Factory orders were up in February – the first such movement in seven months. Factory orders dropped at U.S. factories by 3.5 percent in January, but made some ground in February creeping up by 1.8 percent. Economists attribute the upward mobility to new orders fro construction equipment and computers.
One state sticks to furlough plans while a second finds an alternative. Jesse Russell takes a look.
Furloughs continue to be a hot button topic for many states dealing with budget shortfalls. In New Jersey public employees across the state protested plans by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine to implement unpaid furloughs and freeze wages. If the union refuses to give back a 3.5 percent pay raise set to go in effect on July 1 and take 14 unpaid furloughs Corzine has said he will lay off 7000 state workers. Meanwhile, across the state border in Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell reached an agreement with state workers that could avoid the need for furloughs. Rendell has proposed cutting the state’s contribution to employee healthcare plans by 20 percent. Such a move could save the Keystone State as much as $200 million. Rendell said that money would be repaid into the state health care fun starting in September of 2010.
By Doug Cunningham
Chicago hosted a visit from the 2016 Olympics committee this week as it competes with several cities around the world to host the event. Mick Yauger, President of Teamsters Local 786, says the committee should like what they’ve seen in Chicago.
[Yauger]: “Well I think when they walk away from their visit to Chicago today they’re gonna realize the real dynamics of the city – what the people, the importance of this to the people of the city is gonna be. Chicago is a very ethnic city, there’s virtually every nationality around the globe represented right here in Chicago. And it’s a rich diversity, a very rich cultural event, the Olympics. And there couldn’t be a more perfect fit for that than the city of Chicago.”
By Doug Cunningham
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) report on how employer safety inspections were handled during the Bush administration reveals a systematic failure to do follow up inspections when employers put workers in serious danger. The OIG report said at 45 worksites where federal safety oversight was lacking, 58 workers were later killed by job hazards. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says there’s no excuse for the federal job health and safety agency OSHA’s failure to properly do follow-up inspections. Fortunately, Sweeney says, we now have a new Secretary of Labor committed to worker’s needs. And that should lead to improvements in OSHA job safety inspections.
To get a stake in America’s economy and a better life for themselves and their families, Latinos need the freedom to form unions and bargain—which means they need the Employee Free Choice Act.
That’s the conclusion of a new article by Gabriela Lemus, executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), a national organization for Latino working families and an AFL-CIO constituency group. LCLAA has joined other prominent voices in the Latino community, including the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the National Latino Congreso, in supporting the Employee Free Choice Act. Lemus says Latinos should “wholeheartedly support” the Employee Free Choice Act.
Lemus says the union advantages of better health care, pensions and wages—Latino union members make 43 percent higher median wages than Latinos who don’t have a union—are critical to giving this community a shot at being part of a strong middle class. The demographics of the Latino community, Lemus says, make union membership especially helpful to Latinos.
In particular, young men and women just entering the work world benefit from protections that collective bargaining provides.
Latinos are among the youngest population group in the United States. Their median age is 25.8 years—more than 10 years younger than that for the U.S. population as a whole…union membership would assist them not just in earning a livable wage. It could move many into jobs where they learn more skills, take on greater responsibilities and gain added benefits.
Lemus says that as the Latino population reaches retirement, union membership will help ensure a decent standard of living after retirement because of the greater access to pensions and the increased ability to save for retirement that come with a union contract.
It’s not just individuals who benefit, Lemus says. The communities where Latinos live and work stand to gain from greater access to union membership.
Where unions are stronger, not only are wages higher and health insurance more accessible; there are numerous other benefits. In states with higher union density, it is more likely that poverty will be reduced. There will be more homeowners than renter and better schools because there is greater public education spending per pupil. The three are inter-related.
LCLAA has a fact sheet available about the Latino population and union membership. The Employee Free Choice Act is critical to restore the freedom to form unions, and that really matters to working men and women, including the Latino community.
The tentative deal with the Joint Policy Committee of the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers must be approved by the SAG/AFTRA Joint National Board and the membership of both unions. The contract expired at midnight Tuesday.
The agreement provides for a $36 million increase in wage rates and other payments for all categories of performers in the first year. It also includes some $21 million in increased contributions to the SAG Pension and Health Plan and the AFTRA Health and Retirement Fund and calls for the establishment of a payment structure for work made for the Internet and other new-media platforms.
The agreement also covers new monitoring provisions and improvements for choreographers, extras and Spanish-language performers, they said.
Calling the tentative contract ”a major victory for our unions—and a victory for organized labor as a whole,” AFTRA President Roberta Reardon said:
In this round of negotiations, during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we successfully improved wages and expanded benefits to keep our members working now and in the future.
Importantly, the new contract calls for a two-year pilot study, set to start April 15, to test a model for restructuring compensation to performers. The study’s findings will be subject to negotiations.
Sue-Anne Morrow, SAG chair of the joint negotiating committee, said:
By securing a joint study to research and develop a workable compensation model, our negotiating committee protected every member who works under these contracts across the country.
Other highlights of the new agreement include:
- A 5.1 percent overall increase in wages and other compensation over the life of the contracts.
- For new media products, like the Internet, artists will receive 1.3 times the minimum session fee for use over eight weeks and 3.5 times the minimum session fee for one year’s use.
The 1,100 registered nurses at three St. Rose Dominican hospitals in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nev., voted by a 3-1 margin last night to join the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC).
The RNs work at the Siena and Rose de Lima campuses in Henderson and the San Martin facility in Las Vegas. The hospitals are part of the Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) system, where the union already represents 10,500 other RNs at 30 sites in California and Nevada.
Last September, RNs at another CHW hospital, St. Mary’s Medical Center in Reno, Nev., reached a groundbreaking contract that includes safe staffing levels for patient protection, respect of union rights and pay and benefit improvements.
The 500 St. Mary’s nurses, who overwhelmingly voted to join the CNA/NNOC in December 2007, won nurse-to-patient staffing levels identical to the levels mandated by California’s first-in-the-nation safe staffing level regulations.
Martin Luther King Jr. often drew the parallels and connections between the civil rights and union movements. Today, on the eve of the anniversary of King’s assassination, national civil rights leaders called for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would give workers the choice of how to form a union.
During a telephone press conference, Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), a coalition of some 200 organizations, pointed out that unions have been one of the main vehicles for African Americans to move into the middle class.
The Employee Free Choice Act has been largely written about as a labor bill but those of us in the civil rights community know it is so much more…workers’ rights are civil rights; and that the right to organize is a civil and human rights issue of the first magnitude.
From generation to generation, by organizing unions, working Americans have turned entire industries and occupations into sources of middle class incomes, secure benefits, and opportunities for upward mobility. This is true for Americans from every background—but especially for African Americans.
NAACP President Benjamin Jealous added that the fight for Employee Free Choice “is a fight not just to make sure everyone has a job, but to make sure everyone has access to a good job.”
There are those who say the Employee Free Choice Act will hurt the economy. They forget that slavery was a full employment system. Everyone on the plantation had a job.
The reality is working people’s income has flat-lined while the income of the wealthy has grown. In times when we’re looking at getting our economy going again, putting more money in the pockets of working people is good for the entire country.
Listen to an audio recording of the press conference here.
The civil rights leaders’ endorsement of the Employee Free Choice Act is important, writes Art Levine on the Huffington Post, and could help convince wavering senators to support the bill and is an indication that the battle for the legislation is far from over. Click here to read Levine’s blog.
Melanie Campbell, executive director of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, said, “It is outrageous that in this day and age, working men and women face the same kind of mistreatment and intimidation in the workplace when trying to form unions as civil rights leaders did when fighting for equal rights and protections.”
Often what is lost in the back and forth “inside the beltway” debate over the Employee Free Choice Act is the real life impact of either being able to organize and bargain collectively or being intimidated and told to be quiet and not make a fuss.
Women in the workforce, particularly African American women have continually struggled for equal protection and equal employment opportunities. Often union membership has offered women not just the added wages and benefits but the adequate training to compete with their male counterparts.
Steven Pitts, labor policy specialist at the University of California Berkeley Labor Center, also spoke during the press conference.
The civil rights leaders echoed what labor educator Edgar Moore says in a guest column at the AFL-CIO website. In “African Americans Win With Unions,” Moore, a faculty member at the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s William Brennan Institute for Labor Studies, writes:
The Employee Free Choice Act is important for African American workers. Union membership has been a passageway to the middle class for generations of African American workers.
During the press call, Henderson summed up the issue by quoting labor giant A. Philip Randolph:
As A. Philip Randolph used to say, the two tickets for full equality for African Americans have been the voter registration card and the union card. The first card allows all Americans to choose better leaders. The second card allows all Americans to choose a better life.
As we saw in our Chicken Little Sky Is Falling Bizarre Corporate Panic Over Workers’ Rights contest, opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act are tripping over each other to offer the most overheated quotes about how terrible they think it is. Yet, their rhetoric shows how little the mentality of anti-workers has evolved over the decades.
A great post at the new blog LaborNerd takes a look at the 1930s, when another fight over labor law reform generated corporate panic and apocalyptic proclamations, and finds that not much has changed in the rhetoric of Big Business and its allies.
In fact, today’s corporate scare tactics and disinformation are eerily similar to the opponents of the 1935 Wagner Act, that first established workers’ freedom to form unions. Leading to the logical conclusion that Big Business and its front groups don’t want to keep the status quo—they want to turn the clock back to the Depression and make sure that workers can’t bargain for a stake in the economy.
Here are two quotes from anti-union corporate shills fighting against legislation to give workers the freedom to choose a union. Can you tell which is from 1935 and which is from 2009?
To support labor in this objective by enacting this bill would permanently close the door to recovery.
The act is a poison pill for our ailing economy, which is why every major business organization from every industry sector has come out in strong opposition to it.
Check out LaborNerd for the answer, and for more quotes showing that the anti-Employee Free Choice Act forces are still fighting the same battles against workers that their predecessors were fighting in the 1930s.
The Wagner Act, enacted during a severe nationwide Depression, gave workers the tools they needed to bargain for a better life and make sure that they got a fair share of the value they created. Now, during a new economic crisis, we need to restore the freedom to form unions and make the economy work for everyone again. And recycled rhetoric from big-money corporate interests won’t change that.