- American Airlines Workers Protest Exec Bonuses, Seek Restoration Of Pay Cuts
- Alcoa Tries To Drive Down Worker Wages
- President Obama Is More Popular Than Capitalism
- Unemploymentlifeline.com Provides Resources To Help Keep Jobless Workers Afloat
- AFL-CIO And Change To Win Speak With One Voice On Immigration Reform
As the recession continues U.S. workers are losing faith in the prospect of a comfortable retirement. A new study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that only thirteen percent of workers believe that they will have enough saved for retirement. The report cited an increase in health care costs, the devaluation of many retirement plans and poor planning. Forty-four percent of those polled have guessed how much they will need to retire instead of actually calculating retirement needs.
By Doug Cunningham
The AFL-CIO and the Change To Win labor federation are uniting in support of immigration reform that calls or legalizing immigrants already in the U.S. Both labor groups will oppose any large new program to bring in more immigrant workers. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says labor will speak with one voice on immigration reform.
By Doug Cunningham
The AFL-CIO and its community affiliate Working America have launched unemploymentlifeline.com. It’s a resource for workers who have lost jobs to help people stay afloat when they need it the most. The site is designed to help workers find information they need to access all the resources they need to weather the economic storm.
By Doug Cunningham
President Barack Obama is more popular than capitalism. According to a Rasmussen Reports national poll, just 53% of Americans favor capitalism over socialism. President Obama has an average 62% percent approval rating, according to polls. After watching capitalism meltdown with the near collapse of banks, the stock market and housing market young adults under 30 are nearly evenly split between capitalism and socialism. The Rasmussen poll says 37% of Americans under 30 favor capitalism with 33% saying socialism is better and the rest undecided.
The largest U.S. aluminum producer is threatening to cut production at a Quebec smelter if workers don’t take a pay cut. Alcoa is in negotiations with workers and is seeking concessions so it can reduce payroll by 15 percent. The United Steelworkers says the company is already planning to slash jobs in violation of its labor agreement.
American Airline workers aren’t standing for bonuses being paid to top executives while they face potential wage and benefit cuts. Jesse Russell reports:
Ground workers for American Airlines are in the process of negotiating a new contract with the airline seeking restoration of concessions they made in 2003 to help the company stay afloat. On Tuesday hundreds of workers from all over the country gathered at the company’s headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas to protest bonuses that will be paid to managers and top executives this week. The union is protesting the bonuses which will be paid out to roughly 1,000 executives and managers today because the airline is losing money and worker wages still have not been restored since they took an average pay cut of 26 percent. Thanks to the concessions by the workers the airline was able to avoid bankruptcy.
The AFL-CIO and Change to Win (CtW) today announced a historic joint unity framework for immigration reform. The joint announcement and proposal is a critical sign of support for the Obama administration and Congress to address immigration reform and to ensure that the issue remains a priority. It also signals that immigration reform is an important part of economic recovery.
The framework for comprehensive reform was developed with the guidance of former Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall and the Economic Policy Institute.
In a statement, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said:
Our nation’s broken immigration system isn’t working for anybody—not immigrant workers who are routinely exploited by companies and not U.S.-born workers whose living standards are being undermined by the creation of a new “underclass.”
As a part of broad-based economic recovery, we need a comprehensive solution—and soon. The development of a unified labor position, a position centered on workers’ rights, puts us on the path to a legislative solution.
Click here to read “The Labor Movement’s Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”
Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) President Joseph Hansen, who chairs the CtW immigration committee, said in a statement:
For too long, our nation’s immigration system has fueled discrimination and exploitation of workers. It has driven down wages and working conditions.
This framework is about moving America forward. We are a nation that respects hard work, family and the pursuit of the American Dream. Our immigration system must hold true to these principles.
In a telephone press conference this afternoon, Paul Almeida, president of the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees, said the framework helps successfully meet the needs of our economy, rather than repeat the shortcomings of programs that don’t work.
AFL-CIO Associate General Counsel Ana Avendaño said the time is right to pass real immigration reform:
Today is a brand new day. Workers have a president who is a community organizer who understands working people and that protecting workers’ rights is in the national interest. The union movement is confident he will work with us to promote a just framework for immigration reform.
One of the key components of the plan is the creation of a commission that would not rely on employers to declare a worker shortage. If the economy needs more permanent workers, the commission would allow more immigrant flow. If the economy needs more temporary workers, the commission would allow more temporary workers. The difference would be that the immigrant workers would have full workers’ rights.
Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez called immigration reform a civil rights issue that must be addressed now. He added that unions will join with their allies in the religious and civil rights communities and “do whatever it takes” to make sure comprehensive legislation that includes these principles passes in Congress.
“Immigration reform is a core issue for the labor movement,” Marshall said.
I am pleased to have assisted the unions in coming together to help create a vision for what immigration reform must be.
The proposal calls for:
- An independent commission to assess and manage future flow of immigrants, based on labor market shortages that are determined on the basis of actual need;
- A secure and effective worker authorization mechanism that protects workers’ rights and privacy;
- Rational operational control of our borders;
- Adjustment of status for the current undocumented population;
- Improvement, not expansion, of temporary worker programs, limited to temporary or seasonal, not permanent, jobs.
UFCW Civil Rights and Community Action Director Ester Lopez and SEIU’s Eliseo Medina also participated in the press call.
Even as the U.S. economy went into a tailspin, the median salary for CEOs of 200 large corporations increased by 4.5 percent to $1.08 million. On top of that, these corporations keep plying executives with generous freebies, despite the public outcry over private jets and other executive perks.
The 2009 AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch site, which launches today, points out that the perks for executives rose on average by 12.5 percent in 2008 to $336,248—or nine times the median salary of a full-time worker. Even more appalling is the practice of rewarding executives who drive their companies into the ground.
For example, the site reports that in 2007—the year the financial crisis began to unfold—the top 10 recipients of the federal government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) collectively paid their CEOs a combined $242 million in total annual compensation. That averages nearly $25 million per CEO to run companies that might have gone bankrupt if not for billions of dollars in taxpayer assistance.
The PayWatch site also features an e-mail action. Click here to send a letter to Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), chairmen of the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, respectively. Let them know we’re counting on them to draft legislation that truly strengthens our financial regulations and begins curing the disease that has infected our economic system.
This year’s Executive PayWatch highlights 10 case studies that show the multiple ways CEOs profited big time, while the average worker could barely hang on. There is the well-known case of AIG, which has been kept afloat by more than $170 billion in federal assistance—about $1,500 for every household in the nation—and still paid out more than $500 million in salaries and bonuses to hundreds of senior employees.
Here are other prime examples in the case studies of corporate failure:
- While retirees worry over the fate of Deere & Co.’s pension surplus, which is shrinking because of stock market losses, the value of Deere CEO Robert Lane’s retirement income increased $5.5 million in fiscal 2008 to $22.5 million. Lane and other senior executives participate in not one but three different pension plans.
- SunTrust Bank, which received $4.9 billion from the federal bailout fund, wants shareholders to approve a mega-grant of $7.7 million in stock options for James Wells, its chairman and chief executive officer, even as investors have lost billions.
- While workers who are laid off in these tough economic times are lucky if they receive anything more than their last paycheck, Richard Bond, who retired as CEO of Tyson Foods in January, stands to collect more than $14 million in “golden parachute” severance payments.
Want to know what your CEO made last year? The Executive Paywatch site offers three user-friendly ways to find out. And if you want to have a little fun at the CEO’s expense, play the “Boot The CEO” game and kick the money out of the greedy CEO’s hands.
One of the best ways for unions to reach out to new groups of workers is by joining with community-based worker centers across the country—and the campaign to gain better working conditions for carwash workers in Los Angeles recently has done just that, according to several union leaders involved in the campaign.
AFL-CIO General Counsel Jon Hiatt, speaking at a brown bag discussion yesterday at the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C., said worker centers and unions have a lot in common. They both fight for enforcement of wage and hour laws, oppose misclassification of workers and they fight for immigrant rights. Hiatt says:
We have the experience, the expertise. Worker centers have a strong community base. Bringing the two movements together is good for workers. A few years ago, I couldn’t imagine local or national unions would be working so closely with worker centers.
The CLEAN (Community Labor Environmental Action Network) Carwash Campaign is a cooperative, industry-wide strategy to raise the standard of living of this large, low-wage immigrant population through collective bargaining. The campaign began as a community initiative to address noncompliance with wage-and-hour and health and safety laws and regulations throughout the industry. However, the worker centers and other community groups involved soon realized they needed a contract to ensure that labor standards did not revert to subminimum levels once the media spotlight was turned off and government enforcement agencies moved on to their next targets.
The carwash campaign is a direct result of the AFL-CIO worker center program, which has helped create increasing levels of cooperation between worker centers and local unions across the country. Members of the CLEAN campaign approached the AFL-CIO and asked us, together with a union affiliate, to partner with them. The United Steelworkers stepped up, along with the AFL-CIO and about 25 Los Angeles worker centers.
The campaign has grown to include some 50 community and union groups and has garnered strong community support. In February, Los Angeles city attorney Rocky Delgadillo, the city’s top prosecutor, filed 176 criminal charges against two local carwash owners, four of their facilities and the manager of one of the city’s biggest carwash operations. The charges include conspiracy, witness intimidation, grand theft, brandishing a deadly weapon, failure to pay wages and failure to comply with wage orders of the state’s Industrial Welfare Commission regulating workplace conditions.
AFL-CIO Associate General Counsel Ana Avendaño says the carwash campaign is an example of the concrete goals new partnerships between community-based worker groups and unions can accomplish. She told the audience that on a visit to Los Angeles a few years back, she saw firsthand how closely the workers at the worker center resemble a union. Some 30 workers were huddled together deciding the minimum wage they would demand for working that day.
We are witnessing the rebirth of the labor movement for workers who are not represented or who have been unable to get representation.
Eddie Acosta, AFL-CIO worker center coordinator, pointed out that in Austin, Texas, worker centers and the Electrical Workers have joined together to survey workers about whether workers are paid what they are promised. In June, he says, they will release a report and push for new rules on pay in the construction industry in Texas.
Responding to a question from the audience, Avendaño said the election of President Obama will have a strong impact on campaigns such as the carwash effort.
Having a community organizer in the White House means something, and he is surrounding himself with people of a like mind. I expect to see real changes soon.
As a sign of how much things are changing, panelists said new Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who is from Los Angeles, recently hung a picture in the department’s headquarters of her meeting with the carwash workers.