A report released last week studied low wage workers in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago and discovered an epidemic of wage theft amongst low wage workers. According to the findings, 26 percent of workers were paid less than minimum wage and 60 percent of those workers were paid less than $1 per hour. Two-thirds of the workers were not provided the appropriate meal break. Seventy-five percent of those workers were not paid required overtime.
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine announced on Tuesday that state workers will be asked to take one furlough day in 2010 to help the state close a $1.35 billion budget gap. In addition to the single furlough day, 593 state employees will be laid off and three correctional facilities will be closed. The furlough day does not apply to public safety employees.
By Doug Cunningham
Chicago labor is joining Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White Thursday to honor and support wounded veterans. Teamsters Local 786 President Mick Yauger says all money raised in the tribute to the Helmets To Hardhats Wounded Warriors program at legendary Chicago restaurant Dick’s Last Resort will go straight to the veterans in the program.
[Yauger]: “We’re also doing an event in San Diego in December. So this is going to be a big, big time. This is going to be our first one for Wounded Warrior in here Chicago and we’re gonna make it as big one. Listen, if you don’t have these young people in your heart, then you’re suffering from the worst heart disease there is.”
Workers sent home for controversial t-shirts protesting AT&T. Jesse Russell reports:
Contract negotiations are stalled between AT&T and the union representing workers in Connecticut. As a result of the stalled negotiations, some workers represented by Communications Workers of America Local 1298 wore t-shirts that read “Prisoner of AT$T” where the ampersand is replaced by a dollar sign. The company refused to let workers who would be dealing with customers directly to wear the shirts on the job and according to the company offered the workers the option of changing shirts or going home for the day. The workers have been without a contract since April and the two sides have been bargaining for seven months.
The AFL-CIO and our community affiliate Working America released a major study, “Young Workers: A Lost Decade,” in recent days that shows the extent to which the economic situation for young workers has deteriorated in the past 10 years.
One of the most striking findings comes as no surprise to millions of baby boomer parents: Young workers are so financially strapped they have to come back home and live with mom and dad. In fact, one in three workers under age 35 currently live at home with their parents.
The combination of college loan debt, stagnant or low wages and a lack of jobs and health care is making the American Dream of making it on your own a thing of the past for many young workers.
One in three young workers are living at home because they can’t afford to live on their own. What do you think about this? What should be done to fix the nation’s economy?
Post your comments and let’s have a dialogue.
The AFL-CIO Organizing Department and its Center for Strategic Research is holding a training course on strategic corporate research Oct. 5-9 at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md.
The training is designed for first-year strategic researchers as well as experienced organizers and communicators who are new to strategic research. It will benefit union staff who are expected to do corporate research as part of their duties and those who want to strengthen their campaign skills.
Says Ken Zinn, the AFL-CIO’s acting organizing director:
Strategic research can play a vital role in successful organizing campaigns. We are pleased to offer this opportunity to help strengthen and expand strategic research and campaign capacity in the labor movement.
The deadline for registration is Sept. 15. For more information, contact Robert Masciola, deputy director of the Center for Strategic Research, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-637-3948.
In 2008, fire departments around the country responded to 15.8 million medicals calls, a 213 percent increase over the 5 million medical runs record in 1980. The combining of cities’ fire and emergency medical services accounts for some of the increase.
But as the logs of a Washington, D.C., fire company show, the lack of health insurance by too many people—especially low-income families—has turned some local fire departments into mobile emergency rooms.
According to a recent article in The New York Times:
Among the hidden costs of the health care crisis is the burden that fire departments across the country are facing as firefighters, much like emergency room doctors, are increasingly serving as primary care providers.
About 80 percent of the calls handled by Engine Company 10 are medical emergencies because the firehouse serves one of the city’s poorest areas, where few residents have health insurance, doctors’ checkups are rare, and medical problems are left to fester until someone dials 911.
Says Fire Fighters (IAFF) President Harold Schaitbeger:
The EMS transport and emergency care systems are being used for health issues that are more appropriate for a family doctor—and it’s not free. It’s paid for by the insured in the form of higher premiums and by taxpayers as taxes are raised to cover the extra cost.
Health care reform legislation that includes a public option would allow regular and preventive care to keep what may begin as a treatable and controllable health condition from turning into a 911 call. But without meaningful reform, he says,
people will continue to rely on first responders for their primary care. And the system will remain sick.
In one 24-hour period this summer, D.C.’s Engine Company No. 10 responded to more than two dozen emergency calls—two fires and the rest were medical emergencies. It is the same throughout the District. The Times reports the D.C. fire department responded to more medical emergency calls per capita than any other in the nation—and most come from poor neighborhoods.
But firefighters say the trend to rely on first responders for care has moved beyond poorer neighborhoods. Says Schaitberger:
Increasingly, first responders are responding to medical calls made by people who are out of work. As the number of unemployed has risen, so have 9-1-1 calls for medical care. People who once had good jobs and good health care are substituting primary care and family doctors with 911.
He also warns that such calls tie up a community’s resources and cost communities more because so many calls for emergency medical care aren’t true medical emergencies. Also, the increasing reliance on first responders and on 911 also comes at a time when firefighters and paramedics all across the country are being laid off, as the nation’s economic woes place a strain on public budgets. The recession is shrinking our resources and reducing manpower while the demand for emergency medical care is skyrocketing.
I joined the force to battle blazes, not to be an emergency room doctor. If it’s a serious medical call, a fire, we sprint, regardless. It just seems like so many people use us as their primary care providers.
On Friday in Portland, Maine, dozens of union members and allies took to the street to demand justice for workers and the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Union members held a 23-minute vigil in Portland’s Lobsterman Park to highlight how a worker is discriminated against because of his or her union activity every 23 minutes. Union members rallied in support of restoring the freedom to form unions and bargain and asked their members of Congress, especially Sen. Olympia Snowe, to vote for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Maine AFL-CIO President Ed Gorham said:
It is a travesty that the workers of Maine have their right to association systematically denied by a process that provides no protection from harassment and intimidation. We are here to remind Senator Snowe that we need the Employee Free Choice Act, for our families and our communities.
After the rally, the Rev. Desi Larson led a contingent of union members to Snowe’s office, where they presented staff with a symbolic gift of bread and roses, commemorating the union movement’s history of fighting for fair wages and respect and dignity in the workplace.
Matt Schlobohm of the Maine AFL-CIO said the Employee Free Choice Act is about giving workers a chance to get the dignity and respect they deserve:
We urge the Senator to remember in the coming months that the working families of Maine support that Employee Free Choice Act and they deserve a fair chance to enjoy bread and roses, too.
Saying he was “fired up and ready to go,” President Obama challenged working people to join in building a future of prosperity out of the nation’s economic mess. The president vowed to pass health care reform, reaffirmed support for the Employee Free Choice Act and laid out a plan to rebuild the middle class.
Speaking at the 23rd annual Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council Labor Day picnic, Obama reminded the crowd of nearly 5,000 that in tough times, America’s working men and women are ready to roll up their sleeves and get back to work. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka joined Obama in the Queen City.
Trumka told the crowd in Cincinnati:
This is a unique moment in American history—and we can make it labor’s moment. This can be our moment to build the labor movement we need to create the country we want: …A nation where every worker has a job with a future and where all of us can step into the winner’s circle.
That’s the kind of America we want, and I’m here to tell you that if we educate and agitate—if we organize and mobilize—that’s the kind of America we’re going to have.
AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker joined Vice President Biden in Pittsburgh, where hundreds of union members braved the rain to march in and cheer the city’s annual Labor Day parade. Biden assured the crowd of about 300 that he and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) wouldn’t let workers down. Biden also said the administration will get the Employee Free Choice Act done this year. The act makes it easier for unions to organize and is currently before Congress.
Holt Baker cited the recent AFL-CIO survey of young workers, saying:
Our new Labor Day study shows that younger workers are getting hit especially hard, and that they are likely to be the first generation not to do better than their parents. That’s why this Labor Day we’re working harder than ever to do better for the new generation and give them a better chance.
At the top of our priorities are jobs, health care and labor law reform…[President Obama and Vice President Biden] know and we know we can’t turn around our economy and turn around our country unless we win all three—this year, now.
Just two days before he delivers a major address on health care reform, Obama said the time for debate is over and it’s time to act.
We have never been this close. We’ve never had such broad agreement on what needs to be done. And because we’re so close to real reform, the special interests are doing what they always do—trying to scare the American people and preserve the status quo.
He said he wants reform that brings “stability and security to folks who have insurance today,” where “you never again have to worry about going without coverage if you lose your job or you change your job or you get sick.”
You’ve got coverage there for you. Where there is a cap on your out-of-pocket expenses, so you don’t have to worry that a serious illness will break you and your family even if you have health insurance.
I want a health insurance system that works as well for the American people as it does for the insurance industry. They should be free to make a profit. But they also have to be fair. They also have to be accountable.
Obama praised the union movement for winning many of the rights and benefits often taken for granted today—the 40-hour workweek, the minimum wage, health insurance, paid leave, pensions, Social Security, Medicare. Obama said “they all bear the union label.”
On this Labor Day, we reaffirm our commitment. To rebuild. To live up to the legacy of those who came before us. To combine the enduring values that have served us so well for so long—hard work and responsibility—with new ideas for a new century. To ensure that our great middle class remains the backbone of our economy—not just a vanishing ideal we celebrate at picnics once a year as summer turns to fall.
A big part of rebuilding the economy is reviving manufacturing. Obama made a point of announcing the appointment of Ron Bloom as senior counselor for manufacturing policy. In his new role, Bloom will oversee administration efforts to revive manufacturing. Bloom will retain his role as senior adviser to the secretary of the treasury assigned to the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says Blooms appointment is “another sign of how committed President Obama is to creating the good jobs of the future.”
We have lost so many manufacturing jobs; we have to rebuild our manufacturing sector if America is going to be a world leader. This country has to grab the opportunity to lead the development of new energy technology and manufacturing. And it is enormously important to have a single high-level person in the administration to coordinate manufacturing policies across different agencies to help strengthen and support the manufacturing sector.
Bloom is uniquely qualified for the position. Before moving to his present post, he was an assistant to United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard. As USW’s director of corporate research, he helped revive and restructure 50 companies in bankruptcy.
Hired by Sweeney when he was president of SEIU, Bloom began his career negotiating union contracts for low-wage workers.
Obama also reaffirmed his support for the Employee Free Choice Act and workers’ freedom to join a union:
…some of the first executive orders I issued overturned the previous administration’s attempts to stifle organized labor. That’s why I support [the Employee free Choice Act]: to level the playing field so it’s easier for employees who want a union to form a union. Nothing—nothing wrong with that. Because when labor is strong, America is strong. When we all stand together, we all rise together.
In other cities, workers celebrated the achievements of workers and rallied for a better life for all Americans, including in New Orleans, where some 1,600 people attended the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO Labor Day Picnic and hundreds signed petitions supporting the Employee Free Choice Act and health care reform.