11 Things You Need to Know About Safety for Workers Memorial Day

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 The Occupational Safety and Health Act is more than 40 years old and is out of date.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: , , , , , ,

11 Ways Big Banks Make Life Harder for Working Families

A new report from the Center for Popular Democracy examines the ways that large financial institutions are helping dismantle the middle class and making life more difficult for working families. The top 10 banks alone bring in some $100 billion in annual profits, and a significant amount of that revenue is generated from sometimes unethical and questionable tactics that working families have a hard time fighting back against.

Here are 11 ways the big banks are making life harder for working families:

1. While 27% of Americans have no or little access to financial services, the big banks are closing local branches, making the problem worse.

2. Banks are pressuring their workers to push customers to purchase services that use predatory banking practices instead of sound financial principles. Quotas drive the process rather than the needs of customers.

3. The large financial institutions are cutting wages, benefits and hours for workers, making it harder for them to serve customers and increasing work-related stress.

4. Core banking activities for the average worker, such as helping people open and manage accounts or plan for retirement or obtain a credit card, are considered low value services by the banks, and they are actively trying to avoid those services in favor of higher profit activities such as mortgages.

5. Workers who can’t fill their quotas for pushing mismatched or predatory products and services are threatened with termination or had their paychecks docked for the amount they fell short of their quotas.

6. Since 2011, 17 lawsuits have been settled by the financial services industry for alleged illegal and unethical business practices. The banks have paid out nearly $46 billion.

7. At least three banks are accused of charging people of color higher interest rates or fees than white borrowers.

8. The big five banks are accused of steering people of color into dangerous subprime mortgages.

9. Two banks have, in the past, maximized their profits off of overdraft fees by posting charges in order of the largest dollar amount first, increasing the likelihood that not only are customers more likely to overdraft their accounts, but more likely to do so multiple times.

10. Three financial institutions were charged with forcing homeowners to buy overpriced property insurance.

11. Nearly one-fifth of employees at the biggest banks reported that more and more jobs had been moved from full-time to part-time.

Read the full report.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , ,

5 Lies About the Estate Tax and the Truth Behind the Lies

On Tax Day this year, April 15, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to introduce legislation that would repeal the estate tax, a policy designed to limit the concentration of wealth in the United States, generate revenue for the federal government by having those most able to pay and encourage charitable giving. The legislation comes as congressional Republican budget plans propose to slash trillions of dollars in money that benefits working families and gives away massive sums to corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) has compiled a series of dishonest and hypocritical quotes from conservatives about the estate tax and related issues. ATF Executive Director Frank Clemente explained the Republican tax agenda:

Conservatives know their economic priorities are extremely unpopular—the American people want an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few. So when they try to eliminate the estate tax, which affects only multimillionaires and billionaires, they resort to outright falsehoods in making their case and use phony rhetoric claiming they care about the rest of us. Repealing the estate tax will only increase inequality in America. These quotes help the American people understand what conservatives do, not what they say.

Here are five common lies about the estate tax and the truth behind them:

  1. “[T]his tax doesn’t just hit the big guy. It hits the little guy—like the small business and the family farm. It is both unwise and unfair, and it needs to go.”—Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). In reality, this law only affects the top 0.2% of estates, those worth more than $5.4 million for an individual, or nearly $11 million for a married couple.
  2. “The Death Tax is still the number one reason family-owned farms and businesses in America aren’t passed down to the next generation.”—Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas). The estate tax (the non-right-wing propaganda name for the law) has never caused a family farm to be lost.
  3. “If you…make the argument that only rich and wealthy people pay this tax, that is not true. It’s not true for almost every farmer and rancher in this country, it’s not true for every small business owner out there.” “I am committed to repealing this unjust—and frankly, immoral—tax that hurts small businesses and family farms most.”—Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.). While there are millions of small businesses and small family farms in the United States, only 20 of them qualified to pay the estate tax in 2013.
  4. “The death tax is especially destructive to women and minority-owned small businesses in America who are building wealth often for the first time….A study by Boston College professors estimates the death tax could rob African American households of up to a quarter-trillion dollars of wealth over the first half of this century.”—Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas). The study that Brady cites shows that significantly fewer than 1% of African American households have a net worth that would cause them to pay the estate tax.
  5. “For too long the federal government has forced grieving families to pay a tax on their loved one’s life savings that have been built from income already taxed when originally earned.”—Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). In reality, 55% of the value of estates worth more than $100 million are unrealized capital gains that have not been subject to income or capital gains tax. For estates worth anywhere between $5 million and $10 million, the unrealized capital gains that have not been taxed is 32% of their overall value. Without an estate tax, heirs also can escape paying any taxes on those gains.

The AFL-CIO has joined a coalition of more than 70 organizations opposing the repeal of the estate tax. Read more facts about the estate tax.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , ,

Two New Reports Detail How Walmart Keeps Profits High, Wages Down

A new study finds that Walmart’s promised raise for its lowest-paid employees to $9 per hour in 2015 and $10 per hour in 2016, will still require large taxpayer subsidies to compensate for the lowness of Walmart’s wages. Meanwhile a new report from the AFL-CIO finds Walmart is seeking to cut its costs for higher-paid, U.S. high-tech workers by recruiting temporary foreign tech workers at lower wages.

Meanwhile a new study from Americans for Tax Fairness finds that Walmart’s promised raise for its lowest-paid employees to $9 per hour in 2015 and $10 per hour in 2016, will still require large taxpayer subsidies to compensate for the lowness of Walmart’s wages.

The AFL-CIO report  finds that Walmart has been increasingly submitting applications for H-1B visas. These visas let U.S. companies employ foreign workers. The report criticizes the reasons the company is using the visas:  “Walmart is driving down standards in the tech industry in the U.S. by using H-1B visas and contractors excessively. This keeps costs low and allows for IT guest workers to be paid less.”  Over the past eight years, Walmart has filed 1,800 petitions for the visas, including a high of 513 in 2014.  Numerous other companies also have filed similar petitions for work in Bentonville, Ark., the home of Walmart’s corporate headquarters. Said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

At a time when we face unprecedented levels of inequality and decades of wage stagnation, it is irresponsible to expand access to employment-based temporary work programs that will continue to hold down wages, increase worker vulnerability and reduce social mobility for deserving workers.

The report also reveals how Walmart has quietly backed corporate lobbying groups pushing to expand the program and increase the number of H-1B visas that are available. In the meantime, the number of H-1B applications for IT workers in Bentonville continues to grow—suggesting that local Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) recent graduates lose out on IT jobs.

The study, from Americans for Tax Fairness finds that the $9 per hour standard would still mean that most of those low-wage workers, even working at Walmart’s full-time standard of 34 hours a week, would bring home less than $16,000 a year.  Such a low rate would qualify a single worker for at least three government assistance programs.  If the worker has one or more children, they would qualify for eight programs.

The 2016 standard of $10 per hour would raise employees’ annual take home pay by less than $2,000, and if the worker with that salary had one or more children, they would still qualify for all eight government assistance programs.  Raising wages to a minimum of $15 per hour with a 40-hour workweek, the report finds, would raise the annual take-home pay for the lowest-paid employees to $31,200 a year, which would lift most workers out of the eligibility bracket for government assistance.  Based on the last year of profits made by the Walton family, such a raise would still leave the company’s owners with $10 billion in profit (not to mention their massive existing fortunes).

Read the full Americans for Tax Fairness report.  Read the full AFL-CIO report.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , ,

Stand with Walmart Workers on April 15

While Walmart recently announced that it would raise its minimum wage for many workers, the working families behind the OUR Walmart and Making Change at Walmart campaigns say that victory, while a start, isn’t enough and that they will continue to call on Walmart to raise wages to a minimum of $15 an hour and offer workers consistent full-time hours. Toward that end, the organizations are standing with fast-food and other low-wage workers across the country on April 15, and they want you to join them in strikes and protests in more than 200 cities in the Fight for $15.

More details:

America can’t build a strong future with poverty wages. When large, profitable companies like Walmart, McDonalds and others hold down wages, benefits and access to hours, it hurts all of us. Ordinary people who work hard are being paid so little that too many can’t afford basics like groceries, rent or transportation. When families are trapped in poverty, the American economy suffers and we, as taxpayers, end up footing the bill. It’s wrong that the 1% of companies like Walmart are rigging the system for their benefit at the expense of workers, our communities, the environment and our economy.

If you would like to participate in one of the events or organize your own event, learn more.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , ,

Working Families Launch ‘We Rise’ Campaign to Train and Organize Immigrant Workers

The AFL-CIO will launch on Tuesday a national immigration training plan, “We Rise!” (¡Adelante!). It is designed to reach, mobilize and organize immigrant workers in their workplaces and in their communities. The three-day kick-off event in Washington, D.C., will include trainings, workshops and strategy sessions designed to empower immigrants and their allies to lead campaigns that will enhance the rights of all workers. The event will include more than 200 union members, leaders and staff from 23 unions, and activists and community leaders from 26 states across the nation.

This practical, hands-on training will provide labor union members, activists and leaders with all the tools necessary to realize the promise of the recent executive actions on immigration to improve standards for all working people and strengthen communities where our members work and live. Participants will be trained to assist as many eligible workers as possible to gain rights on the job by applying for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs and to encourage qualified legal permanent residents to become U.S. citizens.

The specific objectives of the training sessions are:

  • Build a shared understanding of what immigration implementation means for workers and the labor movement.
  • Identify the strategies, tools and resources necessary for successful implementation.
  • Generate a field plan for immigration implementation.
  • Create a national network of engaged unions and community partners.
  • Launch the We Rise! Initiative.

Scheduled to join the AFL-CIO in the training is a diverse array of organizations, including: the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee, AFSCME, AFT, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Clean Carwash Campaign, Dream Team Los Angeles, Education Austin, Farmworker Justice, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Laborers (LIUNA), National Day Laborer Organizing Network, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Not1More, NPNA, the Orange County Labor Federation, PICO, Puente, the United Domestic Workers of America (UDW)/AFSCME Local 3930, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and United We Dream.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Join Carmen Berkley Tuesday for Women’s History Month Twitter Chat

On Tuesday, March 31, please join Carmen Berkley, AFL-CIO’s director of civil, human and women’s rights, for a Twitter chat in honor of women’s history month. Carmen will lead a conversation that will focus on issues women face in the workplace, including paid family leave, fair scheduling and gender equality. You can participate in the chat on Twitter by following @CarmenSpinDiego, @AFLCIO and the hashtag #1uHerStory.

Join Carmen as she discusses these questions and others:

  1. Which woman in history embodies the struggle for workplace equality?
  2. What difficulties have you faced as a woman in the workplace? How can we fix it going forward?
  3. 80% of low-wage workers don’t have access to paid sick days. How does that affect women on the job?
  4. Does your job offer guaranteed paid maternity leave? If so, for how long?
  5. Have you or a female co­-worker experienced discrimination on the job due to motherhood or pregnancy?
  6. How can we can support trans and gender nonconforming women in the workplace?
  7. Unknown work schedules present working women with scores of additional challenges. Why is fair scheduling an equality issue?
  8. Women of color are disproportionately represented in low-wage work. How would fair scheduling and higher wages impact their lives?
  9. How can men be better allies to women in the workplace?
  10. How would raising wages for everyone help level the playing field between men and women?

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , ,

7 Key Findings in EPI’s New Report on Race and Unemployment

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released a new report this week that takes a deeper look at unemployment, particularly when it comes to racial disparities in the recovery from the Great Recession. The report, written by Valerie Wilson, argues that the projected decline in unemployment for 2015 won’t lift African Americans out of the employment crater caused by the recession.

Wilson concludes:

Five years into recovery from the Great Recession, unemployment rates are finally nearing their 2007 levels, but the pace of recovery varies by state for different racial and ethnic groups. In the fourth quarter of 2014, the national white and Hispanic unemployment rates were each within 1 percentage point of prerecession levels while the black unemployment rate was 2.4 percentage points higher than it was at the end of 2007. Although long-term unemployment was down significantly for all groups in 2014, it remained above historic norms, revealing weaknesses in the labor market (Josh Bivens and Heidi Shierholz, 2014).

Here are seven key findings of the report:

  1. In the last quarter of 2014, the unemployment rates by race were: 4.4% for Asians, 4.5% for whites, 6.7% for Hispanics and 11.0% for African Americans.
  2. The national unemployment rate for African Americans, 11%, is higher than the overall unemployment rate at the peak of the recession (9.9%).
  3. Unemployment rates are projected to decline modestly through the end of 2015 for all races.
  4. After the Great Recession, unemployment rates are finally nearing 2007 levels, but the recovery varies by state and by racial and ethnic group. White and Hispanic unemployment rates are within 1% of their 2007 level, while the rate for African Americans was 2.4% higher than the prerecession level.
  5. The unemployment rate for African Americans is expected to fall to 10.4% by the fourth quarter of 2015, significantly higher than the prerecession level of 8.6%. Significantly decreases in the unemployment rate for African Americans are expected in only two states (California and Illinois). Only one state is expected to have a significant drop in the Hispanic unemployment rate (Rhode Island). No states are expected to see a significant drop in the white unemployment rate.
  6. The white unemployment rate has significantly declined in 33 states since 2013, while the white employment-to-population (EPOP) ratio increased in six states. For Hispanics, the unemployment rate dropped in 14 states, while the EPOP increased in nine states. For African Americans, the rate dropped in 15 states and the EPOP increased in six states.
  7. The share of workers who were unemployed long term declined for all races after 2013. Hispanics saw a decline in 4.8%, Asians 4.3%, whites 4.1% and African Americans 3.8%.

Read the full report.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , ,

Bringing ‘Common Sense’ to NoVa

More than 35 people gathered at the Northern Virginia labor office on Monday, March 23, to participate in a 90-minute Common Sense Economics workshop conducted by the AFL-CIO. Among those taking part were representatives from the NAACP, religious social action networks, immigrant rights groups, young people and elected officials, as well as union representatives, including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

The workshop was led by Roberta Reardon (former SAG-AFTRA co-president, left in the picture below) and Will Fischer (right in the picture) of the AFL-CIO. The course helped explain in laymen’s terms what is happening to jobs in America and how workers can regain control of the debate regarding living wages, workplace safety and trade agreements. Each participant left with a pledge to conduct similar workshops within their own organizations.

“This session was very valuable as Virginians gear up for fall elections that will include all members of the General Assembly as well as numerous local positions,” noted NOVA Area Labor Federation President Daniel Duncan. “We will be working with all these groups and others to help the middle class fight back.”

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , ,

Ohio: Join Sherrod Brown, Tim Ryan and Marcy Kaptur to Fight Fast Track

As Congress continues to debate Fast Track trade authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), members of Ohio’s congressional delegation are stepping up and calling for trade policies that are open and transparent and protect things that Ohioans and Americans care about: democracy, jobs, the environment and the Internet. While Fast Track and TPP are being negotiated in secret, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D), Rep. Tim Ryan (D) and Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga are taking their case directly to the people of Ohio. Like most Ohio residents, they want trade policies that keep manufacturing jobs in the United States.

These working family advocates will hold two forums in the coming week. The first is in Warren on Saturday, March 28, and features Brown, Ryan and Burga. The second is in Toledo on Monday, March 30, and features Brown, Kaptur and Burga.

In advance of the events, Burga said:

For too long, our nation’s trade and investment policies have reflected the influence of powerful corporate interests. They protect what’s important to corporate America but do little or nothing to safeguard the rights of workers and the environment here and around the world. They fuel a race to the bottom in living standards. That needs to change. We need policies that support good jobs at home and sustainable development abroad. We need to enforce the laws already on the books and stop blatant abuses by some countries that stack the decks against U.S. workers.

RSVP to the Toledo forum here. Or you can RSVP to the Warren event here. If you can’t make either event but want to help stop Fast Track, call your representative or you can sign AFL-CIO’s Fast Track petition.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,