Several hundred construction workers in Austin, Texas—mostly immigrants—and their supporters from faith, union and community groups saw their months-long fight for respect and fair wages come to a successful conclusion when the Austin City Council last week passed an ordinance requiring employers on construction projects that receive city economic incentives pay prevailing wages, provide safety training and other worker protections.
In a statement following the 6–1 City Council vote, the Workers Defense Project (WDP) thanked the lawmakers and their allies—including Austin Interfaith and the Texas State Building and Construction Trades Council—for their support and said:
In the end, the construction workers of this city got this ambitious bill started, and they got it across the finish line. We still have lots more work to do, but last night was proof that we can achieve great things for our city together.
For more than a decade, the WDP has been battling against wage theft, spotlighting the dangers and winning reforms of the Texas construction industry and standing up for workplace justice and immigrants’ rights.
Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller said:
The Austin City Council’s decision to ask companies that receive tax breaks to give something back in the form of higher construction wages came about in large part because a broad coalition, including labor unions, stood united. Many companies that come to Austin will offer workplace benefits that help the entire community. Others can decline to meet the ‘living wage’ standard, but the council’s action makes it less likely they will be rewarded with subsidies just for showing up. The ordinance is a carrot, not a stick, and it will benefit workers.
WDP Political Director Greg Casar told the Texas Observer that the Austin ordinance “should be a model for the rest of our state to follow.”
Texas by far gives more tax incentives [than other states] in the country, while the working people who build Texas aren’t allowed to make enough money to make ends meet and aren’t allowed a safe worksite….The city took a critical and historic step last night to make sure that our tax dollars are really benefiting all of Austin and all the people who are paying taxes rather than just the corporations receiving the tax breaks.
Read more about Austin’s new law here and more about the WDP from The New York Times here.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: austin, construction, Jobs, Rights At Work, Texas
If you’re a musician—living room or professional—and have ever walked into a Guitar Center store and gazed upon the walls of guitars, floors of drum kits and racks of gear, you’ve probably thought, “Wow, what a place for a day job.”
That’s what thousands of Guitar Center workers thought when they began work at one of the world’s largest musical instrument retailer’s 220 stores in the United States, but since Bain Capital took over the chain, the workers say pay and working conditions have plummeted. Says one six-year New York Guitar Center worker:
We’ve constantly been paid less and less and asked to do more and more work.
That’s why working with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) since late last year, Guitar Center employees are coming together to demand change and form a union. In May, workers at a Manhattan Guitar Center voted to join RWDSU, and in August, we told you about the Chicago Guitar Centeremployees who voted for voice with RWDSU.
Now Michelle Chen at In These Times takes a long look at the struggle and management’s efforts to dissuade the workers from joining the union. Most store employees are also musicians and Chen explores how that connection strengthens their solidarity. Read the full article here.
Also, after Guitar Center workers and the RWDSU launched a petition drive to build support for their campaign, a number of prominent musicians and members of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) signed on, including Steve Earle, Tom Morello, Billy Bragg, Ted Leo and Kathleen Hanna.
Add your name to the petition.
Photo by liveloudtx on Flickr
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, organizing, Rights At Work
McDonald’s can’t say it doesn’t know it pays its workers so little that many of them qualify for public assistance (52% of fast-food workers do) to eat, go to the doctor or heat their homes. In fact, the burger giant appears to encourage its employees to seek out government help to meet the ends that their paychecks won’t.
The people who staff the company’s “McResource” help hotline for employees are so well-versed in the needs of workers who make poverty-level wages, they seem to have information on how and where to apply for food stamps, Medicaid and other programs for the poor right at their fingertips.
Read more from Salon’s Josh Eidelson who writes about the phone call Nancy Salgado, a 10-year employee in Illinois making the state’s minimum wage of $8.25 an hour, made to the McResources line, and then take a look at this video with excerpts from that call for help.
BTW, according to National Employment Law Project, the government spends about $7 billion a year on public assistance for fast-food workers like Salgado. Those are our tax dollars at work, not fast food’s, which makes $7.4 billion in profits. As the video points out:
McDonalds doesn’t want to pay its workers more. It wants you to pay its workers more.
Find out more at Low Pay Is Not OK.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, fast food, mcdonalds, minimum wage, NELP, welfare
The nation’s economy added 148,000 new jobs in September, compared to 169,000 jobs created in August. The 7.2% jobless rate is slightly down from August’s 7.3%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While today’s report reflects 42 straight months of job growth, the pace is weak, sluggish and just enough to absorb new entrants into the market and makes little dent in the jobs deficit.
Job creation is likely to slow even more after the 16-day House Republican government shutdown and their irresponsible vow to hold the raising of the nation’s debt ceiling hostage over Republicans’ demands to weaken the Affordable Care Act and for significant cuts in vital safety net programs.
With the shutdown over and budget talks set to get under way, working families are calling for the creation of jobs and raising hundreds of billions of dollars to invest in our future by ending all tax subsidies for outsourcing; repeal of the job-killing sequester; rejection of any benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid and protection of food aid for the poor.
The number of long-term unemployed people (those who are jobless for 27 weeks or more) dropped slightly from 4.3 million to 4.1 million, accounting for 36.9% of the people without jobs. The number of long-term jobless people has dropped by 725,000 over the past 12 months.
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (7.1%), adult women (6.2%) teenagers (21.4%), whites (6.3%), African Americans (12.9%) and Latinos (9%) showed little change in September.
The biggest job gains were in professional and business services (32,000), transportation and warehousing (23,000), construction (20,000), wholesale (15,000) and retail (9,000).
Employment in other major industries, including leisure and hospitality, health care, mining and logging, manufacturing, information and government, showed little change in September.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Affordable Care Act, aflcio, Jobs, jobs report, secure retirement, shutdown, social security
The nearly two-week-old government shutdown, engineered by House tea party Republicans, is hurting everyday working people and their families. The 800,000 federal workers and tens of thousands of government-contracted employees shut out of their jobs and others forced to work without pay perform vital duties for the public and now are struggling to keep roofs over their heads and food on their tables.
Here are five stories you need to read from shut-out workers and about shut-down services. Click here to share your story with us. We need to make sure the GOP understands who is hurt every day this shutdown continues.
Ona is a furloughed worker from a nuclear waste cleanup site in Georgia.
We were sent home on Oct. 3 and told not to come back until called back. This could be weeks….These people are the hands-on workers that are well trained to perform the difficult tasks of shutting down these waste tanks and setting things right so their kids and their kids’ kids don’t have to deal with it years down the road….I will not be surprised if some of them do not make it back and we will have lost some very well-trained and dedicated workers to this furlough situation.
Read more from Ona.
Jessica’s husband is the sole source of income for the California couple.
He works for a military base about half an hour from our home. After dealing with six weeks of furloughs from sequestration and losing $1,100/month, we fell behind in bills. Because of the shutdowns, we are now looking at our phones being shut off, cable and Internet being shut off and being left with no choice but to voluntarily repo our car.
Cesar is a furloughed federal worker in Florida.
I am the sole income earner in my family. I have two boys, and contrary to what is being said by right-wing talk show hosts, I and many of my fellow federal colleagues do not earn six-figure salaries. We are in the process of buying a home, and I will now have to dip into money that we have saved up to buy our home to get by until Republicans decide to re-open our government.
Read more from Cesar.
Emily is a young furloughed federal worker in Washington, D.C.
The sequester and now the shutdown have been disheartening and have strained my finances to the point that I will need to borrow from my parents—out of their retirement fund—to make rent. I’ve also had to put off seeing specialists for a chronic health issue that won’t quite be covered by my high-option insurance plan. Financial strain aside, public service is my passion, not just how I earn a paycheck—I love my job and just want to get back to work, doing my utmost to serve my fellow Americans and protect the environment for us all.
David is an organizer in New York.
I have been working with a group of residential workers who have been fighting for a year to form a union. The company has committed numerous illegal acts, attempting to intimidate and threaten workers. One employee illegally had his hours cut. The National Labor Relations Board just filed a complaint and was close to a settlement that would have gotten this worker over $1,500 in back pay that the company had kept from him. But with the shutdown, this worker won’t get his money any time soon. Additionally, the board cannot process the new charges filed. Justice delayed is justice denied.
Click here to share your story with us.
Photo from AFGE on Facebook
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, California, DC, Florida, Georgia, Health Care, Jobs, NLRB, public workers, Rights At Work, shutdown
A letter from 51 Republican House members to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) makes Social Security cuts the latest ransom demand of the Republican hostage-takers in Congress. This may be unwelcome news to the many tea party Republicans who depend on Social Security benefits.
The letter, signed by 51 Republican lawmakers, says that “Social Security provides us the best opportunity to begin solving our nation’s significant budget imbalances” and that “the ongoing fiscal discussions in Congress provide an opportunity to address entitlement program deficits…with our limited time frame to take action before we run up against fiscal deadlines.”
In other words, let’s use Social Security to reduce the deficit, and let’s use this manufactured budget crisis to get our way.
How do these 51 Republicans want to “change” Social Security to solve our budget imbalances? Their letter is not specific, but they point out that there are a “relatively few, well-known options” to do so.
Indeed there are. We have seen these well-known options trotted out by Republican members of Congress over and over again.
For example, the cover letter from Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) specifically identifies three “well-known options” to cut Social Security benefits:
- Cutting Social Security benefits with a chained CPI cost-of-living formula;
- Raising the Social Security retirement age; and
- Means-testing Social Security benefits.
Read more about these benefit cuts here.
Ribble spells out exactly how the upcoming “fiscal deadlines” can be used to get these Social Security proposals through Congress. First, you increase the debt ceiling for six weeks, then in the intervening six weeks you attach Social Security legislation to a longer-term increase in the debt ceiling.
Perhaps the most “well-known option” to reduce the deficit by “changing” Social Security is the “chained” CPI, which would cut Social Security benefits by reducing Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs).
In Ribble’s district in Wisconsin, there are more than 140,000 Social Security recipients whose benefits would be cut because of the “chained” CPI. The benefits of Ribble’s constituents would be cut $4 million in 2015 and $57 million in 2023.
The 51 Republicans who signed his letter might want to check out this report by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, which will tell them the number of their constituents whose benefits would be cut by the “chained” CPI.
They also might want to check out this report, which shows how much the “chained” CPI would cut their constituents’ benefits from 2015 to 2023, as well as the impact of these benefit cuts on jobs in their district.
It might be safe to assume that many of these constituents who would suffer the most from Republican hostage-taking are tea party Republicans.
Of course, cutting Social Security benefits is just one of the ransom demands made by Republicans in Congress. As AFL-CIO Policy Director Damon Silvers recently wrote:
That’s why people need to tell the president, ‘stand tall, we are with you. No negotiating with hostage-takers. Not about the Affordable Care Act, not about the Grand Bargain and certainly not about cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, or more giveaways for big corporations that outsource jobs. You won the election. You must defend democracy and you must stand up for the 99%, and that means no more rewarding hostage-takers.’
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: John Boehner, Medicare, secure retirement, shutdown, social security
After nearly a year of protests, rallies, marches and court battles demanding “Fairness at Patriot,” a settlement has been reached that will help cover future health care benefits for the retired coal miners affected by the bankruptcy of Patriot Coal.
The Mine Workers (UMWA) yesterday announced that it had reached a global settlement with Peabody Energy and Patriot that will provide more than $400 million to fund retiree health care costs through the Patriot Retirees Voluntary Employee Benefit Association (VEBA). Peabody will pay $310 million over four years while Patriot will provide the remainder through payments and production-based royalties.
UMWA President Cecil E. Roberts said:
This is a significant amount of money that will help maintain health care for thousands of retirees who earned those benefits though years of labor in America’s coal mines. This settlement will also help Patriot emerge from bankruptcy and continue to provide jobs for our members and thousands of others in West Virginia and Kentucky.
Patriot Coal was spun off from Peabody in 2007, and Peabody transferred the health care and other obligations of the former Peabody miners and retirees to Patriot. Patriot filed for bankruptcy in July 2012. In August, the UMWA reached a settlement with Patriot that restored many of the wage and benefit cuts Patriot instituted as part of its bankruptcy proceedings.
As part of the recent settlement, the union agreed to halt its months-long public relations and direct action effort related to Peabody in St. Louis and elsewhere regarding the effects of the Patriot Coal bankruptcy. Miners and their allies had held several huge marches and rallies at Peabody’s St. Louis headquarters and elsewhere.
Several thousand of Patriot retirees worked for Magnum Coal, a subsidiary of Arch Coal that Patriot acquired in 2008. Arch Coal, like Peabody, was accused of ducking its health care and other obligations of those miners by transferring them to the subsidiary. Arch Coal has yet to settle with the union, and Roberts said:
Arch still can step up and meet its obligation to these retirees. We will continue to encourage them to do so in the coming days.
Roberts said while the settlement with Peabody and Patriot is significant, it does not provide the level of funding needed to maintain health care for these retirees forever.
That is why we are continuing our efforts to pass bipartisan legislation in Congress that will put these retirees under the Coal Act, meaning their long-term health care benefits would be secured at no additional cost to taxpayers.
H.R. 2918, introduced by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), has 24 co-sponsors from both parties; and S. 468, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), has six co-sponsors.
Photo by Missouri AFL-CIO on Facebook
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Health Care, mineworkers, Missouri, patriot coal, pension, secure retirement, West Virginia
Last week, we gave you a dozen examples of the vital work that locked-out federal employees are being prevented from doing, thanks to the irresponsible House Republican government shutdown now in its second week. Republican House leaders are still refusing to do the right thing and allow a vote on funding and reopening the government.
Here’s a look at a few more of the jobs that shut-down workers—or those still on the job but not getting paid—perform and some of the key government services we all count on that are idled.
Every day, tens of millions of Americans are in the air, on the rails and roads and on buses and subways expecting safe travel, but likely giving little thought to the federal workers whose job it is to get them safely from point A to point B.
The Federal Aviation Administration has furloughed 3,000 aviation safety inspectors. The inspectors check to make sure airlines are maintaining their planes safely, conduct inspections at airports of planes and pilots and visit domestic and foreign repair stations where airlines send planes for major overhauls, among other safety jobs. Other aviation experts are on the job but without pay.
On Tuesday evening at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., aviation specialists from the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) and from unions of the Connecticut AFL-CIO staged an informational picket to alert the flying public about the possible safety issues because of the Republican government. Says PASS President Mike Perrone:
Sidelining aviation safety inspectors, who are crucial employees, for even a day is unacceptable and exposes the aviation system to unnecessary risk… Congress must immediately work to end the shutdown and put an end to undermining the critical work these inspectors perform.
Members of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) are in the towers and control centers still guiding you safely home but are doing so without pay. Says NATCA President Paul Rinaldi:
The uncertainty created by this shutdown is only adding to an already stressful work environment. Promises of back pay amount to nothing more than IOU’s while bills pile up and frustration mounts
Because of the irresponsible shutdown that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) engineered, nearly all investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board have been locked out of their jobs and are unable to search for causes of several recent fatal accidents, including a Tennessee bus crash that left eight people dead and 14 more injured, a plane crash that killed four in Santa Monica, Calif., and an explosion in a Washington, D.C., Metro tunnel near one of the line’s busiest stations that killed one worker and seriously injured two others.
The House Republican shutdown has put workers at risk, too.
At the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, where 90% of its inspection force has been locked out, routine and targeted inspections have ground to a halt along with most workplace injury and fatality investigations. Safety experts warn that construction workers could be at the biggest risk, but workers in other high hazard industries such as chemical and steel could also see dangers increase.
After furloughing 1,400 employees, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has been reduced to conducting only targeted inspections at high hazard mines. The agency has been forced to forgo the required quarterly complete inspection of every underground mine. Last week, three coal miners were killed on the job in separate incidents on consecutive days. It was the first time since 2002 there were coal mine fatalities three days in a row.
While the deaths occurred at nonunion mines, Mine Workers (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts said that because of the shutdown, “The government’s watchdog isn’t watching.”
The circumstances surrounding each of these fatalities are different, and I do not want to draw immediate conclusions as to their causes based on incomplete evidence at this time. But it is extremely troubling that within a week after the federal government shutdown caused the normal system of mine safety inspection and enforcement to come to a halt, three miners are dead.
With lack of the regular and required inspections, he said, “Safety violations that would normally be caught and corrected as a result of those inspections are being missed.”
Even the smallest violations, when allowed to accumulate, can lead to dangerous conditions very quickly in a coal mine.
We all have to eat, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, charged with inspecting the nation’s food supply, has furloughed 60% percent of its 1,600 investigators and says it’s halted “routine domestic or international inspections of food facilities.”
The Christian Science Monitor reports:
91% of seafood that Americans consume, which the United States imports, is not being inspected, currently. The same goes for the nearly 50% of fruits and 20% of vegetables consumed in the U.S. but imported from abroad.
Photo by beltz6 on Flickr
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Jobs, Public Safety, public workers, shutdown
On a bright, sunny fall day on the National Mall, thousands of immigrants—including many families with young children—union members and community and faith activists delivered a message to the lawmakers inside the U.S. Capitol, just blocks up the street: “The time is now” for a vote on comprehensive immigration reform with a road map to citizenship.
The Camino Americano concert and march for immigration reform included a peaceful action of civil disobedience when the immigrant, union and faith leaders and lawmakers, leading the march after the rally, staged a sit-down in front of the U.S. Capitol and took arrest. Among those taken into custody were AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, AFT President Randi Weingarten, UNITE HERE President D. Taylor, The Newspaper Guild-CWA (TNG-CWA) President Bernie Lunzer, Communications Workers of America (CWA) Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill, María Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and several members of Congress.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: DC, immigration, Jobs
More workers at Amazon.com’s warehouses—that some describe as high-speed, high-tension sweatshops—have filed federal court suits against the company and its contractors that supply the mostly temporary and low-paid workers for workplace rules that require them to undergo unpaid security checks at breaks and the end of their often 12-hour shifts.
The most recent legal action comes from workers at distribution centers in Kentucky, Tennessee and Washington State. Those suits follow one filed by Amazon.com warehouse workers in Nevada.
According to the complaints, writes Dave Jamieson at The Huffington Post, the workers have to go through a security checkpoint at the end of their shifts, as well as at the beginning of their unpaid breaks. Workers typically line up to pass through a metal detector, and they may have their bodies passed over with wands or their bags searched by guards if they happen to set the detector off. The searches usually take about 10 minutes but can be as long as 30 minutes in peak holiday season. Says Jamieson:
Collectively, the complaints suggest that Amazon’s policy of forcing workers to wait in security lines without pay is common practice at its growing number of distribution centers throughout the country. The suits also reveal some of the labor penny-pinching that’s enabled the world’s largest online retailer to undercut competitors with such fast and cheap shipping.
Read more from Jamieson.
In July, after President Obama appeared at an Amazon.com warehouse in Tennessee calling for creation of “middle class jobs,” we reported on working conditions at the online retail giant’s warehouses, including workers walking more than 10 miles a shift, temperatures as high as 110° F and with their productivity tracked by a scanner.
Workers are pressured to keep up dangerous levels of work for shifts that last 12 hours or more. Workers say they are constantly in fear of being written up or fired for not working fast enough. Employees reportedly have to participate in phone conferences where there was screaming and constant complaints that production numbers weren’t high enough, regardless of how high they were. Several former managers said they were retaliated against for complaining about work conditions.
Read the full story.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, amazon, Kentucky, organizing, Rights At Work, Tennessee, washington