Minnesotans Understand That Raising the Minimum Wage Is A “Women’s Issue”

Last year, the Minnesota legislature came very close to raising their state minimum wage, which is one of the lowest in the country. The House passed a strong bill, H.F. 92, which would’ve raised the minimum wage to $9.50 and indexed it to inflation. Unfortunately, it stalled in the Senate.

Luckily, Minnesota’s two-year legislative cycle gives workers another chance at a raise. As soon as the session starts in February, the Senate could pass H.F. 92 and send it to Governor Mark Dayton for his signature.

But some DFL legislators are considering another route: combining the minimum wage increase with a package of other workplace reforms under the banner of the Women’s Economic Security Act of 2014.

“Minnesota’s economy is headed in the right direction, but not everyone is sharing in the gains. And when you dig underneath the first layer of economic challenges facing Minnesotans, we find that the people struggling to stay or step-in to the middle class are disproportionately women,” said Speaker of the House Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis), “The Women’s Economic Security Act aims to break down barriers to economic progress so that women–and all Minnesotans–have a fair opportunity to succeed.”

The Act combines a number of other provisions aimed at helping working women:

Private companies contracted by the state would be required to report on pay equity among their workers. The state’s Parental Leave Act, which guarantees workers six unpaid weeks off for the arrival of a new child, would be expanded. It would encourage women to enter non-traditional, high-wage occupations and boost small businesses owned by women. And it would bolster existing protections for victims of domestic violence.

Legislators in Nebraska and New York are also taking the route of a comprehensive package rather than a standalone minimum wage increase.

Conventional wisdom has held that men care about “pocketbook” issues like wages and taxes, while women are primarily motivated by so-called “women’s issues” like reproductive health and schools. But given the wide gender gaps in wages, salary, and overall workplace treatment, even as the number of female breadwinners increases, that approach is fading.

64 percent of minimum wage workers are women, and American women overall earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. 40 percent of all private sector workers, particularly in the female-heavy service industry, can’t take a single paid sick day. Working women caring for children face unique challenges like the rising cost of private childcare, and the percentage of women who are primary or co-breadwinners in their household is at an all-time high.

In Minnesota, whatever tactic is used to increase wages, the current stumbling block appears to be Senate Majority Leader Thomas Bakk (DFL-Cook). Sen. Bakk lead Senators to pass a bill increasing the minimum wage to a meager $7.75 last year, and his statements indicate a hesitance around a higher increase.

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Union Members Play Big Part in Super Bowl Game Plan

Sunday is the first outdoor, cold weather site Super Bowl in the game’s 48-year history. The frigid weather in the weeks leading up to the game and expected temps in the 20s and 30s won’t stop the thousands of union members who are bringing you the game. On the scene at MetLife Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands or behind the scenes at many facilities in the Metro New York-New Jersey area, union members are making the nation’s national party day possible.

So, as a preview before you sit back, open a beverage and eat far too many snacks that are far from healthy, we introduce Sunday’s starting union lineup.

Of course, on the field, the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos players are members of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), and the men in the striped shirts are members of the NFL Referees Association.

The announcers, camera operators, technicians, field workers and other hardworking folks bringing the game to your flat-screened football cave or favorite Broncos or Seahawks bar include members of SAG-AFTRA, Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA (NABET-CWA), Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Laborers (LIUNA).

The annual over-the-top halftime show is a down-to-the-second, choreographed, on-the-field, off-the-field 12-minute extravaganza made possible by the skills of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) and other performing artists. Anyone who takes in a show in the city likely will enjoy the talents of Actors’ Equity (AEA).

For the fans who head for the concessions, their hot dogs will be served and their beer will be drawn by men and women from UNITE HERE Local 100.

Away from the stadium, union members are making an impact, too. Folks taking the area’s huge mass transit system are being safely delivered to their destinations by members of the Transport Workers (TWU), Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and United Transportation Union (UTU).

A large number of the area’s hotels are staffed by members of unions of the New York Hotel Trades Council. Many of the firefighters, emergency medical personnel and other public service workers who are ensuring a safe and efficient Super Bowl week are members of the Fire Fighters (IAFF) and AFSCME.

Of course, the fans who flew in for the big game got there safely, thanks to aviation workers from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Air Line Pilots (ALPA), Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), Transport Workers (TWU) and Machinists (IAM).

Also, a big thanks to AFT and NFLPA for raising awareness about human trafficking during large sports events such as the Super Bowl.

Image via @northjerseybrk on Twitter

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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8 Reasons College Athletes Need a Union

Last spring, Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter approached National College Players Association (NCPA) President Ramogi Huma about help in getting college athletes more of a say in their own fate so they can improve playing conditions. Huma and Colter worked with the United Steelworkers (USW) and this week they filed the paperwork and cards with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), seeking to establish the first union for college athletes in history called the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA). The number of players who signed union cards wasn’t disclosed, but Colter expressed that it was more than enough for the process to move forward.

Colter explained the reasons he thought union representation was important for players:

The action we’re taking isn’t because of any mistreatment by Northwestern. We love Northwestern. The school is just playing by the rules of their governing body, the NCAA. We’re interested in trying to help all players—at USC, Stanford, Oklahoma State, everywhere. It’s about protecting them and future generations to come. Right now the NCAA is like a dictatorship. No one represents us in negotiations. The only way things are going to change is if players have a union.

As was bound to happen, the NCAA replied with some boilerplate nonsense and confidence that it didn’t have to do anything else to compensate or protect players who make member schools billions of dollars a year:

The NCAA responded with a statement from Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy who said, “student-athletes are not employees within any definition of the National Labor Relations Act,” and that there is no existing employment relationships between the “NCAA, its affiliated institutions or student-athletes.”

“This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education,” Remy said in the statement. “Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.”

The labor movement was quick to endorse the players desire for a union. USW is the union of record on the paperwork the players submitted. The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) also expressed support for theircollege counterparts.

USW President Leo W. Gerard said:

Too many athletes who generate huge sums of money for their universities still struggle to pay for basic necessities, and too many live in fear of losing their scholarships due to injury or accident….These students deserve some assurance that when they devote weeks, months and years of their lives to an academic institution, that they will not be left out to dry, without the same basic protections that we all expect from the institutions we serve.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka alluded to the challenges college athletes face being part of the larger labor struggle:

The lesson that strength comes from standing together is one Colter has learned fulfilling his 60-hour-plus weeks as a football player, and it is true for all workers, whether they teach school, build Volkswagens in Chattanooga, [Tenn.,] or serve as home health care workers.

With that context in mind, here are eight reasons college athletes need a voice on the field:

1. Sports can kill you: There are many stories over the years of college and high school football players dying because of on-field or practice-related problems, particularly concussions, like the one that killed Frostburg State University player Derek Sheely last year. Many players don’t think the NCAA does enough to protect the safety of players, and the NCAA is on record saying that it has no legal obligation to protect players from head injuries. The NCPA has developed a safety plan it wants the NCAA to adopt.

2. The costs of a sports-related injury are not covered by the college: The NCAA doesn’t require schools to cover the costs that athletes incur when they are injured in relation to their sport. These injuries have left players with debts that can exceed $10,000, with many of those injuries reducing a player’s ability to earn money to pay for those costs.

3. An injury can end a player’s education: If a player gets injured, even through no fault of their own, they can be dropped by the college. Many colleges do the right thing and let them continue going to school, but it isn’t required.

4. Only half of football and men’s basketball players graduate: One of the key arguments against increased compensation for players is that they’re “getting a free education.” But an incomplete education doesn’t do a whole lot to expand the career options of the vast majority of players who don’t play professional sports. If schools don’t prioritize graduation for these players, are they really providing them with a free education? Or are they exploiting them for their talent and then casting them aside?

5. Athletic scholarships don’t cover all of a player’s costs: A recent study has shown that, on average, a college athlete’s scholarship leaves them about $3,200 short of the costs of attending college each year. Players are not allowed to receive pay for work to cover that cost.

6. Players who fail to live up to expectations can be cast aside: When a player takes a chance on signing to play with a school and they don’t live up to that school’s expectations, that player can lose their scholarship and lose their opportunity at finishing their education. The NCPA is calling for these players to be given given non-athletic scholarships so they can finish their degrees, since they sacrificed other opportunities by signing with the school that no longer wants them.

7. Colleges make billions off of players, who get a tiny piece of that pie: The power conferences in football and men’s basketball make an estimated $5.15 billion annually off of the players. Beyond scholarships, players get no compensation, despite the fact that schools not only make money off of the players for the games and TV contracts, but also off of merchandising, particularly in the form of apparel and video games (although there has been some limitation of this type of revenue in recent years).

8. Players don’t control their own destiny: If a player thinks they could be better served or have more opportunity at another school, they don’t have a ton of options. Most transfers require players to sit out a year and to lose a year of eligibility, unless they transfer to a lower division school that offers less visibility and can limit their future prospects in their sport.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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The Best Punter in the Game Isn’t on the Seahawks or the Broncos: Punching In

President Obama hosts business summit to help long-term unemployed.

Key quote: “[It] will absolutely be a net win for the country. This is not a zero-sum games.”

School choice? In reality, ALEC-backed voucher programs don’t provide choice for students.

Special election victory in Texas House seat could be a harbinger for November.

The best punter in the game isn’t on the Seahawks or the Broncos. It’s Rick Snyder.

Ohio’s Gov. Kasich says “right to work” isn’t on his agenda. (Same thing Snyder said.)

Related: In Ohio, subtle and not-so-subtle forms of voter suppression still very active.

House Republican immigration proposal shows “callous attitude” toward immigrants, says AFL-CIO.

Super-rich Rep. Darrell Issa enlists allies in effort to demolish the USPS.

The stealth privatization of Pennsylvania’s bridges.

Finally: The sequester and the shutdown knocked off almost 25 percent of economic growth this past quarter.

13,000 Las Vegas Casino/Hotel Workers Ratify New Pact

The members of Culinary Workers Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165(both UNITE HERE locals) voted Tuesday to ratify a five-year contract with Caesars Entertainment covering the 13,000 members of both locals. The deal, which replaces the previous contract that expired in June, was approved by 97% of the voters.

The workers are employed a seven Caesars’ properties in the food and beverage, housekeeping, cocktails and the bell departments. Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer of Local 226, said:

Through negotiations, Caesars and the unions have worked together to reach an agreement that gives workers the opportunity to provide for their families. It is clear Caesars Entertainment is committed to the future of Las Vegas. The overwhelming support for the new contract shows members want a secure future with good jobs and strong benefits.

Elmer Portillo, a food server at Planet Hollywood, said, “This is a good contract for members because benefits and jobs are secured. I’m especially thankful to know my health care is protected for the next five years, that’s very important.”

The unions say the economic package, agreed to by both parties, mirrors exactly what has been agreed to by the unions and other employers. Workers will keep their high-quality health insurance. Changes were negotiated for food and beverage operations to allow for flexibility in closed and distressed venues with the goals of reopening shops and bringing workers back to their jobs. New housekeeping language will increase job safety by creating measures designed to deal with hazardous work conditions. Finally, a new program in the cocktails department will create jobs and maximize customer service.

Read more here.

The seven properties are Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood, Bally’s, Harrah’s, Rio and Flamingo. In November, the 21,000 workers at MGM Resorts International ratified a similar five-year contract. The employees work at Aria, Bellagio, Circus Circus, Slots A Fun, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Monte Carlo and the New York-New York Hotel.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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The Five States With the Lowest Quality of Life Have This In Common.

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Politico Magazine released a comprehensive report comparing all 50 states using 14 different indicators of quality of life. In their ranking, the five bottom states (Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama) are all so-called “right to work” states.

Four out of five of the states with the highest quality of living, according to the study, are free bargaining states: New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

The study confirmed something that more and more working Americans are learning every day: “right to work” laws are wrong for everyone.

Quick review: “Right to work” laws require unions to extend their services to all employees in a bargaining unit, whether or not they pay dues. By making dues optional, “right to work” laws force unions to spend more resources on collecting dues than on advocating for their members–both at the workplace and in the political arena. It’s a roundabout method of de-funding unions that has been instituted in 24 states.

The Politico Magazine study used rankings from the Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI, and data on math and reading scores, average income, life expectancy, crime, home ownership, infant mortality, and more.

As 2014 kicks off with legislators and big-money donors pushing “right to work” and other collective bargaining restrictions in–at the very least–Missouri, Oregon, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, it’s important to make it very clear what effects these laws actually have, versus what their proponents claim they have.

A few effects of “right to work” are not disputed by its proponents. The key sponsors of the collective bargaining restrictions Missouri, for instance, openly admit that wages would go down if the law is passed. Indeed, wages in “right to work” states are 3.2 percent lower that in free bargaining states. Essentially, it’s like the average worker is paying an annual $1,500 fee for living in a “right to work” state. (Other reports have found “right to work” states have higher poverty rates, fewer workers with employer-based health insurance, and higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities.)

But when you combine income with a host of other factors, as the Politico Magazine ranking does, the picture doesn’t get better for “right to work” states. Overall, 15 “right to work”  states rank in the bottom 20.

The Politico Magazine ranking is not the definitive scientific report on quality of life. But it does confirm yet again that in places where workers’ right to organize is deceptively circumvented and wages decrease, other important life-quality factors decrease as well.

As legislators push these laws across the country, we should consistently require proof to back up their claims. The actual numbers don’t look too good for them.

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Bucking NCAA, Northwestern Football Players Attempting to Unionize: Punching In

Yup, it’s true. Football players at Northwestern University are trying to join the USW.

Key Quote: “The NCAA is like a dictatorship.”

Former NLRB Chairman on the football players’ case: “I think it’s likely they will prevail.”

President Obama missed an opportunity to shame the do-nothing Congress in his State of the Union Address.

Related: Why didn’t President Obama say anything about Wall Street in his speech?

Republicans have an immigration plan that doesn’t have a clear path to citizenship.

Tons and tons of empirical evidence that universal pre-K would benefit all of us.

Harry Reid opposes fast-track authority for new trade bills, Politico reports.

Letter: An Illinois man takes his local ALEC legislators to task.

Finally: Why alt-labor groups are making employers mighty nervous.

Meanwhile, In the States of the Union…Punching In

With “right to work” and paycheck deception on the horizon, is Pennsylvania the “new Wisconsin?”

Based on the thousands who packed Harrisburg yesterday, it sure looks like it.

Union-busting abounds at a local Queens, NY supermarket.

Restaurant workers push to get a minimum wage increase on the Michigan ballot.

The Republican case for raising the minimum wage.

Gov. Corbett will continue to waste Pennsylvania’s money on voter suppression.

Op-ed: “Right to work” won’t make Missouri kids’ lives better.

Tackling mass incarceration starts with divesting from private prisons.

The organizing battle at a VW plant in Chattanooga is reaching epic proportions.

Finally: Pete Seeger, who passed away Monday at age 94, had a profound effect on the labor movement.

And the Grammy Goes to…the Minnesota Orchestra

During the 16 months the Minnesota Orchestra was locked out, it was often described as one of the best orchestra’s in the world. Sunday night, a little more than two weeks after the orchestra’s musicians—members American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM)—ratified a new agreement ending the lockout, the Minnesota Orchestra’s reputation as one of the world’s best was cemented with a Grammy award.

Facing competition from major orchestras around the world, including the Los Angeles and the Berlin philharmonics, the Minnesota Orchestra took the Grammy award for Best Orchestral Performance for its recording of “Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4,” conducted by Osmo Vänskä.

Principal cellist Tony Ross told the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

We’re all thrilled….It’s very difficult to win as a Midwestern orchestra. Most of the voters live in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Nashville. This [win] was for orchestral performance—it’s about quality onstage.

In a statement on the Minnesota Musicians website, Ross said:

The winning of a Grammy award for Best Orchestral Performance confirms where the Musicians and our leader Osmo Vänskä were as a symphony orchestra before the lockout. We were a great orchestra enjoying a special relationship with our music director, Osmo Vänskä, that brought worldwide acclaim to Minnesota. This is also why we need him to return and carry on with the projects and partnership that have brought this orchestra to great heights. We know this community deserves an orchestra of that level of distinction.

During the lockout, the musicians organized several area concerts that drew large crowds of supporters. One of the concerts included Vänskä, who spoke out against the lockout and who resigned in October as the lockout by orchestra management entered its second year. Because of the musicians’ community outreach and concerts, they received an outpouring of support from the local community and throughout the state and across the nation.

The recordings were made in May and June of 2012 and the lockout began in October 2012. The new agreement takes effect Feb. 1, and the orchestra will return to the stage beginning Feb. 7.

In other Grammy news, the band La Santa Cecilia that performed for delegates at the recent AFL-CIO Convention in Los Angeles received the Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album Grammy award for its “Treinta Días. The Los Angeles-based Mexican American band was named for Santa Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians.

Click here for a full list of winners; and don’t forget that along with the AFM members who took home Grammy awards, the musicians, dancers, stage and technical crews who made last night’s broadcast possible are highly skilled workers represented by several unions, including Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE),Dancers’ Alliance, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians–Communications Workers of America (NABET-CWA), SAG-AFTRA and others.

Photo from Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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On Eve of State of the Union, Obama Raises Wages for Federal Contractors: Punching In

President Obama will raise the minimum wage for new federal contractors to $10.10.

But careful, the executive order only applies to contracts started after today.

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry: “It sends a huge message to the private sector.”

What does it say that ALEC is firmly behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

ALEC is wrong for Iowa taxpayers, says Iowa Rep.

In assessing Obama, The Washington Post temporarily forgets about five years of Republican filibusters.

Josh Marshall’s great take on what’s behind all the super-rich resentment toward, well, the rest of us.

Mackelmore who? AFT member receives Grammy award.

If activists from the 1970’s teleported to 2014, would they understand what we were saying?

The return of #RickScottFail! Major Medicaid abuse scandal about to hit Florida governor.

Finally: Highly educated, highly indebted. The secret lives of 27 year-olds in 2014.