By Doug Cunningham
By Doug Cunningham
The UAW has tentatively agreed to modify the labor agreement at Ford. National UAW Ford delegates were presented with the agreement Tuesday in Detroit and they’re recommending that the rank and file pass those changes. The deal reportedly includes many of the same concessions granted to GM and Chrysler, including a wage freeze and limits on the right to strike. Workers would get a $1,000 bonus and Ford is going to make future products at five assembly plants in the U.S. Any changes in the Ford UAW contract will have to be ratified by UAW workers at Ford.
Senate Committee Advances Health Care Bill, Doctor Says It Won’t Be Comprehensive Solution – 10/14/09
By Doug Cunningham
The Senate Finance Committee vote Tuesday approving the Baucus health care reform bill drew the support of a single Republican – Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. As health care reform heads for the home stretch in Congress many physicians groups continue to maintain that a single payer Medicare for all bill like HR 676 is the best solution to universal health care coverage. Dr. Peter Orris of the University of Illinois Medical Center says the labor movement has played an important role in supporting health care reform.
Workers in Asia, the United States, United Kingdom and throughout Europe are mobilizing to secure a living wage for garment workers in Asia. The Asia Floor Wage is focused on making sure that the more than 100 million mostly women workers in the Asian garment industry receive adequate wages for what they produce.
Launched on Oct. 7, World Day for Decent Work, the Asia Floor Wage is pushing for a minimum wage equivalent to $475 for a month with a 48-hour workweek. That’s twice what Indonesian laborers get. It’s three times the minimum rate of pay in Sri Lanka and more than six times the wage in Bangladesh.
The best protection for workers is a minimum wage that crosses borders, according to a new report by Labor Behind the Label, a British workers’ rights group. In an interview on the Marketplace radio show on American Public Media, Anna McMullen, the report’s author, said:
There’s a race to the bottom between different countries to set lower minimum wages in order to attract foreign business. So the minimum wages that are set are well below what is necessary for a decent quality of life.
Mark Brenner, director of Labor Notes, said having a continent-wide minimum wage would prevent big U.S. and Western European companies from dodging the issue of how much people who make their products are paid. He said a single floor wage could force Western companies to take responsibility. They’ll know what a living wage is, he said, and they’ll come under pressure to abide by the same rules.
The working conditions in the factories also must be improved, says Institute of Labor Education and Research (PILER). As Zulfiqar Shah, joint director of PILER, said:
A fair wage is a human right. Without adequate income one cannot fully realize basic rights.
In the United States, Jobs with Justice is teaming up with the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) and the AFL-CIO to help educate our members and allies about the need for a minimum wage and better working conditions for workers who make the garments we buy in stores like Wal-Mart.
To learn more about the Asia Floor Wage campaign, click here.
A tentative two-year agreement for members of SAG and AFTRA who provide voices for video games, and more news from the “Bargaining Digest Weekly.” The AFL-CIO Collective Bargaining Department delivers daily, bargaining-related news and research resources to more than 1,200 subscribers. Union leaders can register for this service through our website, Bargaining@Work.
IAM, Bombardier Learjet: Members of Machinists (IAM) Local Lodge 639 overwhelmingly ratified a three-year contract with Bombardier Learjet in Wichita, Kan. The agreement includes annual raises and an immediate 14 percent increase in the pension plan.
AFSCME, State of Rhode Island: AFSCME Council 94, Rhode Island’s largest state workers’ union, approved a new contract with the state. The agreement includes 12 unpaid furlough days over the next two years but avoids a government shutdown and layoffs.
IFPTE, Spirit AeroSystems: Members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001, approved a new contract with Spirit AeroSystems. The contract covering 783 engineers in Wichita includes a 3 percent bonus and guarantees overtime pay for anything above 40 hours per week.
AFT, Jefferson Parish School District: Teachers in New Orleans’ Jefferson Parish approved a new three-year contract last Tuesday. The 3,600 members of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers/AFT will receive a raise of $800 over the next two years, and the union will have the option of renegotiating wages and benefits for the third year of the contract.
BCTGM, Kellogg Co.: Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) members voted to ratify a new master contract with Kellogg Co. The contract covers some 1,450 workers in four plants and maintains full health care coverage and provides an increase in pension payments.
WORK STOPPAGES AND ACTIONS
HPAE-AFT, Bayonne Medical Center: Health Professional and Allied Employees-AFT (HPAE-AFT) Local 5185 filed a grievance with the American Arbitration Association in response to the layoff of 34 nurses by the Bayonne Medical Center in New Jersey. The grievance alleges the hospital did not make a good-faith effort to avoid the layoffs and did not abide by contract provisions governing termination.
Multiple, Brevard County School District: Hundreds of teachers and school support staff in Brevard County, Fla., are wearing black today to protest increased health care costs imposed by the school board. Members of the Brevard Federation of Teachers/AFT-NEA and the Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) Local 1010 are facing increases in health care premiums and co-pays, as well as losing free eye insurance.
SAG & AFTRA, Multiple Video Game Companies: The Screen Actors (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) have reached tentative agreements with video game companies. The SAG agreement will raise wages for actors who provide voices for video games by 3 percent to bring them in line with the wages received by AFTRA members, with members of both unions receiving a 2.5 percent increase next April.
USW: Members of the United Steelworkers (USW) at the Department of Energy’s nuclear waste disposal plant in Carlsbad, N.M., rejected a contract proposal by the plant’s management company. The current contract has been extended until midnight of Oct. 14.
TNG-CWA, Sun-Times Media Group: Members of the Chicago Newspaper Guild/TNG-CWA have voted to approve changes to their contract to allow the sale of the Sun-Times to investor Jim Tyree to move forward. A bankruptcy judge approved the sale Thursday.
Multiple, Los Angeles County: 90,000 county workers, represented by multiple unions, have reached a two-year deal with Los Angeles County. The agreement avoids layoffs by not including wage increases.
Disclaimer: This information is being provided for your information only. As it is compiled from published news reports, not from individual unions, we cannot vouch for either its completeness or accuracy; readers who desire further information should directly contact the union involved.
With the insurance industry releasing a “study” today that uses dubious numbers to fight health care reform, it’s useful to remember that the tactic of relying on fake numbers is nothing new to corporate lobbies.
Case in point: a study by Anne Layne-Farrar, paid for by business interests that use it as a cudgel against the Employee Free Choice Act. Layne-Farrar’s study contended that passing the Employee Free Choice Act would cost the U.S. economy hundreds of thousands of jobs—a figure without factual grounding but useful to those interested in preventing workers from forming a union and bargaining for a better life.
At In These Times, Art Levine takes a close look at Layne-Farrar and other scholars whose work do not reflect reality, but instead pushes the anti-worker agenda of groups—like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—who paid for the study. These groups are fighting to protect the status quo for CEOs, not jobs for workers.
As Levine notes, Layne-Farrar’s shocker of a bottom-line number is based on extremely slim data and unsustainable leaps in logic:
Despite the wide dissemination of Layne-Farrar’s report, critics like Chris Kromm of the Institute of Southern Living have found distortions and shoddy analysis in her work. Of the 10 Canadian provinces she studied, Kromm discovered that only three actually had significant changes in card-check [majority verification] rules.
And he found that the report itself acknowledged there wasn’t enough data to draw conclusions about the impact of card-check. It further admitted that the provincial card-check data they did collect was too “weak” for economic analysis. Kromm also wondered, “If unions really were the cause of unemployment, why has Canadian unemployment risen in recent years…even as union membership has declined?”
Layne-Farrar’s numbers are farcical when you consider the broad array of countries, like Denmark and Norway, that have higher rates of union membership but lower unemployment than the United States, as well as rigorous scholarly research that indicates no correlation between higher union membership and unemployment.
It’s no surprise the Chamber is having some trouble with numbers. As David Corn reports at Mother Jones, the Chamber of Commerce is exaggerating its own size by a factor of 15, by counting business that are members of local bodies that are not affiliated with the national Chamber:
By counting the memberships of 2,800 local chambers as its own, the U.S. Chamber is being deeply misleading. Unlike many true grassroots organizations, there is usually little or no relationship between the local chambers and the national organization. The Chamber “is not a governing body, chartering agent, or a regulatory agency for chambers of commerce,” its website explains, “and we have no say in how chambers decide to run themselves.” Nor do most local chambers have any say in the national group.
When the numbers don’t look like you want them to, the Chamber’s lesson seems to be, why not make them up?
No wonder the Chamber of Commerce is so out of touch that it’s losing members.
Increasingly, artists, writers and other persons who produce creative works are finding their work is being misappropriated, reproduced and distributed without their knowledge, consent or benefit. Now these artists are taking action to ensure their copyrighted works are protected and that they can continue to earn a living with their talents and ideas.
Several unions, including the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), have joined with major communications and entertainment companies to form the Copyright Alliance, a network of artists and creators working to protect their rights and the work they create.
Here’s AFTRA President Roberta Reardon:
I urge our members and supporters to join creators nationwide to ensure the creative work of American performers continues to receive protection from theft and exploitation. By upholding copyright protection, creators will have the ability to earn a living from their work and talent which further enrich American culture and the world.
The alliance is circulating a letter to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, asking the administration to promote policies that support the rights of artists. Within just a few days, nearly 7,000 people have signed the letter. Artists are using their personal networks, blogs and Twitter feeds to encourage people to sign the letter.
You can sign the letter here. The alliance plans to deliver the letter to the administration later this fall.
Current signers include authors, photographers, songwriters, graphic designers, filmmakers, musicians, publishers, jewelry designers, Web designers, photojournalists, illustrators, video game developers, architects, cartoonists, composers, playwrights, voice actors, animators, sculptors, painters and videographers.
Creative works are a major part of our economy. A report by economist Stephen Siwek shows copyright industries in the United States in 2007 contributed $1.52 trillion to the nation’s gross domestic product, employed more than 11 million workers and represented more than 43 percent of the U.S. economy’s total real growth between 2006 and 2007.
The Senate Finance Committee this afternoon approved what one panel member called “a down payment” on health care reform. By a 14-9 vote, the committee approved a bill that Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) says is ”a down payment and…the start of reforms.”
Joining all 13 Democrats on the committee was Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).
The committee bill, crafted for the most part by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), provides important insurance industry reforms and improvements in how health care is delivered and paid for with a focus on quality over quantity.
The committee bill taxes workers’ health care benefits through its tax on certain premiums. It also does not include a public health insurance plan option that would give working families a choice between private insurance and an affordable, quality public option.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says a public insurance option is essential for cutting costs and “will keep the feet of the insurers to the fire.” He said he will fight for that when the bill moves to the floor.
The next step is to merge the bill with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee legislation that includes a public option and doesn’t tax workers’ health benefits. That could be on the Senate floor later this month. House action likely will come soon after the Senate moves.
Cantwell says she expects opposition from the insurance industry to grow even stronger as reform moves closer to passage. She notes the health insurance industry spent more than $263 million in lobbying in just the first six months of this year.
California home care workers are under threat from potential devastating budget cuts. This is a report from AFSCME on how these workers are fighting back.
United Domestic Workers/AFSCME (UDW/AFSCME) has gone to court, along with several other plaintiffs, to prevent more than 100,000 low-income seniors and the disabled from losing critical in-home care services.
The group filed the class-action lawsuit Oct. 1 in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, on behalf of in-home care recipients and caregivers. It seeks to block the state of California from imposing budget cuts that would “render tens of thousands” of individuals ineligible to participate in the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program.
UDW President Laura Reyes, an AFSCME International vice president, says IHSS funding is critical to protect seniors and the disabled:
By cutting IHSS, the governor and the Legislature are actually putting people’s lives at risk. A person with Alzheimer’s may be capable of cooking and cleaning for herself, but without assistance, she is likely to leave the stove on after she finishes cooking and burn her house down.
At the heart of the lawsuit is the question of whether the state can make more than $53 million in budget cuts in the state-run care program by using a person’s “Functional Index” score. The score is a number assigned by a social worker to a client that denotes that person’s ability to perform a task, such as housekeeping.
The plaintiffs contend the scores are arbitrary and unscientific, and were never meant to be used for across-the-board decisions on benefit cuts. Their lawsuit claims the cutbacks will violate federal constitutional due process protections, the Medicaid Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Reyes, whose union represents 65,000 in-home care providers throughout California, says:
Instead of using each consumer’s individual needs to determine what services they need, the governor and his supporters are cutting services the quick-and-dirty way. This is arbitrary, ineffective and morally disgraceful.
Joining UDW/AFSCME in the suit are five SEIU locals and four public interest law firms: Disability Rights California, Disability Rights Legal Center, National Health Law Program and National Senior Citizens Law Center.
In addition to this and other legal action, Doug Moore, the union’s executive director and an AFSCME International vice president, says UDW/AFSCME is fighting the IHSS cuts by:
working to help the media and the public understand what these cuts will mean in human terms and why they are so fiscally shortsighted. We’re also having meetings throughout the state to hold accountable those Democratic legislators who were “enablers” for Gov. Schwarzenegger for supporting these cuts.
AFSCME represents some 95,000 independent homecare providers nationwide, mostly in California, Iowa, Maryland and Missouri.