Here’s the IBEW Photo Contest Winner

Here’s the IBEW Photo Contest Winner

Seattle Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 77 member Derek Williams’ shot of linemen carefully replacing high-voltage equipment that was battered by Washington’s winter, framed with towering evergreens and a mountainous backdrop, was voted winner of the 17th IBEW Photo Contest.

IBEW members submitted more than 300 photos and voters chose from 15 finalists. From the beauty of wide-open spaces to the harshness of nature, these photos depict what IBEW members work with, as well as what they’re up against, both on and off the job.

Below is the second place winner from Derrick Maciel of IBEW Local 104 in Boston. Click here to see the other winners.

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Nissan Rejects Government Offer for Mediation on Labor Rights in Mississippi

Nissan Rejects Government Offer for Mediation on Labor Rights in Mississippi

For years, working women and men at Nissan in Mississippi have sought a voice at work in the face of intimidation and threats, as this 2013 report outlines. Now the company has refused an offer by the U.S. government to provide mediation that could have resolved longstanding complaints about labor rights violations.

The offer was made after the UAW and IndustriALL Global Union filed a report with the U.S. State Department detailing the history of labor rights abuses at Nissan North America and how these practices conflicted with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD’s) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The OECD is an alliance of 34 developed nations, including the United States and Japan. The Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises outline ethical business practices, which OECD member countries pledge to implement.

Although Nissan engages in regular dialogue with trade unions around the world, the company has taken a different course in the United States, says UAW President Dennis Williams.

It is clear Nissan behaves one way in some parts of the world but is grossly exploiting workers in the United States. The fact that the company continues to ignore the severity of the situation and its refusal to end these abuses or engage in dialogue that could result in a positive step forward for both workers and the company is absolutely unreasonable.

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL, which represents 50 million workers globally, including 150,000 Nissan workers and a majority of Renault autoworkers worldwide, says:

UAW and IndustriALL affiliates have repeatedly made attempts to meet with Nissan North America to resolve this issue. Nissan’s unwillingness to engage in the OECD process sends a very worrisome message to its partners at Renault and Daimler, as well as the global investment community. We have known Nissan for its respect of workers’ rights elsewhere in the world, but in the U.S. we have heard evidence of intimidation and exploitation of its workers and their communities. This is a troubling step backward for Nissan.

The State Department’s report on the case recommends:

Nissan North America Inc., in cooperation and with guidance from Nissan corporate headquarters in Japan, conduct corporate-wide labor rights review processes, consistent with the recommendation of the [OECD] Guidelines.

It also recommends that Nissan consider other forms of mediation to resolve the issues raised in the OECD case.

Read more the UAW and learn more about the workers at Nissan’s Mississippi operations.

Leo Baunach is an international affairs representative at the UAW.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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When Walmart Cut Insurance for 30,000 Workers, This Is How We Responded

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Last October, Walmart cut health insurance for about 30,000 part time workers. Starting January 1, 2015, only part-time associates who work 30 to 34 a week qualify for coverage.

This recent move from the country’s largest private employer is the latest in a series of steps to pare down health care costs, often at the expense of local taxpayers. It wasn’t long ago that Walmart offered health coverage for all part-time workers. But in 2011, Walmart cut coverage for new employees who worked fewer than 24 hours. In 2012, they went even further, dropping insurance for those who worked fewer than 30 hours a week. Now, those workers who were grandfathered into the health plan have been dropped.

Keep in mind: despite recent improvements, individual Walmart associates have very little control over their schedules, and managers are able to cut costs by keeping workers’ hours under the 30-hour threshold. And for those associates who actually qualify, the company’s health care plan is fraught with problems.

Luckily, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it’s now easier for individuals to purchase health coverage on the Health Insurance Marketplace. To help everyday workers, OUR Walmart and Working America Health Care have teamed up to offer Walmart associates an even better deal.

OUR Walmart members who enroll in a qualified health plan through Working America Health Care will have access to special member benefits: dental and vision discounts, as well as a personal Health Advocate to answer questions and help workers deal with insurance companies.

This past November, many of us stood up for Walmart associates on Black Friday. More than 11,000 Working America members signed petitions calling for $15 an hour and access to full-time hours for all Walmart workers. We made calls, shared information with friends, and joined in solidarity with Walmart associates at stores across the country.

But making change at Walmart and in the lives of its workers is about more than just one day: and that’s why we’re incredibly proud of this collaboration to help provide answers, stability, and a measure of security for Walmart workers and their families.

Are you a Walmart worker? Do you know someone who is? Click here to learn more about the available health care benefits or call 888-693-0159 for more information.

Whether or not you work at Walmart, you can have access to special benefits by enrolling in health coverage through Working America Health Care by February 15. Click here to learn more or call 855-698-2479.

Working America Health Care is a joint partnership between Working America and Union Plus with the mission of informing folks about the Affordable Care Act and connecting them with quality health insurance coverage.

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To Represent Their Party Tonight, GOP Chooses ALEC Alum and Koch Ally

Who did the Republican Party choose to respond to President Obama’s State of the Union tonight? Someone who represents the anti-worker, corporate-influenced, Koch-dominated wing of their party: newly-elected Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA).

The network of organizations affiliated with oil billionaires David and Charles Koch spent about $300 million on the 2014 elections. This network includes Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners, Donors Trust, and a dizzying array of think tanks and astroturf organizations.

The Kochs also heavily fund ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the “” nonprofit that brings together state legislators and corporate lobbyists to write “model bills” which are then distributed to pass in state houses. ALEC “model bills” that became law include Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070, Michigan’s union-busting “right to work” law, and Florida’s infamous “Stand Your Ground” gun law.

Ernst was one of those state legislators who joined ALEC after her election to the Iowa Senate in 2011. In June 2014, Ernst told a group of Koch-affiliated donors at a closed-door meeting in California: “the exposure to this group and to this network and the opportunity to meet so many of you, that really started my trajectory.”

She wasn’t wrong. Ernst was enormous beneficiary of the Koch network from day one of her campaign, as PR Watch reports:

In her campaign for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat, Ernst was the underdog early in the crowded Republican primary, but soon became the darling of outside spending groups, maintaining a $12 million lead in outside spending over her Democratic opponent into the final weeks of the race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A few days after Ernst’s appearance at the Dana Point summit, Charles Koch and his wife, son, and daughter-in-law maxed-out on donations to Ernst, and much of the outside spending supporting Ernst or attacking her opponent came from Koch-tied groups like the 60 Plus Association, American Future Fund, Freedom Partners Action Fund, the National Federation of Independent Business, and Americans for Prosperity.

During the campaign, Ernst’s spokeswoman was Gretchen Hamel, who led the Koch-backed group Public Notice. Once elected, Ernst hired as her Chief of Staff Lisa Goes, a former VP at the Koch-backed National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), a group which, not coincidentally, ran radio and online ads on behalf of Ernst during the campaign.

So what do the Kochs and their network get for all this support? As a candidate, Joni Ernst opposed raising the minimum wage, and said she considered privatizing Social Security an “option.” She also signed the pledge from super-lobbyist Grover Norquist saying that she would oppose the elimination of tax breaks, including those for companies that ship jobs overseas. In fact, we found it difficult to identify a single policy difference between her campaign rhetoric and the ideas advanced by the Koch brothers’ network.

The selection of Senator Ernst to respond to President Obama on behalf of the Republican Party comes at a time when the Koch network’s political operation is beginning to rival that of the GOP itself. Americans tuning in tonight would be fair in questioning whether Ernst will be representing an opposition political party or the network of donors that, by her own admission, propelled her into the U.S. Senate.

Read more from PR Watch.

Learn more about the Koch network, aka “The Kochtopus.

Learn more about ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Photo by areflaten on Flickr

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Zara Caves to Pressure from Workers, Offers Raises and Better Schedules: Punching In


“Donors understand that if we want to get something done in this country, we have to go to the states, because it’s not happening in D.C.”

“Shellacked on the state level, Democrats chart a way out of the wilderness,” Washington Post


A single mom making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour must work 125 hours a week to afford food, shelter and child care for two kids, according to MIT’s Living Wage calculator.

“Meet Four Working Moms Who Fought For Higher Wages In 2014,” Huffington Post


But to Ms. Jourdan’s amazement, she learned that she would be getting a raise of $2.50 an hour. And that’s not all: Zara is also increasing the number of full-time positions in its stores, handing a victory to Ms. Jourdan and other Zara workers who have demanded better pay and more opportunities…

“Signs of Economic Promise Are Offering Some Hope for the New Year,” New York Times


For Signs of Real GOP Agenda, Don’t Look at Washington–Look to the States: Punching In

“Before Election Day, the GOP controlled 59 partisan legislative chambers across the country. The increase to 68 gives Republicans six more chambers than their previous record in the modern era, set after special elections in 2011 and 2012.”

“Republicans in state governments plan juggernaut of conservative legislation,” Washington Post


“In 2014, charter schools, which had always been marketed for a legendary ability to deliver promising new innovations for education, became known primarily for their ability to concoct innovative new scams.”

“Exposing the charter school lie: Michelle Rhee, Louis C.K. and the year phony education reform revealed its true colors,” Salon


“This video doesn’t need many words to be a beautiful and powerful picture of Nashville fast food workers’ fight for justice—economic justice in the form of fair pay for their work, and racial justice as they link their fight to the failure to prosecute the killers of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.”

Nashville fast food workers fight for justice, and it is beautiful, Daily Kos

Why You Should Pay Attention to Qatar’s World Cup Preparations: Punching In

Workers and businesses team up to fight Wisconsin “right to work” push

“The formation of the Wisconsin Contractor Coalition highlights a split in the business community in the state, where manufacturers appear poised to push the labor measure through the Legislature and builders and unions are scrambling to try to stop it.”

New cuts to United States Postal Service hurt rural America the most

Ed Schultz and Mark Dimondstein discussed the future of the post office on MSNBC.

Louisville lawmakers approve minimum wage increase to $9 by 2017

“Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer had said earlier he would veto the council’s original proposal, which would have raised pay to $10.10…However, Fischer said in a statement released after the vote he was pleased with the amended ordinance.”

Qatar’s World Cup preparations are dangerous for workers, say human rights groups

“Hundreds of worker deaths, many apparently from cardiac arrests, have also fueled concerns that laborers are being overworked in desert conditions and shoddily treated.”

2,000 Minneapolis Airport Workers Get New Sick Leave Policy: Punching In

2,000 workers at Minneapolis airport get new sick leave policy

“The new policy, which was unanimously approved by the board on Monday, calls for companies with 21 or more employees to provide at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked.”

More than 60 million households rely on the earnings of a low-wage worker

“There are 25 million low-wage workers in the country, but the figure balloons to 60.6 million by adding the number of people living in their households, including more than 15 million children.”

Good thing Obama had the past five weeks

“Obama feels liberated, aides say, and sees the recent flurry of aggressive executive action and deal-making as a pivot for him to spend his final two years in office being more the president he always wanted to be.”

Chris Christie’s wife is making bank off of management of NJ pension funds

“Angelo Gordon made a prominent hire: Mary Pat Christie, wife of Gov. Chris Christie, who joined the company in 2012 as a managing director and now earns $475,000 annually, according to the governor’s most recent tax return.”

Is Wall Street A Black Hole for Our Best and Brightest? Punching In

Michigan on track to ban student-athlete unionization

“This is not the first time Michigan lawmakers have moved to stifle organized labor on college campuses. University of Michigan graduate research assistants attempted to unionize, but that effort was chilled by a 2012 law signed by [Governor] Snyder.”

Wall Street is a black hole for our best and brightest

“The financial industry has doubled in size as a share of the economy in the past 50 years, but it hasn’t gotten any better at its core job: getting money from investors who have it to companies that will use it to generate growth, profit and jobs.”

New York’s Democratic Gov. Cuomo to kick 1,000 state workers out of unions

“An estimated one thousand New York state government employees received notices Monday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration aims to reclassify their jobs as non-union, a move that could weaken a federation that has previously butted heads with the centrist Democratic governor.”

Another domino falls? Tennessee considers Medicaid expansion compromise

“[Gov.] Haslam, who recently took over as the chair of the Republican Governors Association, will reportedly call a special session of Tennessee’s legislature to consider the package he’s worked out with the Obama administration.”

Democratic Mayor of Louisville Intends to Block Minimum Wage Increase: Punching In

Full-time faculty at Boston area colleges seeking to unionize

“As full-time lecturers, we remain the only group of instructors on campus who don’t have a voice. Tenured faculty have a voice. Part-timers have established their voice. We feel like we need to have the opportunity to be involved.”

Despite election loss, UAW could soon become the union at the VW Chattanooga plant

“If successful, the UAW would achieve its longstanding goal of organizing a foreign-owned automotive manufacturer in the South.”

Democratic Mayor of Louisville, KY wants to veto minimum wage increase

“There are nine sponsors of the increase. Democrats have a 17-9 majority on the council and do not expect any support from Republicans. Supporters do not appear to have the 18 votes needed to override a veto”

Steelworkers President: stop bad trade deals like the TPP

“American workers aren’t whining. They can compete with anyone in the world on an even playing field. But when foreign countries provide illegal subsidies, manipulate their currency, and hand no-cost land, no-interest loans and tax breaks to producers, then it’s bad trade.”