- AFL-CIO Health Care Survey: No One Is Sheltered From Broken U.S. Health Care System
- NYC Commuter Railway Hit With Punitive Fine For Retaliating Against Injured Workers
- Partial Arizona Sate Government Shutdown Threatens Health Care for Poor, Child Abuse Investigations
- New York City’s Largest Power Plant Faces Possible Shutdown In Labor Dispute
New York City’s largest power plant could be shut down Thursday morning, but the power will likely stay on. One hundred thirty six workers could walk off the job at the Ravenswood plant in Long Island City over stalled contract negotiations between plant owner TransCanada and the Utility Workers of America. In the event of a strike, the company says there is enough power to prevent blackouts.
Partial Arizona State Government Shutdown Threatens Health Care for Poor, Child Abuse Investigations – 06/24/09
A partial Arizona state government shutdown next week threatens health care for the poor and child abuse investigations may stop. Carol Stambaugh is with the Arizona chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.
[Stambaugh]: “We already know that child abuse reports are up. This is the absolute worst possible time that we could see a shutdown in which there would be no ability to investigate new child abuse cases.”
Arizona social workers say the state’s safety net will be shredded if the budget standoff forces a partial government shutdown next week.
A commuter railway in New York City has been ordered to pay punitive damages for retaliating against employees injured on the job. Jesse Russell reports.
Metro North Commuter Railroad has been ordered to pay $300,000 in punitive damages for retaliating against four employees who reported injuries related to their jobs. According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the injuries occurred between 2007 and 2008. The workers alleged Metro North had interfered with treatments and reclassified injuries so they would be listed as non-occupational.
By Doug Cunningham
More than 23,000 people responded to an AFL-CIO healthcare survey that found that with or without insurance Americans are deprived of health care due to high costs. More than half those responding to the survey say they can’t get affordable care. A third said they’ve skipped basic medical care because of costs. AFL-CIO Vice-President Arlene Holt-Baker.
[Holt-Baker]: “Over and over again we heard from people that they cannot get the coverage they need at a price they can afford. This isn’t just from the uninsured. No one is sheltered from the hardships that are a result of our broken health care system.”
A coalition of veterans who are union members and other supporters of the freedom to form unions are gathering today in Los Angeles to send a strong message: Pass the Employee Free Choice Act now to give veterans the chance they need for a better life.
Organized by the L.A. County Federation of Labor, these union veterans will rally outside the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, urging her and all of California’s members of Congress to vote for the Employee Free Choice Act to restore workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain.
As part of the rally, these veterans and workers will debut a new video that shows why veterans need the Employee Free Choice Act. This video includes testimony from a number of veterans who spoke at an April town hall meeting in Los Angeles attended by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.
Carolyn Consoli, a Navy veteran, said in the video it was hard for her and many other returning veterans to find a job that offered the pay and benefits she needed:
The only jobs I could find were those that led to poverty wages.
The veterans who testified at the town hall meeting said they were able to join the military with just a signature, without having to ask anyone’s permission. Why, then, shouldn’t they have the same chance to form a union and bargain for a better life?
The global union movement is demanding that Iran stop its violent and deadly repression of the peaceful demonstrations following the contested re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In a statement today, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said Iranian authorities should
cease and desist their violent repression of these peaceful demonstrations, as well as fully prosecute…all of those responsible for the tragic and reprehensible deaths and injuries.
Sweeney also condemned the continued violations of workers’ rights in Iran, including the recent arrest of four trade unionists and a journalist for participating in May Day rallies in Tehran. He announced that the AFL-CIO supports a global Day of Action: Justice for Iranian Workers on June 26. Workers around the world will demand the immediate release of all imprisoned Iranian trade unionists and the recognition of all authentic and independent workers’ organizations in Iran.
Click here to read the entire statement.
Workers are the innocent victims of the worldwide economic crisis and their governments must take stronger actions to stimulate the global economy, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney told the leaders of the world’s top economies today.
Governments should ensure that their recovery measures are big enough to maintain and protect jobs and provide social protections, Sweeney told the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) annual forum June 23-24 in Paris.
Sweeney, who chairs OECD’s Trade Union Advisory Council (TUAC), said the global union movement is “gravely concerned” that the fiscal stimulus packages the industrialized nations have enacted so far are “inadequate in size, imbalanced geographically, insufficiently focused on labor issues and are being implemented far too slowly.”
He called on the 30 nations making up the OECD to immediately add an extra annual stimulus of at least 1 percent of their gross domestic product for the next three years.
This morning, Sweeney and the union leaders in TUAC unveiled a program for global economic recovery that would maximize job creation and provide adequate social security and labor protection for the most vulnerable workers.
A key priority, they said, must be to keep people employed. Programs must be implemented to reduce the risk of unemployment and wage losses, as well as to provide income support. The TUAC also called for the OECD governments to:
- Invest in human capital development through education and training.
- Develop “green economy” investments that can shift the world economy on to a low-carbon growth path and create good jobs.
- Focus on groups most affected by the crisis and take steps to eliminate the gender pay gap.
- Extend collective bargaining and strengthen wage-setting institutions to establish a decent wage floor for workers.
- Expand unemployment benefit programs.
- Ensure full respect of national and international standards on workers’ rights regarding termination of employment.
- Address the problem of hazardous work, which is affecting increasing numbers of workers, particularly women.
- Ensure that employers take their fair share of the pension risk, strengthen existing guarantee schemes and reform pension fund investment regulation.
In his address, Sweeney said failure to take such strong actions could prolong the global recession.
The truth is that we are still in uncharted water and no one knows when the bottom of this recession will be found nor how vigorous the recovery will be. The depth and duration of the recession will be determined by how urgently governments can act together to promote recovery and build the foundation for a more sustainable, more fair and more environmentally responsible basis for global growth.
You can read Sweeney’s speech here.
The OECD provides a setting where governments of countries committed to democracy and the market economy compare policy experiences, seek answers to common problems, identify good practices and coordinate domestic and international economic policies. Its members include most of the European nations, along with the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, Korea and Mexico.
The freedom to form unions and bargain is critical to workers and to a stronger, fairer economy—but weak law that allows delay and stalling blocks workers from gaining the first contracts that can bring them a better life.
Studies show that when workers vote for unions, fewer than half of them have a contract a full year later—and in more than a third of cases, workers still don’t have a contract two years later. Despite exercising their freedom to form unions against great obstacles, workers aren’t able to bargain for health coverage, retirement security, fair wages and safe workplace conditions.
The Employee Free Choice Act would end this injustice by providing a process to help bargainers reach an agreement through mediation and, for issues the parties are unable to resolve on their own, arbitration. Arbitration would occur only under the Employee Free Choice Act if either side requests it, after months of negotiations.
In a new ad, American Rights at Work draws attention to the 52 percent of workers who form a union but have to wait a year or more for a fair first contract. The ad is running in CQ, Roll Call, The Hill and Politico. Big corporations are fighting the arbitration provision of the Employee Free Choice Act with millions of dollars and shameless misinformation—even though businesses use mediation and arbitration in a wide variety of negotiations and disputes.
Congress needs to stand up for the workers who deserve the chance to gain fair first contracts. Giving workers a chance at this fundamental freedom is the only way to rebuild the middle class and an economy that works for everyone. It’s time to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.
There’s no dispute that economically strapped cities are facing large and difficult budget shortfalls. But when municipalities try to close the budget gap by shuttering firehouses and laying off firefighters, they are “playing Russian roulette,” says Fire Fighters (IAFF) President Harold Schaitberger.
Whatever you do that results in increasing response, you are absolutely playing Russian roulette.
The union is working with Congress to provide cities with some financial help to protect public safety jobs.
According to a recent USA Today story, the layoff of 22 firefighters and reduction of operations at two Flint, Mich., fire stations may have played a role in a fatal April house fire.
Cutbacks took both a water truck and a ladder truck out of service at the firehouse where IAFF Local 352 Vice President Mark Kovach was on duty when a nearby house fire broke out. He and two colleagues sped to the fire in an equipment truck and arrived on the scene before fire trucks from a station farther away were able to get there. As USA Today reported:
Kovach says they arrived at a chaotic scene where neighbors were frantically directing attention to the second floor where a 47-year-old man with a heart condition was trapped.
With no ladder and no water, Kovach and a partner attempted, then quickly aborted, a rescue mission that nearly killed them, he said. When they dived out of the inferno, Kovach’s helmet and jacket were in flames, but there wasn’t even water to “put me out.”
Kovach now says that the department cutbacks, specifically the lack of water, slowed the unsuccessful rescue effort at the eastside home, where the homeowner was killed and three firefighters, including Kovach, suffered second-degree burns.
Last week, Muncie, Ind., laid off 32 firefighters and closed two fire stations. IAFF Local 1348 President Mike Whited says that puts the public in danger. He told the IndyChannel.com:
If we have a two-alarm fire at Ball State [University] or a house fire, we’re pretty much going to send all the men there, and there won’t be any left to respond to another house fire, another incident that we have.
In Orlando, Fla., IAFF Local 1365 launched a Facebook group to build public support to fight back against proposed budget cuts, including nearly 50 firefighter layoffs. The site, Save Your Orlando Firefighters, encourages people to contact Mayor Buddy Dyer and city commissioners to oppose these layoffs. The page has generated nearly 18,000 members.
Local 1365 President Steve Clelland says the city should tap some of its $100 million reserve fund to protect public safety but, instead, has some of that money earmarked for sports and arts facilities. He told the Orlando Sentinel:
If you’re not going to use your reserves on rainy days to save firefighters or police officers—or any other city service—you should just give the money back to the citizens.
At the national level, the IAFF has worked with Congress and the Obama administration to secure additional funding for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program and to allow SAFER funds to be used to prevent layoffs and service cutbacks. Last week, Congress approved the changes in the SAFER rules. Says Schaitberger:
The IAFF made it an urgent priority to pass this proposal to waive current requirements and allow SAFER grants to be used to save our members’ jobs and restore cuts made to staffing. With the passage of this waiver, fire departments can use this money to prevent layoffs and ensure adequate staffing.