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One Year After Ledbetter: Work Still Needed on Pay Equity       One year ago today, working people celebrated a milestone in the battle for pay equity when the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed into law. The law corrected the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that Ledbetter, a 20-year employee of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., had sued too late when she discovered her pay was far below that of men doing similar work. President Obama signed the bill into law Jan. 29, 2009. In observance of the anniversary, Ledbetter, writing on Alternet, said there is still work to do: We need to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. This bill gives teeth to the protections against pay discrimination. And women, who are still shortchanged in the workplace, deserve just that. The bill would empower women to negotiate for equal pay, create stronger incentives for employers to follow the law, and strengthen federal outreach and enforcement efforts. It would also strengthen penalties for equal pay violations. In his State of the Union address this week, Obama promised to gain pay equity for working women. In a video (above) with Ledbetter, House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) said that by passing the Ledbetter Act, Congress was willing to make this affirmation of a fundamental and basic statement [that] you don’t get to discriminate against people in their pay, in their work based on these arbitrary standards of gender, race, ethnicity.   In a statement, AFT President Randi Weingarten praised Ledbetter: The AFT has always fought for fair pay, especially for many members who work in education and healthcare—jobs traditionally held by women and, therefore, historically underpaid. We commend Lilly Ledbetter for her unfaltering commitment to fairness and equality for all workers.

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Like 5.7 Percent GDP Growth? Pass a Real Jobs Bill In this cross-post from the Campaign for America’s Future, Bill Scher explains the need for a real jobs bill to keep the economy growing. Today’s estimate of 5.7 percent annual rate of growth in the Gross Domestic Product for the last quarter of 2009 sure beats a kick in the teeth. And if we sustain this rate of growth, we will have a robust recovery and come near full employment. But we won’t sustain this growth unless Congress acts and passes a real jobs bill. As economist Paul Krugman notes in the New York Times, today’s number may end up being just a “blip.” The economic consensus is that much of today’s growth number is an “inventory bounce” in which “businesses that were emptying their warehouses a year ago are now buying enough goods to keep stockpiles steady.” Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research concludes: There is no reason to believe that this will presage a burst of hiring. The stimulus continues to mitigate the effects of the recession and unquestionably helped avert a Great Depression. But it’s not large enough or comprehensive enough in scope to fully solve the jobs crisis. The White House acknowledges this, in a blog post from economic adviser Christina Romer: There will surely be bumps in the road ahead, and we will need to continue to take responsible actions to ensure that the recovery is as smooth and robust as possible. And the president himself emphasized that the $154 billion that passed the House last month, which he urged the Senate to pass, still will not be enough: But what has been the Senate response? To prepare a jobs bill that is smaller than the House bill. That’s inane. We at Campaign for America’s Future have launched a grassroots effort to press the Senate to both pass the House jobs bill and embark on a comprehensive long-term jobs strategy, including these key goals: Rebuild America’s schools, roads and energy systems. Close state budget gaps to prevent mass layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters. And direct public sector hiring to expand services that strengthen our communities. Use our taxpayer dollars to “Buy American” and revitalize our manufacturing industry. The solution is big because the problem is big. The stimulus wasn’t big enough to stop all job losses from the recession, but it was big enough to lead us to this point where we can be thankful for a strong GDP growth number. Senators: if you like looking at GDP numbers as big as this, I suggest you get to work on a bigger jobs bill. You can help by clicking here and telling your senators: “We need action on jobs NOW!”

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Workers Across Nation Choose a Voice with AFL-CIO Unions Here are the latest graduates of AFSCME’s organizer-training program, Alternative Union Break. County workers, professional employees, bakery workers, airborne pilots and “ghost” pilots and sheriff’s deputies are among the latest workers to choose a voice at work with AFL-CIO unions. In Utah, more than 400 Salt Lake County workers won a union voice with AFSCME Local 1004. The 408 county employees—skilled trades, maintenance and service workers—could vote for union representation only after AFSCME fought and won passage of a county collective bargaining ordinance last year. John Farrer, a Highway Department worker, says: This is definitely a positive thing for workers, and that’s why they voted it in. With all that’s happened, the wage cuts, benefits going down and insurance going up, we need a strong union voice to represent the interests of working families. To help ensure that workers continue to have an opportunity to win union representation, eight college students and recent graduates just completed AFSCME’s Alternative Union Break organizing training. Read more about the unique program here. Meanwhile in San Jose, Calif., the 410 senior analysts and program managers in the City Association of Management Personnel (CAMP) voted to affiliate with Professional and Technical Employees (IFPTE) Local 21. IFPTE Local 21 represents more than 6,000 professional and technical government workers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Says Gay Gale, president of CAMP: “We look forward to developing a great working relationship with Local 21 in San Jose and IFPTE as a whole.” In other organizing news: Workers in the U.S. Forest Service Human Resources Management Department in Albuquerque, N.M., voted to join the National Federation of Federal Employees-IAM (NFFE-IAM). The 385 employees began their organizing campaign in early 2008. Also, a group of Remote Pilot Operators, known as “Ghost Pilots,” voted to join the Machinists (IAM). The “Ghost Pilots” are part of the FAA’s training function at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City. They simulate pilots’ actions for air traffic control trainees by receiving voice commands from students and then via computer, simulate pilot actions and give voice responses. Pilots at North American Airlines voted overwhelmingly for Air Line Pilots (ALPA) representation. The 181 pilots fly Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft for passenger, military and cargo operations around the world. Road deputies in the St. Lucie County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office voted to join the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA). The 155 deputies join Port St. Lucie police and civilian employees as IUPA members. In Alaska, 92 AT&T Mobility retail sales representatives who work across the state have joined Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 7803 through majority signup. Under an agreement between AT&T and CWA, the company will remain neutral and will recognize the union once a majority of employees sign up. In Union City, Calif., 75 workers at the Caravan Baking Co. voted to join Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 24. The new union members work in production, wrapping, shipping and receiving, maintenance and sanitation departments. Meanwhile, office workers at Bimbo Baking USA in Sacramento joined BCTGM Local 85.

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Trumka on ‘Moyers’ Tonight, CNN Sunday     Bill Moyers interviews AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka tonight on PBS.         AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is tonight’s featured guest on “Bill Moyers Journal” on PBS. In an in-depth 30-minute interview, Trumka will outline steps to restore the nation’s economy, create jobs and rebuild the middle class. He will talk about the AFL-CIO’s role in creating a broad movement of Americans to demand jobs and an economy that works for families on Main Street and why bankers and brokers on Wall Street must be held accountable with strong new financial reform rules. Trumka will discuss why health care reform must pass and what it must include. He will explain why it’s time to restore the freedom of workers to form unions and bargain for a better life. Visit PBS to find the TV schedule for the time and channel in your area. Trumka also will appear on CNN’s “State of the Union with John King” Sunday at 12:40 p.m. EST to discuss jobs, the economy, health care and deliver labor’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union address.

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‘Buy America’ Puts People to Work       A new report presents clear evidence that including Buy America provisions in last year’s stimulus package has created jobs and makes the case that the rules should be strengthened in jobs legislation being considered on Capitol Hill.   The 17-page report, “Buy America Works,” by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), highlights success stories showing how Buy America provisions have benefited U.S. companies. Like United Streetcar in Oregon, that is manufacturing the first U.S.-made streetcars in 60 years and supporting a supply chain across the nation. Or Arcelor Mittal in Pennsylvania, that is building rail tracks for southeastern Pennsylvania. Earlier this week, AAM field staff converged on Capitol Hill to urge their lawmakers to maintain and enhance Buy America requirements in jobs legislation now before the Senate, where some Republicans want to weaken the rules. Says AAM Executive Director Scott Paul: It would be foolish to dilute or eliminate Buy America rules at such a critical time for our workers and economy. The wind farms, bridges, and new schools of America should be made in America. We urge Congress to incorporate strong Buy America rules to ensure that tax dollars are invested in communities all over our nation. Polls show 86 percent of Americans support requirements for American-made materials in all federally funded infrastructure investment. More than 500 local, state and municipal governments have passed “Buy America” measures. Writing on Daily Kos, The Electrical Worker points out that if the Senate passes the jobs legislation with strong Buy America provisions, one of the beneficiaries could be members of the independent United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 506  in Erie, Pa., who perform electrical maintenance and large-scale projects in the 100 year-old locomotive manufacturing plant owned by GE Transportation. Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 56 also performs electrical maintenenace at the plant. The bill includes $800 million for modernizing Amtrak’s fleet. The House jobs bill strengthens “Buy American” language which could help GE to land work in the factory which cut 1,500 jobs last September. The United States also should have its own “Buy America” program for federal procurements, which represent 20 percent of our nation’s gross domestic product. Writing in a special report by The American Prospect magazine on American manufacturing, the authors point out that the United States is the only nation among the G-20 not to have a significant “buy domestic” procurement program: …yet no single economic stimulus initiative would do more to resuscitate U.S. employment and reduce our massive trade deficit. In May, China, which is by far the single largest importer of goods to the U.S., confirmed its policy of 100 percent domestic procurement. We should call our new comparable requirement the “U.S. Domestic Investment Act.” Check out this special edition, “Made In America: Reviving American Manufacturing (before it’s too late),” here. It examines the causes of the decline in manufacturing and how we can rebuild our economy by investing in making products in America. It also includes key insights from United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard and Machinists President Tom Buffenbarger and economists Robert Kuttner and Jeff Faux.

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U.S.: Bottom of the Pack for Bread-and-Butter Basics Dr. Jody Heymann is a professor in the Faculties of Medicine and Arts at McGill University, where she is founding director of the Institute for Health and Social Policy and founding chair of the Project on Global Working Families. She also is an adjunct associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Heymann has authored and edited more than 150 publications, including Raising the Global Floor and Forgotten Families. She has led the development of a unique graduate and undergraduate multidisciplinary training program that bridges research and policy development with students gaining experience in 18 countries. Also, check out the interactive world legal rights database created by Dr. Heymann and her team. When it comes to ensuring working families have the bread-and-butter basics, the United States is an outlier, there’s no doubt. For example: 177 nations guarantee paid leave for new mothers; the U.S. does not. 74 nations guarantee paid leave for new fathers; the U.S. does not. 132 nations guarantee breastfeeding breaks at work; the U.S. does not. 163 nations guarantee paid sick leave; the U.S. does not. 48 nations guarantee paid time off to care for children’s health; the U.S. does not. 41 nations provide leave that can be used for child education needs; the U.S. does not. 33 nations provide paid leave to care for adult family members; the U.S. does not. The cost to Americans is profound. Every year Americans lose income and homes when they get sick with serious illnesses. Restaurant workers, health care providers and co-workers spread disease when they go to work with infectious diseases. Infants fall sick at 1.5 to 5 times the rate when they are not breastfed—by mothers who have little choice. For decades, we’ve been hearing none of these issues can be addressed because of the economic cost. The argument has been that if mothers and fathers could afford to care for their newborn children, we’d have fewer jobs; America would be less competitive; it would cost too much. If people with flu stayed home when they were sick, if Americans with cancer didn’t fear losing their job and home when they got sick, it’d cost too much for our country. Well, it turns out not to be true. Some 57 million Americans do not get paid leave, or even sometimes unpaid leave, to stay home sick or to care for sick relatives. In Raising the Global Floor, a book that reports on 10 years of research carried out at Harvard and McGill, Alison Earle and I report the findings of the largest global study to look at working conditions, how they affect individual men and women and national economies in 190 of the world’s 192 countries. Can the United States afford to improve working conditions? Globally, none of the protections described above are linked with lower levels of economic competitiveness or employment. Of the world’s 15 most competitive countries, 14 provide paid sick leave, 13 guarantee paid leave for new mothers, 12 provide paid leave for new fathers, 11 provide paid leave to care for children’s health needs, eight provide paid leave to care for adult family members and seven guarantee breastfeeding breaks. The majority of the 13 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries with consistently low unemployment rates provide paid leave for new mothers (12), paid sick leave (11), breastfeeding breaks (9), paid leave for new fathers (9) and paid leave to care for children’s health needs (8). We can afford the change. What we can’t afford is the status quo. This is a cross-post from the Firedoglake blog.

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