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

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

Join Carmen as she discusses these questions and others:

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

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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

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

Wilson concludes:

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

Here are seven key findings of the report:

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

Read the full report.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Bringing ‘Common Sense’ to NoVa

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

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

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

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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

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

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

In advance of the events, Burga said:

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

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

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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From Organizing to Mobilizing: United Transportation Alliance Launches App-Based Taxi Service

Taxi riders in Newark, N.J., can now enjoy the convenience of using a cellphone app to book a cab while resting secure in the knowledge that the dispatched driver is licensed and insured, and that the vehicle they are about to get into has been inspected and regularly maintained.

The Transunion Car Service (TCS) is a joint venture of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1039, the United Transportation Alliance (UTA), which is a new affiliate of CWA Local 1039, and the New Jersey State AFL-CIO that is already 300 members strong.

UTA taxi drivers are benefiting already from the union’s many supports and protections, including access to a credit union, affordable legal assistance for traffic court, immigration support and health care, life insurance and pension benefits.

UTA is the fastest-growing multiethnic union in the state. Its mission is to transform the taxi industry.

The UTA’s board of directors has gone beyond organizing to establish Transunion Car Service, which combines the ease of booking a cab electronically with the security of knowing that driver and vehicle are fully licensed, regulated and insured.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” says Lionel Leach, president of CWA Local 1039. “TCS customers can get a cab easily and ride with peace of mind. TCS drivers are caring professionals and proud union members whose background, credentials and cars have been fully vetted.”

Transunion Car Service kicked off Friday in Newark. It is expected to be available in Atlantic City by the end of the month, and in Elizabeth and Hoboken by fall. Customers can visit the website www.ridetcs.com and download the app, or call 855-RIDE-TCS or 973-297-1111. Fares can be paid by credit card or cash.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Trumka: Yes, You Should Ask for a Raise

This post originally appeared in the U.S. News & World Report.

In 2015, nearly 5 million American workers might get a pay raise. By joining together to ask for one. Through a union.

Minimum wage hikes, overtime expansion, paid sick leave and other policy improvements are important to raise wages in America. But the best way for workers to get a raise is by asking for one with a collective voice. That’s what workers do—bargain together in unions to improve our lives.

And this is an exceptional moment for raising wages through collective bargaining. More new contracts will be bargained by unions and employers in 2015 than at any other point in modern American labor history.

Autoworkers in Michigan, public workers in Illinois and New Jersey, communication workers at AT&T and Verizon, clerks at Kroger and Foodtown, postal workers, employees of Disneyland and others will negotiate wages and benefits. Government will not dictate the outcome. Workers expressing their collective voice will sit down with management and decide on a fair allocation of the rising profits resulting from the recovery.

Five million workers asking for a raise? Yeah, and it’s about time. All U.S. workers should ask for more. Wages have been stagnant for over a decade. In fact, between 1997 and 2012, the income of those in the bottom 90 percent fell by $2,868, even as workers’ productivity rose. Current data tell the same story. The last two months point to economic recovery and robust job growth, but with virtually no upward effect on wages.

What we are seeing is wage theft on a grand, macroeconomic scale. Workers feel deep frustration in the face of the relentless disparity between productivity and wages. I know, because that’s what they tell me. In every industry, in every state, at every hourly wage level. But workers don’t need any more economic analysis; we want solutions.

That’s why collective bargaining is so important in 2015 and long term. First, income inequality is not just a low-wage worker problem; falling wages are a fact for workers at every pay level up to the top 10 percent. Second, collective bargaining is the primary way to address wage stagnation across the whole economy. Income inequality is not a mysterious phenomenon; it results from the economic rules we have created. It can be solved by changing those rules.

And that solution must recognize the precarious position of workers acting alone. Again, today’s data support this assertion. A January story in The Wall Street Journal reported on a survey of U.S. workers that found while only 8 percent were satisfied with their pay, fewer than half had asked for a raise. The Journal concluded, “When it comes to pay, people are afraid to ask for more.”

Workers should not be afraid to demand what we have earned. Unions and collective bargaining are critical to righting this imbalance. Historically, when unions are strong, wages rise in proportion to profit. And it is not only union members who benefit; there is a spillover effect lifting the pay of all workers. From 1935, when the National Labor Relation Act was passed, to 1980, almost 70 percent of income growth benefited the bottom 90 percent and only 7.1 percent went to the top 1 percent.

Collective bargaining is ground zero in the debate about raising wages in America. It should be front and center as Congress considers policy and as presidential candidates announce agendas. Moreover, the results will illuminate the larger issue underpinning chronic wage stagnation: that vibrant worker organizations are key to restoring the balance of economic power in our country.

Even workers who are not yet represented by a union should be encouraged to speak up, especially with a collective voice. No worker should be afraid to ask for a raise, and federal law protects that right. Everyone who works should ask for a raise in 2015. We deserve it, and the health of our economy depends on it.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Republican Presidential Candidates Are Scrambling to See Who Hates the Minimum Wage the Most

During a stop in South Carolina this week, former Florida Gov. (and potential Republican presidential candidate) Jeb Bush came out in opposition to the federal minimum wage.  Although his spokespeople later dialed back the rhetoric, Bush initially said:

We need to leave it to the private sector. I think state minimum wages are fine. The federal government shouldn’t be doing this. This is one of those poll-driven deals. It polls well, I’m sure–I haven’t looked at the polling, but I’m sure on the surface, without any conversation, without any digging into it people say, ‘Yea, everybody’s wages should be up.’ And in the case of Walmart they have raised wages because of supply and demand, and that’s good.

But the federal government doing this will make it harder and harder for the first rung of the ladder to be reached, particularly for young people, particularly for people that have less education.

Bush is far from the only potential GOP presidential nominee to come out against raising the minimum wage, and several of the leading contenders have expressed opposition to the federal minimum wage’s very existence. It’s almost as if being opposed to making sure workers earn enough to support their families is a litmus test in the lead-up to the Republican primaries.  Even those not expressing outright opposition have been spoutinglong-disproven myths about the minimum wage. Here’s what the gang of anti-worker extremists who want to run the country have been saying:

Ben Carson (Maryland): Wrote and op-ed titled: “Obama is wrong that raising minimum wage will fix income inequality.”

Chris Christie (New Jersey):  “I gotta tell you the truth, I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage, I really am.”

Lindsey Graham (South Carolina): “This is an emotional issue. From an economic point of view, if you want to increase the minimum wage, you’re going to displace probably a million people from the economy at a time when we should be hiring people.”

Mike Huckabee (Arkansas): “Raising the minimum wage to $15, or more in some cases, is an issue that you don’t have to declare yourself a socialist to back. It’s becoming more popular, because it sounds so generous and so easy. Being generous with other people’s money is always easy. It’s true that a lot of people on the lower end of the pay scale are having a tough time these days. But in many cases, small business owners who pay the minimum wage for entry level workers are putting in so many hours and taking so little out that they’re lucky to make minimum wage themselves. If they have to double what they’re paying their employees, they’ll have no choice to fire half of them. And that doesn’t really help the workers.”

Bobby Jindal (Louisiana): “I’m not ideologically opposed to ever raising the minimum wage. I just don’t think now is the right moment.”

Sarah Palin (Alaska): “I don’t know, why are you even worried about fast food wages? Well, we believe — an America where minimum wage jobs, they’re not lifetime gigs, they’re stepping stones to sustainable wages. It teaches work ethic.”

Rand Paul (Kentucky): “When you set the minimum wage, it may cause unemployment. The least skilled people in our society have more trouble getting work the higher you make the minimum wage.”

Rick Perry (Texas): Said it’s not “the government’s business” to be setting the minimum wage and that raising the minimum wage would cost jobs.

Marco Rubio (Florida):  “I don’t think a minimum wage law works….I want people to make a lot more than $9 — $9 is not enough. The problem is you can’t do that by mandating it in the minimum wage laws. Minimum wage laws have never worked in terms of having the middle class attain more prosperity.”

Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania):  Said he supports some kind of increase, but opposed the $10.10 minimum wage proposed by Democrats.

Scott Walker (Wisconsin): Said he doesn’t think the minimum wage “serves a purpose.”

These comments come, of course, after more than one of these candidates voted for or supported minimum wage increases in the past.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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T-Mobile Guilty of Violating Labor Law Workers’ Rights, NLRB Judge Rules

A judge at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) yesterday found T-Mobile U.S. guilty of engaging in nationwide labor law violations against workers. The unprecedented ruling comes after a rare move last year by the NLRB consolidating multiple complaints against T-Mobile U.S. for illegal actions and policies in Albuquerque, N.M.; Wichita, Kan.; Charleston, S.C., and New York City.

At issue were illegal corporate nationwide policies that block workers from organizing or even talking to each other about problems at work. Workers throughout the T-Mobile U.S. system were subjected to and effectively silenced by these illegal policies; the judge’s order to rescind them covers 40,000 workers.

Communications Workers of America (CWA) President Larry Cohen said:

This decision exposes the deliberate campaign by T-Mobile U.S. management to break the law systematically and on a nationwide scale, blocking workers from exercising their right to organize and bargain collectively. This behavior can only be changed by a nationwide remedy to restore workers’ rights. Deutsche Telekom, the principal owner of T-Mobile U.S., has claimed that its U.S. subsidiary follows the law. Now we have the official word: T-Mobile U.S. is a lawbreaker. Bonn, the headquarters of DT, no longer can hide behind the false statements made by T-Mobile U.S. executives. These behaviors would be almost unimaginable in Germany or any other democracy in the world.

The decision by NLRB Judge Christine Dibble focused on T-Mobile U.S.’s illegal employment policies and restrictions that prohibited workers from discussing wages with each other or criticizing working conditions or seeking out assistance to blow the whistle on unlawful behavior.

The decision finds that the corporate policies “would chill employees in the exercise of their…rights” or would be construed “as restricting [an employee’s] rights to engage in protected concerted activities, including unionizing efforts.”

Judge Dibble found that T-Mobile U.S.’s Wage and Hour Complaint Procedure, for example, “tends to inhibit employees from banding together.” She writes that the corporate procedure’s requirement that an employee notify management of a wage issue first, “in combination with the threat of discipline for failing to adhere to the rule, would ‘reasonably tend to inhibit employees from bringing wage-related complaints to, and seeking redress from, entities other than the Respondent, and restrains the employees’…rights to engage in concerted activities for collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”

Carolina Figueroa, a T-Mobile U.S. call center worker from Albuquerque, said:

We are happy and relieved. We are finally being heard. My co-workers and I at T-Mobile U.S. will have the right to speak out against unfair treatment and should not be muzzled or retaliated against—and with today’s decision, the company has to declare this to all of its employees nationwide.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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How Working America Helped Beat “Right to Work” in West Virginia the Old Fashioned Way

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As the sun sets over Beckley, West Virginia, on a cold winter evening, the temperature drops a few more degrees, moving toward the low teens as a pair of feet in boots and Yaktrax crunches snow and ice underfoot on the way to the front door. Then a gloved hand reaches up to knock on the frame.

“Who is it?”

The voice inside seems a bit bewildered. The tone implies, “Who is it that is crazy enough to be out there knocking on my door in this weather?” To be fair, it’s a good question. But it would turn out that the weather was not the only reason the woman behind the door was confused at that sound.

“It’s Working America! Fighting for good jobs and to protect West Virginia workers!”

The door opens and the woman behind it introduces herself in the third person as “Ole Sue,” proud of the fact that everyone in the neighborhood knows her by that name. She speaks with our canvasser about just why we are out knocking on doors on a night like this. The state Legislature in Charleston is considering a so-called “right to work” bill that would be an attack on West Virginia workers, union and non-union alike. More importantly, they talk about why it is important that labor remains strong in the Mountain State.

Ole Sue tells our canvasser that her husband and her daughter have both died in the past few years. Her husband died of black lung. Now she lives alone. She says we don’t have to tell her why unions are important. She takes our pen and paper in hand and writes to her state senator, Dan Hall, telling him exactly why he needs to vote no on “right to work.”

Across town at almost the exact same time, another Working America canvasser comes upon a house with a huge sign proclaiming, “My Neighbor and I are HUGE Steeler Fans!” He smiles because he’s a Steelers fan, too. (By the way, this canvasser is me.)

That small connection helps start a warm conversation at the door. But when I tell the woman why I’m really at her door—to fight against “right to work”—the conversation takes a more serious turn. She asks me why I care enough about it to be out there in the snow and the cold.

I tell her about my own father, a West Virginia coal miner much of his life, who now works on the coal barges: “I know what a union means to him and to every miner.”

I tell her the story of when that was really driven home to me. When I was younger, my dad was out of work for a while and decided to go apply at a non-union mine in Kentucky. It was far from home and hard work, but my dad is the hardest worker I’ve ever known. Even today, having just turned 60, he can work circles around me. Even his days off were filled with work—on the house, on the car, in the yard. My point is that he has never, ever shied away from hard work or a tough job.

He came back from that non-union mine in less than a week. “That place is a death trap,” he said to me. “Someone is going to die in there …”

The woman nods, and I finish my father’s sentence: “… or when they get out.”

The woman has to pause for a moment, then says: “I think it’s terrible what they are trying to do. My husband, my father-in-law, and my brother-in-law all died from black lung in the last 10 years. Our miners go through too much to put up with this stuff coming from Charleston now.” She’s clearly been through a lot as well.

Even through all of that loss, she has remained strong and dignified. She knows that this isn’t about a so-called “right to work.” It’s about right and wrong. Stripping away the progress that’s been won through the blood, sweat and tears of West Virginia’s coal miners is just plain wrong. She knows deep down that her state senator needs to know this, too, if he doesn’t already. She knows all this, but she looks at the piece of paper and isn’t sure how to say it.

“That’s why I’m here,” I say. “Just tell him what you told me. They need to be reminded of what really goes on out here. Tell him what you’ve lost and that he needs to vote no so we don’t lose even more.”

She writes a beautiful letter; one of 13 I gather that night, but among the most meaningful I’ve ever brought back. We talk some more about coal miners and Pittsburgh Steelers football. But finally it’s time to move on because I know there are more people like her who know what this is all really about and whose voices need to be heard in Charleston.

Back at Ole Sue’s, another conversation is coming to an end that both sides are a little sad to see. “Do you know who the last person to come to my door was?” she asks our canvasser, as if to make it known why she was skeptical at first. “It was the police. Got a complaint and came pounding on my door. Years ago. No one comes to the door anymore. But I’m glad you did. And thank you for being out there.”

Ole Sue wrote a beautiful letter as well, one that the canvasser will never forget.

Two women. Two beautiful stories that need telling. Two doors that haven’t been knocked on in a very long time. Two letters to a state senator who had better take their meaning to heart.

The latest reports indicate that “right to work” is dead in the West Virginia legislature, but across the country we’re waging a grassroots battle. In Missouri, we’re urging our members to call their legislators and let them know that “right to work” is wrong. In New Mexico, we’re going door to door and informing voters about the union-busting and wage-lowering that Gov. Susana Martinez and her allies are pushing in Santa Fe under the guide of “worker freedom.” And in Illinois, our members are urging their state lawmakers to push back against the agenda of Bruce Rauner, possibly the most dangerously anti-worker governor in the country.

Wherever Working America is, we are lifting up the voices of those whose doors are too often go un-knocked.

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Tentative Deal Reached in Oil Strike

The United Steelworkers (USW) have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract with Shell Oil Co., the union announced Thursday. The deal will serve as a pattern agreement for the rest of the industry. USW members at several refineries struck on Feb. 1, and the strike grew to include about 7,000 workers at 15 sites across the country.

USW spokeswoman Lynne Hancock told the Los Angeles Times:

We are hopeful that with the settlement of the national pattern agreement, this will push both parties at the local level to reach agreement quicker on their local issues.

Workers are expected to remain on the picket lines until local issues are resolved and the ratification process begins. Overall, some 30,000 USW members work at 65 refineries and hundreds of pipelines, terminals, petrochemical plants and other facilities.

USW President Leo W. Gerard said:

We salute the solidarity exhibited by our membership. There was no way we would have won vast improvements in safety and staffing without it.

Safety issues were central to the negotiations. In the past five years, 27 workers have been killed and hundreds more seriously injured. The proposed agreement calls for the immediate review of staffing and workload assessments, with USW safety personnel involved at every facility. Daily maintenance and repair work in the plants was another critical issue that, too, was addressed.

The tentative contract contains language that addresses worker fatigue, which is tied to accidents, and the use of contractors versus unionized labor. It also safeguards gains made in previous contracts and raises wages.

Read more from the USW.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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