7 Reasons Right to Work Is Wrong for Warren County, Ky. (and Everywhere Else)

7 Reasons Right to Work Is Wrong for Warren County, Ky. (and Everywhere Else)

In Warren County, Ky., a fiscal court has given preliminary approval to a local “right to work” for less ordinance. The measure is worded as to prevent any worker covered by the National Labor Relations Act from being required to join or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment. Since it is already illegal in the United States to require workers to join unions, the real focus of the measure is to weaken workers in negotiations with employers for decent wages and benefits. Instead of passing illegal ordinances that are a big waste of time and resources for the county, those efforts should be spent in other ways like focusing on raising wages for Warren County residents.

If you’re in Kentucky, call the fiscal court today and tell them you oppose the right to work ordinance: 1-855-721-3304

Here are seven specific ways that this measure would hurt workers in Warren County, most of which would apply to workers in other Kentucky locales (and elsewhere) if the process were repeated elsewhere:

1. It’s illegal and will create an administrative nightmareA Kentucky court already has said that right to work laws can only be made at the state level. If it goes into effect, it will lead to legal wrangling and make compliance very difficult for companies that work in more than one Kentucky county.

2. The law is being pushed by rich extremists from out of state: The Bluegrass Institute, a Kentucky “think tank,” that is pushing local right to work laws like this one receives massive amounts of funding from out-of-state interests that won’t be affected by the negative impact of such laws on Kentuckians. A shadowy network of groups, many of them connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the D.C.-based Heritage Foundation, and the billionaire Koch Brothers, pushes these laws across the country, with little concern about the local impact and without revealing their funding and broader agenda.

3. The law is being advanced with little input with a high level of secrecy: On Dec. 11, the court voted to pass the law. The right to work measure was part of a bill called Promotion of Economic Development and Commerce for Warren County and it was handed out 15 minutes before the vote, a vote that was held 19 out of 20 during the meeting. Where was the public input? Who proposed the measure? Who supported it? What economic impacts would it have on workers? Were any questions asked or answered during the process?

4. It hurts working families: There is a pattern of right to work laws decreasing wages, lowering household income, increasing poverty, undermining workplace safety and failing to improve access to health care.

5. These laws don’t actually boost the economy: A significant body of research backs that claim, and even some conservatives, such as Stanley Greer, a spokesperson for the National Right to Work Committee, have admitted it: “We’re not purporting to prove that right to work produces superior economic performance.”

6. Voters don’t want it: In November, Kentucky voters rejected candidates funded by out-of-state interests with extreme agendas, including right to work.

7. Kentucky residents have other priorities: The state’s hardworking families need a raise, more good jobs and more investment in education. This measure will accomplish none of that.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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NLRB Rules Employees Can Use Work Email for Organizing

Workers were given a potentially significant tool when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that employees can use work email accounts in union organizing activities, as long as they do it on their own time. The decision reversed a 2007 decision. Workers also are allowed to use work email to discuss wage and other workplace issues. The three Democrats on the board voted yes on the ruling, while the two Republicans abstained.

Bernie Lunzer, a vice president for the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which filed the case in 2012, said the ruling was: “A big victory for workers in general.”

CWA pursued the case after Purple Communications in Rocklin, Calif., refused to allow workers to use company email accounts in a union organizing drive.

The NLRB reasoned:

By focusing too much on employers’ property rights and too little on the importance of email as a means of workplace communication, the Board (in its earlier ruling) failed to adequately protect employees’ rights…and abdicated its responsibility ‘to adapt the Act to the changing patterns of industrial life.’

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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7 Reasons Fast Track Is Off Track

During the secret discussion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, extreme corporate interests are pushing for a Fast Track process that would not only hurt working families in the United States, but in the other countries involved in any final deal. Here are seven reasons why Fast Track is off track.

1. People oppose it: More than 60% of voters oppose Fast Track for the TPP free trade deal.

2. It doesn’t reflect modern values: Fast Track is a copy of the approach to trade taken by President Richard Nixon, pursuing the passage of trade deals regardless of the effects a deal might have on wages, jobs, small businesses and the environment.

3. It’s a job killer: Past trade deals have cost American jobs in large numbers. For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement led to the loss of more than 682,000 jobs.

4. It makes it harder for workers to get a raise: Previous Fast Tracked deals have depressed wages and weakened the rights of workers to organize and collectively bargain.

5. It increases inequality: Previous trade deals have greatly exacerbated CEO-to-worker pay disparities, so that the current ratio is 354-to-1.

6. It’s undemocratic: Fast Track limits debate and prohibits amendments and doesn’t give the public the opportunity to influence the process.

7. It gives corporations more power: By including “investor-to-state dispute settlement” provisions, foreign investors in the United States and U.S. investors operating in foreign countries can skip traditional methods of complaining about laws they don’t like and sue nations directly in private arbitration tribunals made up of for-profit arbitrators. This would give corporations and foreign interests an influence over our economy that the rest of us don’t have.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Chicago to Raise Minimum Wage to $13 Per Hour

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In the wake of federal and state inaction, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) recently proposed raising the minimum wage within the city limits to $13 per hour. A key City Council committee advanced the measure on a 16–3 vote Monday and the broader council passed it 44–5 Tuesday. The current wage of $8.25 will move to $10 early next year and will rise in increments until it reaches the full $13 in 2019.

The increase could affect more than 400,000 workers in the city. Emanuel fast-tracked the higher wage out of fears that the legislature and governor might pre-empt local increases. A bill to raise the statewide minimum wage recently stalled.

Emanuel said:

A higher minimum wage ensures that nobody who works in the city of Chicago will ever struggle to reach the middle class or be forced to raise their child in poverty. Today, Chicago has shown that our city is behind a fair working wage.

Action Now, a local working families organization that championed the measure, applauded the measure and noted that it included domestic workers, unlike previous laws:

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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San Francisco Leads the Way on Fair Scheduling with Retail Workers Bill of Rights

Photo courtesy Jobs With Justice

The city of San Francisco has taken a big step in the right direction by passing the Retail Workers Bill of Rights, which will end abusive scheduling practices and improve work environments for more than 40,000 workers at 1,250 locations in the city. The bill still has to be signed by the mayor, but workers and advocates are confident it will become law. By taking this big step, nearly half of the city’s workers in the related industries will have their lives improved.

The new rules will apply to retail stores, hotels and restaurants with at least 20 employees and at least 20 or more locations worldwide.The proposal would require employers to:

  • Tell workers their schedules at least two weeks in advance.
  • Pay workers extra if they change the schedule with less than 24 hours notice.
  • Offer extra hours, if available, to current part-time workers before hiring new workers.

Additionally, if a company is sold, current employees who have worked for six months or longer are guaranteed to work for at least 90 days. Employers also are prohibited from discriminating against part-time workers when it comes to pay or promotions.

Congressional Democrats have offered a similar bill that probably won’t move forward in a Republican Congress. The Schedules That Work Act would:

  • Protect workers against employer retaliation for schedule requests.
  • Require employers to use a process for schedule requests that meet the needs of workers, not just the company. In particular, requests that are based on caregiving duties, health conditions, education, training or a second job must be approved, unless there is a legitimate business reason not to approve them.
  • Pay workers for at least four hours if they arrive at work for a shift of at least four hours and are sent home early.
  • Require companies to provide schedules at least two weeks in advance and pay employees extra if schedules change with less than 24 hours notice.
  • Make employers provide extra pay to employees who are scheduled to work non-consecutive shifts on the same day.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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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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