More AT&T workers have reached a contract agreement with the telecommunications giant. The most recent contract covers more than 8,000 workers mostly in Illinois and northwestern Indiana. AT&T has 120,000 employees under union contracts and this is the fourth agreement. It provides a 3 percent wage increase over the first two years and a 2.75 percent increase in the third year of the contract.
Taxpayers are already covering health care for more than 100,000 Ohioans according to a new study. Jesse Russell reports:
By Doug Cunningham
At its political conference today and tomorrow, the Minnesota AFL-CIO is stepping up efforts to elect a pro-worker governor.
Communications Director Diane O’Brien says the Minnesota AFL-CIO has grown more politically effective over the past decade.
Here’s a proposal that makes sense: The Obama administration wants to set up a consumer financial protection agency to oversee the financial markets and make sure working families aren’t the victims of predatory lending, abusive credit card practices and the kind of irresponsibility and greed that have caused our economic crisis.
But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is putting its big bucks into preventing creation of any agency that would hold financial institutions accountable.
Earlier this month, the Chamber announced it would spend $2 million on an ad campaign opposing a consumer protection agency, and it has taken the lead in lobbying Congress to prevent new rules for our financial system.
Tough new rules—and an agency with the authority to enforce them—would protect families, their communities, the housing market and the entire economy. But the agency might make a small dent in the profits of a handful of huge banks and Wall Street corporations and the salaries and bonuses of CEOs. So the Chamber of Commerce is opposed to it.
The Chamber is paying a price for being out of touch with the country’s priorities. Take energy, for example. While unions, businesses and families across the country are looking for ways to build a new energy economy and solve the climate crisis, the Chamber is virulently supporting the status quo. As a result, three of the country’s biggest energy companies—Exelon, PG&E and PNM—have left the Chamber over the issue, and Nike announced today that it will no longer sit on the Chamber’s Board of Directors.
The Chamber also stands out as a key opponent of a public insurance option for health care—a broadly popular proposal that would offer working families a real choice in health care coverage and ensure that the insurance industry is competitive.
The Chamber also has put millions of dollars into opposing the Employee Free Choice Act and workers’ freedom to form a union and bargain—while taking money from bailed-out banks. That is, the Chamber is using our taxpayer dollars to fight a bill that would give workers more choice when they’re deciding whether to form unions. What is it about giving Americans “choice” that the Chamber doesn’t like?)
And strangely enough for an organization with “U.S.” in its name, the Chamber is hostile to Buy American provisions that would create good jobs for America’s workers.
Even as broad coalitions are trying to turn our economy around, the Chamber of Commerce is leading the movement to maintain the broken status quo that has benefited a few corporations and left everyone else behind.
For nearly two years, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been hearing cases and issuing rules with just two members. While many of those decisions were accepted by the parties involved, dozens have been appealed to federal courts citing the two-member status of the NLRB and arguing that a two member board did not constitute a quorum that could act under the National Labor Relations Act. The five-member NLRB is staffed by presidential nominees who must be approved by the Senate.
Today, on behalf of the National Labor Relations Board, Solicitor General Elena Kagan asked the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the question of whether the board is authorized to issue decisions while three of its five seats remain vacant.
After the terms of two board members expired in December 2007 (the fifth seat already was vacant), the two remaining members—current Chairman Wilma B. Liebman, a Democrat, and member Peter Schaumber, a Republican—relied on the advice of U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel that the NLRB could continue to issue decisions. The Justice Department’s opinion was issued in 2003, when it appeared there might be a two-member board, which wound up not happening at that time.
But in the cases that have been appealed in various federal appeals court circuits, the courts have issued different rulings. Three of the courts have upheld the two-member board’s authority to decide cases and one—the District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals—ruled the two-member NLRB did not have the authority to act. Says Liebman:
We continue to believe that our position is correct, and hope that a decision from the high court will bring some finality to these cases.
As Schaumber says:
It is critical to the agency’s mission that this issue be decided.
President Obama has nominated three additional members to the board, and they currently are awaiting Senate confirmation. But there are reports that some Republican senators are blocking action on the nominations.
For more information click here.
With unemployment at the highest rate in 26 years, most Americans want the government to create more jobs before it worries about the deficit.
A new survey of public views of the economy, released today by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), shows more than eight of 10 Americans (83 percent) see unemployment as a big problem today.
While voters have some concern about the growth of the federal deficit, job creation is far and away their top priority. In fact, by a margin of 53 percent to 42 percent, voters are more concerned about rising unemployment rates than the rising federal deficit.
The Tracking the Recovery survey was conducted among 802 registered voters nationwide from Sept. 21-23 by Hart Research Associates for EPI. The poll takes an indepth look at Americans’ experiences in this recession, their expectations for the year ahead, their views of the government’s role and degree of success so far and their priorities for further government action. Click here to download the poll results.
Says Geoffrey Garin, Hart Research’s president who presented the results today at an EPI forum in Washington, D.C.:
Unemployment and the lack of jobs remains the dominant problem on the economic agenda for voters across party lines. The portrait that emerges from this survey is of a majority with deep concern about the jobs situation who are looking to the Obama administration for continued action to save and create jobs.
Another issue rated as a big problem by participants is the failure of wages and salaries to keep up with the cost of living. Today, 63 percent of Americans rate this as a very big or fairly big problem; 57 percent expect it to be a very big or fairly big problem a year from now.
EPI President Lawrence Mishel says voters understand “that investing in job creation must necessarily come before the challenge of addressing the federal deficit.”
These findings will help policy makers understand that they can do what they need to do to create a sound, jobs-based recovery without losing public support over the federal deficit. And for those who have assumed that the deficit will trump all other concerns, it’s a wake-up call.
The survey clearly shows voters are not falling for conservatives’ efforts to blame the Obama administration for the federal deficit or to push for spending cuts instead of a strong economic stimulus plan. By a margin of more than three to one—73 percent to 24 percent—respondents agreed with this statement:
The federal budget deficit is an important problem, but we need to deal with it in a way that allows us to invest in job creation, education, and energy independence, because we cannot solve the deficit problem without getting people back to work and getting our economy growing again.
At the AFL-CIO’s constitutional convention earlier this month, the delegates approved a comprehensive economic recovery policy, including a JOBS Now! Initiative. They called for the federation to work with government at all levels to adopt policies and programs to put people back to work.
Machinists (IAM) President Tom Buffenbarger pointed out that nearly 31 million Americans are either unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for work. Saying JOBS Now should be our clarion call, he added:
If we’re all talk and no action, those 31 million workers will be worse off next year.
Americans also are not happy with the way economic recovery money has been spent so far. When asked who has been helped most so far by the government’s stimulus efforts, the majority say “large banks” (62 percent) or “Wall Street investment companies” (54 percent) have benefited either a lot or a fair amount. Asked how much “the average working person” or “you and your family” have benefited, about one out of 10 (13 percent and 10 percent, respectively) say a lot or a fair amount.
The vast majority of voters (81 percent) agree that the Obama administration still needs to do more to deal with unemployment and the loss of jobs. The survey also shows that voters trust the president more than congressional Republicans, by a margin of 43 percent to 32 percent, to have the right economic policies.
When asked what additional actions they think the government should take, more than 80 percent support passing a major new job creation tax credit for businesses that create jobs in the United States in the next two years. Other policies that drew strong backing include:
- Extending unemployment insurance benefits for those who have lost their jobs during the recession and are unable to find new jobs (81 percent).
- Putting unemployed people back to work at government-funded public service jobs that help meet important community needs (71 percent).
- Giving a new round of tax rebates to lower- and middle-income Americans (63 percent).
- Providing increased federal assistance to state and local governments to prevent additional layoffs of government employees because government layoffs add to unemployment and harm vital services (52 percent).
New Jersey’s race for governor is just over a month away, and voters are taking a close look at what candidate Chris Christie would do on key issues like health care. A new video shows that Christie’s proposals could put insurance companies, not patients, first.
Speaking at the Rebovich Institute at New Jersey’s Rider University on Sept. 16, Christie is asked by an unidentified woman how Christie’s policies would affect her daughter.
Christie responds by saying that in New Jersey, health insurance companies have too many mandates for what they have to cover, and younger people, like the unidentified woman’s daughter, don’t need things like cancer screenings. In response, the woman explains that, in fact, cancer screenings for younger people are important:
I actually disagree with that because I happen to know that she’s now at the age where I had my first surgery for cancer.
Christie interrupts her, telling her that she’s an “exception.” That’s Christie’s rationale for discarding the requirement that insurance companies cover cancer screenings: Cancer is rarer in young people. Christie would give insurers free rein to avoid covering life-saving preventative care like mammograms, so that even young people with insurance wouldn’t be able to get such screenings covered.
As Tom Moran at the New Jersey Star-Ledger notes, Christie’s proposals would allow insurance companies to avoid the consumer protections that now exist for New Jersey families.
Find out more about Christie’s plans for health care at The Real Chris Christie. The New Jersey State AFL-CIO is educating union members and their families in the state about Christie’s agenda through direct mail and member-to-member contact.
The New Jersey State AFL-CIO has endorsed Gov. Jon Corzine for re-election because of his support for good jobs, pensions, preventative care and other priorities critical to working families.
Local unions, central labor councils, state federations and national unions are redoubling their efforts to ensure health care reform legislation—which could be on the Senate floor as early as Oct. 13 and in the full House later in the month—is real reform that
- Controls costs.
- Provides guaranteed coverage.
- Holds insurance companies accountable.
- Includes a public health insurance plan option.
- Requires all employers to pay their fair share.
- Rejects new taxes that would hurt working families—who already are being crushed by soaring health costs.
Please join union members across the nation in writing your senators and member of Congress to tell them to pass real health care reform. It’s critical working families speak up and provide a loud counter voice to the health insurance industry’s money and influence. Congress needs to hear from people who can tell their lawmakers about their personal struggles with a broken health care system and why we need real health care reform.
Letters from union members, many of which will be written during breaks on the job site, at local union meetings and via special letter-writing events, will be delivered to lawmakers next week when activists and union leaders travel to Capitol Hill to meet with them or during the Columbus Day recess when union activists meet with the representatives in their home districts during the Columbus Day recess.
Contact your local central labor council or state federation for more information on actions in your area. Union members also can go to the Working Families Toolkit (www.WorkingFamiliesToolkit.com, registration required) for sample letters, fact sheets, fliers and more information on health care reform.
We’re also planning a national health care call-in day to Congress on Oct. 7. Union members can urge their representatives and senators to back health care reform that includes a strong public option. Call 1-877-3-AFL-CIO (1-877-323-5246).
Other actions will include worksite leafleting, letters to the editor and op-ed pieces and other grassroots actions.
The health insurance industry has spent millions to block inclusion of a public health insurance option. That paid off yesterday when the Senate Finance Committee voted 15-8 to kill an amendment by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and another by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to include such an option in their version of health care reform.
But the Finance Committee’s bill is not the only player in the game. Both the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension’s Committee (HELP) and the House bill (H.R. 3200) contain public option provisions and many other improvements over the Finance bill.
This is your chance to make your voice heard and tell Congress “Health Care Can’t Wait!“
As the harvest season for cotton in Uzbekistan begins, 2 million Uzbek children, some as young as six or seven and ranging up to 15, will be forced to spend their days picking cotton instead of attending classes.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Labor Department included cotton from Uzbekistan on a list of goods produced by forced and child labor. Each year during the three-month harvest, Uzbek authorities shut down hundreds of schools, hospitals and public offices. Along with the children, thousands of teachers, doctors and public administrators are forced into the fields.
The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) has joined with AFT and a broad range of organizations in the United States and Central Asia to call for an end to forced child labor in Uzbekistan. You can act today to stop this shameful practice by signing a petition here.
All supporters who sign the petition by Oct. 2 will have their names put on a special cotton quilt that will be unveiled at a rally in front of the Uzbek embassy in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 14. To get more involved in this action, e-mail email@example.com.
Every day more than 200 million children around world—one in every six between ages five and 17—go work instead of school, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Child labor, says U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, continues to be a serious global “problem in 21st century society,” and she says the United States “must do everything in our power to end these shameful practices.”
Uzbekistan is the world’s third-largest exporter of raw cotton and generates some $1 billion a year in cotton exports. Up to one-third of the country’s workforce labors on cotton farms. Independent union representation is almost nonexistent for workers.
Some children who work in the cotton fields are required to work in remote areas where they are forced to stay in dormitories while they pick cotton. Children are even compelled to apply toxic pesticides in parts of Uzbekistan without appropriate protective gear, according to ILRF.
The AFL-CIO Solidarity Center reports that the children working in the fields must meet daily cotton quotas, and those who fail or refuse to take part can face corporal punishment and expulsion from school. Consequences for parents who protest also can be severe: Their social benefits may be revoked, they may be shamed at public meetings or their utilities may be cut off.
The Solidarity Center is part of a broad-based coalition of concerned organizations, led by ILRF, urging the Uzbek government to put an end to these brutal practices. Click here to download an ILRF report, ”We Live Subject to Their Orders: A Three-Province Survey of Forced Child Labor in Uzbekistan’s 2008 Cotton Harvest.”
In an op-ed column in the Los Angeles Times, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, says forced labor in the cotton fields benefits the Uzbek dictatorship, while the children and other workers get only meager meals for their work.
President Islam Karimov, the strongman leader in Uzbekistan since Soviet times, has not only suppressed democracy, he has maintained his regime’s rigid monopoly as the sole purchaser of cotton grown in the country. Uzbek farmers are required to sell their cotton to state trading agencies at less than one-third the world market price. In turn, the government sells the cotton on commodity exchanges at the market price, guaranteeing huge profits.
Consumers and companies in the United States and Western Europe prop up this “monstrous system” by unwittingly purchasing cotton harvested by forced child labor, Harkin says. Most Uzbek cotton is sold to countries in South Asia and Eastern Europe. From there, the cotton is processed and turned into garments sold in retail stores in the United States, Canada and Western Europe.
Harkin says an international network of nongovernmental organizations, U.S. retailers, manufacturers, faith-based investors and others has come together to try to persuade the Uzbek government to end its use of forced child labor. But the Uzbek government has refused to end the practice despite making promises to do so. He warns:
It is time for the Uzbek government to begin acting in good faith. It should immediately invite the ILO to send an expert observer and assessment mission to Uzbekistan as a prelude to the long-term engagement necessary to reduce and ultimately end forced child labor in that country’s cotton fields. It should allow Uzbek children to leave the fields and return to school.