Younger workers are having a harder time than most finding a job in this economy, but it especially difficult for young African-Americans. The unemployment rate for black women between the ages of 16-24 was 26.5 percent in October. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the overall unemployment rate for women between the ages of 16 to 24 is 15.4 percent. The unemployment rate for all 16-to-24 year olds regardless of race or gender was 19.1 percent in October.
A proposal to extend a contract for Ohio University workers was rejected this week. The skilled trade and services employees are represented by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and the current contract is set to expire on March 1. Following the rejection the University said it will begin contract negotiations next month.
By Doug Cunningham
AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka says the Employee Free Choice Act labor law reform making it easier for workers to join unions free of employer intimidation remains a top labor priority. He says it’s essential to a true economic recovery for workers because it would give them the power to bargain for higher wages.
[Trumka]: “And so, this is all about making any job a good job through collective bargaining.”
Even though it has laid- off workers this year, Yahoo appears to be moving forward with expansion plans in California. Jesse Russell reports:
San Francisco Labor Council Calls For Worker Economic Recovery Campaign & March For Jobs, Against Wars – 11/26/09
By Doug Cunningham
Here’s the latest news from the fight for real health care reform:
• In the Baltimore Sun, Tom Schaller looks at how the nation’s broken health care system is undermining our economy. The cost of doing nothing to reform health care would be trillions of dollars, he says.
• In a great new piece at the Huffington Post, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) explains why he’s saying “Yes” to health care reform. We’re at a defining historical moment, Bennet says, and we can’t afford to continue the status quo.
• Think Progress looks at how insurance company bureaucrats are standing between patients and their doctors.
• The National Farmers Union has come out in support of health care reform, saying rural families need lower costs, more choices and better access to care. Senators from heavily rural states like Arkansas, Maine and Nebraska should pay attention.
• According to a new poll, 71 percent of the public agrees that reform needs to include an investment in preventive care.
• Steve Benen takes a look at the all-too-widespread tragedy of medical bankruptcy.
Contact your senators to demand real reform that expands coverage, cuts costs, holds employers accountable, doesn’t tax our health benefits and offers a public health insurance option.
Hundreds of union members joined religious and human rights activists in a vigil and rally outside the gates of the School of the Americas (SOA) last weekend to demand that it be closed.
Graduates of the school, operated by the U.S. Department of Defense at Fort Benning, Ga., have been linked to human rights violations and suppression of popular movements in the Americas, according to the activist group SOA Watch.
Many targets of assassination and torture in Latin America are trade unionists. More union members are killed each year in Latin America than in the rest of the world combined, primarily due to extreme anti-worker violence in Colombia, according to the International Trade Union Confederation.
Union members, young activists and religious groups joined in a labor caucus Nov. 22 and heard Colombian trade union members describe the dangerous conditions they live under daily. When 14 Colombian unionists were in the United States receiving training through the AFL-CIO over the past two months, four of their union colleagues back home were killed.
The caucus, which included members of the UAW, AFSCME, AFT, Plumbers and Pipe Fitters, United Steelworkers and Carpenters, also heard from Honduran workers who condemned the recent coup that stripped democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya of his office. The military coup was led by SOA graduates in Honduras, says SOA Watch.
UAW Vice President Bob King said:
The continued economic crisis in our hemisphere and the continued assassinations of trade union and community activists in Colombia and throughout Latin America will only end when there is solidarity. As Martin Luther King often said, we need to “break the silence so that we work together to end the violence and end the poverty.” Union solidarity is critical to breaking the silence, ending the murders and creating justice. Closing the School of the Americas is part of our work.
The violent and coercive repression of political opposition to the de facto coup regime, including trade unionists, has continued. At least 12 trade unionists have died in the violence since June 28. National and international human rights organizations report ongoing human rights violations committed by state security forces, including killings, severe beatings, sexual violence, the imprisonment and torture of activists, as well as the arrest and detention of President Zelaya’s supporters.
The school has trained more than 64,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency, psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics, SOA Watch says.
Recently, opponents of the SOA won a victory when a joint House and Senate conference committee agreed to include language in the 2010 Defense Authorization Bill that requires the Pentagon to release names of the graduates of the School of the Americas to the public. The Pentagon had classified the names after the continued involvement of SOA attendees in human rights abuses became public.
Also last weekend, members of the labor caucus joined a march and rally at a local Publix supermarket in Columbus, Ga., in support of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers who are trying to get the grocery chain to agree to increase the pay and ensure better working conditions for workers who harvest most of the nation’s tomato crop.
In this cross-post from Huffington Post, Bernard Pollock, who is taking a leave of absence from the AFL-CIO to travel through Africa, and Danielle Nierenberg report on the struggles of workers on Kenya’s tea and flower plantations to organize a union for a better life.
Lake Naivasha is known as a beautiful place to see wildlife, including thousands of pink flamingos. But just off the main road to the Naivasha National Park are hectares and hectares of greenhouses as far as the eye can see. They’re not growing food inside the greenhouses. Although Kenya, like other parts of Africa, is experiencing food shortages, malnutrition and hunger because of prolonged drought. They are growing flowers. The flower factory we visited—the Sher Karuturi plant—produces up to 1 million roses a day, which are sold at auction in Dubai and Holland and eventually make their way to the European Union and the United States.
For the most part, we’re told, the conditions are better at this farm than some of the other farms. Workers are provided a stipend for housing, there’s a school located on site, and the salaries are higher than what employees of other farms make (on average $6,200 Kenyan Shillings or about $83 per month compared with $5,000 shillings or about $67).
“The reason why conditions are better off is because of our union,” said Ferdinand Jumo, a shop steward and mechanic at the plant. The Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) is currently in contract negotiations to bargain higher wages, keep school costs down and improve safety equipment. The AFL-CIO Solidarity Center is working on helping them grow through ranks, which have been thinned because of heavy intimidation and pressure campaigns by management to prevent workers from forming unions. In fact, 10 additional flower factories abide by the collective bargaining agreement just to keep workers from organizing.
But the union, with help from the Solidarity Center continues to make changes. Says union flower picker Samson Ouuda:
One of the most important things we’ve done is fight against gender discrimination. We’ve fought differences in wages, and won new policies to stop sexual harassment.
An important win since many of the people working in the flower industry are young women.
We also spent two days meeting with tea workers and their union in Kericho and Naidu, Kenya. They work for multinational tea manufacturers Unilever and Finlays. As we drove through the tea region, it was like a never-ending labyrinth, a giant green maze of plants.
When we got to the union office in Kericho, Kenya, union officials were elated to see the staff of the Solidarity Center. Over the past couple months, more than 6,000 tea workers joined KPAWU. To help them win more members—and continue to grow—the Solidarity Center provides resources to hire organizers, conduct trainings and offer communications and transportation support, according to KPAWU branch secretary Joshua Owuor Maywen.
Despite representing more than 200,000 members in the agriculture sector and representing some of the most vulnerable workers, union membership in the industry has declined over the past two decades. During this time, companies have tried whatever they can to cut costs, including implementing child labor, mechanizing the plucking industry. According to one of the workers:
The machines pluck everything, including snakes and spiders, while the tea pluckers pluck tea—hiring casuals or “temporary” workers at lower wages and reduced benefits.
New plants and factories popping up outside of the main tea areas provide stiff competition for the Kenyan tea market by undercutting costs using child labor and low wages. The union is actively fighting against child labor. It’s playing a role in implementing international labor standards required under the Fair Trade rules, including monitoring union plants.
Stay tuned for more stories of workers’ struggles as we visit Solidarity Centers all over Africa.
Today is United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Around the globe, workers are saying “No” to violence against women.
Although we often limit discussions on violence against women to domestic violence, it also is a human rights issue and a workplace issue, experts say.
Millions of women work in insecure, temporary, unsafe, underpaid and unpaid jobs. They are subjected to sexual harassment, abuse and rape. According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), certain types of work situations increase these threats, such as when women travel for their work or migrate to find work or are employed as domestic workers.
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler says in a statement:
Violence against women is a global problem that affects women of all ages, ethnicities, races, nationalities and socioeconomic backgrounds. It is also a workplace issue. Power imbalances in workplaces and the precarious employment conditions of many women increase their risk of being victims of sexual harassment, abuse and rape.
At the same time, domestic violence and other gender-based violence often impedes the ability of women to go to work and earn a living to support their families. To meet their families’ needs, many women have become economic migrants, subject to exploitation by unscrupulous employment agencies and employers.
Flight Attendants-CWA President Patricia Friend says union members are recognizing more and more that violence against women can spill over into the workplace.
We need to be aware that some of our members are coming to work in very difficult circumstances and may need our help. This is a human rights issue, and any human rights issues is a union issue.
Globally, women not only are vulnerable to domestic violence, but are caught in wars and forced into human trafficking for sex in large numbers, says Friend, who represents the AFL-CIO on ITUC’s committee on women.
In March, the AFL-CIO Executive Council issued a Charter of Rights of Working Women, pointing out that women are increasingly moving from place to place as economic migrants, rather than as dependents of male migrants, and are subjected to exploitation by agencies and employers. This situation is unacceptable, Shuler says.
Employers must be held responsible for ensuring that women have a safe workplace free of all forms of violence and sexual harassment. That is why today is so important. Until we have brought an end to violence against women, our families, our economies, our nations and our world will pay the price for our inaction.
Each member of the Network—current and former politicians, activists, religious and community leaders, and others—will work to support the longstanding efforts of women and civil society organizations worldwide to end violence, undertaking actions from raising public awareness to advocating for adequate laws.