Workers in Hamilton, Ontario have walked off the job at a National Steel Car assembly plant. Six hundred workers are on strike after the company’s “final contract offer” was refused. The workers are represented by the United Steelworkers and they are refusing to accept the company’s position that they should waive sonority rights and take a pay cut of nearly 25 percent per hour. Lives at the plant has been touch and go even before the workers walked off the job. Since 2006 the plant has let go of more than 1,700 workers and the current staff of 660 only work four days of the week. Nati
It isn’t all bad news in the world of job creation. The Pentagon is hoping to bring on board 13,000 more workers between now and 2010 and an additional 30,000 workers by the year 2014. This goal would be achieved under the budget of Secretary of Defense Robert gates who is proposing rolling back the Defense Department’s dependency on contract labor and instead creating sustainable long term positions. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae announced plans on Monday to create 2000 jobs over the next 18 months. The student lender will be moving those jobs from overseas into the United States. The jobs will be brought back stateside by October 2010 and 600 are planned for Eastern Pennsylvania.
Lede: Members of the Communications Workers of America for now continue to work despite lack of new contract agreement at AT&T. Doug Cunningham reports.
By Doug Cunningham
As the contract for roughly 100,000 CWA workers at AT&T expired the union workers stayed on the job. But that could change to a strike at any minute. CWA says it’s ready to bargain and resolve remaining issues to reach an agreement, but the union is expressing frustration at what it says is AT&T’s slow pace of negotiations. CWA says there’s been little progress on health care issues, retirement security or employment security. AT&T remains very profitable, even in this economy. It reported $12.9 billion in profit last year. CWA members at AT&T have overwhelmingly authorized a strike if necessary. The contract has not been extended, but the wages and benefits remain the same for now as the workers stay on the job. The union says it’s hard to understand why AT&T is demanding that workers pay more health care costs given the company’s high profitability. So far, CWA says, AT&T has shown little willingness to move forward and settle the outstanding contract issues.
While one of the AFL-CIO’s key health care reform principles—a public health insurance option—has been vigorously attacked by the private insurance industry, it received important backing last week from the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).
The CPC long has backed a single-payer approach for health care reform. But last week, the group said that is not a line in the sand that could not be crossed to win its backing of health care reform legislation.
In a letter to congressional leaders, the CPC said its 77 members could support a public insurance plan option within a reformed health care system that maintained private insurance. But, the group also stressed that it’s the “minimum” needed to win their support for reform legislation.
The private for-profit insurance industry and most congressional Republicans long have opposed a public insurance option. After all, their soaring profits and bonuses are at stake. A public plan also is a central element of President Obama’s reform blueprint.
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the CPC wrote that caucus members want all Americans to have a choice of securing health insurance coverage under a public plan or through private insurance as part of any comprehensive health care reform legislation.
The diverse CPC is made up of House Democrats with progressive views on health care, the economy, global policy, the environment and other vital working family issues.
The Progressive Caucus co-chairs, Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), also wrote that while most CPC members prefer a single-payer plan as the best option. According to the letter, a public plan is a “minimum” and the “strong majority” of the 77-member group:
will not support legislation that does not include a public plan option that is supported on a level playing field with private health insurance plans.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said House Democrats are committed to including a public plan option in health reform legislation. But he told The Hill newspaper that although Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has expressed support for a public plan, Baucus is working on developing bipartisan legislation with committee ranking minority member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who opposes such an option.
Take the 2009 Health Care for America Survey and tell us what you think should be included in comprehensive health care reform. Launched last week, the survey gives you opportunity to make your voice heard and help shape health care reform to meet the needs of working families.
The survey asks specific questions about your household’s health care coverage and costs. It also provides an opportunity to tell your health care story in your own words or in a video.
Take the survey here.
The Week of Action commemorates the lives of Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez and their efforts on behalf of dignity and justice for workers. Student organizations taking part included United Students Against Sweatshops and the United States Student Association.
In 28 states and the District of Columbia, hundreds of students from dozens of campuses held rallies, community service days, petition drives, educational forums and other public events to promote workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain and to mobilize for a fair economy.
In Chicago, students protested outside the local Chamber of Commerce asking them to stop the disinformation campaign against Employee Free Choice. In Orlando, students from the University of Central Florida rallied to protest corporate anti-Employee Free Choice Act training. The AFL-CIO’s Stewart Acuff joined students at Colorado University’s Boulder campus for a town hall meeting on Employee Free Choice. From Maine to Los Angeles, students got the word out about the need to protect workers’ freedom to form unions.
In addition to backing the Employee Free Choice Act, these student actions promoted social justice locally, including advocating for fair wages and working conditions for workers on campus. And Jobs with Justice (JwJ) built on the student efforts with a national “Resistance and Recovery” week of action to keep the momentum going forward in support of the freedom to form unions and an economy that works for everyone.
These students are part of the broad coalition of community groups that are mobilizing in support of passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Five highly popular touring shows are now a part of the union family. In a significant organizing win, the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) recently negotiated an agreement covering the backstage workers traveling with touring shows produced by NETworks.
NETworks previously was the most active nonunion company for touring legitimate theater productions. The five NETworks shows currently touring were nonunion, but will now be covered under a collective bargaining agreement that provides for good wages, working conditions and health and retirement benefits for stagehands, wardrobe and hair and makeup workers.
The agreement extends to current NETworks productions of “Sweeney Todd,” “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “Hairspray,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Annie,” and into the 2009-2010 season. Additionally, there are currently seven productions planned that will be covered the following season.
IATSE President Matthew Loeb said: “This agreement will provide meaningful benefits to NETworks’s crews.”
It also secures this work under IATSE jurisdiction and expands our presence in the one-night and split-week touring markets and, as such, was a major organizing priority for us.
IATSE represents workers employed in the stagecraft, motion picture, television production and trade show industries.
Nearly 100,000 members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) are still on the job at AT&T across the nation, even though their contracts with the telecommunications giant expired over the weekend with many key issues not resolved.
The union says the contracts will not be extended. Workers are keeping open their option to strike. The AT&T workers recently voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if a fair contract isn’t reached.
While CWA has made it clear that its members are ready to bargain at any time to resolve the issues and negotiate quality contracts, AT&T has shown little willingness to move forward and reach settlements. There has been little progress on health care, retirement security and employment security, among other issues, according to the union.
You can send a message to AT&T to bargain and reach a fair contract with its employees by clicking here.
CWA Executive Vice President Annie Hill says:
The CWA bargaining teams are very frustrated by AT&T’s slow pace in negotiations. Instead of working toward quality settlements that will benefit workers and the company, AT&T negotiators chose to drag out negotiations without a plan for settlement.
Several CWA districts have filed unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board, saying AT&T has refused to provide information necessary to resolve many outstanding issues.
AT&T employees are concerned about the company’s attempt to cut health care benefits by shifting even more costs to workers and to retirees on fixed incomes, and about access for workers to the “jobs of the future,” the new work created by changing technology.
AT&T is very successful and profitable, even in these bad economic times. That makes it all the more difficult to understand why AT&T is demanding that workers take on even more health care costs than they already pay. This company takes care of executives and investors. It needs to set the right priorities and maintain quality jobs and quality benefits for workers.
Some 2,000 Tampa City workers, ATU members, reach a contract agreement and more updates here from the “Bargaining Digest Weekly.” The AFL-CIO Collective Bargaining Department delivers daily, bargaining-related news and research resources to more than 900 subscribers. Union leaders can register for this service through our website, Bargaining@Work.
WORK STOPPAGES, JOB ACTIONS
TNG-CWA, Philadelphia Newspapers: Leaders of the Philadelphia Newspaper Guild (TNG-CWA) expressed outrage that top executives of the bankrupt Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News received significant year-end bonuses after pushing hundreds of union members to give up a $25-a-week raise. The papers likely will face questions in bankruptcy court next week.
IAM, SK Hand Tools: In Defiance, Ohio, 70 workers at tool company SK Hand Tools Corp., represented by the Machinists (IAM), are walking the picket line after their contract expired with no agreement. Tim Herrick, SK’s industrial operations manager said, “The company is looking for help to get through this time frame.” Herrick said he hopes the dispute can be resolved quickly. The next bargaining session is slated for today.
ATU, Tampa: Some 2,000 blue-collar, technical and clerical workers for the city of Tampa, Fla., represented by Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1464, reached a deal on a contract that includes a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase and merit raises of up to 3 percent, with no reduction in benefits.
Multiple, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania state workers, represented by AFSCME, UFCW and SEIU, have new tentative contracts with the state that would avoid Gov. Ed Rendell’s threat of mandatory furloughs. The deal would allow the state to reduce its payments to the fund that administers state workers’ health benefits by up to $200 million over 15 months. There would be no change to workers’ health benefits, and the money would eventually be repaid.
IAFF, Reno: Firefights in Reno, Nev., represented by Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 731, reached a new agreement that helps the financially struggling city.
College athletes generate $4 billion a year in total revenue for their schools. The 2009 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which ends tonight, put $6 billion in TV rights alone in college coffers.
While you can be sure all the student athletes on the court tonight are on “full” athletic scholarships, what you probably didn’t know is that every one of them still will have to pay thousands of dollars for their education, even though they make fortunes for their schools.
Last week, the National College Players Association (NCPA) released a study showing that colleges are duping athletes into thinking they are getting full scholarships, when they actually end up owing as much as $30,000 for their education on the day they graduate.
The NCPA report says that, by and large, universities have been deceiving recruits, many of whom are under the age of 18 and from disadvantaged backgrounds, into unknowingly being responsible for paying for school while they supposedly are on a “full” scholarship.
The fact is, coaches fill high school recruits’ heads with promises of free rides and full scholarships, when in fact no such things exist. The NCAA designs full scholarships to fall short of the advertised price tag of a school, leaving recruits scrambling to make ends meet.
NCAA rules prohibit universities from providing athletic scholarships that equal the cost of attendance. That means an athlete on ”full scholarship” is expected to pay out of pocket for expenses that are not covered by the scholarship .
NCPA President Ramogi Huma says it is “deceptive to call it a ‘full’ athletic scholarship when it doesn’t fully pay for a university’s estimated price tag.”
These same universities offer “full” academic scholarships that do cover the price tag of a school. This appears to be a deliberate attempt at misleading young high school student-athletes, their parents and current college athletes
According to the report, NCAA scholarship limitations can leave a full scholarship athlete with expenses ranging from as low as $200 per year to more than $6,000 per year. That means NCAA rules require a “full” scholarship athlete to pay up to $30,000 over five years in school.
An athlete on “full scholarship” would be required to pay out of pocket, on average, $2,763 per year, or more than $13,800 over the course of five years. Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis had the highest scholarship shortfall, amounting to more than $6,000 per year, followed closely by the University of Missouri-Kansas City, East Tennessee State University, Saint Louis University, University of Louisville and Charleston Southern University, all with a more than $5,000 per year estimated shortfall.
You can look up the estimated scholarship shortfall for every one of the 336 NCAA schools here.
With hundreds of thousands of athletes participating in NCAA sports, how many athletes have been unfairly burdened with debt in the last few decades due to the misinformation that they have received? How much debt have they put on high-interest credit cards that will take many years to pay off?
A previous NCPA study shows the turnover rate for players on four-year scholarships on this year’s NCAA men’s tournament teams is nearly 30 percent. The study compared schools’ rosters for this season with the 2007-2008 season. The study excluded players who turned professional or were seniors.