While national union membership was down slightly last year, New York State is still at the top when it comes to union membership. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly two million workers are represented by a union making it the second highest rate in the country. That amounts to nearly a quarter of workers in the state. California is at the top with 2.5 million in unions. Nationally the rate is 12.3 percent.
By Doug Cunningham
An arbitrator has ruled Daimler Trucks North America broke a union contract by shifting production to Mexico. So Daimler must compensate UAW workers. It was also ordered increase truck production at it’s unionized North Carolina facility to 70 percent of its medium-duty trucks sold in the U.S. and Canada.
By Doug Cunningham
It took a year-long lawsuit and a public campaign, but workers who say they had their wages stolen by New York billionaire Jocelyne Wildenstein finally got her to fork over their hard-earned wages. The workers remodeled the billionaire’s luxury Trump World Towers apartments but in the last four weeks of their employment they were paid no wages at all. The workers recently got all wages owed. Along with interest and lawyer fees.
Rio Tinto has locked workers out at the largest open-pit mine in California saying it is concerned workers may strike. Jesse Russell reports:
By Doug Cunningham
The Senate just now voted (60-32) to end debate on the nomination of M. Patricia Smith, clearing her way for confirmation as solicitor of labor and breaking the stranglehold Republicans had put on her to be the nation’s top labor lawyer.
President Obama nominated Smith, currently New York state’s labor commissioner, nine months ago, but Republican obstructionist tactics blocked a vote on the nomination.
The solicitor of labor oversees enforcement of the nation’s most important labor laws and sets enforcement priorities. During her confirmation hearing last year, Smith said she would bring to the job a “philosophy of proactive enforcement.”
That would be quite a change from the previous administration, writes Pat Garafolo in Think Progress Wonk Room.
Under the Bush administration’s corporate-friendly Labor Department, the solicitor’s office sat on its hands and failed to enforce even the most flagrant labor violations.
Saying Smith ”may well be the most qualified person ever to hold the position of Solicitor,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka noted that under the leadership of Secretary Hilda Solis,
the Department of Labor is returning to its historical and proper role—protecting the health, safety and welfare of working families. America’s workers are proud that Solicitor Smith will be joining this excellent team and continuing her years of public service on behalf of working men and women.
In a letter last week to Senate members urging Smith’s confirmation, AFL-CIO Government Affairs Director William Samuel cited her “commitment to strong, fair, and effective enforcement of our workplace laws.”
Prior to being named labor commissioner of New York, Smith served for 20 years as an attorney in the Labor Bureau of the New York state Attorney General’s Office, working for both Democratic and Republican administrations. She represented New York in cases involving its labor standards, workplace safety and health, unemployment insurance, apprentice training and prevailing wage statutes.
Last year, The New York Times wrote that Smith’s campaign against wage theft helped win more than $20 million in back pay for thousands of low-wage workers and that she has
developed a reputation as one of the nation’s foremost labor commissioners because of her vigorous efforts to crack down on minimum wage and overtime violations at businesses including restaurants, supermarkets, car washes and racetracks.
The fiscal year 2011 budget released by the White House today “moves the country in the right direction…to get our economy back on track,” says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
He says the proposed funding for infrastructure development, education, job training and green jobs are the right investments to make. But the $100 billion for job creation in fiscal year 2011 is not enough to meet what will be an ongoing need to address the jobs deficit.
While the nation’s mostly Bush-inherited budget deficit is garnering headlines, Trumka says “not enough attention is being paid to our massive ‘jobs deficit.’”
We need to create over 10 million new jobs just to get back to where we were when the recession began. This massive jobs deficit demands bold, urgent action to create new jobs and grow the middle class. And besides, the most effective way to reduce the budget deficit is to eliminate the jobs deficit.
The budget reduces tax incentives for firms that move jobs overseas along with reducing tax subsidies for oil and gas firms. It also imposes a “financial crisis responsibility fee” on large financial institutions.
However, says Trumka, the brokers, bankers and corporations that drove the economy into the ground “should pay their fair share of the bill to rebuild the economy that they destroyed.”
Wall Street should be asked to do more—for example, a minimal tax on financial speculation could go a long way toward funding the additional investments needed to eliminate our jobs deficit.
The proposed budget addresses eight years of Bush-era starvation for workers’ programs at the U.S. Department of Laobr and restores staffing for workers’ protection programs to their 2001 levels, with increased funding for health and safety protections; minimum wage and overtime protections. It also includes a new initiative to crack down on businesses that misclassify their employees as independent contractors in order to evade their responsibilities as employers,
Union members and other working people across the country are digging deep into their hearts and pockets to provide aid to the victims of the massive earthquake in Haiti. You can take action now to help the Haitian survivors by clicking on the AFL-CIO Haitian Disaster Relief site here.
One of this country’s most impoverished areas—the farm worker community of Immokalee, Fla.—is doing its part. Enlisting its low-power radio station, Radio Conciencia, members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) launched a donation drive. They will send all donations to the Red Cross.
The CIW website says the response has been overwhelming.
Seeing farm workers—who are themselves suffering unemployment and economic crisis due to two weeks of freezing temperatures that destroyed crops across south Florida—stream into the office with water, clothes, and canned food is nothing short of inspiring.
In other actions:
- Nearly $50,000 has been donated so far to the Solidarity Center’s AFL-CIO Earthquake Relief for Haitian Workers’ Campaign through the Union Plus matching program. Click here and Union Plus will automatically match your contribution to the fund, up to $100,000. You do not need to use a Union Plus credit card for the matching donation.
- In Los Angeles, several unions and worker groups are joining with the United Way to send food, clothing and work boots to assist with the relief efforts. Groups that have stepped up in a big way include the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), AFSCME, Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 250, Teamsters and the UCLA Labor Center.
In a wide-ranging, 30-minute conversation Friday on “Bill Moyers Journal,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka talked about the need for a large-scale jobs program, what’s fueling voters’ anger, health care reform, the need for workers to regain the freedom to form unions and more.
Following are just a few excerpts. Click here to view the full video or read the transcript.
Pointing to the State of the Union address, Trumka told Moyers that President Obama has “realized that there is a lot of anger and frustration out there,” centered on jobs and the economy—and the best way to address that anger is a jobs bill. Asked how big, Trumka said:
It has to be a large scale. We lost 8 million jobs, plus we have 2 million that we needed for growth. So, we’re 10 million jobs in the hole. In order to do that, it’s going to take more than a little stimulus package or a little jobs bill.
So, our job is to make sure that his understanding of the anger, translates out into a jobs program of sufficient size to solve the problem.
Asked, “Where does the money come from,” Trumka said:
It’s a real simple thing. You know, let’s look at who created the mess. The banks created this mess. Wall Street created this mess. And the super rich have had a tax break from Bush of $1.2 trillion. We can take a little bit back from the rich that have really enjoyed the last 10 years in an unprecedented way, and pay for the creation of jobs that they actually destroyed.
Moyers asked what was behind the voter anger that propelled a Republican to capture a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts that had been held for decades by Sen. Edward Kennedy.
It was a wakeup call. And we were predicting that. We said, “Look, they’re angry. They’re frustrated. And if you’re not on the side of creating jobs, jobs, jobs—if they don’t believe that, and you’re not acting that on the scale that they think is necessary, you’re going to face a bad time.”
Check out the full interview here.