Want to Create 5.8 Million New Jobs? Here’s How

If the United States acted forcefully to end currency manipulation by China and other nations—and there is legislation to provide the government the tools to do so—it could create as many as 5.8 million jobs (40% in manufacturing) and reduce the nation’s trade deficit by as much as 72.5%, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

Currency manipulation is the largest single cause of the U.S. trade deficit, and the Chinese government is the world’s biggest currency manipulator. It deliberately keeps the value of its currency artificially low and that artificially raises the price of U.S. exports to China and suppresses the price of Chinese imports into the United States. This artificial price advantage is one of many pull factors that encourages U.S. businesses to shut down operations here and manufacture in China instead. Says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

U.S. workers can compete with anyone in the world, but they cannot compete successfully on a lopsided playing field. [Currency manipulation] is a major contributing factor in our lopsided trade relationship with China. Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturing companies and workers bear the brunt of these unfair policies.

The EPI report finds that:

  • Eliminating currency manipulation would reduce the U.S. trade deficit by $200 billion in three years under a “low-impact” scenario and $500 billion under a “high-impact scenario.” This would increase annual U.S. GDP by between $288 billion and $720 billion (between 2.0% and 4.9%).
  • The reduction of U.S. trade deficits and expansion of U.S. GDP would create 2.3 million to 5.8 million jobs, reducing the U.S. jobs deficit by between 28.8% and 72.5%.
  • About 40% of the jobs gained would be in manufacturing, which would gain between 891,500 and 2,337,300 jobs. Agriculture also would gain 246,800 to 486,100 jobs, heavily affecting some rural areas.

Read the full EPI report here.

Bipartisan legislation in Congress (H.R. 1267 and S. 1114) would crack down on currency exchange rate manipulation and hold countries that manipulate their currencies accountable. Trumka says:

We call on Congress to fight on the side of American workers and domestic manufacturers and farmers to put an end to currency manipulation now.

While China is the largest currency manipulator, other nations do so, too. Japan, which is one the 12 TPP nations, (China is not involved) has been accused of weakening the value of the yen to benefit its auto industry.

Currently Japan exports some 130 cars to the United States for every car that U.S. automakers export to Japan. One of the major reason for that imbalance is currency manipulation says the UAW.

As a consequence of Japanese government currency intervention, in a market such as the United States, Japanese imports have seen several thousand dollars in effective subsidies while, at the same time, exports from the United States to Japan have seen several thousand dollars in added costs….The impact of these policies undermines American auto exports and American jobs and the investment they support.

Yesterday, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), both sponsors of S. 1114, said that without currency manipulation rules as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade and investment agreement and other pending trade agreements, Congress is unlikely to approve the trade bills. Says Brown:

The trade agenda is not moving until currency is part of it.

The Obama administration’s is pushing to have the TPP agreement considered under Fast Track rules in Congress.

Under the Fast Track process, Congress can only vote yes or no on the full agreement. It cannot amend or improve the bill.

Sign the petition to Congress to stop bad Fast Track trade deals over the next four years, including the TPP.

Also, if you haven’t signed a letter for a better TPP, do it here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Tell Kirk, Other Senators: Support Unemployed Workers, Restore Jobless Benefits

Call your Senators TODAY: 845-809-4509

In the past few weeks, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has shown a lot of love and respect for the 11 Illinois residents who recently competed for the United States at the Winter Olympic Games. Check out his Facebook page.  But, as many people who have left their comments there say, it’s time for Kirk to show some of the same respect and compassion for the state’s more than 99,000 jobless workers who lost their emergency unemployment benefits in December.

Call Kirk at 845-809-4509 if you live in Illinois and tell him the same thing.

You see, like the more than 1.7 million unemployed workers across the country, many jobless Illinois workers are no long receiving unemployment benefits because Republicans in Congress allowed the federal  emergency unemployment benefits program to expire Dec. 31, and Kirk was one of the majority of Republicans who voted against renewing the program in January and again this month.

But, as soon as Thursday, Kirk and other Republicans will have a chance to do the right thing and vote on a bill to restore the emergency unemployment benefits program that provides a lifeline to workers after their state benefits run out—usually 26 weeks, but now less than that in many states, thanks to Republican state lawmakers.

Kirk—who has indicated he might support a restoration—is a key vote, along with Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.).  If you live in Illinois, Ohio or Indiana, please call Kirk, Portman or Coats today at 845-809-4509 and tell them hundreds of thousands of their constituents and more than 1.7 million Americans need their votes. No matter where you live, please call your senators using the number above and tell them the same thing.  Another 1.9 million Americans will out of benefits by June if the program is not restored.

Here are just a few examples of what Illinois voters are telling Kirk on his Facebook page:

Annie Kiser: You have MANY Republican constituents out of work 26+ weeks. THEY VOTE and your “no” on #EUC will cost you, Mr. Kirk #RENEWUI

Annemarie Purcell Diola: Please push for the extended unemployment benefits as soon as possible. My unemployment ran out the 3rd week of December, where I was approved for 10 weeks of Tier 1 EUC, was only able to collect 1 week of it. I have worked my entire life and followed the rules, but my family is suffering!

Michael Greenberger: And A LOT of veterans were unemployed when you PULLED THE RUG OUT FROM UNDER THEM. Why don’t you support jobless people?

portman et all

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Trumka: ‘Right-Wing Zealotry’ Played Role in VW Vote

After unprecedented interference from politicians and out-of-state extremists like Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers, workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant voted 712–626 against representation by theUAW that would have led to the establishment of a works council, the first such model of labor-management relations in the United States.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the workers stood up to “enormous odds to try to form their own union and to create an historic new model of workplace governance.” He adds:

Unconscionably, what should have been a local workplace decision by workers and management was turned into an experiment in new forms of right-wing zealotry over issues having nothing to do with how stakeholders decided for themselves the best way to build automobiles and create a strong Chattanooga community.

While Volkswagen had agreed to remain neutral, Republican lawmakers and right-wing groups mounted a large-scale anti-union attack. UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel, who directs the union’s southern organizing, says:

Unfortunately, politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that would grow jobs in Tennessee.

Says UAW President Bob King:

While we certainly would have liked a victory for workers here, we deeply respect the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, Volkswagen management and IG Metall for doing their best to create a free and open atmosphere for workers to exercise their basic human right to form a union.

Trumka says:

But, make no mistake, the closeness of the results and the courage and tenacity of union supporters prove that this election is a minor setback, and not a permanent defeat.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Union Made: Love with a Union Label on Valentine’s Day

Union Made: Love with a Union Label on Valentine’s Day

Why not give your valentine some union-made sweets this Feb. 14, toast your love with champagne that carries a union label or touch up your pheromones a bit with some smell-good union-made scents.

It turns out there are many union-made treats you can give out on Valentine’s Day. The iconic Necco candy Sweethearts conversation hearts are made by members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM). Several familiar sparkling libations such as J. Roget and Tott’s are produced by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). Here are some more products compiled by our friends at Labor 411, the union business directory from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, made by union members.

Want info on more union-made products? Text MADE to 235246 (standard data and message rates may apply). 

Chocolate

  • See’s Candies
  • Russell Stover
  • Ghirardelli Chocolate
  • Hershey’s Kisses and Hugs

Champagne

  • Andre
  • Cook’s
  • Eden Roc
  • J. Roget
  • Jacques Bonet
  • Jacques Reynard
  • JFJ
  • Le Domaine
  • Tott’s
  • Wycliff

Smell Good

  • Hugo Boss
  • Pierre Cardin
  • Avon
  • Old Spice

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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13,000 Las Vegas Casino/Hotel Workers Ratify New Pact

The members of Culinary Workers Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165(both UNITE HERE locals) voted Tuesday to ratify a five-year contract with Caesars Entertainment covering the 13,000 members of both locals. The deal, which replaces the previous contract that expired in June, was approved by 97% of the voters.

The workers are employed a seven Caesars’ properties in the food and beverage, housekeeping, cocktails and the bell departments. Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer of Local 226, said:

Through negotiations, Caesars and the unions have worked together to reach an agreement that gives workers the opportunity to provide for their families. It is clear Caesars Entertainment is committed to the future of Las Vegas. The overwhelming support for the new contract shows members want a secure future with good jobs and strong benefits.

Elmer Portillo, a food server at Planet Hollywood, said, “This is a good contract for members because benefits and jobs are secured. I’m especially thankful to know my health care is protected for the next five years, that’s very important.”

The unions say the economic package, agreed to by both parties, mirrors exactly what has been agreed to by the unions and other employers. Workers will keep their high-quality health insurance. Changes were negotiated for food and beverage operations to allow for flexibility in closed and distressed venues with the goals of reopening shops and bringing workers back to their jobs. New housekeeping language will increase job safety by creating measures designed to deal with hazardous work conditions. Finally, a new program in the cocktails department will create jobs and maximize customer service.

Read more here.

The seven properties are Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood, Bally’s, Harrah’s, Rio and Flamingo. In November, the 21,000 workers at MGM Resorts International ratified a similar five-year contract. The employees work at Aria, Bellagio, Circus Circus, Slots A Fun, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Monte Carlo and the New York-New York Hotel.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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And the Grammy Goes to…the Minnesota Orchestra

During the 16 months the Minnesota Orchestra was locked out, it was often described as one of the best orchestra’s in the world. Sunday night, a little more than two weeks after the orchestra’s musicians—members American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM)—ratified a new agreement ending the lockout, the Minnesota Orchestra’s reputation as one of the world’s best was cemented with a Grammy award.

Facing competition from major orchestras around the world, including the Los Angeles and the Berlin philharmonics, the Minnesota Orchestra took the Grammy award for Best Orchestral Performance for its recording of “Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4,” conducted by Osmo Vänskä.

Principal cellist Tony Ross told the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

We’re all thrilled….It’s very difficult to win as a Midwestern orchestra. Most of the voters live in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Nashville. This [win] was for orchestral performance—it’s about quality onstage.

In a statement on the Minnesota Musicians website, Ross said:

The winning of a Grammy award for Best Orchestral Performance confirms where the Musicians and our leader Osmo Vänskä were as a symphony orchestra before the lockout. We were a great orchestra enjoying a special relationship with our music director, Osmo Vänskä, that brought worldwide acclaim to Minnesota. This is also why we need him to return and carry on with the projects and partnership that have brought this orchestra to great heights. We know this community deserves an orchestra of that level of distinction.

During the lockout, the musicians organized several area concerts that drew large crowds of supporters. One of the concerts included Vänskä, who spoke out against the lockout and who resigned in October as the lockout by orchestra management entered its second year. Because of the musicians’ community outreach and concerts, they received an outpouring of support from the local community and throughout the state and across the nation.

The recordings were made in May and June of 2012 and the lockout began in October 2012. The new agreement takes effect Feb. 1, and the orchestra will return to the stage beginning Feb. 7.

In other Grammy news, the band La Santa Cecilia that performed for delegates at the recent AFL-CIO Convention in Los Angeles received the Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album Grammy award for its “Treinta Días. The Los Angeles-based Mexican American band was named for Santa Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians.

Click here for a full list of winners; and don’t forget that along with the AFM members who took home Grammy awards, the musicians, dancers, stage and technical crews who made last night’s broadcast possible are highly skilled workers represented by several unions, including Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE),Dancers’ Alliance, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians–Communications Workers of America (NABET-CWA), SAG-AFTRA and others.

Photo from Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Pentagon Contract Workers Strike for Living Wage

A group of Pentagon workers employed by federal contractors at low wages to operate concessions and clean federal buildings are the latest federal contract workers to walk off the job and urge President Barack Obama to use his executive authority to establish a living wage requirement for contractors that do business with the government.

Salon’s Josh Eidelson reports that low-wage contracted workers at several other federal buildings joined today’s demonstrations. Read Eidelson’s full report.

About 2 million workers are employed at low wages by federal contractors across the nation.

Like low-wage fast-food and retail workers across the country, the federal workers have staged one-day strikes to spotlight their demands for a living wage and the right to join a union without retaliation by employers.

In September, a group of federal contract workers marched to the White House and delivered petitions with more than 250,000 signatures, urging Obama to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay a living wage. While Obama has called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage, the White House has not indicated if Obama will issue the living wage executive order for federal contractors.

More than 200 workers at six Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., won union representation with UNITE HERE late last year and are bargaining for better wages and working conditions.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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West Virginia: Weak Environmental Laws = Poison Water

Common sense tells you don’t put a hazardous chemical storage facility on the banks of a river, a little more than a mile upstream from a drinking water intake that serves more than 300,000 people downstream. So should the law.

But beyond basic common sense, state and  federal environmental and safety and health rules should be in place to prevent disasters such as the recent West Virginia chemical spill that poisoned the drinking water of families downstream from a largely unregulated and uninspected toxic chemical facility on the banks of the Elk River.

Not only was Freedom Industries allowed to operate the facility, which stored millions of gallons of various so-called “specialty chemicals” in aging tanks along the river banks, it had not been inspected by state or federal authorities since 2001, according to the Associated Press. When the leak occurred it was neighbors, not the company, who alerted officials.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports:

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection officials have said that their inspectors investigated the situation at Freedom on Jan. 9—not because of an alert from the company, but after neighbors complained of an annoying chemical odor resembling that of licorice.

The chemical industry and others in West Virginia have a long and successful history of fighting environmental and health and safety rules. But as the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards points out, the West Virginia water disaster is:

The latest in a series of environmental and safety disasters related to shortcomings in federal and state oversight that have often been driven by vociferous industry-funded anti-regulatory campaigns….The public pays the price when the regulatory agencies don’t have the legal tools and funding to do their jobs.

AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Peg Seminario says, “This latest disaster has eerie echoes of the West Texas fertilizer explosion in March 2013—in both cases regulation of the toxic chemicals involved were lacking and there had been no oversight or inspections of the facilities.”

In Charleston, citizens have had their lives upended for days, but thankfully there has been no loss of life. In West, Texas, the damage was more devastating and long lasting with 15 emergency responders killed and hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed.

She said the disasters point out the urgent need for stronger protections and greater oversight by state and federal authorities.

This will only happen if citizens and workers come together and demand that their government take action to ensure safe water, clean air and safe workplaces for all.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Minnesota Orchestra Members Ratify New Deal to End Lockout

Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra will be back onstage soon after they and the orchestra board of directors have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement that will end the nearly 16-month lockout of the musicians. The agreement takes effect Feb. 1 and performances are expected to begin later that month.

The musicians are members of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) and were locked out by the board in October 2012. In a statement posted today on the musicians’ website, Tim Zavadil, clarinetist and negotiator, says:

The Musicians are pleased that we have come to a solution with our board, and we are ready to begin the hard work that lies ahead together. We are eager to perform for our community at home in Orchestra Hall once again. We have seen firsthand the deep love for this orchestra, and we are confident that this community will, in fact, continue to support a world-class symphony orchestra.

The board had originally sought to cut salaries by 30% or more. While the new agreement cuts salaries, the statement says:

Keeping salaries in the top ten was a critical issue as it allows the orchestra to attract and retain the finest musicians in the country, building on the tradition of excellence that has been cultivated by the community over many generations. The agreement achieves this priority.

During the course of the lockout, the musicians received an out pouring of support from the local community and throughout the state and across the nation.

The Musicians thank each and every individual and organization that has supported maintaining a great orchestra for Minnesota over the past 16 months. We have been strong because of you and we will need your continuing strength and passionate voices as we move forward together. We are excited to work with you, our engaged community partners, as we re-vitalize the Minnesota Orchestra.

In the several years before the lockout, the Minnesota Orchestra was drawing high praise as one of the best in the nation and abroad in 2010, Alex Ross, The New Yorker’s music critic, called the Minnesota Orchestra “the greatest orchestra in the world.”

Read the full statement and more from the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Put a Stop to This: Bad Credit? No Job for You!

Today’s jobless workers face new discriminatory barriers to finding work in a broken economy. Some employers won’t consider out-of-work applicants for job openings. And more and more employers run credit checks, leaving long-term jobless workers, who have likely fallen far behind in their bills and seen their credit scores tank, on the streets.

Today Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced a bill to stop employers from requiring prospective employees to disclose their credit history or disqualifying applicants based on a poor credit rating. Says Warren:

Families have not fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, and too many Americans are still searching for jobs. This is about basic fairness—let people compete on the merits, not on whether they already have enough money to pay all their bills.

Even as the economy is slowly turning around, the recession and financial crisis continue to take a toll on working families. Many of whom are hardworking, bill-paying people who have seen the credit ratings damaged when they or a family member lost a job or a small business and saw the value of their homes plummet. Savings evaporate and payments get missed. Says Warren:

Most people recognize that bad credit means they will have trouble borrowing money or they will pay more to borrow. But many don’t realize that a damaged credit rating also can block access to a job.

While at one time it was common belief that a credit history could provide insight into a perspective employee’s character, Warren says that recent research has shown that an individual’s credit rating has little or no correlation with his ability to succeed at work. A bad credit rating is far more often the result of unexpected personal crisis or economic downturn than a reflection of someone’s abilities.

She also says, “This is one more way the game is rigged against the middle class.”

A rich person who loses a job or gets divorced or faces a family illness is unlikely to suffer from a drop in his or her credit rating. But for millions of hardworking families, hard personal blow translates into a hard financial blow that will show up for years in a credit report.

People shouldn’t be denied the chance to compete for jobs because of credit reports that bear no relationship to job performance and that, according to recent reports, are often riddled with inaccuracies. Click here to become a citizen co-sponsor of The Equal Employment for All Act.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced the bill in the House late last year.

Photo via U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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