campaigns, provide outreach programs and services—including an officially certified state food bank—for community members in need and run voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote mobilizations.
Said Edward J. Coyle, executive director of the national Alliance for Retired Americans:
Through his lifelong activism, Jack has truly made a difference in protecting jobs for Americans, defending seniors’ benefits and supporting affordable health care for all. We are incredibly proud and appreciative of all of his past efforts, and look forward to working together for many years to come.
This just in from the UAW:
UAW members at Chrysler have ratified a settlement agreement with Chrysler, Fiat and the U.S. Treasury.
Eighty-two percent of production workers and 80 percent of skilled-trades workers voted for the agreement in balloting that took place at UAW Chrysler locations throughout the United States. Ninety percent of office and clerical workers voted in favor of the agreement, and 94 percent of UAW-represented Chrysler engineering workers voted for approval.
“This has been a challenging time filled with anxiety and uncertainty for our membership,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. “Our members have responded by accepting an agreement that is painful for our active and retired workers, but which helps preserve U.S. manufacturing jobs and gives Chrysler a chance to survive.”
UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who directs the union’s Chrysler Department, said: “Once again, UAW members have stepped up to the plate and acted responsibly. If other stakeholders will join us in making difficult sacrifices, Chrysler will have a chance to rebuild and participate in the eventual recovery of the U.S. vehicle market.”
The concessionary settlement agreement, which will take effect on Monday, May 4, meets U.S. Treasury requirements for continued loans to Chrysler Corp. It includes modifications to the union’s 2007 collective bargaining agreement with Chrysler and modifications to the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) trust.
The settlement agreement includes commitments from Fiat to manufacture a new small car in one of Chrysler’s U.S. facilities and to share key technology with Chrysler.
Keep up with the latest news about Pulte Homes, one of the nation’s largest home builders, on Building Justice’s updated website, http://poorlybuiltbypulte.info/. The site also enables homeowners to complete a survey about their experiences with Pulte.
Building Justice is a partnership of the Painters and Allied Trades union (IUPAT), the Sheet Metal Workers (SMWIA), the AFL-CIO, Pulte homeowners, community members and elected officials to improve conditions at Pulte developments.
Workers in three Western states employed by contractors hired by Pulte report unpaid wages and overtime, pressure to work through break periods and pressure to bypass safety precautions. They report sexual harassment and discrimination on the job. Some workers also report that appropriate construction materials, safety equipment and potable drinking water are not available.
Last month, 50 angry workers and supporters delivered “lemon awards” to a Pulte executive at a Nevada State Contractors Board meeting. The awards followed release of a new report, “Poorly Built by Pulte, No Different at Del Webb.” The report is based on surveys of 872 Pulte and Del Webb homeowners from Nevada, Arizona and California.
According to the report, 63 percent of respondents complained that their homes had construction defects, and another 43 percent of respondents reported they would not buy another Pulte or Del Webb home. Click here to read the full report.
You can link your website to the revised Poorly Built by Pulte site here.