- UAW Says No Deal Yet With Chrysler, Talks “Ongoing”
- California Unions Again Back a Mandatory Paid Sick Days Bill
- Corrections Officer Union Sues State of Missouri On Overtime Policies
- Lansing, Michigan Schools One Of Many Feeling Recession’s Impact
- Economic Report: Global Economy Could Shrink For First Time In 60 Years
Does the world feel like it is getting smaller? It could just be the economy. According to the International Monetary Fund, the world economy could shrink by 1.3 percent making it the first time in 60 years the world economy has gone in reverse. If it does shrink leading economists believe that could lead to 10 million more without jobs. On Friday world economic powers will meet to further develop commitments recently made at the world summit in London in March.
Like many school districts around the country, Lansing, Michigan is feeling the recession in the classroom. This week the school administration will begin sending out layoff notices to 170 faculty members including 110 teachers. In addition to a budget deficit that could reach $16 million, the school anticipates a loss of nearly 1,000 students. The loss in students correlates to families leaving the region as they lose their jobs or find themselves faced with home foreclosures.
Missouri has been hit with a lawsuit by the union representing prison workers. Jesse Russell reports:
The Missouri Corrections Officers Association filed a lawsuit on Tuesday alleging the Corrections Department deceptively made workers take compensatory time off to avoid paying overtime. According to the union corrections workers were forced to take time off with less than four days notice so workers wouldn’t go over 40 hours in a week. The department would schedule officers to work long shifts followed by abruptly cutting hours later in the week. This isn’t the first time the state has been hit with a suit over questionable pay practices. Parole workers won a suit in 2005 when they charged the state with failing to provide raises.
By Doug Cunningham
Half of all U.S. workers have no paid sick days. In California, unions are supporting a mandatory paid sick day law. Jeremy Smith is legislative advocate for the California Labor Federation.
[Smith]: “There are workers that wake up every day when they’re sick and have to ask themselves, ‘Do I go to work sick or do I stay home and lose my job? Or do I stay home and lose a day’s pay?’ And often times they decide to go to work sick, because they can’t afford to lose their jobs, especially in this economy. And they can’t afford to lose a day’s pay.”
The California mandatory paid sick day bill got a hearing in the state Assembly Wednesday. It faces strong business opposition. Smith says passing this mandatory paid sick day law does have a pricetag, but he says there are costs to forcing workers to go without paid sick days, too.
By Doug Cunningham
The United Auto Workers union says no agreement has been reached yet with Chrysler, despite some media reports to the contrary. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger says talks with Chrysler and Fiat are ongoing. Issues include retiree health care funding and labor costs as Chrysler scrambles to avoid bankruptcy by possibly merging with Fiat.
Low-wage workers would benefit the most from the better benefits, wages and on-the-job treatment that come with forming a union and bargaining—yet these workers are also the most vulnerable to anti-union coercion and intimidation from their bosses. So Jobs with Justice (JwJ), along with a broad coalition of community groups, is hitting Capitol Hill today to push for the Employee Free Choice Act and the freedom to bargain.
Workers and advocates from around the country are visiting senators and letting them know the facts about why this bill is critical to restore workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain. JwJ kicked off the day with a briefing featuring author Barbara Ehrenreich, experts on labor policy and the workforce and workers who have fought to form unions.
As Ehrenreich says, our nation’s economic crisis can be traced back to declining conditions for the millions of workers at the mercy of bosses and whose wages and benefits aren’t enough to get ahead.
We’ve been so unequal as a society that it’s collapsing out from under us. Easy credit became a substitute for decent wages.
This is related to a sharp decline in bargaining power—workers have no power and no rights in the workplace. The Employee Free Choice Act, Ehrenreich says, is both a human rights measure and an economic stimulus measure.
Ai-Jen Poo, an advocate for domestic workers, says the home health aides, housekeepers and others she works with are enthusiastic about the Employee Free Choice Act. The conditions they face—long hours, low wages, poor treatment and a lack of security and stability on the job—are, unfortunately, spreading to the rest of the workforce and that’s why we need the Employee Free Choice Act:
Everyone in the community has a stake in the Employee Free Choice Act. Unions are the first line of defense against greed. We all have a stake in protecting the basic human right to collectively bargain—this is about long-term sustainability and survival for working people.
AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker says it’s critical that workers, not their bosses, are the ones to make the decision about forming a union.
It’s very clear that one of the solutions that will help workers be able to bargain their way into the middle class, not borrow their way into the middle class, is giving them the ability to freely form a union. Workers must be at the table…it’s about dignity, it’s about bargaining power and it’s about improving our communities.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act, pointed to the housing crisis, and its roots in the “persistent problem” of stagnating wages, as one of the many reasons why we need the Employee Free Choice Act to strengthen the economy.
In the end, what matters is, do workers get a piece of the profits they’re creating? We have a middle class because workers who create wealth get a share. That’s just basic fairness…but there’s been a break in the connection between productivity and workers’ wages.
If you want a strong middle class and a more prosperous society, you have to build from the bottom.
Brown said that the misconceptions and falsehoods spread about the Employee Free Choice Act are coming from the same people who have opposed workers’ compensation, family, leave, the minimum wage and other protections for workers.
Kim Gandy of the National Organization for Women (NOW) says there’s a huge difference in benefits and wages for low-wage workers who have unions compared with nonunion workers, and this is especially true for women.
Gandy talked about the disadvantages workers face when trying to form a union—they are up against a “cottage industry” of anti-union consultants and high-paid lawyers whose goal is to block workers from forming unions and who are dumping millions into scare tactics and misinformation. Gandy said the campaign is comparable to the insurance companies’ misleading, big-dollar fight against health care reform in the early 1990s.
Dr. Heidi Hartmann, an economic researcher and president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, says the economy has taken a big hit because historically unionized sectors like manufacturing are shrinking relative to those not as heavily unionized, like retail, hospitality and health services. The Employee Free Choice Act, Hartmann says, will create opportunities for these workers to get a fair share of the economy:
One of the real advantages of unions is that not only do they improve conditions for workers in unions, but they impact social and economic progress for all of us.
Johanna Moon, one of the workers at the briefing, has waited two years for a contract after joining the UAW in a successful union campaign among casino dealers at Atlantic City’s Trump Plaza. She and her co-workers tried to form a union to address poor benefits, low wages and unhealthy working conditions, and won representation by a 2-to-1 margin despite pressure from management. Yet without the Employee Free Choice Act, she says, there’s no way to get management to sit down at the table with workers. Execs are getting contracts with bonuses while workers aren’t getting fair treatment, Moon says.
We wanted representation because our company wasn’t looking out for our best interests. We shouldn’t have to wait to bargain for a better life.
Holt Baker reiterated that the Employee Free Choice Act is an urgent priority that’s necessary if we’re going to continue to have a strong middle class and work our way toward economic recovery.
On Earth Day 2009, there is a growing recognition that green jobs will play a key role in fighting global warming, creating energy self-sufficiency, helping the nation recover from the current recession and moving workers into stable middle-class jobs.
During a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing this morning, David Foster, executive director of the Blue Green Alliance, a partnership of four unions and two environmental organizations, said in this economic crisis, creating jobs is a priority, and by passing climate change legislation this year, we can start putting America’s workers back to work building the clean energy economy.
To protect the environment and increase our energy independence, climate change legislation must focus on creating and retaining good, family-sustaining green jobs across the United States.
The Blue Green Alliance recently announced its principles for comprehensive climate change legislation. You can read the policy statement here.
Foster’s comments come one day after Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told a Senate committee that “we don’t want [green] jobs that don’t go anywhere. We want jobs with a career path.”
These are jobs that will provide economic security for our middle-class families while reducing our nation’s dependence on imported energy. These are also jobs that traditionally cannot be outsourced.
To promote the growth of good green jobs, the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions have embraced projects ranging from making their own buildings more energy efficient to taking the lead on large-scale public policy issues.
Yesterday, the AFL-CIO, together with the leadership of its new Center for Green Jobs, announced a plan to reduce energy consumption, cut down waste and reduce the carbon footprint of its national headquarters.
In February we launched the Center for Green Jobs, with $1 million from the Working for America Institute, (WAI), the AFL-CIO’s workforce and economic development arm. The center will partner with affiliated unions to help pave the way to good union jobs in a variety of the country’s unionized and greening industries. The center also will spread the lessons of AFL-CIO affiliates who have successfully joined the green economy, especially in manufacturing.
We recently set up a Green Jobs website, which includes an interactive map that shows how much a state could receive for green jobs under President Obama’s economic recovery plan and how it would affect that state’s employment. Click here to check out the site.
Here are some other actions where the AFL-CIO unions are taking the lead to create a greener future:
- To ensure the green jobs created under the Obama economic recovery bill are family-supporting jobs, the WAI and the Center for Green Jobs have created standards to help community-level unionists assess the quality of jobs created under the Recovery Act. They also are urging the forming of new partnerships among employers, government, labor, community groups, environmentalists and other stakeholders to make sure the standards are carried out. Click here to find out more about the standards.
- The Mine Workers (UMWA), Boilermakers (IBB), Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council (IUC) are aggressively promoting the use of coal-generated electricity to provide jobs and help clean up the environment. Along with the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the unions earlier this month released a study showing that using advanced clean coal technologies that capture and safely store carbon dioxide will create millions of high-skilled, high-wage jobs for U.S. workers. You can read the study here.
- UAW members, who have long pushed for more domestic production of fuel-efficient cars, last year produced environmentally friendly vehicles or components in plants in 30 cities in 14 states.
- The Machinists (IAM) work in a number of industries that are critical to reducing energy consumption and pollution, from energy-efficient heating and air conditioning systems and appliances to components for modernizing energy distribution systems in buildings.
- Members of the United Steelworkers (USW) manufacture wind turbines at several plants in Pennsylvania. Indeed, the proliferation of wind turbines is beginning to revive shuttered steel mills across the country. In Gary, Ind., two closed steel mills have been reopened to help meet the demand for steel plate to be used in wind turbines. The ore for these mills is mined by USW members and shipped on boats crewed also by members of the United Steelworkers.
- BCTD members are building more green buildings that use renewable energy to run more efficiently. One example is the David Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, site of the AFL-CIO’s upcoming 2009 convention. Built with union labor, it is the only entirely green convention center in the country.
- The Apollo Alliance, a coalition of business, labor, environmental and community leaders working to create a clean energy revolution in America, has developed Make It In America: the Apollo Green Manufacturing Action Plan (GreenMAP), a series of policy recommendations aimed at revitalizing America’s manufacturing sector by investing significant federal funding in the domestic manufacture of clean energy components.
- Last year, the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA) unveiled its Green Training Trailer that is touring the country to introduce UA apprentices, journeyman-level workers and green building expo participants to renewable energy technologies and sustainable building concepts. Take a virtual tour of the trailer at the UA website and click on “The UA has Gone Green” icon.
This is a cross-post from the Solidarity Center.
In a historic move for the Egyptian labor movement, the 27,000-member Real Estate Tax Authority (RETA) Union is slated to become Egypt’s first independent union, reports the Center for Trade Union & Workers’ Services (CTUWS), a partner of the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center.
Yesterday, more than 300 representatives of the RETA union’s General Assembly gathered at Egypt’s Ministry of Manpower in Cairo to submit their application to become the first independent union in Egypt.
The new union also has affiliated with Public Services International, the global union that represents public sector workers worldwide. PSI’s 620 affiliated unions represent 20 million members in 160 countries.
RETA employees voted to form a union in December 2008, following a year-long struggle including a nationwide strike and a 12-day sit-in by 10,000 workers in front of the prime minister’s office in Cairo, where they demanded equality for their brothers and sisters in outlying areas. By Dec. 13, they had collected more than 15,000 signatures.
Although the government agreed to negotiate with the workers, it retaliated against union organizers, harassing and interrogating those who had collected signatures, according to CTUWS. In January 2009, RETA held its first constituent conference, drawing more than 3,000 participants. Government approval of the application is the final step.
The new union will express RETA employees’ interests, embody their demands, and organize advocacy and mobilization activities to improve their labor conditions. A related objective is to democratize the labor movement in Egypt by stimulating and encouraging member participation and by building and developing RETA’s democratic mechanisms and structures.
CTUWS called on the global union movement to support the RETA employees’ effort to establish their independent union, “a basic granted right as stated in international treaties ratified by the Egyptian government.”
This is a cross-post from the Daily Kos blog.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created in renewable energy manufacturing. Will these employment opportunities be “high-road,” decent-paying union jobs, or will employers take the “low road”—tapping into the desperation of unemployed workers who have already seen too much pain?” The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) is not giving up on bringing organized labor’s opportunities to workers in the sector, despite a recent setback.
In early 2008, some workers at California-based Clipper Windpower’s two-year-old turbine assembly plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, reached out to the IBEW seeking representation. Matthew Fisher, assistant business manager, Cedar Rapids Local 204, says job safety, training, respect on the job and the lack of a seniority system topped the list of worker concerns.
Experienced lathe operators and mechanics with 20 years in industry—many in union shops—were placed on second and third shift, while young workers just out of high school were assigned to daylight hours. Legitimate safety concerns were ignored by supervisors, some of whom had no previous experience in manufacturing.
Despite divisions in the workforce, 70 percent of the bargaining unit signed authorization cards.
Brian Heins, lead organizer, learned quickly that IBEW had to proceed carefully in the campaign. Workers reported that the plant was in trouble due to substandard gears and other parts of the turbines that were manufactured elsewhere. According to Bob Baugh, executive director, Industrial Union Council, AFL-CIO:
Organized labor warned years ago that our nation would pay a deep price in lost research and engineering skills as our industrial base was outsourced.
IBEW offered to help workers secure their jobs by organizing to gain them more input in company decisions. And Local 204, which includes a bargaining unit at Alliant Energy, offered to support Clipper in seeking orders and expertise from the utility.
Clipper Windpower rejected the IBEW’s offer, launching a stick and carrot counter-offensive against the union. They hired a union-busting lawyer from California to hold captive audience meetings to discourage union support. Then, after workers’ homes faced widespread flooding from the Cedar River last June, the company provided them generators and power washers free of charge. The organizing campaign was broken, but the company’s victory was short-lived. They continued to have trouble turning out windmills that could operate without constant maintenance problems.
A few weeks ago, Clipper Windpower put dozens of workers on the street—including almost all members of the volunteer organizing committee—with no regard for seniority. The downturn in the economy and problems with the product are dark clouds hanging over the remaining workers.
According to Fischer, who is continuing to pursue organizing leads at other “green” companies:
If we could have worked with them and helped fix their problems, there might have been a better outcome. We know they have some smart workers, but instead of investing in them, they spent their money on a union-buster. They are just one of the wind energy companies producing blades and parts who don’t want any labor unions in this industry.
Unfortunately, the Cedar Rapids scenario is not an isolated one. In an article in The American Prospect, Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First, says that a similar organizing drive by the Teamsters was broken at a wind-tower plant in Fargo, N.D. Many green energy manufacturers, says Mattera, are receiving healthy subsidies from states and municipalities even while they lobby against reciprocal requirements that they maintain decent working conditions and wages.
If employers are left to their own devices, some of the new green manufacturing jobs will remain substandard. It is only through more aggressive union organizing—ideally done on a more level playing field—and government intervention in the form of job-quality standards that green jobs can become truly good jobs.