- Steel Workers Call For Nationwide Ban On Hydrogen Fluoride In Oil Refining
- UE Workers At Quad City Die Casting Demand Wells Fargo Pay Owed Wages
- New Hampshire Judge Blocks Company From Moving Assets Until Workers Get Paid
- SEIU Defeats Effort To Decertify The Union At Sutter Roseville Medical Center
- Goodyear Workers Voting On Tentative Contract Agreement
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released detailed information on workplace fatalities in 2008. According to the data, men accounted for 93 percent of workplace deaths even though they only accounted for 57 percent of hours worked last year. However, more women than men died as a result of highway incidents and homicides. Men were more likely to suffer fatal injuries as a result of falls and exposure to harmful environments or substances.
By Doug Cunningham
United Steel Worker Goodyear workers in seven states are voting on a tentative contract agreement reached with Goodyear over the weekend. The Goodyear contract agreement was reached just three hours before the old contract expired. More than ten thousand workers are hearing details of the new agreement and voting on whether or not to accept it.
Workers at Sutter Roseville Medical Center in California will continue to be represented by the Service Employees International Union after a vote on Thursday. 327 workers voted in favor of continued representation after a group of workers sought to leave the union. The election was monitored by the National Labor Relations Board. The workers have been without a contract since September of 2008 after negotiations stalled followed by a call for decertification.
A plant in New Hampshire has closed without giving workers proper notice. Jesse Russell reports:
New Hampshire is stepping up to the plate for workers who have been locked out of their jobs. Precision Technology appears to have locked the workers out without providing a 60-day notice as required by federal law. One hundred thirty-one workers were employed at the bulk mail distribution center in Pembroke, New Hampshire. The first workers to be notified of the plant closing were on Thursday’s second shift. A judge in New Hampshire has blocked the company from moving out assets until workers are properly compensated.
By Doug Cunningham
A hundred Quad City Die Casting workers in Illinois, represented by UE, are demanding that Wells Fargo Bank pay roughly $200,000 owed in wages and benefits. UE’s Leah Fried says Wells Fargo took billions in tax money to save itself , but refuses to pay these workers what they’re owed.
[Fried]: “The arrogance of this corporation – and their deliberate decisions to not stimulate the economy in this case, you know, they’re creating unemployment after we gave them $25 billion – is really shameful.”
By Doug Cunningham
The United Steel Workers union is calling for a national phase-out of the use of hydrogen fluoride in oil refining. The USW’s Lynne Baker says it’s dangerous and safer alternatives are available. Baker says the union will talk with the industry in efforts to get rid of hydrogen fluoride, but if necessary will take also other steps to replace that process with one that’s safer for workers and communities.
[Baker]: “If necessary we’re willing to go through the regulatory agencies in Congress to get the issue resolved.”
As the nation works to recover from recession and move into the decades to come, will we simply re-create the old economy or we will build a healthy new economy for the 21st century? And what role will the union movement have in answering that question? These issues were the subjects of a conversation with AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka this morning.
In an address sponsored by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Trumka discussed health care, the Employee Free Choice Act, economic recovery and the future of unions. (You can read Trumka’s speech here.)
We’re not going to get ahead by mimicking the mistakes of the past and re-creating the cycles of debt bubbles and busts, Trumka said, but by giving workers the chance to earn their way into the middle class.
We don’t have a moment to spare….It wasn’t the labor movement that got us into this mess, but we are going to be the people who get us out of it.
You aren’t going to rebuild the economy without increasing wages, and the fastest, surest way to raise wages is the collective bargaining process….Unions built the first American middle class, and they will build the new middle class.
Calling the current moment “an era of change for workers,” Trumka said we need to address the problems of today’s workforce, including contingent workers like temporaries and free-lancers. We need to show that unions have something to offer young workers who are too often saddled with debt and deprived of health and retirement benefits, Trumka said.
A revitalized and healthy union movement will help hold corporations accountable and put wealth back in the hands of the workers who create it—and this starts with listening to the concerns and needs of young workers. In addition, we need to reach out to make sure that those who have historically been left behind or excluded—like women and minorities—have the same opportunity as everyone else to join the middle class:
We dream of a country where all workers are treated with respect and paid for what they actually earn….Here in our America, we think everyone ought to have a seat at the table.
In addition to providing workers with power in the workplace, Trumka said, unions need to fight for them “in the courthouse, in the state house and in the White House.” We can’t shut down the process of educating and mobilizing workers at the grassroots level the day after Election Day—we need the ability to challenge legislators who might forget about their promises after they get elected, he said.
In particular, Trumka said he expects the Employee Free Choice Act to pass this year, in a form that fits the critical principles underlying the bill: the freedom to form a union through a fair process without management intimidation, real penalties for companies that break the law when workers are trying to form unions and a guarantee that workers who do choose a union can bargain for a first contract.
Trumka said there have been two economies operating in America: the real economy and the financial economy. The financial economy was a tool to help the real economy, he said, but for a few people, it became an end in itself—and that small minority prospered while everyone else paid the price. We can’t go back to the way things were, Trumka said:
If all we’re going to do is create the same economy we had before, it will have the same result. We have to ask: What’s going to be the new driver?
You can see video of Trumka’s talk, and the discussion that followed, here.
Health care reform, embodied in the Senate bill crafted by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and H.R. 3200 in the House, will give patients the care they need when they need it and allow doctors the opportunity to provide that care, says Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, president-elect of the National Physicians Alliance.
Arkoosh told a crowd of nearly 300 in front of the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C., celebrating the last stop of AFSCME’s Highway to Health Care Reform tour:
Sen. Kennedy’s and the House bill will give our patients the peace of mind that the health care they need will be there when they need it. As a doctor, it means it will be easier for me to take care of my patients…spend more time in the exam room listening to them instead of fighting on the phone with the insurance companies.
AFSCME’s Highway to Health Care Reform tour kicked off Aug. 12 in Bismarck, N.D., and rolled through 19 cities, drawing thousands of union members, health care and community activists and local media. It also provided a compelling counterpoint to the angry agitators who were seeded into health care town hall meetings by extremist groups and health insurance industry front organizations. And as AFSCME President Gerald McEntee said at today’s rally, the opposition to health care has been
fueled by politicians bought and paid for by the insurance companies….We’ve got to stop the insurance companies from getting richer and richer while Americans are getting sicker and sicker.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called the unique tour the “spear head” in the union movement’s August mobilization, with the goal to
send members of Congress back to Washington, D.C., with a strong showing of support for health care reform.
The tour generated more than 4,000 messages to lawmakers urging passage of strong health care reform with a robust public option. In addition, more than 18,000 union members have attended more than 400 congressional town hall meetings since the disruptive tactics and plans by health care reform opponents to hijack the meetings came to light earlier this month.
Sweeney said even more action is in store for the last week of the congressional recess and the Labor Day weekend where the call for health care reform will be heard at thousands of parades, picnics and rallies. He also said the upcoming AFL-CIO Convention will “serve as the launching pad” for an even bigger push to pass health care reform.
There is one more stop to be made on the Highway to Health Care Reform tour, said AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker.
The last stop will be at the White House when President Obama signs the health care reform bill.
Evoking the memory of Kennedy and his nearly five-decade-long fight for health care reform, and the words of Mother Jones, Sweeney said:
We mourn Ted Kennedy’s passing. But we’re not just going to mourn, we’re going to organize by fighting like hell for health care reform.
With unemployment at its highest levels in decades, it’s unbelievable that some $3.1 billion in unemployment insurance (UI) benefits included in the federal economic recovery package is not being spent because 23 states have not yet revised state rules covering jobless benefits.
Today’s USA TODAY reports that nearly 350,000 out-of-work Americans could get benefits if all those states revamp their unemployment systems to qualify for money that is included in the federal stimulus package.
In 11 of the states, Republican governors or legislatures have refused to modify the rules governing unemployment insurance to qualify for about $1.7 billion in stimulus funds. The other 12 states have made only some of the changes, not applied for the funds or not taken legislative votes on the changes. Although the states have until 2011 to change the laws, the reality is that many states need the money now and the workers really need it now.
The five states with the largest number of jobless workers eligible for the expanded unemployment insurance are Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Indiana. There are more than 169,000 people in those states alone who are missing out on nearly $1.6 billion in benefits.
In some states, “politics is in play,” says Maurice Emsellem of the National Employment Law Project (NELP). Governors such as Rick Perry of Texas and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin refused to accept the funds.
The Republican governors’ claim that changing the laws would lead to tax increases down the road is not really true, he says. The economic crisis has severely stretched state unemployment trust funds, and several states have laws that require tax hikes when the trust funds run low. But the stimulus funds would go into the state coffers immediately, preventing the mandated tax increases. The federal funds could pay for about seven years of expanded benefits, he says.
[The $3.1 billion] would build funds when they need it most. This little increase in benefits is not going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back to determine whether taxes are going up.
Emsellem adds that once state lawmakers and employers look carefully at the program, they realize that everyone would benefit from the changes. He credits AFL-CIO state federations for playing a key role in building coalitions to push through the changes in several states.
States can get one-third of the money by relaxing their rules on the length of employment needed to qualify for jobless benefits. They can get the rest by providing just two of four kinds of unemployment benefits: extra money for the workers’ dependents, for part-time workers, for those in training programs or for those who quit because of “compelling family circumstances”—such as fleeing domestic violence or caring for a sick relative.
Meanwhile, the Labor Department last week agreed to release $89.2 million in unemployment insurance funds to Wisconsin after the state updated its UI program to reflect the 21st century workforce.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said:
Wisconsin has now updated its law to make it easier for workers who become unemployed for compelling family reasons and workers who are upgrading their skills to be eligible for benefits. These changes not only help workers, but will contribute to the state’s overall economic recovery.