Last Friday a U.S. District Court Judge tapped 12 ground zero responders to be the first who will have their cases tried regarding illness allegedly caused by the World Trade Center collapse. New York City is facing more than 9,000 lawsuits regarding health problems after being exposed to air at the site. The complaints revolve around accusations that the city failed to provide the necessary equipment for protection. The chosen workers are a diverse mix including firefighters, utility workers, police officers, and others.
Workers are on the chopping block as states and cities continue to bridge budget gaps. Jesse Russell reports:
By Doug Cunningham
Melanie Shouse lost her life recently to cancer – after missing critical treatment due to a struggle to find affordable health insurance. Today in Washington D.C. a rally will welcome “Melanie’s Marchers” to the capitol as they march the final mile to the health care reform finish line in a demand for health care reform now. Antoinette Kraus is one of the marchers who walked from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. to tell Congress that health care reform is an urgent life or death matter.
By Doug Cunningham
The Senate is expected to vote this week on a $15 billion Senate jobs bill that extends the federal highway program and send some aid to state and local governments. But AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka says without bigger and bolder actions it’s like putting a Band-Aid on an amputated limb. Trumka says we need ten million jobs and Wall Street and the rich must pay to rebuild the economy and the middle class they destroyed.
Hundreds of workers braved the cold Washington, D.C., weather today to send a message to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA): Give transportation security officers (TSOs) who protect the flying public the opportunity to protect themselves with the right to bargain a union contract.
“Chanting Union Rights for TSOs,” members of dozens of unions rallied at AFL-CIO headquarters this morning. Speaking within earshot of the White House, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker said:
“It is way past time for the Obama administration to give the TSOs their right to bargain collectively and hold their election so they can sit down at the table with management, start the negotiations and change their lives for the better.”
AFGE yesterday filed a petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) for an election to allow the 41,000 TSOs to vote on union representation. In 2003, the Bush administration stripped the workers of collective bargaining rights.
Although TSA workers have been denied the freedom to bargain collectively, 13,000 of them are members of AFGE, which regularly represents them before the TSA Disciplinary Review Board, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Congress and the courts.
Kimberly Kraynak, a TSA worker at Pittsburgh International Airport, told the crowd:
The time is now for change at TSA.
The AFL-CIO and affiliated unions are mobilizing to draw attention to the plight of these workers and the unfair ways they are being treated. Even though federal border guards, immigration and customs and Federal Protective Service employees have collective bargaining rights, TSA employees still do not.
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler told the rally the union movement “will not rest until the TSOs are treated equally” with other Homeland Security employees who have the right to bargain a contract.
AFGE President John Gage took head-on arguments by conservatives in Congress that allowing TSOs to have a union contract would jeopardize national security. He cited union members who have acted heroically when national security was threatened, such as the first responders to the Sept. 11, 2001, bombings and the police officers who shot a gunman who killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas. Gage said:
The national security argument is an insult to AFGE, the AFL-CIO and every union member. Don’t tell me that being in the union movement doesn’t do anything but good for national security.
Other speakers at the rally included Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Communications Workers of America (CWA) President Larry Cohen, Flight Attendants-CWA President Patricia Friend, National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President Paul Rinaldi, Letter Carriers (NALC) President Fredric Rolando, Transport Workers (TWU) Executive Vice President Harry Lombardo, Machinists (IAM) Vice President Robert Roach and Metropolitan Baltimore Council of AFL-CIO President Ernest Grecco.
Good Jobs Now, the AFL-CIO’s new interactive website, gives workers, people who have lost their jobs and activists a chance to take action, share their stories, find resources and, most importantly, be part of a grassroots movement to help the nation climb out of its 10-million jobs hole created by the recession.
Just launched this morning, Good Jobs Now’s first featured action is a petition calling on Whirlpool Corp., to reverse its decision to close its Evansville, Ind., plant and send work to Mexico, eliminating 1,100 good jobs.
As the AFL-CIO’s Good Jobs Now mobilization heats up in the coming weeks, you will be able to find events in your area so you can join the growing movement demanding that lawmakers focus on job creation and hold corporations like Whirlpool and big Wall Street banks accountable for their economic damage.
To help build and connect a community of job activists, the new site gives workers, employed and jobless, the opportunity to share their stories, photos and videos of how the job crisis has affected them, their families and communities, as well as ideas about the best ways to solve the job crisis and help rebuild the middle class. You also can read and comment on the stories.
Good Jobs Now also includes a video section on rallies, marches and other jobs action, including a video from a Sacramento jobs rally earlier this month and several with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka discussing vital economic issues. There is also a section with the latest on jobs rallies from the field.
There are downloadable tools for activists and union leaders, including information on ways to help families hit by the jobs crisis, developing infrastructure jobs and putting people back to work. Good Jobs Now features a detailed look at the AFL-CIO’s five-point national jobs agenda and the federation’s detailed state jobs agenda.
You will find links to other important jobs sites, including the AFL-CIO’s and Working America’s Unemployment Lifeline, the Machinists’ new UCubed website, Union Plus’ Union Safe Layoff Assistance for Union Members and the AFL-CIO Center for Green Jobs.
Go ahead and check it out, let your friends and co-workers know and let’s all come together to solve the job crisis.
Saying today’s young workers are the “guinea pigs of the new normal economy,” AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler called for a new national economic strategy that addresses the real needs of young people in the workforce and creates good jobs that provide the security and prosperity previous generations enjoyed.
Speaking at the national conference of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), one of the union movement’s staunchest allies, this past weekend in Knoxville, Tenn., Shuler said the union movement must reach out to its younger members and young workers in general. She said the AFL-CIO is convening a national youth summit in June 2010 to explore ways younger workers can become even more involved in helping build the kind of country we all want to live in. Click here to read the full speech.
Shuler is leading AFL-CIO efforts to engage youth organizations, online communities and young people in and outside of unions about their needs, hopes and expectations in this tough economy and for the future.
Shuler told the USAS members:
There’s no question that the union movement needs your skills, your energy, your ideas, your leadership.
And I believe you need us, too, because I am looking right now into the faces of the first generation of America’s young people who may be left worse off than their parents by today’s economic crisis.
She cited a recent AFL-CIO survey of workers between the ages of 18 and 34, which showed one in three young workers worries about being able to find a full-time job with benefits. Only 31 percent make enough money to cover their bills and put some aside—and 31 percent are uninsured. Less than half have retirement plans at work.
There are many issues common to workers regardless of age, Shuler said, including health care reform, retirement security and workers’ freedom to join a union. But the biggest need right now, she said, is for more jobs.
Every one of us needs to push for public investments to create jobs and put people to work in this struggling economy. America needs to be a provider of solutions to the world’s great problems—not an exporter of financial crises and low-road business practices.
By involving young union members and workers more in the union movement, we can take back our country, Shuler said.
Let’s work together in these fights for America’s future—for your future. I refuse to believe that all the corporate dollars in the world can beat us when we are united.
The U.S. Senate cleared the way last night for a vote this week on a jobs bill that must be just the first step in closing the nation’s staggering 10 million jobs deficit created by years of Wall Street recklessness and failed Bush-era economic policies.
By a 62-30 vote, the Senate broke a filibuster against the bill. Five Republicans voted to end the filibuster and one Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), voted against the cloture motion.
The bill includes a one-year extension of the federal highway program, aid to state and local governments for school, energy and other infrastructure projects and tax incentives for employers to hire workers. But AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says that without “bigger and bolder actions” the $15 billion legislation:
is merely a Band-Aid on an amputated limb. [Majority Leader] Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said this bill is just the first step and more actions need to be and will be taken. We couldn’t agree more….We need 10 million jobs and Wall Street and the rich—who have benefited for years from Bush’s economic policies—need to pay to rebuild the economy and middle class they destroyed.
Following last night’s vote, Reid told reporters that the bill:
is not the only jobs bill that we’re going to be dealing with. We have a jobs agenda, not a jobs bill. We’re not going to stop until every American who wants a job can get one.
Trumka says the AFL-CIO’s five-point jobs program is the model around which effective jobs legislation should be built. It includes:
- Extending unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, food assistance and health benefits;
- Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and investing in green jobs;
- Increasing aid to state and local governments to maintain vital services, especially schools and public safety;
- Increasing funding for neglected communities to match people who want to work with jobs that need to be done;
- And using leftover bank bailout funds to get credit flowing to small businesses for job creation.
America’s workers need jobs now. We need action from Washington now. The Senate should bring big and bold jobs bills to the floor. It’s time to let the American people know where their representatives stand on the most crucial issue of our time—and it’s time for action, not excuses.
Republicans voting to end the filibuster were Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Scott Brown (Mass.), George Voinovich (Ohio), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Christopher Bond (Mo.).