By Doug Cunningham
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA has added 114 new members to their ranks. Attendants at USA3000 Airlines voted overwhelmingly to join the union. This is the third recent election victory for the AFA-CWA, which represents 50,000 flight attendants across the country.
The American Federation of Teachers aren’t happy with President Obama’s education policies so far. But as Jesse Russell reports, New York’s United Federation of Teachers told the Public News Service they’re not judging Obama just yet.
Teamsters In Eighth Week Of SK Hand Tools Strike Defending Healthcare, Pensions And Wages – 10/07/09
By Doug Cunningham
As they head into the eighth week of their strike over healthcare and other basic issues, members of Teamsters Local 743 at SK Hand Tool in Chicago are determined to keep fighting. Richard Berg, President of Teamsters Local 743, told Chicago’s Labor Beats.
[Berg]: “Management just unilaterally cut off health insurance and has asked for deep concessions. He’s threatened to cut off their pensions and he wants to turn what was a good job into a job for high school kids from McDonald’s.”
AFSCME: Over Time The Baucus Health Plan Would Tax Half Of All Family Healthcare Benefit Plans – 10/07/09
By Doug Cunningham
AFSCME says under the healthcare reform bill approved by Senator Max Baucus’ committee one quarter of all family healthcare plans would be hit with a 40 percent excise tax within three years. Within ten years of the reform’s implementation, AFSCME says, half of all family plans will be hit with the tax. That’s based on Census Bureau data on medical expenditures. At least 100 House Democrats are calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to stay firm on not taxing working families on their health care benefits.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court took aim at older workers and age discrimination cases with a 5-4 ruling written by Justice Clarence Thomas that forces older workers to jump a higher than previous legal hurdle to prove age discrimination.
Today, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act was introduced in Congress to restore vital civil rights protections for older workers in the face of the high court’s decision, Gross v. FBL Financial. That case, say lawmakers, rewrote civil rights laws and overturned well-established precedent, making it harder for workers facing age discrimination to enforce their rights.
The bill was introduced by the chairmen of three key congressional committees: Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), House Education and Labor Committee; Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee; and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Senate Judiciary Committee.
The same conservative Supreme Court justices responsible for the backward ruling against Lilly Ledbetter have now thrown another legal barrier in front of hard-working older Americans. Workplace discrimination based on age is just as wrong as discrimination based on any other irrelevant factor—and it should be treated as such in the court of law.
The court ruled it is no longer enough for a victim of discrimination to prove that age was a motivating factor in an adverse employment decision. Now, a worker must prove it was the decisive factor, a higher legal burden than those alleging race, sex, national origin or religious discrimination. Says Harkin:
For decades, we have had a consistent standard, whether based on race, sex, national origin, religion or age. The Gross decision established a far higher standard of proof for age than for other forms of discrimination, without any rationale or justification.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens said the ruling was “an unabashed display of judicial lawmaking” that proceeded with “utter disregard of our precedent and Congress’ intent”
Jack Gross, then a 54-year-old employee of FBL Financial, filed an age-discrimination suit after he was transferred and demoted. A lower court awarded him $47,000, but the Supreme Court nullified the award and set the higher standard. Leahy says he is concerned that
the Gross decision will allow employers to discriminate on the basis of age with impunity as long as it is paired with other reasons.
The trio of lawmakers noted that the soaring unemployment rate has hit older workers especially hard—there are 2 million jobless workers over age 55. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, nearly 25,000 age-discrimination claims were filed in 2008, a 30 percent increase from 2007.
Says Miller about older employees:
In this economy, they are the first to go and the last to be rehired. If older Americans lose their jobs, they should know it is on the merits, and not based on prejudice.
The move in Congress to redress the rights of older workers follows the successful enactment this year of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was a response to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that made it harder for women and other workers to win justice in pay discrimination cases.
In the Ledbetter case, the high court ruled that Ledbetter—and other workers—had no right to sue for a remedy in cases of pay discrimination after more than 180 days following the first paycheck, even if pay discrimination was not discovered until years later. It took Ledbetter nearly 20 years before she discovered she was being paid less than men doing the same job and was able to file suit.
In January, the fair pay bill was the first legislation President Obama signed after taking office. It also was the target of veto threats from former President Bush after the House passed it in 2007. Last year, Republican senators blocked a vote on the bill.
Union members across the country are fighting to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, to restore workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life. We know how union membership has improved our lives and communities—and we want to help other workers have the same options. Check out the videos here in which two union members describe how their experiences having a union at work inspired them to get involved in the Employee Free Choice Act campaign.
Through the union, I was able to learn skills that I apply today. I was able to learn about this idea of a brotherhood…we learn a level of trust and we work together really closely.
Unions provide a sense of stability when things are tough. You have benefits, you have health care, when you or people in your family are sick you can stay home and take care of it. That’s something that’s important, that I think a lot of people are missing right now, and that’s why the Employee Free Choice Act is needed.
Denalie Bruins, a nurse and member of AFSCME Local 398 in Montana, just finished a tough contract negotiation in which she and her co-workers successfully protected their wages, benefits and working conditions. She says she’s fighting for the Employee Free Choice Act to give everyone that kind of opportunity:
It has been eye-opening realizing that a lot of people have not had the benefits that I’ve had, and learning that other places have to struggle really hard in order to just organize and form a union—and sometimes workers get fired.
Having a union gives us a voice, and a sense of camaraderie. We’re not isolated this way. Often, we find, what’s right for this sister, is right for another sister or brother. And nurses have a place to go to with frustrations.
We want others to enjoy the benefits that we have.
Like thousands of union members across the country, Bruins and Nickels are speaking out publicly and contacting their U.S. senators in support of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Guzman Gardens is a line clearance contractor that works on Los Angeles Department of Water and Power property. This summer, Guzman workers contacted Local 47 and inquired about joining the union and 22 of the 24 workers signed cards seeking representation by the union.
But the company demanded a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)-supervised election and hired a union-busting firm to try and persuade the workers to reject the union. Had the Employee Free Choice Act been in effect, the workers would have had a union immediately because a union would be recognized through the cards they signed (majority verification or “card-check”). The Employee Free Choice Act would give workers the option of choosing whether to join a union through the labor board process or via majority verification.
The day before the first election, the company’s owner held a captive audience meeting with all his employees. Workers said he apologized to the workforce and promised to listen to their concerns and asked them for one more chance.
The workers, out of a sense of loyalty to the owner, and trusting he would keep his promises, decided to give him one more chance and voted against union representation.
But within days, the owner reneged on his promised changes. Local 47 filed unfair labor practice charges against the company with the NLRB, which ordered a new election. This time the workers voted overwhelmingly for IBEW.
Guzman is an example of a small employer hiring a union-buster and pulling out all stops, including engaging in deliberate deceit, in order to foil its workers’ desire to form a union. Large employers routinely deploy even greater resources and more insidious strategies against workers and unions in order to maintain unimpeded control over their workers’ livelihoods. The Employee Free Choice Act is absolutely necessary to level the playing field and deter these abuses.