Trumka: President’s Immigration Executive Action ‘Moves Us Forward’

Photo courtesy Victoria Pickering on Flickr

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement in response to President Barack Obama’s announced executive action on immigration reform:

Today is an important step toward rational and humane enforcement of immigration law. On behalf of America’s workers, we applaud the Administration’s willingness to act.  We have been calling upon the White House to halt unnecessary deportations since Spring 2013 because our broken immigration system is an invitation for employer manipulation and abuse, and U.S.-born workers as well as immigrant workers are paying the price.

By extending relief and work authorization to an estimated 4 million people, the Obama Administration will help prevent unscrupulous employers from using unprotected workers to drive down wages and conditions for all workers in our country.  Although this fix will be temporary, it will allow millions of people to live and work without fear, and afford them the status to assert their rights on the job.

The Administration is operating within its authority to advance the moral and economic interests of our country, and while we stand ready to defend this program, we must also be clear that it is only a first step.  Unfortunately, more than half of those who currently lack legal protections will remain vulnerable to wage theft, retaliation, and other forms of exploitation.

In addition, we are concerned by the President’s concession to corporate demands for even greater access to temporary visas that will allow the continued suppression of wages in the tech sector.  We will actively engage in the rulemaking process to ensure that new workers will be hired based on real labor market need and afforded full rights and protections.

But this announcement does move us forward – progress that is attributable to the courage and determination of immigrants who rallied, petitioned, fasted and blocked streets to make it happen.  Implementation of the executive action should begin immediately, before further delays open the door for legislative obstruction. Starting tomorrow, the administration should focus enforcement attention on high level targets, stop the community raids and leave workers, grandmothers, and schoolchildren in peace.

Going forward, we renew our call for comprehensive reform that provides a path to citizenship and real protections for workers.  We will continue to stand with all workers, regardless of status, to ensure that their voices are heard and their rights are protected.  Working together, we know that we will ultimately achieve a more just immigration system that promotes shared prosperity and respects the dignity of all workers.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Trumka: Labor Prepared to Combat Assaults on Workers’ Rights

While conservative legislators across the country are gearing up to propose extreme legislation, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued a statement that working families and the labor union are prepared to fight back and make sure that harmful and unpopular policies don’t pass. He said the labor federation would continue to focus on the agenda that working families want, one of raising wages and creating an economy that works for all Americans.

Trumka’s full statement:

In the wake of last Tuesday’s elections, many state and local politicians have already begun to signal their intent to wage assaults on working people in their states. While national political pundits debate outcomes, the AFL-CIO and its allies also have a keen eye on the developments at state and local levels.

We have no illusions there are radical politicians who are far more concerned with appeasing their corporate donors and being a tool for groups like ALEC than standing for working family issues. This is despite the fact that the Raising Wages agenda remain of utmost importance to most Americans. A majority of the electorate are struggling economically and 68 percent of voters agree that raising wages is good for workers and the economy. The majority of people want rights at work. We want the ability to stay home if we’re sick. We want fair and equal pay. And we believe if you work for and earn a pension, you should get it.

Make no mistake that the labor movement is more prepared and ready to combat these attacks than ever before.

We also know that this fight will not be the labor movement’s alone. We are fully engaged with our allies in the community and more importantly know that the values we stand for are in complete sync with the majority of Americans. It will take a collective effort to preserve and expand our values, and we are up to the task.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Hey, Walmart, Want to Fix Those Sales Problems? Why Not Invest in Workers?

An internal memo, recently leaked by a Walmart manager, urged store managers to improve lagging sales, primarily through addressing problems with understocked shelves and with keeping fresh meat, dairy and produce stocked and aging or expired items off the shelves. Such complaints are widespread at Walmart stores and are likely a significant factor in the company’s sales, which have lagged for 18 months. While the memo catalogs problems the company faces, it ignores the two most obvious solutions—giving workers adequate hours and paying those workers the $15 living wage they’ve been calling for.

Janet Sparks, a member of the OUR Walmart campaign seeking to improve wages and working conditions, said that substantial staffing cuts that began in 2010 are a big part of the problem: “Understaffing, from the sales floor to the front end, has greatly affected the store.”

Retail consultant Burt P. Flickinger III echoed Sparks’ comments:

Labor hours have been cut so thin, that they don’t have the people to do many activities. The fact that they don’t do some of these things every day, every shift, shows what a complete breakdown Walmart has in staffing and training.

Want to stand with Walmart workers? Get involved at blackfridayprotests.org.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Mike Michaud, Mark Schauer Among Hundreds of Union Member Candidates Running for Office

Photo courtesy Bernard Pollack

Hundreds of union members are running for elective office this year. Some are first-timers running for local office. Others are incumbents seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate. We’ve examined a few of these brave individuals willing to fight for working families, such as Don Norcross (running for New Jersey’s 1st Congressional District), Mike Michaud (running for Maine governor) and Mark Schauer (running for Michigan governor). Here are a few other key races where union members are running.

Al Franken, U.S. Senate, Minnesota: The incumbent is a member of three unions, the Writers Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA and the Directors Guild of America.

Linda Sanchez, U.S. Congress, California’s 38th Congressional District: Sanchez is a member of the Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 441 and former secretary-treasurer of the Orange County Labor Federation.

Tami Green, Washington State Senate District 28: Green is currently a member of the Washington State House of Representatives and is seeking higher office. She is a member of the Washington State Nurses Association, AFT.

Dawn Morrell, Washington State House District 25-1. She is an incumbent seeking reelection and also a member of the Washington State Nurses Association, AFT.

Henry Yanez, Michigan House District 25: Yanez is a member of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 1557 and a former member of UAW and IBEW.

Richard Onishi, Hawaii House District 3: Onishi is a member of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, AFSCME Local 152.

Like we said above, these are just a few of the hundreds of union members running for office this year. Tell us who your favorite labor candidates are in the comments!

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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4 Important Things You Should Know if You’re Voting in Colorado

Photo courtesy Memphis CVB on Flickr

Election Day is this Tuesday, Nov. 4. There are a lot of important races for working families across the country—and Colorado is a key state. Here are four important things you need to know if you are voting in Colorado.

1. You can still register to vote. Colorado allows voters to register up through and on Election Day. And registering is easy: You can register in person at your Voter Service and Polling Center. To find Voter Service and Polling Centers in your county, visit www.JustVoteColorado.org. If you aren’t sure about your registration, you can check and update your voter registration record.

2. You can vote early. Voting locations are open from now through Election Day. For Voter Service and Polling Centers in your area, go to www.JustVoteColorado.org to find out where you can cast your ballot.

3. You can mail your ballot in. If you already have requested and received your ballot through the mail, you still have time to send it and have it arrive by Election Day. If you put it in the mail by Friday (and remember to use two stamps), it should arrive on time. If you miss that deadline, you can still return your ballot to an approved voting location, which can be found online at www.JustVoteColorado.org.

4. Voting is easy. With so many options for Colorado voters, it’s a pretty easy process, but it’s even easier if you make a plan. Our handy-dandy Make a Plan tool will help you make sure that voting for working families is the smoothest part of your day.

Learn more about voting in Colorado this year.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Time Magazine Attacks Teachers

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The cover of Time magazine’s forthcoming Nov. 3 issue shows a pretty significant misunderstanding of an important issue when it attacks teachers, blaming them for the problems in America’s schools. The cover is featured already on Time’s website, and soon it will be in every supermarket checkout line and newsstand in the country. AFT is calling the magazine to task for the cover and has launched a petition demanding that Time apologize for the cover.

AFT notes that the cover doesn’t reflect the content of the issue, which presents a more balanced view of the issue, and instead represents the agenda of wealthy interests who want to take due process away from teachers. Millions of Americans will not read the more even-handed coverage inside the magazine and will be misled by the cover.

AFT President Randi Weingarten described her response to the cover:

When I saw this today, I felt sick. This Time cover isn’t trying to foster a serious dialogue about solutions our schools need—it’s intentionally creating controversy to sell more copies….

The millionaires and billionaires sponsoring these attacks on teacher tenure claim they want to get great teachers into the schools that serve high-need kids. It’s a noble goal, but stripping teachers of their protections won’t help.

In fact, this blame-and-shame approach only leads to low morale and high turnover, making it even harder to get great teachers into classrooms. Just today, constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinskywrote a fact-based argument that tenure protections help recruit and retain high-quality teachers! In fact, there is a strong correlation between states with strong teacher tenure and high student performance.

Sign the petition and tell Time that we need a real debate on issues surrounding education and that they should apologize for using sensationalism to sell magazines.  That’s what our students, and teachers, deserve.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Working Families to Join ‘Justice for All’ March in Ferguson

In September, when AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke to the convention of the Missouri AFL-CIO, he addressed the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., that led to the shooting of Michael Brown, saying that it was important for labor to be a part of the necessary conversation about race in the United States. Now the AFL-CIO, including the federation’s director of civil, human and women’s rights, Carmen Berkley, and Neidi Dominguez, assistant director of community engagement, will be in Missouri this weekend as part of the “Justice for All” events, including a national march and rally in St. Louis and Moral Monday-themed civil disobedience.

If you are going to be in the area for the national march on Saturday, please RSVP to be included as part of the working families contingent.

Learn more about all of the events, which begin today at the Ferguson October website.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Mark Begich Is the Right Choice for Alaska’s Working Families

In the U.S. Senate race in Alaska, there is a stark contrast between Sen. Mark Begich and Dan Sullivan. Which candidate is better for working families? Take a look at this handy chart from Working America and you’ll see it’s Begich.

1. Begich wants to continue growing the Alaska economy and create more good jobs by investing in infrastructure. Begich said, “My top priority is growing Alaska’s economy by creating good jobs right now for Alaskans and investing in critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, ports and harbors to help create jobs. I secured more than $1 billion to build and fix Alaska’s infrastructure, to create new jobs and expand our economy.”

2. He voted to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. [S. 2223, Vote 117, 4/30/14]

3. He also voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill to ensure that working women receive equal pay for equal work. [S. 2199, Vote 103, 4/9/14]

4. He has consistently defended the rights of working families and earned a lifetime AFL-CIO voting record of 98% from his tenure in Congress.

5. He has worked to bring jobs back home from overseas and to penalize businesses that outsource America’s jobs. [S. 3816, Vote 242, 9/23/10]

6. While many in Congress have called for cuts to programs like Social Security, Begich supports increasing benefits. “When you tell seniors, ‘We want to make sure your dollars rise as your costs do,’ there is automatic excitement because they recognize we understand what they’re going through….Are we for or against helping seniors have a dignified life in their later years? I’m for that.” [The Washington Post, 3/24/14]

7. As a member of both the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, he has pushed for increased funding for the Veterans Affairs (VA) and for innovative programs to provide better access to care and to attract more qualified individuals to work in VA health facilities across the nation. “There are few more important responsibilities we have as a nation than to give proper care to those who have sacrificed so much for us. Since day one in the Senate, I have been fighting to make sure Alaska’s veterans—especially those off the road system in rural villages—receive adequate health care. We have made incredible progress. But we are not done and we cannot ignore the devastating and unacceptable situation happening at VA centers in the rest of the country. Alaska’s first‐in‐the‐nation system is working and it should serve as a model for the rest of the country.” [Alaska Business Monthly, 5/29/14]

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In Alaska? Text AK to 30644 for important updates on the election. 

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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How to Talk to Your Friends and Family About…Voting Rights

This is the first installment in a new series in which we give you advice on how to talk to your friends and family about key issues for working families. We know that with family and work responsibilities, you don’t have the time to do all the research on important topics you need to know about to be an effective voter, so we’re going to do that for you and provide you with the best information and messaging about how you can talk to your friends and family.

This time, we’re going to talk about voting rights. It’s an election year and we’re quickly approaching the time when you will be casting your ballot and making sure your voice is heard. Every state is different, though, in how you exercise those rights, and many states have different voting rules that have been passed in recent years. While there are many examples of states pushing laws to expand voting rights, there are also many politically motivated, partisan attempts to manipulate the outcomes of elections by changing the rules rather than by offering policies and politicians the people support.

In any conversation about politics, it is important to talk about values and to connect those values to real-world consequences for the average American. Across the political spectrum, Americans share the value that voting is a right that should be equally accessible to all citizens. A key component of democracy in the United States is the right to vote, and most Americans support keeping the right as free and as fair as possible.

Here are some of the most common topics and arguments you might encounter and the best ways to respond to those arguments:

“We need voter ID laws.”

While it is important to protect the integrity of our elections, the biggest fraud we face in our elections are laws that make it harder for millions of eligible voters to cast their ballot, particularly when those laws are attempts to manipulate the system and subvert the will of the people. Voter ID laws often require forms of identification that tens of millions of Americans don’t have and, in millions of cases, aren’t free or easy to obtain. Flexible voting laws, that guarantee election integrity and allow every American who wants to vote to do so, are vitally important.

“But everybody should have to show an ID to vote.”

The problem is that the new laws generally are so specific in what types of IDs they allow and these laws usually outlaw types of IDs that were previously acceptable without any real evidence that those types of IDs were associated with significant voter fraud. More than 10% of Americans lack a government-issued photo ID and the laws we’ve seen passed in the past four years are disproportionately likely to make it harder to vote for seniors, people with disabilities, students, women and many others.

“But you need an ID to fly or buy a beer.”

True, but if you can’t buy a beer because you don’t have the proper ID, it has no negative effect on the functioning of our democracy or your ability to express your right to vote. When eligible voters are denied the right to vote that undermines democracy and denies people’s rights.

“Early voting should be curtailed because it is a gateway to fraud and double-voting.”

Elections are the time when Americans are the most equal—we all have only one vote and nobody’s vote counts more than anyone else’s. Our elections should remain free, fair and accessible. Many people choose to vote early because of work or family responsibilities, because they are traveling or because they have transportation challenges. Early voting makes it easier for responsible voters to make sure their voice is heard. There isn’t significant evidence of fraud in early voting and it’s wrong to limit access to the ballot for political reasons.

“The system works fine as it is.”

If you are an eligible voter, you should face as few barriers as possible to casting your ballot. Our registration system is inconsistent from state to state and is vulnerable to human error (such as typos and lost or incorrectly entered forms), which can prevent citizens from voting through no error of their own. We can harness technology to modernize our system and give more options to register securely and conveniently. Voters shouldn’t lose their right to vote simply because they move, something that is happening more and more often in tough economic times.

If you or someone you know hasn’t updated his or her registration since moving or needs to register, registering to vote is easy and fast through the AFL-CIO’s TurboVote tool.

If you have questions on what is needed at your polling place on Election Day, check out the MyVoteMyRight website.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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How to Vote Online in Alaska!

Alaska voters have a benefit that many Americans don’t—they have the option to vote online! This video walks people through the steps Alaskans need to take in order to vote online, so check it out and speak out for working families in 2014.

Live in Alaska? Text AK to 30644 for election updates. 

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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