One of the biggest concerns for Employee Free Choice Act supporters regarding Sen. Arlen Specter’s defection to the Democratic side of the aisle is proclaimed unwillingness to support the legislation. However, in a speech given by the Senator he said he is working with labor leaders to find middle ground he can support and he said having labor’s support is important for his political career.
A new coalition of business leaders is seeking to show their support for the Employee Free Choice Act. The organization is called the Business Leaders for a Fair Economy and is made up of more than 1,000 business leaders of both large and small companies. The chair of the organization is Roger Smith who is also President and CEO of American Income Life Insurance. In a statement on the organizations website, faireconomynow.org, Smith says “in these tough economic times we need solutions that protect workers and support long term growth and sustainability for American businesses.” The organi
Advocates of a bill that would help bullied students in New York schools are concerned that the shift in power of the state legislature could put the act in jeopardy. Lee Cutler is with the New York United Teachers who says the legislation is necessary in this new age of bullying.
[Cutler]: “Maybe in the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s you’d just get prank phone calls, but now with everybody on the Internet and with cell phones and things like that, the harassment can continue 24 hours a day.”
Workers at a plant that makes Army backpacks and vests turned out in force on Tuesday to protest plans by parent company Alliant Techsystems to close the New Bedford Massachusetts plant, essentially cutting 350 jobs. The company will be moving many of those jobs to Puerto Rico. The protest was organized by Worker’s United SEIU, a union that has been seeking to organize the workers. Congressional representatives in the region sent a joint letter to the Army seeking to make renewal of any contract contingent on preservation of work at the plant. The letter was signed by Rep. Barney Frank, and Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry.
|The fight for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act continues in Arkansas and other states. Below, Tim Strong, president of CWA Local 4900 in Indiana, explains the bill.|
As the fight for the Employee Free Choice Act takes place in Washington, D.C., union members and allies are hard at work around the country to help pass this critical legislation to level the playing field for workers seeking to form unions.
At the Huffington Post, the AFL-CIO’s Stewart Acuff reports that members of the Arkansas Conference of Black Mayors are joining civil rights leaders, religious leaders, small business owners and union members from across the state in asking their senators to support workers by voting for the Employee Free Choice Act.
In North Carolina, Larry Murray of the Steelworkers (USW) says the fight for employee free choice is a top priority throughout his union and the entire union movement because its passage means an economy that works for everyone:
“The Employee Free Choice Act is vitally important because on top of the poor economic situation, the playing field is not level. Companies have an enormous advantage in the current system.”
In Indiana, Tim Strong, president of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 4900, is yet another leader getting involved in the fight for passage of the bill. In an informative video, he explains why the Employee Free Choice Act is critically necessary to make sure corporations don’t suppress workers’ freedom to join a union and bargain for a fair contract:
We need to create incentives for employers to come to the table and negotiate so that workers can bargain for living wages, good health care, pensions and benefits. Working people like us deserve to have a choice and a fair chance to join a union.
In California, Pride at Work, an AFL-CIO constituency group, and Stonewall Democrats, are reaching out to their members of Congress this week, meeting with congressional staff in San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles, as well as continuing to gather support through their website, SharedAgenda.org.
In Miami, Transport Workers (TWU) locals 291, 561, 568 and 570 held a Congressional Forum last week to educate House members from South Florida about the Employee Free Choice Act and other key issues.
Bob Baugh, executive director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council and co-chair of the AFL-CIO Energy Task Force, is in Bonn, Germany, for meetings to ensure that labor’s input contributes to larger United Nations global climate change discussions later this year. His latest report below follows up on his first blog from Bonn here.
Trade unionists know that negotiations are a tough business even in the best of times. Imagine a negotiating process with 189 nations and multiple stakeholders, including business, labor, environmental and other civil society organizations. It is an intense process. Yesterday was one of those days.
The G-77, a group of developing nations that includes China, India, Brazil, Bangladesh, Uganda and Tobago, rallied behind a rejection of the draft negotiating text on developed countries’ commitments. In their view, developing countries should have no measurable commitments and will only take action on technology transfer and other measures funded by developed nations. While there are real differences between the least developed countries and advanced developing economies like China (with major cities that have a gross domestic product [GDP] greater than many Eastern European countries), they follow the lead of China’s government.
This certainly wasn’t new nor unexpected. U.S State Department staff simply shrugged it off as “posturing for negotiations.” It is similar to responses from the Chinese to demands they live up to such existing trade obligations as currency misalignment, workers’ rights and the environment.
Two weeks ago, U.S congressional delegations returned from China bearing hopeful climate change messages from their meetings with China’s leaders. At the same time, China’s message in Bonn has been that the developing world must cut emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, that the developing world should be responsible for emissions on products it buys from China, that developing nations are not required to do anything under the current framework and that the developed nations have a “historic responsibility” for the current level of emissions.
Developing nations have a responsibility to act, but the Chinese version of having your cake and eating it too is not a solution. They didn’t like it when one U.S. negotiator responded: “China and the developing world’s current emissions are tomorrow’s historic responsibility.” The fact is, this is no longer the pre-Kyoto climate change conference days of 1992. Yesterday’s developing countries are today’s advanced developing nations and they are now on a track to produce more than 80 percent of the growth in carbon emissions during the next several decades.
Ambassador Todd Stern, the U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change, acknowledged these facts in an excellent speech he gave on climate negotiations with China at the Center for American Progress.
He said that
even if every other country in the world beside China reduced its emissions by 80 percent between now and 2050—a thoroughly unrealistic assumption, by the way—China’s emissions under business-as-usual assumptions would alone be so large as to put us on a track to global concentrations of 540 ppm [parts per millimeter] of CO2, and a 2.7 degree centigrade temperature increase, far above what scientists consider safe.
The ambassador pointed out that the impression that China refuses to take action is both inaccurate and unfair. He cited China’s efforts in its five-year plan to reduce energy intensity 20 percent by 2010; to increase the share of renewable energy in the primary energy supply to 15 percent by 2020; and to increase stringent auto emissions standards. China also created a domestic stimulus package that contains substantial clean energy investments. Yet, as the ambassador also noted, China now is the world’s largest pollution emitter in the midst of unparalleled growth and so “they must do more.”
The Obama administration is now pursuing a three-track approach to addressing the Chinese:
- The current climate change negotiating process.
- A 16-nation Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate—Including China, India, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, South Africa and Indonesia—which will meet in July immediately after the G8 meeting.
- Bilateral relationships, especially with China.
The latter provides a backdrop to the Bonn meetings. While we met here, Ambassador Stern was in China pursuing a joint research and development agenda and other cooperative steps to encourage China to embrace a new low-carbon growth agenda.
Many here are hopeful the private U.S. discussions will open a path to a real discussion of mutual responsibility that recognizes the obvious. Success depends upon each nation playing a role. There also is another obvious political reality that Ambassador Stern said everyone must recognize:
developed countries who do agree to take strong action won’t long accept a world in which economic competitors are allowed to free-ride with respect to CO2 emissions.
Members of the Screen Actors (SAG) voted overwhelmingly yesterday to approve new two-year basic agreements covering film and digital TV programs, motion pictures and new media productions.
Negotiations between SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) began more than a year ago. The two sides reached tentative agreements on April 16. The contracts were approved by a mail ballot. In February, the SAG national board overwhelmingly rejected what was then called the AMPTP’s last, best and final offer, but negotiations continued.
David White, SAG’s interim executive director, says:
This decisive vote gets our members back to work with immediate pay raises and puts SAG in a strong position for the future. Preparation for the next round of negotiations begins now. Our members can expect more positive changes in the coming months as we organize new work opportunities, repair and reinvigorate our relationships with our sister unions and industry partners, and continue to improve the Guild’s operations.
The contracts provide more than $105 million in wages, increased pension contributions and other gains.
SAG President Alan Rosenberg says the time to prepare for the next round of negotiations is now.
Tomorrow morning I will be contacting the elected leadership of the other talent unions with the hope of beginning a series of pre-negotiation summit meetings in preparation for 2011. I call upon all SAG members to begin to ready themselves for the battle ahead.
Roberta Reardon, president of SAG’s sister union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) praised the ratification:
I congratulate the members of Screen Actors Guild on their successful ratification of a new television and theatrical agreement. We’re pleased that SAG members will now enjoy improved wages and working conditions, and we applaud their efforts to negotiate a solid new agreement.
For more information on the new contract, including the full text and a summary of the agreement, click here.
The health care reform legislation unveiled yesterday by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee is “a strong draft that demonstrates their commitment to comprehensive reform and the kind of leadership and energy the country needs to finally win quality, affordable health care for all,” says AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who introduced the Affordable Health Choices Act, along with Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), says the bill contains
common-sense solutions that reduce skyrocketing health care costs, assure quality care for all and provide affordable health insurance choices. Much work remains, and the coming days and weeks won’t be easy. But we have a unique opportunity to give the American people, at long last, the health care they need and deserve.
Sweeney says the legislation
gives Americans the freedom to choose to maintain their current insurance or pick a public health care option that will increase competition in the market and lower costs.
America’s workers thank Senator Kennedy, Senator Dodd and all the members of the HELP Committee for their hard work on these issues. Nothing is more important to the well-being of families, and nothing is more important to the long-term economic health of our country.
The legislation also includes:
- Comprehensive reform of the way health care is provided that would significantly improve the quality and efficiency of care.
- Cost constraints by empowering doctors, other health care workers, consumers and purchasers to work together toward innovative changes.
Dodd says the bill “will strengthen what works and fix what doesn’t.” But he cautions:
We still have a lot of work ahead of us and are looking forward to working with our colleagues on a bipartisan basis to resolve the remaining issues and move.
Make your voice heard on health care—join us June 25 on Capitol Hill. Click here for details.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) today announced the rebirth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Poor People’s Campaign” to fight poverty in some of the poorest regions of America. Launched in 1968, the campaign’s first major initiative sought to win economic justice for sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn. It was there on a motel balcony where King was assassinated April 4,1968.
In a press conference at the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C., SCLC General Counsel Dexter Wimbush said the campaign’s goal is to
finish the unfinished business of Dr. King.
The new Poor People’s Campaign’s first major event is a June 20 march and rally in Jackson, Miss., where civil rights activists, community and union leaders, people of faith and other allies will march to the steps of the state capitol.
While the initial focus will be on Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Louisiana, SCLC Interim President and CEO Dr. Byron Clay says the campaign will
pull back the veil of silence that prevents Americans from facing the reality that millions of American live in deplorable conditions of poverty. We should be clear that poverty is a national epidemic that must be addressed.
The SCLC also is urging President Obama to establish a presidential commission on poverty and is seeking congressional hearings to explore ways to combat poverty.
Wimbush said the fight against poverty will be a multipronged attack that includes living and family sustainable wages, quality education, health care reform and environmental justice because
they are all intertwined in creating and perpetuating poverty.
Just yesterday, a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 40 percent of low-income Americans do not have health insurance. About one-third of the uninsured have a chronic disease and they are six times less likely to receive health care services than those with insurance. It also notes that:
Low-income Americans and racial and ethnic minorities experience disproportionately higher rates of disease, fewer treatment options and reduced access to care. With unemployment on the rise, the disparities already apparent among these groups will continue to increase. It is vital that health reform reduces costs to make health care affordable; protects a patient’s choice of doctors, hospitals, and insurance plans; invests in prevention and wellness; and assures quality, affordable health care for all Americans.
Read the full findings here.