I love living in Greensboro. When I moved here a little over three years ago, I found it easy to make friends and become part of the community. I especially liked the beautiful public parks and green spaces that the city offers its residents.
Even in a strong community like ours, however, I’ve seen people struggling. I joined Working America recently because I was tired of seeing elected officials pass policies that rigged the economy to benefit wealthy billionaires at the expense of working families. Fighting for good jobs and a just economy starts with paying workers fairly, and that’s why I believe it’s time to raise the minimum wage.
This is an important issue: Six years ago the federal minimum wage was raised to $7.25 an hour, and it hasn’t been touched since. Wages for North Carolinians have been stagnant since the minimum wage was last raised in 2009, while prices for life’s daily necessities have continued to go up. But we can do something concrete to address the problem: Raise the minimum wage for folks working for the city.
Many of the folks affected by the frozen minimum wage are the same ones who make Greensboro a great place to live. They’re city workers, and they keep our streets clean and safe. They maintain our parks and trails, and they run our libraries and clean our public buildings. Putting more money in their pockets immediately pumps needed dollars back into our local economy and helps keep our city beautiful. It’s a win-win, and it’s been proven in other places.
Working families are already struggling to make it in this economy. Everyone could use a raise, and paying low-wage workers, especially city workers, a family wage helps raise the bar and sets a powerful example for local employers. Six years is long enough – now is the time for the Greensboro community to do the right thing for working men, women and families and raise the minimum wage.
Tags: greensboro, minimum wage, North Carolina, wages
As dozens of organizers and union members came together to celebrate the 2015 Oregon AFL-CIO Organizing Summit, they were joined by two unlikely leaders of the latest group of people organizing for good jobs and fair pay — licensed massage therapists (LMTs). Not many people think of massage therapists as activists, but they haven’t met Charlie Cavallo and Janet Weiser … yet!
Janet and Charlie are two Portland-based licensed massage therapists (LMTs), and their work is part of something exciting that is happening among the city’s massage therapists.
The pair is part of a growing team of LMTs who are standing up to make their jobs better. Despite years of training, many massage therapists face low pay, long hours and strenuous, physical work. Because of this, therapists have high rates of injuries, and many of them struggle to pay off large student debts with a meager paycheck.
These problems have grown all the worse with the spread of large massage franchise chains, which do even more to drive down standards in the industry.
Recognizing that working conditions will only get better if they organize, dozens of therapists have now come together to form the Massage Advocacy Project (MAP).
“When I moved to Oregon in 2010 and started working for a popular spa, I felt pretty angry. I was working a lot and wasn’t happy with the pay and conditions, so I used to walk around saying to my co-workers, ’We need to have a union,’” said Charlie.
While few massage therapists have access to a traditional union with collective bargaining rights, the group has decided to go ahead and build a new kind of organization to raise standards and make their work lives better.
The pair participated in group discussions at the summit, and as the many groups of working people exchanged their stories, it became clearer just how much they all had in common. For Janet, participating in that group made a huge difference: “I felt inspired and welcomed by the group. We all face struggles surrounding our workplaces, and I felt that what was being said was actually being heard.”
That inspiration was felt by everyone who was there and heard about the MAP’s plans to raise wages and standards for therapists. That work was a source of pride for Charlie, who said, “I was proud to be there with Working America, and I’m really happy that they are working with massage therapists to improve conditions and increase awareness.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sets the record straight when it comes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Fast Track in this short audio clip. If you want to know what’s really happening on the trade front, give it a listen.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Corporate Accountability, fast track, labor, Richard Trumka, tpp, trade, union
This article was originally posted on Medium.
Earlier this month, the CEO of Reddit, Ellen Pao, announced the company would no longer allow employees to negotiate their salaries. Pao explained the move was an attempt to close the pay gap between women and men since, based on her experience, women are worse negotiators than men and as she put it, “From what I’ve heard from women, they…feel like there’s no way to win.”
Pao’s claim that some women lose out at the negotiating table is correct. And her instinct to take action and use her power as CEO to level the playing field is admirable. But her response misses the point of what’s really happening for women at work.
Women don’t need less negotiating power. They need more. And no one woman — CEO or front-line worker — can solve this problem alone.
Many hardworking women lose out on wages not because they are ineffective negotiators. Rather, they, along with their male colleagues, lack the power to come together to raise wages collectively.
As secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO and a woman who has dealt with her share of office politics, I understand the challenges that both Ellen Pao and Sheryl Sandberg describe on the job. But I have a very different solution.
I got my start in the labor movement working with the Electrical Workers (IBEW) union on an organizing campaign of clerical workers at Portland General Electric (PGE) in my home state of Oregon shortly after I graduated from college. While the power linemen at PGE were all union members, the clerical workers— mainly women — were not.
It became apparent that the linemen received good pay and benefits, thanks to their union contract; but the clerical workers did not have that collective power and lacked leverage to negotiate better pay and conditions in the workplace that they deserved. It wasn’t a big leap for the clerical workers to realize they too could raise their wages and secure benefits through a union contract like their linemen peers.
The labor movement views the struggle for women’s equality as a shared fight, especially considering women are the sole or primary breadwinners for 40% of families in the United States. Nearly 7 million women have a voice on the job due to their union membership and women in unions are more likely than their nonunion peers to have access to paid sick leave and family leave among other benefits.
And in direct response to Ellen Pao’s concern about the wage gap, union negotiated contracts narrow the pay gap between men and women significantly. In fact, a typical woman union member earns $222 a week more than a nonunion working woman. Most industries that are predominantly female like fast food and home health care pay low wages that often don’t even cover the basic necessities of life. These low wages act to keep women’s salaries down in every industry, not just in low-wage work.
The tech economy has changed a lot of things — from bitcoin to social media. But, unfortunately, some things have stayed the same. It’s hard to erase sex discrimination with a simple rule change and even harder to improve working conditions when employees aren’t allowed to sit across the table from their boss and negotiate.
But there’s a tried and true remedy to these problems. Why shouldn’t the women of Silicon Valley join a union if they want to close the gender pay gap?
And why shouldn’t they sit with their male colleagues and raise wages for workers across the board? Or negotiate workplace policies that ensure mothers and fathers are able to succeed at work and take care of their families?
Many high-tech workers already have said yes to a collective voice: From NASA engineers to professional, technical and other highly skilled workers at Boeing and computer scientists and technicians at AT&T. Tech workers have enjoyed the benefits of union membership for decades. Currently, groups of Silicon Valley workers such as shuttle drivers are trying to organize to gain a stronger voice on the job.
Even professionals at online blogs like Gawker are unionizing for a voice at work. If workers in new media can do it, anyone can. If people continue to re-imagine what a union can look like in their workplace and adapt the value of collective action to meet modern challenges — perhaps Reddit, too, can think about narrowing the pay gap by helping women and men negotiate better pay and a fair workplace through a union.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, labor, Liz Shuler, organizing, pay gap, Rights At Work, union, women
At today’s Citigroup shareholder meeting in New York City, AFL-CIO Office of Investment Director Heather Slavkin Corzo challenged the Wall Street bank’s influence in Washington. At the meeting, Corzo introduced a proposal to require disclosure of Citigroup’s government service golden parachutes.
As an investor in Citigroup, the AFL-CIO asked the company last November to explain why the company pays golden parachutes to executives who take jobs with the government. The AFL-CIO filed the shareholder proposal after Citigroup failed to respond to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s letter.
Among Citigroup’s highly placed alumni in Washington are Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who received as much as $500,000 worth of stock awards when he left Citigroup for a government job, and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman who collected more than $4 million when he joined the Obama administration.
Also on Citigroup’s ballot was a shareholder proposal requesting that the company disclose details of its lobbying efforts. Citigroup one of the biggest Wall Street spenders on lobbying in Washington, and this proposal would ensure transparency to shareholders on these expenditures.
Citigroup’s clout in Washington was on full display last December when the bank helped push through a law that gutted an important provision of the Dodd–Frank Act. The Citigroup-supported bill repealed a requirement for banks to “push out” risky derivatives trading into separate units that are not insured by taxpayers.
The AFL-CIO’s shareholder proposal on government service golden parachutes received 26.4% of the votes cast. The proposal also will go to a vote later this year at J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, citigroup, Corporate Accountability, labor, union
Despite significant advancements in workplace health and safety in the 44 years since the Occupational Safety and Health Act become law, today and every day 150 people will be killed on the job or die from job-related illnesses and diseases. That and other sobering statistics about the preventable deaths and injuries workers face each day are in the 2015 edition of the AFL-CIO’s annual Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect released today.
In 2013 (the latest figures available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) 4,585 workers were killed on the job, and some 53,000 died from occupational diseases. Also, nearly 3.8 million work-related injuries and illnesses were reported. The true toll is likely two to three times greater or 7.6 million to 11.4 million injuries a year. Said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:
No worker should be exposed to fatal injuries and illnesses at work, yet every day 150 men and women die from a work injury or occupational disease. Their deaths remind us that Americans still—in 2015—face too many dangers at the workplace.
The report includes state-by-state profiles of workers’ safety and health and features state and national information on workplace fatalities, injuries, illnesses, the number and frequency of workplace inspections, penalties, funding, staffing and public employee coverage under the OSH Act.
Here are some key facts from Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect:
North Dakota remains the most dangerous state for workers, with an average of 14.9 fatalities per 100,000 workers, more than four times the national average of 3.2 deaths per 100,000 workers. The next deadliest states for workers are Wyoming (9.5), West Virginia (8.6), Alaska (7.9) and New Mexico (6.7).
On the other hand (see graphic above), states with the highest union density are among the safest for workers, with 13 states ranked in the top 20 for both union density and lowest rates of workplace fatalities.
Death on the Job also finds that Latino and immigrant worker deaths, injuries and occupational illnesses are on the rise. In 2013, 817 Latinos died on the job—a rate 18% greater than the national average—and 66% of Latinos killed on the job were immigrants.
In the area of job safety enforcement to ensure employers are not violating workplace safety laws, the report says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) remain underfunded and understaffed.
In addition, penalties for employers who are found to be lawbreakers are weak. The average federal OSHA penalty for serious violations is just $1,972 and the median federal OSHA penalty for worker deaths is only $5,050. Of the 390,000 worker deaths since 1970, only 88 cases have been criminally prosecuted.
Also many important workplace and mine safety rules remain stalled, some due to administration inaction but mainly because of congressional Republican and corporate opposition. For example, in 2013, OSHA issued a rule that would reduce silica dust exposures and strengthen worker protections against silica, which causes lung cancer, kidney disease, autoimmune diseases and silicosis, a debilitating and irreversible lung disease. It is estimated the rule would save some 700 lives a year and prevent 1,600 cases of silicosis annually. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, the American Chemistry Council and other industry groups are lobbying against finalizing this commonsense rule.
You can join the workplace safety by clicking here to sign a petition telling Congress that workers need a stronger silica standard. Read the full Death on the Job report at www.aflcio.org/death-on-the-job.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Corporate Accountability, labor, Richard Trumka, Rights At Work, union, workplace, workplace safety
As the 2016 presidential battle begins to roll down the campaign trail toward Election Day 18 months from now, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “The labor movement’s doors are open to any candidate who is serious about transforming our economy with high and rising wages.”
In a live-streamed speech this morning from the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., Trumka said:
We have created an agenda for shared prosperity called raising wages. It will be our inspiration and our measuring stick throughout the presidential campaign. Raising wages is grounded in a fundamental idea—that we can become a high-wage society, a society in which the people who do the work share in the wealth we create.
He also stressed that the labor movement opposes Fast Track and:
We expect those who seek to lead our nation forward to oppose Fast Track. There is no middle ground, and the time for deliberations is drawing to a close.
Trumka pointed to the skepticism and cynicism many voters feel, especially after nearly two generations national leaders have either “taken steps that worsened inequality or fiddled around the edges, trying to raise wages in an economy fundamentally built to lower wages.”
President Obama has spent much of his presidency getting our nation out of a deep economic crisis. Now we have an economy where GDP is up, and the stock market is up, but wages remain flat—and this has happened again and again since the 1970s. Once again, America is emerging from an economic crisis—but those of us who count on paychecks are not. And that’s not an accident. Workers are being held down on purpose.
He said the decline in wages, soaring corporate profits and booming CEO pay are not the result “of the wandering and clumsy hand of capitalism.” Instead, he said:
Since the 1980s, the growing political power of the wealthiest among us has rewritten our labor laws, our trade laws, our tax laws, our monetary policies, our fiscal policies, our financial regulations…all to push wages down and to increase corporate profits, to put speculation over private investment and tax cuts over public investment.
The results, Trumka said, are runaway inequality, unemployment, falling wages, rising economic insecurity, collapsing infrastructure and deteriorating national competitiveness—all driven by gigantic imbalances in economic and political power.
In the 2016 campaign, “there will be no place to hide for those who aspire to lead America,” he said.
The problems of income inequality and stagnant wages are so clear, so abundant, that only direct, sweeping action to change the rules will put our nation on a fresh path of progress. We are hungry for a path to a prosperous 21st century. And America’s workers know that the first step on that path is raising wages.
But he emphasized that a raising wages agenda is a broad vision that includes earned sick leave, full employment and fair overtime rules for workers. It also includes taxing Wall Street to pay for massive investments in infrastructure and education, so Wall Street serves Main Street, not the other way around and the ability for workers to bargain collectively with employers for good wages and benefits without fear of retaliation.
Any candidate who wants to appeal to workers has to put forth a bold and comprehensive raising wages agenda. They must be committed to investing in a prosperous future for America. They must have an authentic voice and a commitment, from the candidate down through his or her economic team, to see this agenda through to completion.
Read the full address here.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Corporate Accountability, fast track, Hillary Clinton, labor, Richard Trumka, Rights At Work, tpp, trade, union, wages
Minnesota has made a name for itself as a major hub of the retail industry – look no further than Target and Best Buy, both headquartered in the state. Yet, even as big retail stores reap billions in profits from eager shoppers, retail workers haven’t shared in those gains.
Now, that’s changing. By joining Working America, retail workers are gaining a stronger voice on the job and demanding corporate accountability. In 2014, workers took action to raise the state’s minimum wage, a low $6.15 an hour, and won. The new $9.50 base hourly wage takes the state from having one of the lowest minimum wages in the country to one of the highest when it fully kicks in by 2016, giving more than 325,000 Minnesotans a much-needed raise.
Retail workers from Working America are also joining together to work directly with their co-workers to change their specific workplaces and solve problems on the job.
Last fall, workers from a Twin Cities mall started talking about how they could win changes at their job. Associates faced low wages, and those working part time lacked health care. Workers faced racial discrimination, no paid sick days and safety challenges. One worker was assaulted by a customer and sustained a concussion while at work. Despite all this, managers had done little to address workers’ concerns, and morale on the job was low.
The workers wanted to do something about it.
The associates met regularly to set priorities and strategize about how to make things better. They circulated a petition calling for paid sick days and distributed surveys to see what co-workers wanted in a better workplace. After building support throughout the store, the members brought their concerns directly to management. They talked with supervisors and directors about the problems they and their co-workers faced and how they were coming together to address these challenges.
By standing united, they saw results.
Management announced shortly after the meeting that workers would be receiving wage increases, paid sick days and that benefits would be added for part-time workers.
Workers at this mall in Minnesota made it happen. They won needed improvements and gained a newfound confidence by talking with one another and uniting for a collective voice. We still have much to do. Workers at the mall continue to face low wages, safety concerns and other problems, but the group showed that by coming together, workers can create a better workplace.
The fight continues to give all retail workers the kinds of initial gains made at one Twin Cities mall. Retail workers are talking with state lawmakers about the need for paid sick days, and they’re leading the call for fair scheduling policies at the state and local level, testifying at a recent hearing.
To get involved in the fight for a better Minnesota for retail workers, contact Working America Minnesota.
Like Retail Working America on Facebook
Image via mo1229 on Flickr
Tags: minimum wage, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Paid Sick Days, retail, retail working america, scheduling, twin cities
You can help “Stamp Out Hunger” by joining with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) union on Saturday, May 9, in its 23rd annual food drive—the largest one-day food drive in the nation. Last year, letter carriers collected more than 72 million pounds of food. Since the annual drive began in 1992, more than 1.3 billion pounds of food have been collected and distributed by NALC members and community supporters.
All you need to do is collect canned goods and dry food, such as tuna, canned meat, soups, pasta, rice and cereal, and leave them in a bag or box by your mailbox. Your letter carriers will pick them up as they deliver your mail. Click here to learn more.
After letter carriers pick up your food donations, they will deliver the goods to local food banks, pantries and shelters to help needy families in 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states and U.S. jurisdictions.
Donations are given directly to local food pantries. While most food pantries get the bulk of their donations around Christmas and Thanksgiving, the NALC drive is done during the spring, when many food pantries are struggling. Also, since many school meal programs are suspended during summer months, millions of children are left scrambling to find alternate sources of nutrition and the food banks are a vital resource for families in need.
Click here to learn more.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, hunger, labor, NALC, union
Every year on April 28, the unions of the AFL-CIO observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew our efforts for safe workplaces. This year, the struggle continues to create good jobs in this country that are safe and healthy and pay fair wages and to ensure the freedom of workers to form unions and, through their unions, to speak out and bargain for respect and a better future.
Here are 11 facts about worker safety and health you should know in honor of Workers Memorial Day:
1. In 2013, more than 4,400 workers were killed on the job and more than 50,000 more died from occupational diseases.
2. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly 4 million workplace injuries and illnesses were reported. Research indicates that the numbers may be underestimated and may actually be two or three times greater than what BLS reports.
3. Certain occupations have much greater risk than others. These include agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, transportation, warehousing, mining and construction.
4. More than 8 million state and local public employees lack the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) protections while they face a 58% higher injury and illness rate than private-sector workers.
5. Latino workers have a workplace fatality rate 19% higher than the national average. The majority of these workers are immigrants.
6. There is no federal workplace standard (and few state standards) for workplace violence. Meanwhile there were more than 26,000 workplace injuries related to violence in 2013, including nearly 400 deaths. Women workers in health care and social assistance are most likely to face workplace violence.
7. Workplace suicides, many related to toxic work environments and bullying, increased by 8% in 2013.
8. The Occupational Safety and Health Act is more than 40 years old and is out of date. Millions of workers aren’t covered, workers’ rights are limited and penalties for violating the law are weak.
9. OSHA has fewer than 900 inspectors, meaning they can inspect workplaces, on average, once every 140 years. State OSHA inspectors amount to a little more than 1,000, meaning they can inspect workplaces once every 91 years.
10. Many workers face retaliation at work for raising job safety concerns or reporting injuries.
11. Most workplace chemical hazards are unregulated and the rules in place haven’t been updated since 1971.
Find a Workers Memorial Day event near you.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Corporate Accountability, labor, safety, union, Workers Memorial Day, workplace safety