By Doug Cunningham
Since the Haiti earthquake hit the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center has been sending direct union-to-union aid and continues to do so. The relief includes truckloads of food, water and other supplies as well as aid to help unions in Haiti restore their office functions. The Solidarity Center collects donations for Haiti through it’s Earthquake Relief For Haitian Workers fund. The aid links directly with Haitian workers and their unions.
Transport Workers Union Has Had It At American – Four Years Long Enough To Settle Contract – 02/18/10
One more round of contract talks with American Airlines and if a deal can’t be reached, the Transport Workers Union wants out of mediation. The union represents more than 26,000 mechanics, baggage handlers, and other employees at the airline. If federal mediators agree to release the union from negotiations it could start the strike clock ticking. Most TWU members have been in negotiations with American since 2007, but some started negotiations as early as 2006.
By Doug Cunningham
In California the Screen Actors Guild wants to convince state lawmakers to renew and fully fund a tax credit to keep the entertainment business in the state. Nancy Fox is national director of government relations and policy for the Screen Actors Guild. She says in recent years entertainment “runaway production” leaving California has become an issue for SAG members there as other states offered tax incentives to lure the work away.
If there’s one thing Americans agree on, it’s that we need more jobs now. That reality is often twisted by conservatives, who say the one-year-old economic recovery plan has failed. But they are just wrong.
The AFL-CIO is pushing for much greater investment to create the millions more jobs we need to get us out of our current hole. Check out the federation’s five-point plan to put America back to work here.
The fact is that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is still working, generating more than 2 million jobs and laying the foundation for future economic growth.
In a report issued today, Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), tracks monthly job losses before and after the Recovery Act. He writes:
With unemployment at 9.7 percent today, it’s hard to appreciate how much more damage the stimulus investments prevented. Without the more than 2 million jobs generated by the Recovery Act, the unemployment rate would now exceed 11 percent.
Click here to read the report.
One sign the recovery package is working: Our economy grew 5.7 percent last quarter—the largest gain in six years. Many economists say the growth is largely due to the Recovery Act—and those who say the first economic Recovery Act didn’t work are just plain wrong.
EPI President Lawrence Mishel says:
The fact is that [the Recovery Act] did work—precisely as it was designed to work—and it has helped to produce roughly 2 million jobs that wouldn’t exist if the Recovery Act had not become law.
Congressional Democrats recently have criticized Republicans who voted against the measure but then went home to praise Recovery Act grants for projects in their districts. Although the Recovery Act passed with no Republican votes in the House and only three in the Senate, more than a dozen Republican lawmakers supported stimulus funding requests submitted for their districts, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said the Recovery Act has been a “life preserver” that helped reduce the harmful impact of the recession on children.
Kids don’t get a second chance to get a good education. The Recovery Act was the help they needed, ensuring that schools continued to receive resources so that teachers could teach and students learn.
National Education Association (NEA) President Dennis Van Roekel agreed, saying Congress must pass a jobs bill that will maintain and create jobs to keep school doors open after the Recovery Act expires.
Some of the fancy replica jerseys bearing the names of NFL stars like Peyton Manning, which fetch upwards of $80 each in U.S. sporting goods stores, were sewn by workers in El Salvador who made about 10 cents for each jersey, according to a new report by the National Labor Committee (NLC).
The report, “NFL and Reebok Fumble: Women Paid 10 Cents to Sew $80 Peyton Manning Jerseys,” says that for the past four years the 550 workers—about 80 percent women—at the Chi Fung factory in San Salvador were forced to work unpaid overtime, cheated of wages and harassed by managers. One worker told the NLC investigators:
We knew the shirts were expensive. But now we realize the real price is $80, it makes us angry, because it isn’t fair that they pay us such a low wage. The people [who buy these jerseys] don’t imagine everything we have to bear in the factory when we sew these shirts.
With just one $80 shirt, they pay our wages for two weeks. It could be said that with the cost of a single shirt, I have to maintain my family for two weeks. The supervisors are right when they say to us that our wage is not enough to pay for a jersey if we make a mistake.
According to the report, in 2000 Reebok agreed to pay the NFL $250 million over the next 10 years to be the exclusive apparel distributor for the league.
However, the NFL-Reebok mega-deal has done nothing to lift workers across the developing world who sew NFL jerseys out of poverty.
The report says that in 2006 and 2007, it appears that the NFL jerseys being sewn at Chi Fung were a subcontract order from another garment factory called Partex.
In 2008 and 2009, it is unclear if Reebok placed the orders for its exclusive line of NFL jerseys with Chi Fung directly, or whether production continued under subcontract agreements. At any rate, according to Chi Fung’s website, they are an “approved Reebok producer.”
The base wage in El Salvador’s garment factories is 72 cents an hour and overtime is supposed to be paid as double time, or $1.44. The mandatory workweek at Chi Fung is 61 to 65 hours, including 12-hour shifts Monday through Thursday and “12 to 15 hours of obligatory overtime, which is unpaid.”
At Chi Fung, the report says, an assembly line of 28 workers had a mandatory production goal of completing 2,300 NFL jerseys a day or 255 jerseys per hour.
Which meant that each of the 28 workers, in effect, had to sew nine jerseys per hour or one jersey every 6.6 minutes. The workers were paid just 10 cents for each $80 Peyton Manning NFL jersey they sewed. This means that their wages amounted to just a little more than one-tenth of one percent of the jerseys’ retail price.
The report also says cameras were placed throughout the plant, including by the bathrooms, and if a manager monitoring the cameras:
sees a worker is taking too long to use the bathroom, he’ll shout: Hurry up! Sit down fast. Don’t take so much time. You’re hurting production! For the workers, it is humiliating to be embarrassed and harassed in front of the other workers.
In a statement, Reebok disputed the claims in the NLC report and says it regularly conducts inspections and audits of the plant to monitor the working conditions. But according to the NLC report, workers are threatened with dismissal or a complete factory shutdown if they speak out during the inspections. In addition,
the auditors spend more time and attention on the quality of the garments than on factory conditions. During the audits, production goals are drastically cut back, the pace of production slows down and there is no forced overtime. But the short reprieve is a mixed blessing since when the auditors depart, the supervisors start yelling and urge the workers to “work faster to replace the time lost because of the auditors visit.”
Click here to read the full report.
Union leaders praised President Obama’s announcement yesterday of federal loan guarantees for the construction of two advanced reactors at the Plant Vogtle nuclear power station in Georgia. They said it is a major step forward in addressing the nation’s energy needs as well as creating badly needed jobs. And they urged the president to ensure all the components used in the plant are made in America.
Obama made the announcement during a visit to an apprenticeship training facility in the Washington, D.C., suburbs that is jointly administered by Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 26 and local electrical contractors. Check out a video of the announcement here.
IBEW President Edwin Hill said:
The loan guarantee for construction of a nuclear plant in Georgia is a prime example of what needs to be done to address the jobs crisis in our nation. The public and private sectors must work together. The jobs must go to people in the local areas so that their wages can be pumped back into the local community. And the fact that the project will help address our critical need for clean, reliable, safe energy is a major plus.
The IBEW and the other building trades unions have long supported federal loan guarantees for the construction of nuclear power facilities. Mark Ayers, president of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD), said the announcement is “an acknowledgment that our nation is in need of a comprehensive and sensible national energy policy that will strengthen our economic and national security.”
Our growing needs for affordable energy, combined with price volatility, dependence upon politically unstable regimes that supply much of our oil and gas, and global climate change concerns demands that nuclear power be a central part of the discussion over our national energy policy.
United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard sent a letter to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko asking that all components for nuclear facilities in the Plant Vogtle project be made in this country. In a statement, Gerard said:
…at a time of high unemployment and a continuing economic crisis, we need to utilize every policy tool available to create jobs and promote domestic economic growth. Sourcing key components from foreign nations—China, most specifically—could put in jeopardy our citizens’ safety and undermine efforts to promote economic growth and job creation.
By making the announcement at Local 26’s Joint Apprenticeship Training Center, Obama recognized the important role that skilled craft training programs will play to ensure that a revitalized nuclear industry is coupled with high-road jobs and careers, Ayers said.
Hill added that the Plant Vogtle project will help create jobs in other industries such as construction, manufacturing of parts for these plants as well as skilled personnel needed to run them.
Eight college students and recent graduates traveled to Delaware last month for training to become union organizers. They participated in AFSCME’s Alternative Union Break, a weeklong, intensive course conducted by AFSCME organizers and other labor unionists. The course helps participants learn about the union movement, the importance of standing in solidarity with others and the basics of organizing.
The eight Union Break students also visited the workplaces and homes of Delaware state employees who are seeking respect, fair pay and a voice on the job. Two Alternative Break students, Roxanne Winston and Charles Holm, accepted jobs with AFSCME as organizers-in-training when the class ended.
In a post on AFSCME’s website, Winston says meeting workers face to face was eye-opening.
It pushes you out of your comfort zone and challenges you. You’re a complete stranger to them, but they’re sharing intimate details of their lives with you. It motivated me to want to do this work.
Alternative Union Break is open to college seniors and recent graduates who are considering a career in union organizing. For more information, and to apply for upcoming sessions, click here.