IKEA workers in Italy went on strike late last week over what they say are “unacceptable” working conditions. Some of the conditions include timing toilet breaks, telling workers they can’t chew gum, and intimidation. The store being targeted is in Milan and is reportedly the company’s second largest in the country. In December workers at a Corsico Ikea called a strike due to excessive workloads and managerial intimidation. The company and the union representing the workers plan to meet today.
Kansas is extending new protections to certain workers. Jesse Russell reports.
Social workers in Kansas received new protections last week as Governor Mark Parkinson signed a bill that would require safety training for new social workers. Social workers would be required to take six hours of safety training during the process they undergo for obtaining a license. The bill is in honor of Teri Zenner who was murdered by a client six years ago. The new law is expected to help social workers to have a better understanding on how to diffuse or avoid unsafe situations.
By Doug Cunningham
SEIU says rumors of the impending resignation of SEIU President Andy Stern will be addressed after this week’s SEIU Executive Council meeting in Washington. SEIU board members have reportedly said Stern plans to step down.
By Doug Cunningham
[Rich Trumka]: “America is 11 million jobs in the hole. And not since the Great Depression have so many workers been out of work so long. It’s a record.”
Wall Street has not learned its lesson from the nation’s economic crisis. Far from it: CEOs have gone back to business as usual and the American people must stand up and take the economy back, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said today.
During a live webcast announcing the launch of the 2010 AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch, Trumka said the nation’s Big Six banks helped destroy 11 million jobs and they should start paying to restore those jobs. Yet the banks, all of which accepted federal bailouts, are paying out obscene salaries and bonuses to executives while withholding the credit that small businesses need to create jobs. At the same time, they’re spending millions to lobby against meaningful financial reform that could prevent a future crisis. The webcast was live-tweeted on the AFL-CIO website.
Trumka said working Americans will take their concerns straight to Wall Street on April 29 with a massive demonstration. Some 200 events already have been held nationwide at branches of the six Big Banks—Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo. He urged viewers to
let Wall Street know that hard-working Americans are not going to be their ATM.
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), a special guest on the webcast, said the problem with Wall Street is that “heads they win, tails we lose.” These banks are challenging the fundamentals of capitalism, Grayson said, in which winners win and losers lose.
Instead, we see these enormous compensation packages going to people who brought us to the brink of national bankruptcy. This has to end. It’s going to end one way or another. The question is if it’s going to end in a strong America or is it going to end in tears.
Saying the future of the country is at stake, Grayson praised the union movement as the “strongest proponent of good government in the country.”
We live in a world where the union movement doesn’t stand for…[its] members, but it stands for all America. It stands for the 309 million Americans who want to see America succeed and have a good life for middle-class Americans.
In answer to questions submitted by webcast viewers, Trumka said we can hold Wall Street accountable by passing financial reform that creates an independent consumer financial regulatory agency that can rein in the practices of Wall Street.
He also called for giving long-term shareholders like union pension funds access to corporate proxies to nominate persons to the boards of directors that determine who is CEO and how much they are paid, he said.
Trumka also urged viewers to contact their members of Congress to demand real financial reform. You can take action and urge your representative and senators to vote for financial reform here at the PayWatch site.
Gavin Riley taught in California’s public schools for 37 years. Today, the retired California Federation of Teachers member is in the 40th day of a 48-day, 250-mile March for California’s Future. Riley wants nothing less than to save the school system that educated him in the 1950s and 1960s, and where he in turn taught thousands more.
Sponsored by the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), AFSCME and a coalition of labor, education and faith groups, the march is drawing attention to the state’s budget crisis and the devastating impact of budget cuts on Californians now and into the future.
At the California Progress Report, Riley writes that during the weeks he and the other marchers have been on the road from Bakersfield, through the San Joaquin Valley and then onto Sacramento,
[o]ur walk has allowed us to see ample evidence of the crisis: crumbling road and irrigation systems, high unemployment, foreclosed houses everywhere, overcrowded classrooms courtesy of teacher layoffs, people living under highway overpasses with few social services available, fallow farm fields and closed processing plants, to name just a few. About the only thing growing seems to be the number of new prisons in the Valley, an ironic epitome of the problem.
He recalls famous marches for justice in the 1960s, especially the 1966 march from Delano to Sacramento by César Chávez and the Farm Workers. Their march raised Californians’ awareness of the terrible plight of agricultural workers and is a model for the March for California’s Future.
That  march did not end the problem, but it was the tipping point in changing the dynamic for farm workers….Today we are in need of another game changer in California.
Our hope is that this march, which actually covers more ground than the original UFW march, and the final climatic rally on the steps of the Capitol will have a similar long-term impact. We hope that the elements of the crisis in public education, public health and public safety that we are talking about at every stop will become visible to the voters of California, in much the same way the farm workers’ march helped the people of California and nation awaken to their plight.
Read his entire column here.
Riley is one of seven marchers, including five current or retired CFT members, who are making the entire march. Along the way, hundreds of firefighters, nurses, in-home care workers, students and police officers have joined and will join the marchers for parts of their 250-mile trek to the state capitol in Sacramento.
Many of the core marchers and those who join on the way are filing updates on the march. Click here to read their reports.
The march ends April 21 with a huge rally at the state capitol.
During his first month in office, President Obama issued an executive order encouraging agencies to require the use of project labor agreements (PLAs) on large-scale construction projects. Today, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (FAR) issued the final rule that implements the order.
Says Mark Ayers, president of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department:
Contrary to claims by those who oppose these agreements—who subscribe to a “race to the bottom” mentality, where success is predicated on the ability to assemble a low-wage, easily exploitable workforce—PLAs have proven over and over that they are a valuable, market-based tool that ensures superior jobsite management, project efficiencies, and workforce productivity and development.
Project labor agreements are pre-hire collective bargaining agreements that establish the terms and conditions of employment for a specific construction project.
Numerous cost-conscious and profit-oriented private corporations, such as Disney, Toyota, Southern Company, ENG Energy and Constellation Energy, have embraced the benefits of PLAs, Ayers said.
These companies, just like a growing number of state and local governments, utilize these agreements to not only ensure an “on-time, on-budget” return on their investments, but to also create career training opportunities for local citizens.
U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis says PLAs are a “win-win” situation.
They benefit businesses, workers and taxpayers. I’ve seen the track record in cities like Los Angeles—high-quality work on projects done on time, on budget and good job and training opportunities that strengthen our communities.
A sixth worker has died after an April 2 explosion at a Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Wash., where five United Steelworkers members died in the blast. A seventh worker remains hospitalized.
Lew Janz, 41, died last night. He was a supervisor who had been a longtime union member. Union leaders say Janz was very well-liked by other union workers. Matt Gumbel, 34, a USW member, remains in the Seattle Harborview Medical Center burn unit in serious condition.
The other USW members killed in the blast were Matthew C. Bowen, 31; Darrin J. Hoines, 43; Daniel J. Aldridge, 50; Kathryn Powell, 29; and Donna Van Dreumel, 36.
According to the USW, Tesoro has a history of serious health and safety violations. The Associated Press reports that Washington State Department of Labor and Industries
fined the company $85,700 last April for 17 serious safety and health violations, defined as those with potential to cause death or serious physical injury. The fine was lowered in a settlement with the company, which required Tesoro to correct hazards and hire a third-party consultant to do a safety audit.
Also, inspectors found 150 instances of deficiencies and said the company did not ensure safe work practices and failed to update safety information when changes were made to equipment.
In a blog post yesterday calling for stronger new workplace safety laws, USW President Leo W. Gerard wrote that both the Tesoro refinery and the Massey Energy Co.’s Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, where 29 coal miners were killed in an April 5 explosion, had long and troubling records of safety violations.
When an explosion occurs at a refinery or mine that has been repeatedly fined for heath and safety violations, one question that ought to be asked is just how unexpected was the event.
Answering this question is essential because less time plus less money spent on safety measures equals more profit for owners. America must introduce new factors into that computation to protect the lives and limbs of workers who produce the energy on which this country depends. One factor is larger safety violation penalties—fines and shutdowns costly enough to outstrip profitability. And when corporations consider fines just another cost of doing business, another crucial factor is the ability to charge CEOs with criminal negligence when their corporations flagrantly violate safety regulations—an important enforcement tool that other countries have written into law.
Click here to read his entire column.