Workers are feeling uneasy about the value of employer provided benefits according to a new study titled “Show Them the Value.” According to the report by Prudential Financial, 42 percent of workers believe employers have cut back on their benefits. In 2008 only 30 percent felt the same. When looking for a job 81 percent of those surveyed say company benefits are “very important” for job selection.
Nationwide public sector strikes bring Ireland to a standstill. Jesse Russell reports:
By Doug Cunningham
Twenty-thousand SEIU Los Angeles school workers are taking four unpaid furlough days to save the school district roughly $7.7 million. The unpaid days will come one day per month between February and May. The SEIU workers agreed to those unpaid days in an effort to avoid lay-offs.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have begun work on a Jobs Bill that the House is expected to pass by December 18th. Senate leaders hope to consider it early next year. WIN’s Hanna Lesser reports from Washington.
House democratic leaders say the jobs bill will focus on public jobs, job-creation tax credits, assistance to state and local government and infrastructure projects…including highways. assistant majority leader, Dick Durbin of Illinois is leading the senate effort which he’s closely coordinating with the house.
|In Arkansas and other key states, union members are rallying to demand that their senators support real health care reform.|
Senators are heading home for Thanksgiving this week, but when they return, they’ll begin debate on one of the most important priorities of our lifetime: health care reform.
Although we’ve made good progress in this fight in recent weeks, the bill under consideration by the Senate still has some flaws that need to be addressed. Contact your senators now and ask them to pass real reform—without a new tax on health benefits.
Here’s the latest news on the battle for health care reform:
- Check out this great state-by-state interactive map of the effects of health care reform at healthreform.gov (scroll down).
- Surprise! Big-money corporate front groups like the Chamber of Commerce are bankrolling ads against health care reform.
- Greg Sargent asks: Do “centrist” senators understand the need for reform?
- Steve Benen notes that, in arguing against health care reform this weekend, Senate Republicans managed to avoid truth almost entirely.
- E.J. Dionne says the glass is more than half full: The progress we’ve made on the ongoing health care crisis is good.
- It is estimated that the Senate bill could reduce health insurance premiums in the individual market by 25 percent.
In a big victory last week, more than 1,000 graduate students at the University of Illinois exercised their freedom to bargain and won a contract that includes what all workers deserve: fair wages and better working conditions.
Unfortunately, too many employees around the country are denied the freedom to bargain. Trying to come together with your co-workers, to form a union and fight for a better life, can get you threatened, harassed and even fired. In a new piece at the Huffington Post, Robert Naiman says the graduate students’ win shows that all workers need the Employee Free Choice Act, to make sure everyone has the chance at a voice on the job:
…there’s a political barrier that obstructs many private-sector workers in the United States from being able to taste the victory that GEO [Graduate Employees Organization] members tasted: the need for labor law reform. If the Employee Free Choice Act were law, currently unorganized private-sector workers from Miami to Fairbanks would have the same ability as GEO members to advocate collectively and effectively for their interests, largely free of the fear of retaliation.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case today.
Naiman says the Employee Free Choice Act is needed to create a level playing field between employees and their bosses. It’s about giving all workers an opportunity to get their fair share through their own efforts to bargain for a contract—improving their economic security and their ability to support their families and their communities.
Read Naiman’s full post here.
When 14 Colombian trade union members were in the United States for a training program, they were unable to forget just how dangerous it is to support unions in their home country. During the two months they were here, four of their colleagues were assassinated.
In a memorial service at AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C., yesterday, we joined the Solidarity Center and the Colombian workers to honor those who were killed and to reaffirm our determination to fight for workers’ and human rights in that country.
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler told the group:
We want our Colombian sisters and brothers to know that as we fight for basic trade union rights in this country, we are totally dedicated to their struggle to organize and collectively bargain in an atmosphere free of fear, terror and violence.
Shuler noted the AFL-CIO has recognized the courage, strength and valor of the Colombian union movement by presenting the 2008 George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award to Colombian human rights activist Yessika Hoyos.
The Colombian workers participated in the Trade Union Strengthening program sponsored by the Solidarity Center, with funding and support from the U.S. Department of Labor. As part of the program, the Colombians joined union organizers on the ground for three weeks. They worked with organizers from AFSCME, TCU/IAM, North Shore (Mass.) Labor Council, Sacramento Central Labor Council and the Teamsters. TCU/IAM, the United Food and Commercial Workers and the Teamsters also provided training for the Colombians.
Colombia is the deadliest country in the world for trade unionists. At least 34 trade unionists have been killed this year in Colombia, with 10 deaths in the past eight weeks alone.
Jose Diogenes Orjuela Garcia, organizing director of the Colombian CUT union federation, said at the memorial service:
We want to have a country where union rights and human rights are respected. If you add up all the acts of violence [against union members] there have been more than 10,000 in the past 20 years.
Both Shuler and Garcia made it clear that the United States should not sign a free trade agreement with Colombia until the violence against union members ends. Says Shuler:
The AFL-CIO stands with the…entire Colombian labor movement in their continued opposition to the Colombia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. We cannot permit a permanent trade instrument that incorporates a labor market based on the literal assassination of workers and their unions.
For us, these struggles are one and the same. We are fighting for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act not only to help end the unchecked violations of organizing and collective bargaining rights by employers in this country, but to set a new standard for the United States and its corporations operating in Colombia and throughout the globe.
Dan Heck, Midwest regional director for Working America, recently visited Egypt as a member of a three-person delegation sponsored by the Solidarity Center. He writes about his impressions of that country’s emerging independent union movement and will follow up here with a series from his visit. To learn more about Egyptian workers’ struggles to form free, independent unions, click here, here, here, here and here.
I just returned from a 10-day trip to Egypt with the Solidarity Center. We met with some 300 Egyptian workers and trade union activists from Cairo in northern Egypt to Aswan at the southern end of the Nile.
Workers in Egypt are doing something truly remarkable. In the face of very long odds, they are organizing an independent, democratic workers’ movement, which has the potential to lift their families out of poverty and spur a new wave of democratic reform in Egypt.
Many of the workers scrape by on just a few dollars a day or less. At times it seems all of the institutions of society are stacked against them. The government colludes with corporate interests to keep their wages and benefits low, often skirting or ignoring the law. Even their official trade union movement is run by the same government and corporate interests that control the rest of society. Imagine Working America being run by conservative members of Congress and the CEO of Wal-Mart and you’ve got the right idea.
Then again, the idea of powerful political operatives and corporate interests working together to form front groups that claim to speak for working people isn’t entirely foreign to us.
When Egyptian workers attempt to form democratic and independent unions that actually fight for them, they risk arrest, harassment and sometimes torture. It was an enormous privilege to look into their eyes, hear their stories and share organizing strategies with them. In spite of the oppressive conditions, they are organizing themselves at the grassroots, leading a huge wave of strikes and activism. There have been more than 700 strikes a year for the past two years. If this remarkable surge in grassroots activism continues, we could well be witnessing the birth of a true, independent labor movement in Egypt. That, in turn, could spur broader democracy in Egypt and increase the quality of life for workers.
I was constantly impressed with the workers we met. They are articulate, informed and brave. Although the conditions they face are far more harsh than those we deal with here, the basic problems are the same: Employers often refuse to obey the law and intimidate and harass workers for attempting to exercise their basic rights. I’ll be sharing some of their stories and how they relate directly to our own experiences here in the United States in a series of upcoming posts.