Workers, unions and their community allies are on the march against banks in Los Angeles. Jesse Russsell explains.
After hosting a hearing in the Los Angeles City Council chambers on Wednesday city workers, union members, and others marched on banks in downtown. The message: banks need to do more to help solve LA’s budget crisis, stop foreclosures, and help put people back to work. During a conference call before the march LA City Councilmember Richard Alarcon explained what needs to be done to make the banks listen:
[Robin DeHaven]: “You didn’t know if the building was going to collapse, there was going to be explosions, fire, or what. And I just saw the smoke, saw the people and knew they needed help. They were trapped up there. One guy was yelling ‘Somebody help us!’”
Painter’s union member Robin DeHaven saved six lives with his ladder when that suicide plane crashed into the Austin Texas office building. The Iraq vet got his job through the Helmets To Hardhats program and knew how to stay calm in a crisis.
By Doug Cunningham
On Wednesday Wake-Up Wal-Mart kicked off a week of action on Wal-Mart’s sick leave policy of giving workers demerits that can lead to being fired if they call in sick. Jill Cashen is with the United Food and Commercial Workers.
[Jill Cashen]: “Shining the light on Wal-Mart and its irresponsible practice of issuing demerits to workers who called in sick, or do call in sick, attempting to use the sick leave that they have.”
Cashen says Wal-Mart has a responsibility to set a high employment standard, especially now when America is in such great need of good jobs.
In an internal newsletter at Whirlpool Corp.’s Evansville, Ind., plant, Paul Coburn, vice president of Whirlpool’s Evansville Division, says the decision to close the plant and kill 1,100 jobs will not be reconsidered and warns workers about attending a Friday rally protesting the shutdown:
…these negative activities will only hamper employees when they look for future jobs….We fear that potential employers will view the actions of a few and determine whether they would want to hire any of Evansville Division employees in the future.
You can read more about Coburn’s memo on The Huffington Post here.
Show solidarity with the Whirlpool workers, 900 of whom are members of IUE-CWA Local 808, by signing an online petition urging Whirlpool to reverse its decision and Keep It Made in America: Save Our Jobs. Click here to add your name to nearly 40,000 who already have signed the petition.
Despite Coburn’s letter, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will join Whirlpool workers at the Evansville plant Feb. 26 to deliver the petitions. The workers then will march from the plant to the IUE-CWA Local 808 union hall for a rally, where Trumka, workers and union and community leaders will speak.
In his letter to workers, Coburn unabashedly delivers a backhanded compliment to the workers, saying:
In the last six months we have delivered strong results in spite of having to see a good deal of our equipment taken out of the building and moved to its new location. I believe that it is a testament to your character that you have continued to work hard to preserve the positive reputation of the Evansville workforce during this period.
Says IUE-CWA President Jim Clark:
Whirlpool is a bad corporate citizen who is twisting this country’s desire to reduce energy usage and using it to export jobs. We are pushing hard to ensure that good intentions on going green don’t help fund loss of good manufacturing jobs.
Local 808 President Darrell Collins says:
Americans are sick of companies turning a blind eye to what is happening out there. They need to tell Whirlpool to act responsibly.
Whirlpool had revenues of more than $4.8 billion in the past quarter alone. The company also recently received $19 million as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Yet, the company is spending $110 million to build a new plant in Mexico.
The local received no advance notice of the closing announcement and had no opportunity to try to save the plant, Collins says. In the past, workers have accepted reduced wages and embraced cost-saving lean manufacturing techniques to save jobs.
Whirlpool sells the refrigerators, which have freezers on the top, under the Amana, Roper, Maytag, KitchenAid and Kenmore brand names.
The U.S. Senate this morning passed (70-28) a jobs bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promises “is not the only jobs bill or the last jobs bill we will bring to the floor.”
The next step likely will be a 30-day extension of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and COBRA health care subsidies for unemployed workers. Both jobless aid programs are set to expire Feb. 28, and in March alone, 1.2 million people will lose their UI lifeline and health care unless Congress acts.
But with long-term unemployment continuing to rise (currently at an all-time high of 40 percent of all unemployed) the program needs to be extended for at least one year, economists say. Reid says the 30-day measure is a stop-gap while congressional negotiators try to develop a longer-term solution. Click here to tell your senators to act now.
The U.S. House—which passed a far more extensive jobs bill earlier with an emphasis on jobs-creating infrastructure projects—is expected to vote on the Senate bill by the end of the week.
Today’s jobs bill includes a one-year extension of the federal highway program, an extension of the Build America Bonds program that helps states finance certain infrastructure projects and tax incentives for employers to hire workers.
But the nation’s staggering 11 million jobs deficit, created by years of Wall Street recklessness and failed Bush-era economic policies, requires far broader jobs legislation such as the AFL-CIO’s five-point jobs program, says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
We need much bigger and bolder actions to ensure that we create 10 million jobs and Wall Street pays the bill to fix the financial disaster.
The five-point plan includes:
- Extending 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.
On Tuesday night, the Senate broke a Republican filibuster against the bill. Several Republican senators who voted to block the bill Tuesday, cast “yes” votes today. Says Trumka:
In a turn of head-spinning hypocrisy, some Republican senators had the audacity to vote for a bill they voted less than 48 hours ago not to allow even to be considered. If these senators want to be seen as part of the solution, they must stop these procedural hijinks that are slowing down the Senate and hurting the recovery. Working families need jobs and are demanding real results from Washington.
Some 300 food, beverage and concession workers employed by HMSHost at Vancouver International Airport will return to work over the next two days after the company agreed to lift a lockout during mediation. The workers, members of UNITEHERE! Local 40, were locked out Feb. 18 after a one-day strike.
Local 40 members have been working without a contract since March 2009. The main issue in negotiations is job security. Sixty workers are set to lose their jobs after the Olympics ends. The workers say they also are standing together to fight for contract language that would provide job security for long-term employees when new food outlets open.
Mercy Dagsaan, a seven-year HMSHost employee, said workers picketed during the lockout “because we can express our rights.”
By staying on the picket line, we are telling them we need respect, justice and that we need a better wage, benefits and pension.
To read more about Local 40’s fight for a fair contract at Vancouver Airport, click here.
Two major union leaders announced their retirement this week. On Monday, the Bricklayers (BAC) Executive Council elected James Boland as the union’s new president succeeding John Flynn, who retired after more than 10 years. Boland previously served as BAC’s secretary-treasurer.
Yesterday, AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer William Lucy announced he will retire, after serving 38 years in that post. His retirement is effective June 25. Delegates to the AFSCME convention on June 28-July 2 in Boston will choose his successor.
A member of BAC Local 3 in California, Boland began working as a bricklayer and stone and marble mason. He joined the union’s Executive Board in 1995 and was appointed secretary-treasurer in 1999. Boland appointed Executive Vice President Henry Kramer as secretary-treasurer and Trade Jurisdiction Director Tim Driscoll as executive vice president.
Boland credited Flynn, who is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, with strengthening the union during his tenure, saying:
Our union is stronger today because of his vision and dedication.
Lucy, a civil engineer by trade, is a former president of AFSCME Local 1675 in Contra Costa, Calif. He joined the AFSCME international staff in 1966. Before assuming the position of secretary-treasurer in 1972, he served as executive assistant to AFSCME’s late president Jerry Wurf.
For more than three decades, Lucy has been involved in international affairs. He currently chairs the AFL-CIO Executive Council International Affairs Committee. He was one of the founders of the Free South Africa Movement that launched the successful anti-apartheid campaign in the United States in the mid 1980s. He led an AFL-CIO delegation to South Africa to monitor the first democratic election there. Lucy also serves as vice president of Public Services International (PSI), the world’s largest union federation.
AMLU President Shaun Francis says the umpires’ decision:
“is the next step in a progression toward improving the lives and working conditions of some of the hardest working and most underappreciated people in the game.”
The life of a minor league umpire is difficult, with low pay, no vacation or sick time and no ability to return home during the long season, which lasts from spring training in March to mid to late September. Salary for a minor league umpire starts at $1,800 per month and is only paid during the season, forcing the umpires to work a second or third job during the off-season.
The AMLU was formed in 2000. Prior to that, minor league umpires had been working without any representation. One of the umpires’ major goals was to secure health insurance, a benefit they were able to acquire for their members after several years of employment. Another was a ranking and promotion system to standardize movement up through the various leagues. Despite those victories and a 2006 strike that was honored by 100 percent of the minor league umpires, some key goals have not been reached.
OPEIU President Michael Goodwin says the union will help the umpires:
achieve the benefits and protections they need. We look forward to working with them to negotiate a strong contract that will afford them the respect they deserve and the salary and benefits they’ve earned.
The AMLU will now be known as AMLU/OPEIU Guild 322 (3 balls, 2 strikes, 2 outs!).
While state and local governments and school districts across the country struggle with budget deficits, AFSCME members are standing up to tell their elected representatives that raising revenues is the best solution to a budget crisis instead of cutting critical public services just when they are needed the most.
State and local governments and school districts have a $178 billion budget shortfall this year alone.
In Illinois, more than 3,000 activists, including hundreds of members of AFSCME Council 31, rallied at the state Capitol rotunda in Springfield this month to demand that lawmakers pass legislation to increase the individual income tax rate and expand the state’s sales tax base.
Meanwhile, some 1,500 AFSCME members from throughout New York State demonstrated and met with legislators in Albany earlier this month to find a fair way to protect essential public services.
AFSCME President Gerald McEntee told the New York State workers:
Elected leaders are on the verge of destroying vital public services and putting more people out of work. They’re jeopardizing the health and safety of the people and our communities.
In Maryland, a delegation of AFSCME members carried boxes of “Budget Fight Back” cards to their lawmakers in January. Signed by more than 3,000 state employees, the cards propose a plan to generate more than $2 billion in revenue to close a budget gap, including drawing on the state’s rainy day fund, expanding the sales tax to more services and increasing gas and alcohol taxes.
You can read more about efforts by AFSCME members in other states to save public services on AFSCME’s website here.