- National Education Association: Health Reform Must Include Public Option
- Jobs With Justice Works Counters What It Says Are Chamber Of Commerce Lies On Employee Free Choice Act
- U.S. Housing Price Drop Wealth Loss On Pace To Equal GDP Of China
- More Workers Choosing To Retiree Early To Collect Social Security
Thousands of tenants in foreclosed homes are receiving a reprieve from Fannie Mae. The mortgage giant announced that it plans to sign new leases for four thousand renters in foreclosed properties. Fannie Mae will act as a landlord for these properties now that the owners have failed to make mortgage payments on time. It is unknown if Freddie Mac will also waive evictions for paid-up renters.
More people are deciding to retire early. Jesse Russell reports.
The Social Security Administration reports that with the economy entering a recession and workers facing lay offs a higher number than expected chose to take early retirement. The number of filings since October 2008 are up 25 percent when compared with the same time a year prior. As unemployment benefits start to run out at the end of the year even more older workers are expected to choose early retirement to cover costs.
By Doug Cunningham
Housing prices continue to plunge across the U.S. Prices were down more than 19 percent in the first quarter of 2009. In March alone prices fell 18.7 percent from March 2008. According to Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics , if home prices keep dropping at this pace all year, the loss in home wealth would equal the entire GDP of China. Despite the home prices continuing decline, consumer confidence is up a bit in May at an eight-month high.
Jobs With Justice Works Counters What It Says Are Chamber Of Commerce Lies On Employee Free Choice Act – 06/04/09
By Doug Cunningham
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is spending millions of dollars to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act labor law reform. Jobs With Justice says the Chamber is spreading lies about the reform that would make it easier for workers to join unions free of employer intimidation. Ricardo Valadez is national communications director for Jobs With Justice. He says Jobs With Justice this week is conducting efforts all across the country to counter what they say is the chamber’s campaign of lies.
[Valadez]: “Organizations and community members in fifteen cities across the country out there educating the public around the Chamber of Commerce and their campaign of lies. And letting their senators know that there are a lot of people out there that disagree with the chamber’s position.
By Doug Cunningham
As President Obama pushes for significant progress on health care reform from Congress before the summer recess, labor is geared up to push for reform that really helps working families. The AFL-CIO wants to make sure that any reform includes cost controls, comprehensive high-quality care for all, a strong government role in balancing the system, and a choice of doctors. The National Education Association is also actively trying to influence health care reform. The NEA’s Bill Raabe says reform must include universal coverage and a public option to help achieve it.
[Raabe]: “Steps in that direction are important steps to take and the public plan option is an important step in being able to provide universal coverage.”
|AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker joins members of trade, faith and labor organizations to launch the Reform Immigration for America campaign.|
More than 200 organizations today launched a national coalition to push for comprehensive immigration reform. The election of a new president and Congress with strong immigrant support, coupled with solid public backing for reform, have created a new political landscape for immigration legislation, the group’s leaders said at a news conference in Washington, D.C.
Reform Immigration for America includes the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, the National Council of La Raza, the NAACP and the Asian American Justice Center. The campaign was launched to coincide with a three-day meeting of more than 700 progressive advocates and allies this week and an upcoming White House meeting on immigration June 15.
Speaking at the National Press Club, Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said the coalition is proposing reform that would “replace the chaos” of our current immigration system with an orderly system that would enforce labor standards, help revive our economy, reunite families and provide a clear path to citizenship for undocumented workers who register and go through background checks.
AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker said the time has come for comprehensive reform.
Our nation’s broken immigration system isn’t working for anybody—not for immigrant workers who are routinely exploited by companies and not for U.S.-born workers whose living standards are being undermined by the creation of a new “underclass.” Reform of our current system is an integral part of our efforts to eliminate enormous social and economic inequalities here and around the world.
Holt Baker noted that the AFL-CIO has been working with former Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall and the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) on a framework for reform that is based on the same values as the campaign: fairness, justice and accountability.
For example, the campaign and the AFL-CIO/EPI/Marshall framework both support a new approach to determining how many immigrant workers should come into the U.S. labor market. Rather than relying on new temporary worker programs, that approach relies on an independent commission that can assess labor market needs on an ongoing basis and determine the number of foreign workers to be admitted for employment purposes, based on the needs of the labor market. Details of the framework are available here.
The campaign announced it is using new technologies such as a text messaging system and online organizing strategies to direct messages to members of Congress. You can help make a difference to pass comprehensive reform by joining the group’s “Text Alert Action Network.” Just text “justice” to 69866 and follow the instructions.
The campaign also launched a website, www.reformimmigrationforamerica.org, to give advocates and supporters the latest news about immigration reform.
“For far too long, we have allowed a can’t-do minority to block progress and manipulate this issue to tear our country apart,” said Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza.
It is time to say…”no more.” We need a system that restores dignity and the rule of law, and we have the ability and the opportunity to make that hope a reality.
Momentum is growing for the government to address immigration. A new poll by the Pew Research Center found that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) support comprehensive reform. But when given specific details of what that reform entails—including securing the border, cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants, requiring immigrants to register for status, pay back taxes and learn English—86 percent gave their support. In fact, poll respondents perceived “an economic and fiscal benefit to immigration reform and want Congress to address the economy and immigration reform simultaneously.
Other participants in today’s news conference included NAACP President Benjamin Jealous; Center for American Progress President John Podesta; Karen Narasaki, president of the Asian American Justice Center; SEIU Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina; the Rev. Sam Rodriquez, president of the National Hispanic Christian leadership Conference; and Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.
An economy in which the rest of the world produces and America consumes no longer works. The United States must begin to make more of the things we consume. That will require a new vision for our economy and concrete actions to change the core policies that created the current global economic crisis.
Speaking during a workshop at the America’s Future Now conference this morning, several members of a panel on global economic strategy said the key to long-term economic recovery is the creation of a new economic model that emphasizes production and savings, not consumption.
That new vision must include actions to fight the major causes of the collapse of U.S. manufacturing—currency manipulation, trade policies that foster a race to the cheapest sources of labor, tax policies that encourage companies to move offshore and the imbalance of power between workers and employers.
Said Thea Lee, AFL-CIO policy director:
If we don’t get this part right, the rest of [President] Obama’s [economic recovery] plan won’t work.
It will take strong leadership and broad support to shift the focus of the economy toward producing what we buy, said Clyde Prestowitz, president of the Economic Strategy Institute.
That shift must start inside the U.S. government. He related a story about Intel, the microprocessor company set to build new plants in Israel and China. Although Intel and other U.S.-based companies receive daily calls from other countries about locating plants there, not one U.S. government official has contacted Intel to suggest that the multibillion dollar plants be built in this country.
Prestowitz pointed out that while the Obama administration’s push for a green economy is a start in the right direction, it does not give enough attention to where the green technology will be made. Right now, most of the green technology is imported from Europe.
Multinationals, with the help of governments, have created a global economy that uses global mobility to beat down unions, lower wages and circumvent environmental rules and regulations, Lee said. Employers can use the threat to take jobs overseas to force workers to accept lower wages and benefits.
Such policies exploded during the eight years of the Bush administration. Lee remarked during the discussion:
The unholy alliance between the multinationals and government finally got what it wanted. Congratulations, you geniuses: You’ve created an economy where nobody can afford to buy the junk you make.
So far, the Obama administration has not done enough to address the trade challenges and rebuild U.S. manufacturing, Lee said. The administration missed an opportunity to address global currency imbalance when it declined in April to identify China as a nation that manipulates its currency.
An AFL-CIO report shows China’s fixed currency rate artificially lowers the price of its goods by 40 percent, effectively subsidizing China’s exports, putting U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage and creating a record trade deficit.
The Obama administration also has sent the message that it does not intend to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). She noted, however, that Obama last month delayed moving the Panama trade deal quickly and would consider it instead in the context of needed reform of broader trade and domestic policies.
Lee praised Obama for taking action to end tax breaks for companies that move jobs offshore, and said that it is essential that the new administration step up enforcement of environmental and workers’ rights provisions in trade deals.
She also urged the administration to strictly enforce the Buy American provisions in the economic recovery legislation passed by Congress.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said Obama has made a strong start toward reviving the economy by stressing the need to rebuild our infrastructure.
There is a tremendous potential [in infrastructure projects] to touch the way we live by building roads, expanding broadband into rural areas. But we must have leadership. It is time to think big. Elections have consequences. This election said we need to get things done boldly.
Public support exists for bold actions, pollster Stan Greenberg said. He cited recent research by Democracy Corps that suggests the public backs Obama’s plans to create green jobs and promote energy independence. Democracy Corps, which Greenberg founded, is a nonprofit that provides opinion research to progressive groups.
He also said the 2008 election has changed American politics in fundamental ways and created a new progressive coalition of African Americans, unmarried women, Latinos and young voters. And the new swing voters are seniors, white blue-collar workers, white married women, independents and rural non-Southern whites. Across the board, all these groups support bold action to provide long-term investment in our economy and energy independence.
The owner and a manager of a Los Angeles carwash where workers were harassed, intimidated and fired by management more than year ago when they tried to form a union now face charges from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
In a complaint issued May 28, the NLRB charges that when workers at Vermont Hand Wash began organizing with the Carwash Workers Organizing Committee (CWOC), they were met with threats, unlawful interrogations and surveillance. CWOC joined with the United Steelworkers (USW) last March as part of the CLEAN Carwash Campaign.
CLEAN Carwash is leading a major citywide effort by unions, community and religious leaders and others seeking to eliminate abuses and uphold standards in the carwash industry. Click here to learn more about the campaign and how you can help the “carwasheros,” as the workers are known.
The NLRB complaint alleges that Vermont Hand Wash management targeted and then fired three workers because of their organizing activities. Vermont Hand Wash is one of several carwashes that Benny Pirian or members of his family operate in greater Los Angeles.
According to the complaint, among other retaliatory acts, Vermont management cut the hours of union supporters or assigned them less desirable duties and unplugged the timeclock when union supporters picketed the carwash, resulting in a loss of wages to workers on the job.
The complaint identifies one manager, Manuel Reyes, which it says threatened employees on multiple occasions with bullets, a machete and a combat knife. The NLRB also charges Reyes with similarly threatening two union organizers with a side-handle billy club in front of carwash employees.
USW President Leo Gerard points to the tactics carwash workers were forced to endure at Vermont Hand Wash, and the struggle other carwasheros face in their fight to form a union and bargain for a better life, as compelling evidence for the need to enact the Employee Free Choice Act.
People who want to join unions must be protected. In this case, management has harassed and intimidated workers for more than a year. Workers who want to form a union must be free to do so without management coercion. If the Employee Free Choice Act had been in effect, these workers would have had a contract in place by now.
In February, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo filed criminal charges against Benny Pirian, his brother Nisan Pirian and Reyes. The complaint charges them with 176 counts of criminal misconduct—including 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 at their facilities.
Said Delgadillo when the charges were filed:
Today, we are sending a message that, in the City of Los Angeles, we will hold to account, and prosecute, those who cheat or abuse their employees. I want to make this crystal clear: Los Angeles protects its working families.
Those charges are still pending, and a trial date has not been set.
Last month, the Pirians agreed to pay the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) a total of $20,000 in fines to settle citations against Vermont Hand Wash and another Pirian carwash for health and safety violations. As part of the agreement, they will hire a health and safety consultant to implement a training program for workers regarding exposure to hazardous chemicals.
Safety experts have warned that workers in the carwash industry are regularly exposed to toxic chemicals known to cause cancer. Says Henry Huerta, CLEAN Carwash Campaign director:
The CLEAN Carwash Campaign is making strong efforts to educate workers on how to identify and avoid exposure to dangerous chemicals.
All around the country, workers who try to form a union are routinely faced with interference and intimidation by managers who want to control the process and prevent workers from exercising their freedom to bargain. That’s why we need the Employee Free Choice Act—and few people know more about our broken system than Kate Bronfenbrenner.
Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, has completed a new study on the obstacles workers face when trying to form unions.
In a great op-ed in today’s Washington Post, “A War Against Organizing,” Bronfenbrenner reports on her findings and explains what they mean for workers’ basic freedoms. She writes: ”The bottom line is that there has been a steady decline of workers’ rights in the past several decades.”
For the vast majority of workers who want to join unions today, the right to organize and bargain collectively—free from coercion, intimidation and retaliation—is at best a promise indefinitely deferred. In election campaigns overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, it is now standard practice for companies to subject workers to threats, interrogation, harassment, surveillance and retaliation for union activity.
It’s a truly serious situation that undermines both basic fairness and the economy. Bronfenbrenner says the nation needs a new law to ensure that workers get a fair shot to choose a union.
Unless Congress passes serious labor law reform with real penalties, only a small fraction of the workers who seek union representation will succeed. If recent trends continue, there will no longer be a functioning legal mechanism to effectively protect the right of private-sector workers to organize and collectively bargain.