H&M workers at retail stores in Manhattan have signed off on their first ever union contract. The workers are members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and under the new contract workers will see a three percent wage increase the first year of the contract and the option for renegotiation of wages during the second and third years. The contract additionally protects workers from unannounced schedule changes without the consent of employees.
Lede: The National Union Of Healthcare Workers says it has strong support as an election begins for 10,000 home health care workers in California. Doug Cunningham reports.
By Doug Cunningham
The Fresno County home health care workers are represented by SEIU. When SEIU took over the United Healthcare West local in a dispute over local union democratic control, many of the local’s leaders formed the National Union of Healthcare Workers. United Farm Workers co-founder Delores Huerta says workers need and deserve to control their union.
[Huerta]: “I think it’s a message to the international that you gotta let democracy work. You can’t just use a heavy hand and try to force conditions on workers without their say-so.”
As General Motors ponders bankruptcy, one United States Senator is warning the company not to use federal money to close plants and move jobs to China. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown took the automaker to task this week.
[Brown]: “I was in a state of disbelief last night when I learned that General motors is not going to create those jobs in the United states…not in big auto states….what GM wants to do is take our tax dollars and create jobs in China.”
Brown said GM’s plan is to develop a new car that will be built in China and than sold in the United States.
[Brown2]: The audacities of such a plan can not me emphasized enough…
A coalition of major investors who oversee more than $750 billion in assets is joining the fight for workers’ freedom to form unions by asking major corporations what they’re doing to protect and enhance the ability of workers to form unions.
These investors want to know about these corporations’ workplace policies and whether these companies are lobbying for—or against—the Employee Free Choice Act, a critical bill to protect workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain. They’ve sent a letter to 100 CEOs asking for answers.
Investment leaders representing 36 investment funds and pension funds signed on to the letter, which they’ve sent to each company listed on the Standard & Poor’s 100 index, including major corporations like Bank of America, McDonald’s and Lowe’s.
Adam Kanzer, managing director and general counsel at Domini Social Investments LLC, says companies that respect workers’ rights are stronger and so are a better investment in the long term. He says businesses should work to build a constructive and positive relationship with workers that protects their freedoms:
We believe it is in each company’s long-term best interests to reassess their policies and procedures to ensure their employees’ rights are fully protected. We encourage companies to look to the standards set by the International Labor Organization when they establish a higher standard than U.S. law, particularly in the areas of freedom of association and collective bargaining.
The coalition behind this letter spans the globe and includes investors like Ian Greenwood, chairman of the U.K.-based Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, who says:
As long-term investors, we want companies to create value in a sustainable way. Constructive labor relations can be a positive influence on productivity, foster trust and loyalty, and help attract and retain skilled staff, therefore this is an area shareholders need to be informed about. We hope this process will give us a better understanding of how U.S. companies are addressing these challenges.
A new study finds that project labor agreements (PLAs) “make sense for public works projects” and debunks attacks by anti-union groups and contractors on such agreements, which set wages, benefits and working conditions on large multicontractor and multi-union public construction projects.
The study by the Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, “Project Labor Agreements in New York State: In the Public Interest,” details what PLAs do, how they have been used and the benefits they offer—benefits that extend to workforce and economic development.
PLAs have been demonstrated to be a very useful construction management tool for cost savings, for on-time, on-budget, and quality construction. PLAs make sense for public works projects because they promote a planned approach to labor relations, allow contractors to more accurately predict labor costs and schedule production timetables, reduce the risks of shoddy work and costly disruptions, and encourage greater efficiency and productivity.
Project owners, contractors, workers and their unions all receive benefits from PLAs because they offer
a unique opportunity to anticipate and avoid potential problems that might otherwise arise and possibly impede project progress. They maximize project stability, efficiency and productivity and minimize the risks and inconvenience to the public that often accompany public works projects.
Opponents of PLAs claim the agreements drive up a project’s costs and limit the number of contractors who bid on the projects. Not so, says the Cornell study:
While there are many reasons why contractors—both union and non-union—may choose not to bid on particular projects, there are no studies demonstrating that a PLA in the bid specifications is itself responsible for a decrease in the number or bidders; there is also no analysis showing that fewer bidders translate into higher actual project costs.
But there is a reason why some nonunion contractors will choose not to bid on PLAs, says the study. It’s a reason that “gets to the core of the issue and that PLA opponents might prefer not to publicize:
They do not want to operate within or adjacent to the unionized sector.
Non-union contractors may see PLA work as a threat to their workforce control so they choose to avoid having their employees work side-by-side with unionized craft workers and under prevailing wage and collectively bargained terms and conditions.
could actually be forced to pay workers decent wages and benefits on publicly-funded construction projects.
Click here to read the full study.
We noted a few days ago how the private insurance industry was set to unleash its attack dogs on health care reform to try to kill a public health insurance plan option as part of President Obama’s health care reform initiative.
Those dogs have started to bark.
Yesterday, the fake group, Americans for Prosperity (AFP)—another one of those astroturf names meant to appeal to All of Us—launched a $1.7 million TV ad campaign claiming we may all die if Obama’s health care reform proposals are enacted.
The ads don’t even skirt the neighborhood of the truth, but then, as Robert Borosage wrote last week, the health care industry has a long history of “trying to scare the hell out of Americans” when it comes to health care reform.
The ads conjure up the boogeyman of a “government-run” health care system where patients will die as their cancerous tumors grow to fatal stages while they wait months to receive care. Scary stuff. Phony, but meant to scare us all.
It would provide workers who have private insurance and those without insurance a choice in coverage: Stay with their private plan or choose the public plan option. It would also—which scares the hay out of the private insurance industry—provide some competition for an industry that has secured a near-monopoly of the market and recorded record profits, while we are paying more for less care.
The Wall Street Journal reports that another group, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, is buying air time for a 30-minute Sunday morning infomercial featuring “horror stories” about the Canadian and British health care systems and warning the U.S. government is about to take over health care here.
Like AFP’s campaign, that message doesn’t even have a nodding acquaintance with the truth. But a key Republican strategist says the truth doesn’t matter when it comes to fighting health care reform. BTW, most Republican lawmakers have decried a public plan option with strikingly similar, and just as phony, arguments.
Think Progress reports that lies about health care reform are not going to go away anytime soon.
In an interview with The New York Times, conservative pollster Frank Luntz admitted that he would continue raising the false specter of a ”Washington takeover” of health care—whether or not that was Obama’s actual proposal. “I’m not a policy person. I’m a language person,” Luntz said.
Click here for a detailed look at the blueprint for the propaganda campaign against health care reform.
The truth may set you free, but a big lie just might protect Big Health Insurance Companies’ big profits.
Time is running out to apply for the Union Leaders of the Future Scholarship and Mentoring Program. The deadline is May 30.
The scholarship program provides annual awards of up to $3,000 to help women and people of color with the cost of continuing their education to build leadership skills and pursue their union careers.
Scholarships can be used for tuition, books and travel for leadership training at accredited labor schools, colleges, universities and community colleges. Many students have used the program to attend the National Labor College. Click here to apply or learn more about the program.
By affording opportunities for women and people of color to continue their education, the scholarship program is helping build a skilled, diverse leadership for the union movement to continue to reach out and provide benefits to more workers.
Applicants must be members of a union or union leaders or staff. Each applicant will be asked to write an essay on how their leadership goals and aspirations will help strengthen the labor movement.
The scholarship program is sponsored by the Union Plus Education Foundation, an arm of Union Privilege, which provides consumer benefits to members and retirees of participating unions.
So far, the Union Leaders of the Future Scholarship Program has awarded $74,000 to 28 winners.
All applications must be postmarked by May 30, 2009. Scholarship winners will be contacted by July 7, 2009.
|Louisiana union members are among the thousands who are rallying in support of the Employee Free Choice Act.|
Supporters of the freedom to form unions and bargain, including faith and civil rights groups as well as union members, are holding a 24-hour vigil outside Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s office to encourage her to support the Employee Free Choice Act.
This vigil, which began last night, is one of more than 200 grassroots events across the nation this week in support of the Employee Free Choice Act. With rallies, roundtables, phone banks and worksite visits, workers are encouraging members of Congress back in their home districts this week to vote in support of workers and a fairer, stronger economy. Senators across the country have received tens of thousands of letters and phone calls from union members and allies, and that momentum is building this week.
With hundreds of thousands of its members employed by construction and utility companies, the Electrical Workers (IBEW) is working with electrical union contractors to create a comprehensive green jobs training program that weaves practical experience with classroom instruction into the union’s apprenticeship programs.
IBEW’s training program highlights the commitment of union members to transform the nation’s struggling economy through a range of environmental investments in green technology, energy efficiency and renewable energy.
IBEW locals across the country are retooling and upgrading their training facilities to prepare workers for the rapidly growing clean energy revolution. Just this month, Local 494 moved its headquarters to a new office in suburban Milwaukee, which includes a state-of-the-art training center. The center’s spacious interior will enable union members to learn how to install solar panels and work with wind turbine companies and energy utilities that supply a growing amount of electricity to Wisconsin residential and commercial power consumers.
Local 494 Business Manager Mike Mueller says:
We’re also developing more programs to train people who can conduct the right training programs for our apprentices and journeymen on green projects.
To ensure that IBEW members are well trained to compete for the new opportunities in solar, wind and other renewable energy projects, the union’s apprenticeship and training committee this month published its new green jobs curriculum. IBEW’s Electrical Worker magazine says the comprehensive program
will be woven into the fabric of current IBEW apprenticeship training and will serve as a resource for journeymen looking to upgrade their skills in the growing green jobs market.
The curriculum includes 75 lessons, including green building fundamentals and automated building operation. A two-volume workbook and seven textbooks will guide apprentices through the details of green energy distribution.
IBEW President Ed Hill and other union leaders invited members of Congress to tour IBEW training centers this month to highlight renewable energy training and win more help from the federal stimulus package.
In March, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis toured IBEW Local 349’s training center in Miami, where she met and talked with young workers who are learning the skills that will prepare them for better jobs with a decent wage and benefits. Accompanied by Hill and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, Solis told the trainees they “are the face of our future of jobs that stay here.”
These jobs are here. They’re available. They’re already being done with partnerships with private industry and the unions. I think it is a very attractive program that certainly could be used as a model that could be replicated in other parts of our country, where we’re finding people who have just lost their job. Or maybe they want a career change so they can upgrade their skills and have a livable wage and provide for their families.
Local 494 is just one of many IBEW unions that is working to create good green jobs and clean up the environment:
- In late March, Local 113 in Colorado Springs completed installing rooftop solar panels at the union hall. The all-union project will provide about 80 percent of the local’s electrical needs for the next 25 years.
- In Minnesota, Local 292 has launched a solar power training center, which features one of the nation’s best solar labs and its own solar system. The center has a waiting list for students. But the local isn’t taking an exclusive approach to training. Jim Nimlos, Local 292’s training director, and his counterpart at Local 343, Andy Toft, developed a student exchange between 343’s wind turbine training and 292’s solar curriculum. Local 343 is completing a 60-foot climbing tower for practicing high-voltage safety, climbing and rescue procedures on turbines in conjunction with a national wind power curriculum.
- In Portland, Ore., Local 48 is installing a solar array at its union hall. When completed, the all-union project will provide 40 percent of the local’s electrical usage for the next 30 years and be used to train members on the design and installation of solar arrays.
On Earth Day, the AFL-CIO, in conjunction with its Center for Green Jobs, announced an initiative to reduce energy consumption, cut waste and reduce the carbon footprint of its national headquarters. Read more here.