Journalists are fixated on union members’ donations to the Los Angeles mayoral race to elect Wendy Greuel, Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, writes in a Los Angeles Times column. But one issue is being largely ignored: the working poor.
“But if the discussion about the role of unions in the campaign is going to focus almost exclusively on money, shouldn’t we talk about money in its entirety?” writes Durazo. “What motivates me and so many others in L.A. labor when it comes to money are the hundreds of thousands of our fellow workers in Los Angeles who don’t earn enough of it.”
Los Angeles is the low-wage capital of the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau‘s American Community Survey. L.A. has more workers who struggle to survive on poverty pay than any other metropolitan area in the country.
During 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, 822,244 people working at full-time, year-round jobs earned less than $25,000 a year. That represented 28% of the labor force. These figures are for Los Angeles County.
In a perfect gift for mothers, just short of Mother’s Day, House Republicans have once again introduced legislation with a charming title and a potentially devastating impact for working women and families. According to the bill’s sponsors, the “Working Families Flexibility Act,” or H.R. 1406, would give employees the “freedom” to determine work schedules and time off. In reality, this bill would provide more work and less pay.
Working families need and deserve greater flexibility in meeting family and work needs. However, the “Working Families Flexibility Act,” on the floor of the House of Representatives this week, doesn’t do anything to promote greater flexibility for working families. This legislation, proposed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Rep. Martha Roby, would allow employers to pay their workers nothing extra for overtime work, other than the potentially empty promise of compensatory time—”comp time”—that can only be used at the employer’s discretion. H.R. 1406, cloaked in the positive language of “choice,” is really just another attempt by Republicans to get rid of paid overtime.
Backers of the bill are proudly calling this legislation “family friendly” and touting its benefits for working women. But we fear they are underestimating women’s ability to know a falsehood when they hear one. The supporters of this bill claim that employers need more “flexibility” to manage work schedules and give workers time off. But employers already have the flexibility to schedule any kind of flexible work hours and to give their employees paid or unpaid leave whenever they want. By giving employers the flexibility not to pay overtime, this “comp time” bill is just another Republican gimmick that would ultimately erode hourly workers’ ability to both pay their bills and care for their families.
At least 63 million private-sector workers are required to be paid time-and-a-half for hours worked beyond the 40-hour workweek. Under H.R. 1406, workers who work overtime would never see a bump in their paycheck and would earn less take-home pay. The “choice” to take time off sounds nice, but as many working parents and people of color know too well, calling something a “choice” assumes there are viable options. For many working families, taking home less pay at the end of the day means less money to cover rent, education costs, medical bills and other living expenses. The “choice” to take unpaid time off is not a choice at all.
The 40-hour workweek, as we know it, came from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. To ensure that workers can spend more time away from work, the FLSA discourages employers from demanding overtime by making overtime more expensive. By contrast, H.R. 1406 would encourage employers to demand longer hours because overtime is made less expensive. That’s because employers would be able to pay workers nothing at all for overtime work at the time the work is performed and could schedule comp time off at no extra cost to them (for example, during less busy periods when co-workers can pick up the slack). So, when employees request comp time, they essentially become lenders to employers. For example, a worker earning $12 an hour and banking the maximum amount of hours (160) would be giving an interest-free loan of $1,920 to his or her employer.
At a time when workers are already working harder for less, those who rely on overtime to make ends meet could face even more financial challenges. The kind of support that working families are looking for would be available by strengthening their ability to collectively bargain on the job for higher wages, safer workplaces, better health care and paid time off options. Working families deserve better than H.R. 1406.
Remember how mom used to make your food special? Whether it’s her famous smiley face pancakes with extra chocolate chips, her finest PB&J’s cut into diagonals with crust removed just the way you like, or your favorite birthday cake she baked every year, nobody can do it quite like mom.
If one thing is true on Mother’s Day, it’s your turn to do the cooking. Why not surprise her with one of these recipes that are union-made and delicious?
Ingredients: 6 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti, 12 ounces peeled and deveined raw shrimp, cut into 1-inch pieces, 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced, 1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced, 1 cup fresh or frozen peas, 3 cloves garlic, chopped, 1-1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, 1-1/2 cups low-fat Dannon plain yogurt, 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook 2 minutes less than package directions. Add shrimp, asparagus, bell pepper and peas and cook until pasta is tender and shrimp are cooked, 2-4 minutes more. Drain well.
Mash garlic and salt in large bowl until a paste forms. Whisk in yogurt, parsley, lemon juice, oil and pepper. Add pasta mixture and toss to coat. Sprinkle with pine nuts.
Ingredients: 1 Empire Kosher 8 Piece Cut Up Chicken, 1 tablespoon Empire Kosher Rendered Chicken Fat, Salt, pepper to taste, ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 garlic clove, minced, 1 shallot, minced, ¼ cup pomegranate juice (all natural unsweetened cranberry juice is also good), ¼ cup low salt Kosher chicken broth, 1 granny smith apple, cored and diced into ½” pieces, ¼ cup honey
Pat chicken pieces dry with a paper towel. Season lightly with salt, pepper and cayenne. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Heat rendered fat in a Dutch oven or large 12” skillet on medium high heat until smoking. Add 4 chicken pieces to the skillet and brown on both sides for 5 minutes.
Remove from skillet to a clean plate. Repeat with remaining 4 pieces of chicken.
Leaving the juices in the pan, add the garlic and shallots, stirring and browning until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the pomegranate juice and broth, stir, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and add apple pieces.
Simmer, uncovered for about 15 minutes, until the volume is reduced by half. Add honey to the skillet and stir into sauce.
Place the browned chicken pieces in a casserole dish large enough to accommodate all 8 pieces Pour the sauce over the chicken and bake for 40 minutes, or until cooked through (160°F for white meat and 175°F for dark meat).
Cut ham into thin strips. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.
Melt butter in large saucepan. Add garlic and cook until tender. Blend in flour. Stir in milk, basil, oregano and pepper; heat until mixture begins to bubble. Add vegetables and ham. Cover and simmer over low heat until mixture is thoroughly heated.
Add pasta and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired, before serving.
We need to talk—about the future of workers and the union movement.
We’ve all seen the numbers: People are working harder (and have longer hours) and still can’t get ahead. Staggering inequality is on the rise and fewer workers have a voice on the job.
So we’re asking the tough questions:
What’s the future going to be for working people?
How can we build a real movement for broadly shared prosperity?
What should unions look like tomorrow?
That’s where you come in.
The AFL-CIO is calling on everyone: Affiliate unions, worker centers, community and faith groups, students and young workers, civil and human rights activists, DREAMers—everyone—to weigh in on these big questions.
On Monday, May 6, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will kick off the conversation with a Twitter chat around these questions. We hope you join us at 3:30 p.m. ET by following @RichardTrumka and the hashtag #1uFuture.
Starting on Monday and leading up to the AFL-CIO 2013 convention in September, we’re also gathering ideas from you on our new website, which will highlight specific questions about the future of work each week, facilitated by leading academics, reporters and innovative organizers.
It’s been a good few years for taxi drivers gaining a voice on the job. Today in Austin, Texas, the National Taxi Workers Alliance (NTWA) granted its first local chapter charter since it joined the AFL-CIO. The NTWA was chartered by the AFL-CIO in 2011, with New York City and Philadelphia locals as the founding members.
Austin taxi drivers founded the Taxi Drivers Association of Austin (TDAA) to organize and collectively address drivers’ concerns, from economic hardship to harassment and physical safety on the job. TDAA says drivers work up to 15 hours per day, seven days a week and yet earn less than minimum wage on many days and have no job security. While income is tightly regulated by the city through the meter, owners regularly increase lease fees charged to drivers that eat up much of their earnings.
Today at a ceremony welcoming the chapter, Becky Moeller, president of the Texas AFL-CIO, told KUT News the affiliation will allow the drivers to “Speak with one voice, whereas before they would speak and we would assist them. And now they’re actually part of organized labor, and we’re excited about that.”
Merga Gemada, vice president of the TDAA, said:
The bare minimum protections required for a taxi driver to have a dignified life are not available to us today because of the economic instability we work under. At the same time, drivers are not covered by workers’ comp or disability and have no insurance to protect themselves in the case of an accident. Today’s affiliation is also the launch for the TDAA’s campaign for economic rights and dignity, in which drivers are demanding greater job security and a safety net against their precarious working conditions.
Bhairavi Desai, president of the NTWA, added:
Austin joining the national Alliance is just the beginning of a much bigger change in Texas.
In response to Metropoulos & Co. CEO C. Dean Metropoulos’ statement to The Wall Street Journal that the company will not hire union workers when reopening four former Hostess Brands bakeries, BCTGM International President David B. Durkee issued the following statement on behalf of all BCTGM members:
The BCTGM is pleased to see that Hostess Brands LLC, the newly formed snack cake company created by Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co, has announced that it will be reopening four Hostess bakeries to produce the iconic Hostess cake brands. Those four successful cake plants were represented by the BCTGM for many years under former Hostess ownership.
However, we are extremely disappointed to see negative statements from company executives about the union status of its future employees. Ideally, we would like to see as many of our members hired as possible. We believe their combination of experience, dedication and know-how will give the new owners the chance to get high quality snack cakes back in the marketplace.
Federal labor law governing the hiring process and the obligations for the employer and the rights of the future employees in this situation is quite definitive. We expect that the new owners will respect the statutory rights of all workers during the hiring, startup and future of this new company.
The BCTGM remains focused on ensuring that the new Hostess Brands ownership understands that the snack cakes at the center of this new company are inextricably linked to the hands that make them—and have made them for generations. We know that our workers have a critical role to play in protecting and enhancing some of America’s most valuable consumer brands. We all want the same outcome: that the brands should prosper and endure. This is what the next stage of this saga is all about—implementing a new ownership and manufacturing structure worthy of the brands themselves and America’s manufacturing prowess.
Our members provide immense value to the new ownership with decades of experience, expertise and training. Not only have our members produced these quality products for consumers for generations, they know these bakeries inside and out. Our members are eager and willing to return to these snack plants and help usher in a new period of prosperity for Hostess snack cakes.
It is our sincere hope that the new owners will fully recognize the tremendous value of hiring back our members. If, however, they do not want us as part of the future of this company, we will continue to fight for our membership through other avenues.
It began with a simple conversation over water and dinner rolls in a restaurant in Davos, Switzerland. After the annual world economic forum held in Davos, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and President Bill Clinton discussed what should be done to create jobs and take on the challenge of climate change—and how working people could step up and invest where banks and Wall Street had failed.
Upon discovering Clinton and the AFL-CIO were working on separate but similar tracks for years, the two decided to join forces.
In 2011, the labor movement committed, as part of the Clinton Global Initiative, to help facilitate $20 million in investment in energy-efficient retrofits. Today Clinton joined Trumka, AFT President Randi Weingarten and Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) President Sean McGarvey for a ribbon-cutting ceremony as work begins on an energy efficiency retrofit of the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Through a partnership with Electrical Workers (IBEW), the AFL-CIO headquarters will improve the energy efficiency by more than 20%, create more than 30,000 hours of skilled construction work, lower carbon consumption and improve the functions and comfort of the building.
The retrofit will replace and upgrade the existing windows and deploy a new lighting system, and the AFL-CIO will operate the building and its utilities more efficiently.
“We have to find ways to get the jobs engine going again and also to try to change the job mix so average wages start going up,” said Clinton. ”This is a big deal. We can create jobs that pay above-average wages—to do things that need doing—that will be benefiting the next generation for 30 or 40 years, that actually have a self-financing mechanism.”
The commitment announced two years ago is intended to encourage both workers’ capital and skilled labor to contribute to large-scale investments in the reconstruction of America’s built environment. These projects, the AFL-CIO believes, will result in at least $10 billion in workers’ capital invested in this area within five years, stimulating job-creating infrastructure projects across the country.
The AFL-CIO also committed to at least $40 million to stoke the development of a commercial and industrial energy efficiency retrofit market, as well as a commitment to upgrade the skills of 100,000 tradespeople and enroll 40,000 new apprentices.
As part of these commitments and through a partnership with the IBEW, the AFL-CIO committed $4.8 million in financing to retrofit its own headquarters. The retrofit, managed by McKinstry, a nationally recognized energy services corporation, will increase the federation headquarters efficiency by 20%, save more than $125,000 per year in utilities and create more than 30,000 hours of skilled construction work.
“This is another powerful example of America’s workers making a difference in the lives of the people and communities they serve,” said Weingarten. “Harnessing the strength of the pension funds of teachers, nurses, firefighters and other workers to rebuild our roads, schools and bridges and create the infrastructure America needs is not just a financially sound investment—it creates jobs, accelerates our economic growth and invests in the future of our nation.”
McGarvey said he looked forward toward working with President Clinton’s task force on infrastructure to discuss what is needed in cities and states all over the United States.
And by partnering with the Building Trades, not only do we provide the safest and most skilled workforce anywhere in the world through our jointly managed training programs, we can also bring our financial resources to bear during this time of tight federal, state and municipal budgets.
At the end of the day, this is all about the workers. Trumka said:
Working people believe in the promise of America. We’re investing our time, our energy and our resources into American projects for America’s future, because that’s how we make that future come true. And we have a lot of work to do. Our nation’s infrastructure deficit is $3 trillion and counting. Millions need work. Pension funds need returns. All of us—workers and our unions, our pension funds, government—all need to step up and do our part.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W-Va.) introduced the Medicare Drug Savings Act of 2013 that would produce savings without passing on costs to seniors.
The act offers a solution that strengthens Medicare’s fiscal footing while shielding beneficiaries from harmful cost-shifting, unlike most other Medicare proposals we hear about. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that restoration of Medicaid-level drug rebates for low-income Medicare beneficiaries would save the federal government $141 billion over 10 years. Here are some critical facts about the bill from the AFL-CIO and other allies:
America’s workers strongly support allowing Medicare to secure lower prices drugs. According to a recent national poll, 85% favored “requiring drug companies to give the federal government a better deal on medications for low-income people on Medicare.”
Implementing Medicare drug rebates is not new law. Upon passage of the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA), millions of older adults and people with disabilities gained access to prescription drug coverage through private plans approved by the federal government, known as Medicare Part D. At the same time, the MMA severely limited the tools available to the federal government to control spending on pharmaceutical drugs in Medicare. In particular, the MMA eliminated rebates offered by pharmaceutical manufacturers for drugs provided to beneficiaries dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. Applying Medicaid-level rebates to Medicare drugs simply restores a practice that existed for dually eligible beneficiaries prior to the passage of the MMA.
Restoring drug rebates to the Medicare program is a proven cost saver. Already the Medicaid program benefits from lower drug prices due to federally determined rebates on brand name and generic medications. A 2011 comparison of 100 brand-name drugs under Medicaid and Medicare Part D found that Medicaid rebates required by law reduced expenditures by 45% for the drugs under review. Whereas, Medicare rebates secured by private drug plans reduced expenditures by only 19%.
Pharmaceutical spending on research and development is not at risk. Studies show that research and development investments in particular types of drugs are not directly linked to specific revenue sources, such as Medicaid. These findings, coupled with an examination of industry spending trends, suggest that reinstating Medicare drug rebates will not limit research and development. We reject the argument that pharmaceutical manufacturers will be unable to fulfill their commitment to innovation if the Medicare program is allowed to secure more reasonable drug prices.
Applying Medicare drug rebates will not shift costs to Medicare beneficiaries or employers. Some stakeholders claim that applying Medicaid-level drug rebates for low-income Medicare beneficiaries will increase costs for other Part D beneficiaries, but research supports otherwise. The same research suggests that costs for purchasers outside of Medicare—namely employers— will be largely unaffected if the Medicare rebates are restored.
Missouri’s working families are speaking out about a paycheck deception bill that is moving through the state legislature. We Are Missouri launched a new Tumblr blog, Working Voices, that showcases personal messages from Missouri working families to their elected representatives, asking them to reject the anti-worker agenda of the state legislature. In this year’s session, Republicans in the legislature have pursued an agenda that includes paycheck deception, attacks on prevailing wage laws, and “right to work” for less proposals that are part of what We Are Missouri describes as a larger national plan to assault the rights of workers.
The site includes a wide variety of workers from around the state who have recorded video statements rejecting these type of legislative attacks, rather than addressing the real problems Missourians face.
Listen to teachers and utility, grocery store and factory workers (and more) talk about how paycheck deception will hurt working people.