AFA-CWA Pushes For Management To Recognize A Quick Straight Yes Or No Vote At Delta & Northwest Airlines – 11/20/09
By Doug Cunningham
By Doug Cunningham
Justice for Farm Workers Campaign spokesman Jordan Wells says the Farm Workers Fair Labor Practices Act in New York state would give farm workers important labor protections.
[Wells 1]: “The right to form a union, the right to overtime pay, a day of rest per week, coverage under the state’s disability insurance law.”
A Senate hearing on the bill was held Thursday evening in upstate New York. Wells says more justice for farm workers in New York is close to passage in the state Senate.
The company that was once America’s largest Internet company could soon strike out on its own and as a result shed one-third of its workforce. Jesse Russell reports:
By Doug Cunningham
Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) officially released the Senate’s version of health care reform legislation, a major step toward the health care reform bill America has been waiting for. The first vote to begin debate on this historic bill could happen as soon as Saturday.
It’s an improved bill from the one passed by the Senate Finance Committee last month. It still falls short of an ideal bill but, like the one passed by the U.S. House earlier this month, it greatly increases coverage, helps make health insurance more affordable and includes a public health insurance option to compete with insurance companies.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says Reid has shown courage and leadership in bringing a good bill to the full Senate. Trumka says the bill is a step in the right direction, because it would cover 31 million people, control costs, include a public option and cut $127 billion from the deficit in the first decade. Trumka notes that unfortunately, while many of the bill’s financing mechanisms are fair, it is still partially funded through a tax on health benefits.
We commend Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for bringing forward a health care bill that moves us closer to the historic goal of health care for America—high quality, affordable health care for all in our rich nation. The Senate leadership bill takes the strongest steps yet to bring down costs. But the bill is not perfect. It retains a version of the excise tax from the Senate Finance Committee bill. We continue to believe that a tax on working families’ benefits is the wrong way to finance health care and we will work hard to eliminate this provision as the bill heads to the floor.
There still are some procedural hurdles toward passing this bill. To even begin debate in the Senate, 60 votes are needed for cloture—the initial procedural vote that allows a real vote to happen—on a “motion to proceed.” Contact your senators here and tell them you think we deserve a fair debate on health care reform.
Here’s more news from the fight for health care:
- The AFL-CIO’s Stewart Acuff, writing at the Huffington Post, says the Senate’s health care bill moves us “towards a just America” and promises union members will keep up the grassroots pressure.
- The Senate bill would have a number of immediate benefits, including beginning to close the “donut hole” gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage, preventing insurers from rescinding coverage when customers gets sick, stopping insurers from putting arbitrary lifetime limits on coverage, tax credits to small businesses to help them provide coverage, extending coverage for young people under parents’ insurance through age 26 and immediate assistance to uninsured people and early retirees.
- Ed Coyle, president of the Alliance for Retired Americans, praised Reid and other senators for moving in the right direction on health care.
- Mike Lux at Open Left looks at the process ahead in the Senate.
- J.P. Green looks at what the bill will do, and when, if it passes.
- Wonk Room compares the details of the Senate bill to the House bill and looks at how the new Senate bill stacks up against other proposals.
More than 400 flight attendants and 170 pilots now have strong union voices after voting to join the Flight Attendants-CWA( AFA-CWA) and the Air Line Pilots (ALPA) in three elections, recently certified by the National Mediation Board (NMB).
In the latest victory for airline workers, the 300 flight attendants at Compass Airlines voted 2-to-1 for AFA-CWA representation. Compass flight attendant Catriona Bagley, temporary president of the Compass local, says she and fellow flight attendants
look forward to negotiating a contract that will provide security, as well as advance our careers. As AFA-CWA members, we will have a voice at the bargaining table and work alongside management in creating a leading regional airline contract that recognizes our role as safety professionals.
Compass Airlines was formed in 2007 as a Northwest Airlink partner and now is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Delta Air Lines.
Last month, flight attendants at USA3000 Airlines voted to join AFA-CWA—96 of the 114 eligible voters chose AFA-CWA. AFA-CWA President Patricia Friend says the new union members recognize
the benefits of a legally binding contract and the opportunity to advance their career through AFA-CWA representation, and have joined together to achieve their goal. They spoke in favor of having a voice in their workplace, and management heard their message loud and clear.
Meanwhile, an overwhelming 91 percent of the 170 eligible flight deck crew members at Air Transport International (ATI) voted for ALPA. Capt. Tom Rogers, temporary chairman of the ATI unit of ALPA, says ATI pilots are
excited about working with other pilot groups and the ALPA staff, and leveraging the other resources ALPA provides to its members, to ensure ATI crewmembers can negotiate the contract they deserve and better protect our careers and industry.
Says ALPA President Capt. John Prater:
ATI crewmembers realized that the world’s largest pilots union will best represent their interests in all aspects of the aviation arena and give them every available resource to negotiate a fair contract.
The crew members of ATI fly McDonnell Douglas DC-8 and Boeing 767 aircraft for passenger, military and cargo operations around the world.
Click here to read about the NMB’s proposed changes to union elections in the air and rail industries that transportation unions say will make the election process more fair for workers.
It turns out a Texas windmill farm developer’s request last month for nearly half a billion in stimulus funds to create 2,000 jobs in China doesn’t rank first on the audacity scale.
Shockingly for American taxpayers, and sadly for the staggering 10.2 percent of Americans who are unemployed, it doesn’t even rank second.
That’s because Washington already has doled out hundreds of millions in stimulus funds to foreign renewable energy firms. Of the $1.05 billion in clean energy grants awarded by Washington, D.C., $849 million—84 percent—went to foreign wind companies, according to an analysis by Russ Choma of the Investigative Reporting Workshop. He wrote:
The cash grants were given for the installation of 1,763 megawatts of capacity—1,566 installed by foreign companies. Using the Renewable Energy Policy Project’s own numbers, as many as 4,500 manufacturing jobs may have been created overseas.
A strong, broad Buy American clause in the stimulus bill could have prevented the off-shoring of U.S. tax dollars intended to create jobs for unemployed Americans. My union, the United Steelworkers, and the AFL-CIO pushed hard for that language, and polls showed 86 percent of Americans supported it. Republicans and lobbyists for multinational corporations that wanted to spend U.S. tax money overseas opposed Buy American provisions.
Congress adopted weak, limited Buy American language. Now Washington, D.C., exports stimulus dollars to create jobs in foreign countries.
Some of the foreign wind firms that got stimulus funds have American subsidiaries. But most of them shipped major components for wind farms to the United States. That means American stimulus dollars employed foreign workers. One Spanish company, Iberdrola S.A., got $545 million from U.S. taxpayers.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat from New York, denounced the request to use U.S. tax dollars to create jobs in China and demanded the Obama administration deny funding. But it’s too late for the $849 million in stimulus dollars already given away to foreign wind companies. American tax dollars, meant to create jobs and nurture a green energy industry in the United States, are gone with the wind.
Lavishing stimulus funds on foreign businesses is tragic for another reason: Those overseas companies are competitors to fledgling U.S. firms that were supposed to get the money. President Obama has said he wants the United States to be “the world’s leading exporter of renewable energy.” That’s not going to happen if the United States pays European and Chinese manufacturers to import wind turbines.
Congress set aside at least $3 billion in the stimulus bill for renewable energy projects. That investment would have two benefits. Growth in renewable energy—from sources such as windmills and solar cells—could reduce dangerous pollution from burning fossil fuels. In addition, the Blue Green Alliance estimated in its report, “Building the Clean Energy Assembly Line,” that U.S. manufacturers could create 850,000 jobs if Congress adopted a national standard requiring 25 percent of electricity to be generated with renewable sources by 2025.
The key, obviously, is that the wind turbines and solar cells constructed to meet that standard couldn’t be imported for the jobs to be created in the United States. The U.S. industry, however, needs the kind of help foreign governments give their clean energy manufacturers. The Blue Green Alliance report notes:
Without new policies promoting domestic manufacturing, an unnecessarily large portion of these jobs will remain overseas.
In a July 13 story, Keith Bradsher of the New York Times described China’s policy to protect and promote its renewable energy industries: “China is shielding its clean energy sector while it grows to a point where it can take on the world.” That includes, Bradsher recounted, a competition last spring where China disqualified all foreign bidders on technicalities for 25 contracts to supply wind turbines. Beijing then awarded the contracts to seven Chinese companies, including some that had never built a turbine.
There’s no reason except a desire to shoot itself in the foot for the United States not to protect and promote its own renewable energy industries. “The Building the Clean Energy Assembly Line” report provides recommendations for Congress to cultivate American renewable energy industries, including long-term investment tax credits, adopting a national standard requiring a minimum percentage of electricity be generated through renewable energy, passing cap and trade legislation and providing low-interest financing.
After the Texas windmill incident, I wrote Sen. Schumer asking for bold action to support U.S. clean energy manufacturing. In the letter copied to all members of Congress, I told him we must expand and accelerate the availability of incentives for manufacturing wind turbines and other clean energy technologies—here, in the United States. One important way to do that is for Congress to extend to the manufacturing of components like turbines the funding incentives that are now provided for production of clean energy.
Clearly, another method would be to Buy American. When constructing a wind farm in Texas, why would taxpayers give their money to support importing the turbines from China or Spain when there are perfectly good turbine manufacturers here in the United States?
The Texas windmill farm developer announced this week that its Chinese partner plans to construct a $50 million turbine factory in the United States, according to a story in the New York Times. But that facility won’t supply the turbines for the project that the partnership wants $436 million in stimulus funds to support. Those would come from China. So, in the end, it still means nearly half a billion in U.S. tax dollars would create 2,000 turbine-building jobs in China.
When China passed its $600 billion economic stimulus bill this summer, it adopted “Buy China” provisions. Obviously, as far as wind turbines were concerned, it was implementing a “Buy China” policy before that.
Is the United States going to continue thwarting itself and tilting at windmills or is it going to adopt and enforce a robust Buy American policy and build some?
Workers, community leaders and religious activists are holding rallies, prayer vigils and other actions in more than 40 cities around the country today as part of a National Day of Action to Stop Wage Theft.
Wage theft is a national epidemic, which robs millions of workers of billions of dollars they’ve worked for but never seen, says Kim Bobo, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) and author of the book Wage Theft in America.
During a Capitol Hill press conference this morning, Bobo said:
Too many workers can’t buy a Thanksgiving turkey because employers have stolen their wages. Wage theft is not a small, isolated situation. It’s a national epidemic.
Wage theft affects workers like Cleve Williams, who worked for a city contractor in Cincinnati. Williams told the press conference he was fired after he organized his fellow workers to fight for a living wage. The city’s law required the comapny, which holds a city contract, to pay a minimum wage. But Williams says it took three years to get the wages raised to the legal level.
Bobo cited a study by the National Employment Law Project, which shows how widespread wage theft has become. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 4,387 workers in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City, a group of respected academics estimates that 68 percent of the workers surveyed are routinely denied proper overtime pay and often are paid less than minimum wage. The average low-wage worker lost more than $2,600 in annual income due to the violations, 15 percent of their annual earnings. Click here to read the report, “Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers.”
AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker, speaking to the press conference by phone, said the nation’s economy suffers when millions of workers are denied their just pay. Unions are the first line of defense against wage theft, she added. With a union contract, workers don’t have to worry about not getting paid for overtime or not getting a decent, living wage and other benefits.
Wage theft is not only an economic issue, but a moral one, says Thomas Shellabarger, of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
As we pause this Thanksgiving to remember all that we are thankful for, we also remember the workers across the nation whose wages are stolen and struggle to put a meal on their holiday table. We must put an end to this national scandal of wage theft.
AFL-CIO President Emeritus John Sweeney received the top honor at last night’s 5th annual American Rights at Work Eleanor Roosevelt Awards for his long-term dedication on behalf of workers’ freedom to form unions.
Business Leaders for a Fair Economy and “West Wing” actor Richard Schiff also were recognized at last night’s event in Washington, D.C., where hundreds of labor activists and our allies gathered to celebrate their outstanding leadership.
Sweeney credited the union members, activists and advocacy groups who make up the coalition for making real progress on the Employee Free Choice Act:
You are the front-line fighters for social and economic justice, working towards a better future for America’s working families.
Speakers noted the tough fight ahead for passage of the bill but said we are closer than ever to passing the Employee Free Choice Act and making sure that the freedom to form a union and bargain for a better life is a reality.
Kimberly Freeman Brown, the new executive director of American Rights at Work, said Sweeney, Schiff and the business leaders have been a critical part of a growing movement for labor law reform:
This year’s honorees have played an important role in fighting for the Employee Free Choice Act. We are serious about restoring our middle class—we recognize a vital labor movement is critical to this goal. We are unified in our effort to make the American Dream an achievable aspiration—a fair day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay, good benefits, safe conditions and dignity and respect on the job.
Along with other “West Wing” cast members, Schiff joined workers from around the country in the Faces of the Employee Free Choice Act campaign this year. He said while he, Bradley Whitford and Martin Sheen helped draw attention to the cause, the people who really deserve the award are those who have fought against great obstacles for a voice on the job and a better life for their co-workers:
I don’t have the right to speak for the real heroes, but we live in a culture that listens to celebrities and the least I can do with the spotlight is to shift it over to the people who deserve it. I’ve been a member of many unions, and I know what it means to have the protection of a union and a fair wage.
In a powerful acceptance speech, Roger Smith, the CEO of American Income Life and chairman of Business Leaders for a Fair Economy, said he and other business owners realize the whole economy benefits when workers can bargain for a fair share. Smith and business leaders like him have been able to succeed by working with, not against, their employees:
This is a community that believes in workers’ rights and the value of shared prosperity. We believe that shared prosperity starts with closing the ever-growing wage disparities.
By honoring workers’ right to organize, business gives workers a chance at real change, and that lets business grow and thrive.
Smith said far too many people equate “CEO” with greed, irresponsibility and disdain for the hard work of the employees who build companies. He criticized CEOs who have profited while driving their companies into the ground, those who have raided pension funds and those who have squandered millions on union-busting consultants and attacks on their own employees.