New Sweatfree Communities Report Reveals Low Wages, Poor Conditions Behind “Made In USA” Label – 12/10/09
By Doug Cunningham
Sixteen percent of U.S. workers are now foreign-born. Jesse Russell has more.
NYC Labor And Community Activists Believe A Deal Is Close On Kingsbridge Armory Development Living Wage Mandate – 12/10/09
By Doug Cunningham
[Chant]: “Say no way to poverty pay!”
After the city council postponed a vote Wednesday, community and labor activists seeking a living wage jobs requirement for the Bronx Kingsbridge armory redevelopment are hopeful that a deal can be reached no later than Monday. RWDSU’s Jeff Eichler.
[Jeff Eichler]: “This community deserves a living wage center that benefits the entire community. At this armory there has to be living wages – mandated – and given to every retail worker.”
By Doug Cunningham
Workers at a Wal-Mart warehouse in Chicago are announcing a class action lawsuit today alleging that a temporary staffing agency is in essence stealing wages. Tim Bell, lead organizer with the Chicago Workers Collaborative says this is about corporations like Wal-Mart using temp staffing agencies to lower labor standards. He says an organizing campaign is underway at the Centerpoint Intermodal Center in Elwood, Illinois because even though Wal-Mart is the richest corporation in the world, workers who distribute its products are being treated like slaves.
Elana Levin, communications director for the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), announces the first-ever app organizing victory.
The writers of iLarious have just become the first writers of content for an iPhone app to form a union—joining the Writers Guild of America, East.
And why not?!
Comedy writers working in digital media deserve the same rights and protections as other workers. The Writers Guild of America, known for our successful TV writers strike in 2007-2008 over new media jurisdiction and residuals, is fighting to make sure that writers are represented even as the media and employment landscape changes.
Under the agreement, writers for apps such as “This Just In” (which delivers 10-15 jokes a day to the iPhone) will get to count their jokes written for the app toward WGAE health insurance and other benefits.
Comedy writers covered by this new agreement work at “The Daily Show,” “The Onion,” “Human Giant” and “Saturday Night Live” and in other comedy media.
iLarious staff voted to join a union because company founder and comedy writer Fred Graver is himself a member of the WGAE and gets how important union representation is to writers.
As Graver put it:
It’s important to the founders of iLarious that we bring the best talent to the table, and that we put a stake in the ground in this newly developing territory. The new means of producing content allows us to be owners and creators at the same time—and in the future, we look forward to being able to picket ourselves every few years.
WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson, who developed the union’s Writers Guild 2.0 initiative, added:
Whatever the technology, writers will always benefit from membership in a creative community which is organized to advance their interests. The job standards enjoyed by writers in film and broadcast TV were built over the years by creative people working together. Signing on with the WGAE is a very important step for creators of digital media to gain the standing and strength they deserve.
During an economic crisis like the one we’re in now, the squeeze on state and local budgets is brutal. Even as the revenues that are coming in from citizens and businesses decline, residents’ demands for services and assistance increase.
The resulting strain can result in even greater unemployment as teachers, firefighters, police officers and other essential public workers get laid off. To balance their budgets, states often turn to tax hikes or service cuts—at a time when working people can least afford them.
The AFL-CIO’s five-point plan for job creation includes a call for aid to state and local governments because the situation in our states, cities, counties and towns is dire. This year alone, state and local governments are looking at a $178 billion budget shortfall.
Widening state and local budget shortfalls present a ticking time bomb for the economy. If they are not addressed, state and local governments will be forced to accelerate layoffs, reduce pay, reduce services and raise taxes and fees. These moves create a drag on the economy, weaken the recovery and result in the loss of millions of public and private-sector jobs.
EPI’s analysis shows the damage from state and local budget cutbacks affects public employees and private-sector businesses, as well as residents who make use of schools, health services, transportation systems and public safety agencies.
Aid to help states meet their budget needs—especially in education and Medicaid—was one of the most effective parts of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act earlier this year. We need to renew and expand that vital assistance, so state and local governments can invest in their communities and meet the needs of their residents struggling with the economic crisis.
Otherwise, working families could find their difficult times compounded by higher state and local taxes, hundreds of thousands of more lost jobs and damage to the schools, transit systems, police and fire departments and health care facilities they need.
Members of National Nurses United (NNU) yesterday wasted no time in raising their voices in support of patients, nurses and working people. Just hours after formally creating the largest union and professional organization of registered nurses in U.S. history, delegates to the NNU’s founding convention rallied outside the Arizona Hospital Association offices in Phoenix.
They served notice they will challenge hospital industry attacks on nurses’ rights and fight to uphold workplace standards. The nurses also pledged to resist corporate cost-cutting measures that reduce patient care and raise nurse-patient ratios. The nurses called for Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act to enhance the ability of nurses and other working people to form unions.
NNU Co-President Jean Ross told the crowd that joining a union is the best economic stimulus package:
When workers have a greater voice to lift up their standards, all of America prospers. That’s why we need the Employee Free Choice Act, to restore balance to our system of labor law. The greatest economic stimulus, economic recovery plan would be to restore the right for more American workers to form unions and raise standards for themselves and their families and their communities.
At its initial meeting, the NNU board selected Rose Ann DeMoro as the union’s executive director. DeMoro has served since 1993 as executive director of the CNA/NNOC, and she also is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council.
The NNU board also promised to move quickly on an ambitious agenda of organizing nonunion RNs across the nation, defending and advancing the interests of direct-care RNs and patients, establishing a more influential voice for RNs in Washington, passing key patient care reforms such as national nurse-to-patient ratios and building stronger international ties with nurses around the world.
Another of the three new NNU co-presidents, Karen Higgins, pointed to the nurses’ crucial fight for better patient care:
We know the consequences of bottom-line medicine that puts our patients at the mercy of protocols designed to meet budgets rather than patient needs. We know what happens when hospital and insurance companies collude to barter human lives for money—people suffer and the executives and the corporations prosper. We know what works, and we will not go away until we win the protections our patients need.
Today and tomorrow, more than 100 union leaders and activists from around the nation are visiting their senators and representatives to let them know they urgently need to pass health care reform—the right way.
The exact shape of the Senate’s bill is in flux right now, and the union leaders are pressing members of Congress on three key issues:
• Inclusion of a public health insurance option;
• Making sure employers do their part in providing health care for employees; and
• Stopping a new tax on working family health benefits.
Union activists are also bringing thousands of handwritten letters to members of Congress to let them know their constituents want reform and are worried about a tax on benefits.
Last night on MSNBC’s The Ed Show, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker told host Ed Schultz that millions of union members have been fighting for—and expect—real reform:
We always know we have to fight for what’s right for not only workers in this country but for all Americans. And we are geared up and ready for this fight. We’ve made it very, very clear that we believe the strongest health care bill is one that has a public option, one that makes sure employers pay their fair share, and one that doesn’t tax workers.
We’re doing everything we can to impress upon Congress and the president this is what constituents and members are saying in our organization—strong public option. Make no doubt about it, we’re very clear on this, and we’re going to fight for what we think is right and for the strongest points in that bill.
A tax on health benefits could have a tough impact on millions of workers. As an example, federal employees who are part of the largest federal health care plan could see a benefits tax of more than $1,500 a year over the next ten years, a new report shows.
William Burris, president of the Postal Workers (APWU), says a benefits tax is the wrong way to pay for health care:
The excise tax will in fact raise costs and reduce coverage. We need health care reform now more than ever, but federal and postal employees and middle class Americans across the country should not be asked to shoulder the burden of paying for it. The Senate should find other solutions—such as those offered in the House version of the health reform bill—to pay for the reform that Americans deserve.
Here’s more news from the fight for health care reform:
- In the Billings Gazette, Jim McGarvey, executive secretary of the Montana AFL-CIO, looks at ways to improve the Senate’s health care bill.
- The Alliance for Retired Americans is launching a new TV ad in Maine on the ways health care reform will benefit seniors.
- An amendment that would have severely limited women’s access to reproductive health care was defeated yesterday in the Senate.
T-Mobile USA and its parent company, German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom (DT), have waged a systematic campaign to prevent employees from forming a union, according to a new report.
“Lowering the Bar or Setting the Standard? Deutsche Telekom’s U.S. Labor Practices,” released today by the American Rights at Work Education Fund, shows that although DT respects workers’ rights and cooperates closely with unions in Germany, it routinely mistreats workers in the United States and tries to thwart their freedom to form unions.
Says Kimberly Freeman Brown, executive director of American Rights at Work:
Respecting workers’ rights and needs benefits employees, their families, and a company’s bottom line. T-Mobile’s parent company became a leader in the telecom industry in Europe by working with their employees and proving that there is a better way to do business. It is inexcusable that our dysfunctional labor law system allowed T-Mobile USA to disregard its employees’ rights here in the United States.
T-Mobile USA routinely uses illegal or unethical practices to thwart workers’ efforts to form a union, including mandatory anti-union meetings and one-on-one meetings between workers and supervisors, according to the report. Click here to read the full report, which was written by John Logan, director of labor studies at San Francisco State University.
Based on DT’s strong record of supporting workers’ rights in Europe, the American union movement helped open the door for the company to enter the U.S. wireless market in 2001. Communications Workers of America (CWA) President Larry Cohen says:
Since then, we have seen no respect for workers’ rights, just eight years of intolerance and hostility toward workers and complete disregard of their rights to organize and bargain collectively. It’s now time to hold DT and T-Mobile USA accountable.
The disparities between DT employees in Europe and the United States led to an unprecedented partnership between CWA and ver.di, the German telecommunications workers union. The two recently joined forces to create a new union known as TU to collectively advance fair treatment and collective bargaining for all DT workers.
Cohen told a press conference in Washington, D.C., last month that unions must develop unique partnerships like this one to operate in a global economy dominated by multinational companies. TU will give T-Mobile USA employees, who do not have a union, greater strength to fight the company’s anti-worker practices, he said.
T-Mobile employees in the United States work in an atmosphere of fear and are afraid to be seen supporting a union. In fact, a T-Mobile USA worker appeared at the November press conference in a disguise and only spoke by whispering to Cohen and others who relayed answers to questions. Worker X, as he was called, said the company monitors the actions of union supporters and often fires them. Worker X was afraid they would recognize his voice if he spoke aloud on the microphones.
“We believe that through this new union, we will contribute to better working conditions for workers in both countries,” says Lothar Schröder, member of the Federal Executive of ver.di.
Management must get used to the idea that we are representing the interests not only of German workers but of American workers as well. This is the right response to globalization.
CWA and ver.di are working with the international skills federation UNI Global Union to win a commitment from DT that it will guarantee basic worker and union rights to all of its employees everywhere in the world. “This agreement would end the double standard now in place when it comes to workers’ rights,” said UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings.