By Doug Cunningham
By Doug Cunningham
With the massive joblessness throughout the U.S. economy in 2009, union membership dropped. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says just 12.3 percent of all U.S. workers are now in unions. Union members working for government now outnumber those employed by private-sector companies. Unemployment was especially bad in manufacturing and construction industries in 2009, accounting for 60 percent of the union membership loss. That puts the private sector unionization percentage at 7.2. That compares to 37.4 percent of public sector workers currently in unions.
10,000 workers at Wal-Mart’s Sam Club’s stores will soon be looking for new work. The company is attempting to streamline product sampling and demonstrations at the discount chains. Instead of using in-house employees Wal-Mart will begin bringing in more outside vendors to handle those duties. In a memo the company encourages employees being let go to reapply for the positions that will be handled by the vendors. Earlier this month the world’s largest retailer announced it would be closing 10 Sam’s Club stores and letting go of 1,500 jobs.
Mayor Bloomberg calls the New York Governor’s budget proposal a “bloodbath” for New York City. Jesse Russell reports:
Through its work in more than 60 countries on five continents, the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center is supporting and extending workers’ efforts to gain a better life by helping them to build strong unions. In its 2009 Annual Report, the Solidarity Center highlights its wide range of programs to help workers form unions.
The Solidarity Center is helping African journalists in Rwanda and Burundi create full-fledged democratic unions and joining with national unions in those countries to fight HIV/AIDS.
- In Pakistan, where teachers unions are banned, the Solidarity Center, with support from AFT, brought together 45 teacher associations to form the Teacher Consortium of Pakistan (TCOP). The 150,000 members of TCOP fight for issues important to all teachers in the country.
- The Solidarity Center supports an association of women workers in the Dominican Republic, comprised of both Haitian migrants and Dominican nationals, and conducts advocacy to ensure they know their rights as workers.
- With the support of the Solidarity Center, the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine launched a campaign for quality health care and education. Members collected more than 50,000 signatures on a petition calling for adequate funding for medical and school supplies and other needs.
You can download the Annual Report here.
At the same time, the Solidarity Center is helping strengthen unions globally by aiding them in addressing issues of gender equity, rule of law and migration and human trafficking.
The AFL-CIO awarded the AFL-CIO George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award to Yessika Hoyos, a Colombian human rights lawyer, who formed an organization to fight for justice in the deadliest country in the world for union members. The Solidarity Center builds support from the U.S. labor movement for Hoyos’ work. The center also seeks to empower workers and strengthen the labor movement in Colombia, where more than 500 union activists have been killed in Colombia over the past seven years, including Hoyos’ father.
Nancy Mills, the Solidarity Center’s interim executive director, says:
Through these and other initiatives in difficult and often dangerous conditions, the Solidarity Center and its partners strive every day to hasten the success of union heroes and their allies in other worker rights organizations throughout the developing world as they struggle to build independent and effective labor unions.
The long-term economic and political well-being of the world’s people depends on that success.
The White House Task Force on the Middle Class today announced several initiatives it says will help middle-class families afford soaring child care costs, care for their aging relatives, cope with the challenge of saving for retirement and pay for their children’s college tuition.
President Obama says the measures will help “ease the burdens on middle-class families who are struggling in this economy, and provide the help they need to get ahead.” The White House says Obama will discuss these and other vital middle-class issues, including job creation and health care in his State of the Union address Wednesday.
The Task Force chairman, Vice President Joe Biden, says the initiatives were developed after a series of meetings during the past year with working families around the country and at the White House.
Every day, middle-class families go to work and help make this country great. For a year, our Task Force has been hearing that they are struggling with soaring costs and squeezed family budgets. These common sense initiatives will help these families cope with these challenges.
The initiatives include:
- Nearly doubling the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit for middle-class families making under $85,000 a year and a $1.6 billion increase in child care funding for families struggling to enter the middle class.
- Limiting a student’s federal loan payments to 10 percent of his or her income above a basic living allowance.
- Creating a system of automatic workplace IRAs, requiring all employers to give the option for employees to enroll in a direct-deposit IRA.
- Expanding tax credits to match retirement savings and enacting new safeguards to protect retirement savings.
- Expanding support for families balancing work with caring for elderly relatives.
Click here for a fact sheet with more detailed information on each initiative.
The Task Force has given working families and union leaders the opportunity to outline their concerns and offer recommendations on ways to make the economy work for working families.
United Steelworkers President Leo W. Gerard emphasized the need for creation of good green jobs. Members of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 730 in St. Cloud. Minn., told Biden and the Task Force that the Employee Free Choice Act was vital to allow workers to bargain for jobs with good wages and benefits. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler urged the Task Force to make fixing manufacturing a priority in building a stronger economy.
Visit the White House Task Force on the Middle Class website here.
The cast of “Inglourious Basterds” took home the top honor for best performance by a cast in a motion picture as members of the Screen Actors (SAG) honored their own at the 16th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards® show Sunday.
Sandra Bullock and Jeff Bridges won the awards for best performance by an actress and actor in a leading role for their performances in “The Blind Side” and “Crazy Heart,” respectively.
Other winners included Mo’Nique who won best performance as supporting actress for her role in “Precious” and Christoph Waltz as best supporting actor for his role in “Inglourious Basterds.”
On the TV side, Michael C. Hall (”Dexter”) and Julianna Marquiles (”The Good Wife”) were honored for their performances in a drama series and the cast of “30 Rock” took two of the three top awards in the TV comedy category, with Alec Baldwin winning best actor and Tina Fey best actress. The cast of “Glee” won the award for best ensemble. You can check out all the winners here.
For the first time, SAG honored stunt performers in TV and movies, with the stunt ensembles for the movie “Star Trek” and the “24″ TV series taking home the honors.
Betty White received the Lifetime Achievement Award, the union’s highest honor. White joins an all-star cast of previous winners, who include Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee (2000), Edward Asner (2001), Clint Eastwood (2002), Shirley Temple Black (2005), Julie Andrews (2006), Charles Durning (2007), James Earl Jones (2008).
White, 88, has won six Emmys, including the first and only Daytime Emmy for Best Game Show Host for a woman. In 1952, she became a Hollywood pioneer when she and two colleagues formed their own production company, creating the nationally televised comedy series “Life with Elizabeth.” The series made White one of only a few women with creative control before and behind the camera in television’s early years.
SAG is America’s largest union representing working actors, with 120,000 members in film, TV, commercials, video games, music videos and other new media. The SAG Awards is the only nationally televised awards show of any kind that honors the work of union members.
Representing more than 230,000 California state workers, 14 unions are opposing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s move to slash wages, 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.
WORK STOPPAGES AND ACTIONS
Multiple, State of California: Fourteen unions representing 230,000 state workers in California sent a joint letter to the State Senate and State Assembly, urging members to block a possible attempt by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to impose the federal minimum wage on state workers. The governor has threatened to cut state worker pay to the minimum wage should the Senate and Assembly not pass the state budget.
NFLPA, NFL: NFL players, including Kevin Mawae, president of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) on Wednesday lobbied Congress to help prevent a lockout by team owners in 2011 and limit the impact of a possible decision by the U.S. Supreme Court expanding the NFL’s antitrust immunity.
ATU, Chicago Transit Authority: Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) locals in Chicago are alleging that layoff notices by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) violated seniority rules. The layoffs are due to take effect Feb. 7, but an arbitration ruling may come as early as this week.
ALPA, Hawaiian Airlines: At Hawaiian Airlines, members of the Air Line pilots (ALPA) ratified a new contract that provides 4 percent to 6 percent pay increase immediately and between 15 percent and 22 percent over the 68-month agreement.
UFCW, Fred Meyer: Grocery workers in Spokane, Wash., last month approved a new four-year contract with Fred Meyer. The contract, which is retroactive to January 2008, covers 225 members of Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1439.
AFSCME, City of Pawtucket: AFSCME city workers in Pawtucket, R.I., agreed to freeze wages until 2011 and take furlough days to help the city balance its budget.
AFM, Cleveland Orchestra: A one-day strike by musicians with the Cleveland Orchestra ended last week when they ratified a new contract. Management had proposed a 5 percent pay cut, but members of the Cleveland Federation of Musicians (AFM) instead agreed to a salary freeze through August 2011 and semiannual increases of 3 percent and 2 percent the following year.
IAM, Hawaiian Airlines: Clerical workers at Hawaiian Airlines ratified a new four-year contract. The 1,245 workers are members of the Machinists – Clerical Division (IAM-C).
UWUA, Rocky Mountain Power Co.: Workers at Rocky Mountain Power Co. in Wyoming approved a new three-year contract. The contract covers nearly 600 members of UWUA Local 127 and was the third proposal voted on by the membership.
AFT, City of Philadelphia: Teachers in Philadelphia approved a new three-year contract, which will provide a 6 percent wage increase over the term. The 17,000 members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers-AFT have worked under contract extensions since August 2008.
ATU and UAW, Toledo Transit Authority: Two unions representing workers at the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority agreed to one-year contract extensions earlier this month. Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 697 and UAW Local 5242 will receive a 1.5 percent wage increase.
AFT-NEA, University of Florida: After five years of negotiations, the University of Florida and its faculty union have reached a three-year tentative agreement. Members of the United Faculty of Florida (UFF-AFT-NEA) will vote on the deal next month.
UWUA, Entergy: Workers at the Indian Point nuclear power plant have reached a tentative agreement with Entergy, the plant’s owner. The deal avoids a strike by the 433 members of the Utility Workers (UWUA) Local 1-2. Members will vote on the contract in the next two weeks.
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.
|Leo W. Gerard|
Bill Clinton saw it clearly when he was running for president against Bush I. It became his mantra: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Clinton wanted to reform health insurance, too. But he understood that during a recession, the first priority is jobs.
Politicians and commentators continue to blather obtusely about the meaning of Senate candidate Martha Coakley’s loss in Massachusetts to a Republican in a heavily Democratic state. Like Coakley and her advisers, they have failed to see the obvious, failed to learn from Clinton’s victory:
It’s the economy, stupid.
Poll results show that Massachusetts voters punished Coakley—and Democrats—for neglecting the issue most vital to them: jobs. If politicians had studied earlier polls or attempted to actually get in touch with mainstream, Main Street Americans—or just listened to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s address at the National Press Club on Jan. 11—they’d have known to focus on jobs. The message of Massachusetts should be clear: If Democrats want to save their own jobs in the midterm elections this fall, they must create jobs now.
A poll taken in the first week in December exposed voters’ anger over the economy. The bipartisan Battleground Poll showed this: A huge majority of those surveyed ranked improving the economy and jobs as the most important tasks for Congress. It was 40 percent, compared to healthcare reform, at just 15 percent.
Here’s what pollster Celinda Lake said about the results:
The number one thing Democrats have to do is prove they really have a jobs program and an economic program that is going to sell on Main Street.
That was a month before the Massachusetts vote. In the meantime, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced unemployment numbers for December—and they were worse in 43 states than they had been in November. Joblessness in Michigan, a high-population Heartland State, was the highest in the country at 14.6 percent. In Rhode Island, it was 12.9 percent; in South Carolina, 12.6 percent. In California, one of the dozen largest economies in the world, it was 12.4 percent, significantly higher than the U.S. average of 10 percent.
People are hurting. Pay attention, politicians. Pay attention.
They didn’t. In the Massachusetts race, they were talking about terrorism and baseball.
In a Research 2000 poll done for MoveOn.org, 95 percent of Massachusetts residents surveyed ranked the economy as either important or very important to their candidate choice. Research 2000 questioned 1,000 registered voters—half of whom voted for Republican Scott Brown and half of whom did not vote at all.
Among those who voted for Obama in 2008 but Brown this month, 51 percent said they believed Democratic policies helped Wall Street more than Main Street.
It’s the economy, stupid. The Main Street economy.
Similary, in a Hart Research Associates poll conducted on election night in Massachusetts, 79 percent of voters said electing a candidate who would strengthen the economy and create more good jobs was the single most important factor in their decision. The were looking for someone who would fix the economy.
The Great Recession of Bush II is more than two years old now. Workers are frightened and angry. They see bailouts for Wall Street, big bonuses for bankers and unemployment continuing to rise.
They will vent their frustration on politicians. Massachusetts showed it. Trumka warned about it earlier this month in his talk at the Press Club:
At this moment, the voices of America’s working women and men must be heard in Washington—not the voices of bankers and speculators for whom it always seems to be the best of times, but the voices of those for whom the New Year brings pink slips and givebacks, hollowed-out health care, foreclosures and pension freezes—the roll call of an economy that long ago stopped working for most of us.
He went on: “Working people want an American economy that works for them, that creates good jobs, where wealth is fairly shared.”
Trumka recommended immediate implementation of the AFL-CIO’s five-point jobs program, a plan that would produce 4 million jobs and includes dramatically increasing investments in federal infrastructure and green jobs and direct lending of the refunded bank bailout money to small and medium-sized businesses that can’t get credit because of the financial crisis.
Just as important is implementation of the recommendations in the report issued by the White House manufacturing task force in December, Framework for Revitalizing American Manufacturing. That report contains concrete measures to revive manufacturing in the United States to generate real wealth, not the illusory paper assets counterfeited on Wall Street.
Trumka called for immediate action, not going slow, not taking half steps. Those who seek delay are “harming millions of unemployed Americans and their families,” he said, and jeopardizing economic recovery.
He ended with this warning:
The reality is that when unemployment is 10 percent and rising, working people will not stand for tokenism. We will not vote for politicians who think they can push a few crumbs our way and then continue the failed economic policies of the last 30 years.
Workers executed that warning in Massachusetts.
What Americans want is jobs.