||Left to Right: Jay Schwartz of IBEW 520, Lee Forbes, Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller and 5 Points Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kevin Giesalhart
Texas AFL-CIO communications director Ed Sills sends us this report.
The Texas AFL-CIO donated $150 gift cards to nine Central Texas volunteer fire departments that battled the rash of summer blazes.
Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller and Director of Human Relations Lee Forbes praised the departments for their bravery during the long struggle to protect life and property in blazing summer heat. Bastrop and many other Texas counties were declared federal disaster areas following the fires.
At a meeting of volunteer departments in Cedar Creek where the cards were presented, Moeller said:
The generosity of union members and friends in setting up the Wildfire Relief Fund made a difference to many working families who received gift cards to buy work tools and other necessities that might otherwise have fallen through the cracks in the aftermath of losing homes and, in some cases, livelihoods. As always, the labor movement makes disaster response a high priority in our operations. We hope the wait for such activity is very, very long, but we must always be prepared.
These volunteer departments are the 3-N-1 Volunteer Fire Department in Smithville, the Five Points department in Bastrop, the Bluebonnet department in Cedar Creek, the Bastrop department, the Elgin department, the Smithville department, the Heart of the Pines department in Smithville, the McDade department and the Paige department.
In landslide (94-16) victory Friday, registered nurses at Chicago’s Jackson Park Hospital voted to join National Nurses United (NNU). Says RN Leshaun Williams:
This is a victory for the nurses and the South Side of Chicago. Together we realized unity is the best way to advocate for our patients and preserve respect for the registered nurse.
Safe staffing and respect for the RNs were key issues for 150 nurses. The hospital has been in the news lately for charges of harassment against RNs, and recently settled an employment racial discrimination suit with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission for making African American female workers perform assignments their male counterparts were not required to do. Says RN Patricia Drake:
The election was long overdue and with NNU we will have a voice with collective bargaining to enable RNs to deliver the best quality care possible for our patients.
The election win is one in a recent series in the Chicago area. NNU now represents nearly 4,200 RNs in greater Chicago, including nurses at the nearby University of Chicago Medical Center, where RNs last year won their first NNU contract with significant gains in patient care protections and RN standards.
A New York Times editorial hit the mark Sunday when it castigated Republican lawmakers for pushing so-called right to work (RTW) laws in states like Indiana and correctly connected this anti-worker agenda with a similar assault on voting rights. Both moves are financed by a little-known organization funded by extremists like the Koch brothers.
Many Republican leaders are adopting model legislation proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a national corporate-financed conservative organization that is also assisting the Republican push to require voter identification cards to suppress the vote of minorities, young people and other constituencies that tend to favor the Democratic Party.
The editorial points out how the assault is one that undercuts workers’ most valuable asset: their strength in numbers to bargain collectively for a fair deal at the workplace and to mobilize together to elect lawmakers who will back working families. RTW laws undermine all that and, in doing so, cut at the economic underpinning of America’s middle class.
…over the last three decades, economists have found that unionization has a minimal impact on growth and employment in an entire state or country. In fact, six of the 10 states with the highest unemployment have right to work laws. North Carolina, a right to work state, has a private-sector unionization rate of 1.8 percent, the lowest in the nation. It also has the sixth highest unemployment rate: 10 percent.
Unionized workers earn more and get more generous benefits. In 2010, wages of workers in unionized manufacturing companies in Indiana were 16 percent higher than in nonunion plants. One study concluded that the decline in unionization since the 1970s is responsible for one-fifth to one-third of the growth in inequality in this country. Voters, unionized or not, should recognize the new “right to work” push for what it is: bad economics and cynical politics.
Mention Louisiana swamps and likely the first thing that comes to mind is alligators—big alligators and lots of them. Wayne “Kip” Benoit, a United Steelworkers (USW) Local 750 member from Boutte, La., knows his way around swamps and gators and, in the latest episode of “Brotherhood Outdoors,” guides show host Tom Ackerman on an airboat alligator hunt.
The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA‘s) hunting and fishing series airs Thursday, Jan. 12, at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. EST on the Sportsman Channel.
While the lifelong Louisianan uses his airboat for hunting adventures, when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, he used it to help rescue and transfer patients from the intensive care unit of a New Orleans hospital to the ambulances waiting on high ground.
Heading down streets in a city covered by the flood with people wading by up to their necks in water was like being in one of those doomsday movies, something Spielberg might make; it was just unreal. People were stunned and, for the most part, very quiet and very cooperative.
Read more about Benoit and the gator hunt from USA’s Ken Barrett here, and click here for photos.