12 Recent Victories for Workers in Raising Wages and Collective Bargaining

While it certainly seems that far-right extremists are waging an all-out war on working families and their rights, workers aren’t just defending themselves; they are fighting to expand their rights and achieving some significant gains. Here are 12 recent victories we should celebrate while continuing to push for even more wins.

1. AFSCME Sets Organizing Goal, Almost Doubles It: AFSCME President Lee Saunders announced that the union has organized more than 90,000 workers this year, nearly doubling its 2014 goal of 50,000.

2. Tennessee Auto Workers to Create New Local Union at VW PlantAuto workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., announced the formation of UAW Local 42, a new local that will give workers an increased voice in the operation of the German carmaker’s U.S. facility. UAW organizers continue to gain momentum, as the union has the support of nearly half of the plant’s 1,500 workers, which would make the union the facility’s exclusive collective bargaining agent.

3. California Casino Workers Organize: Workers at the new Graton Resort & Casino voted to join UNITE HERE Local 2850 of Oakland, providing job security for 600 gambling, maintenance, and food and beverage workers.

4. Virgin America Flight Attendants Vote to Join TWU: Flight attendants at Virgin America voted to join the Transport Workers, citing the success of TWU in bargaining fair contracts for Southwest Airlines flight attendants.

5. Maryland Cab Drivers Join National Taxi Workers Alliance: Cab drivers in Montgomery County, Md., announced their affiliation with the National Taxi Workers Alliance, citing low wages and unethical behavior by employers among their reasons to affiliate with the national union.

6. Retail and Restaurant Workers Win Big, Organize Small: Small groups of workers made big strides as over a dozen employees at a Subway restaurant in Bloomsbury, N.J., voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Meanwhile, cosmetics and fragrance workers at a Macy’s store in Massachusetts won an NLRB ruling that will allow them to vote on forming a union.

7. Minnesota Home Care Workers Take Key Step to Organize: Home health care workers in Minnesota presented a petition to state officials that would allow a vote on forming a union for more than 26,000 eligible workers.

8. New York Television Writers-Producers Join Writers Guild: Writers and producers from Original Media, a New York City-based production company, voted to join the Writers Guild of America, East, citing low wages, long work schedules and no health care.

9.  Fast-Food Workers Win in New NLRB Ruling: The National Labor Relations Board ruled that McDonald’s could be held jointly responsible with its franchisees for labor violations and wage disputes. The NLRB ruling makes it easier for workers to organize individual McDonald’s locations, and could result in better pay and conditions for workers.

10. Workers Increasingly Have Access to Paid Sick Leave: Cities such as San Diego and Eugene, Ore., have passed measures mandating paid sick leave, providing workers with needed flexibility and making workplaces safer for all.

11. Student-Athletes See Success, Improved Conditions: College athletic programs are strengtheningfinancial security measures for student-athletes in the wake of organizing efforts by Northwestern University football players. In addition, the future is bright as the majority of incoming college football players support forming a union.

12. San Diego Approves Minimum Wage Hike; Portland, Maine, Starts Process: Even as Congress has failed to raise the minimum wage, municipalities across the country have taken action. San Diego will raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2017, and the Portland, Maine, Minimum Wage Advisory Committee will consider an increase that would take effect in 2015.

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Unions Celebrate LGBTQ Progress; Look Toward Continuing Challenges

In celebration of LGBTQ Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO and Pride At Work hosted a panel discussion Monday that surveyed efforts by various unions in advancing LGBTQ rights and discussed ongoing challenges that unions face in advancing the rights of LGBTQ workers. In particular, panel participants talked about the need of unions to become more inclusive, to increase efforts to protect transgender workers and to fight for state laws that prevent employers from firing workers for their sexual orientation or gender expression.

The panel was introduced by Carmen Berkley, AFL-CIO’s director of civil, human and women’s rights; moderated by Peggy Shorey, AFL-CIO’s director of state government relations and deputy director of government affairs; and included Shane Larson, legislative director for the Communications Workers of America (CWA); Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Tim Schlittner, assistant communications director for politics for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW); and Caniesha Washington, a program specialist in the women’s and fair practices department for AFGE.

Nipper said that while “the rate of progress now is extraordinary,” many activists have been working on these issues for 40 years, so while it’s good to see some of the recent changes, “we still have a lot more progress to make.” She noted that getting married is such a fundamental part of our culture that everyone should be able to marry.

She also noted that very few protections are in place for transgender Americans, even things as fundamental as obtaining simple documents such as birth certificates. Nipper, who is an ordained interfaith minister, said one of the biggest barriers we still face is the use of religious beliefs to discriminate even though there is nothing in religious teachings that call for the kinds of discrimination conservatives are attempting to impose.

Larson made the key point that it is still legal in many states to be fired for who you love, even in states where marriage equality exists. He noted that in most states, the strongest protection an LGBT worker can have against such discrimination is a union contract.

It is the responsibility of union leaders and activists to educate union members about LGBTQ issues, Washington said.

Schlittner said that it’s heartwarming to see how far we’ve come, noting the entire city block of labor unions marching in the World Pride Parade in Toronto last week, but that we must combine labor issues and LGBT issues as part of the broader movement and that while we stand on the shoulders of giants who did much work before us, we have a responsibility to finish that work. Change will start, he said, organically at the local level, but as the groundswell grows, leadership will hear the voices of the people and progress will follow.

Here are some tweets from the event:

Other labor organizations in attendance at the event included: Electrical Workers (IBEW), AFTWorking America, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), Freedom to Marry and AFSCME.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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AFSCME Snowplow Driver Rescues Man from Crashed, Snow-Filled Car

AFSCME  photo

When a winter storm roared through Minnesota last month, snowplow driver Jeff Holte—a member of AFSCME Local 789—was clearing Interstate 94 and spreading sand near Evansville, Minn. But temperatures plummeted and, in a matter of minutes, Holte watched the road go from perfectly safe to a sheet of ice.

He also saw a car lose control, roll into a ditch and, with its rear window broken and upside down, slide backward through previously fallen deep snow that nearly filled the car. That’s when he sprang into action, writes David Kreisman on AFSCME’s News blog.

After calling the state police, Holte ran to the car where a woman had escaped.

She came running up out of the ditch pretty frantic. She was screaming that her boyfriend was still trapped in the car packed with snow and he was having trouble breathing because the car was so full of snow.

Read how Holte dug enough snow from the car to belly crawl to the front seat, where he removed more snow from around the trapped man to enable him to breathe, and eventually unbuckled the seat belt and pulled him from the car.

Says Holte:

It was kind of a wild few minutes there when it happened. I’m just glad I was in the right place at the right time to help them.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Union Members Play Big Part in Super Bowl Game Plan

Sunday is the first outdoor, cold weather site Super Bowl in the game’s 48-year history. The frigid weather in the weeks leading up to the game and expected temps in the 20s and 30s won’t stop the thousands of union members who are bringing you the game. On the scene at MetLife Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands or behind the scenes at many facilities in the Metro New York-New Jersey area, union members are making the nation’s national party day possible.

So, as a preview before you sit back, open a beverage and eat far too many snacks that are far from healthy, we introduce Sunday’s starting union lineup.

Of course, on the field, the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos players are members of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), and the men in the striped shirts are members of the NFL Referees Association.

The announcers, camera operators, technicians, field workers and other hardworking folks bringing the game to your flat-screened football cave or favorite Broncos or Seahawks bar include members of SAG-AFTRA, Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA (NABET-CWA), Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Laborers (LIUNA).

The annual over-the-top halftime show is a down-to-the-second, choreographed, on-the-field, off-the-field 12-minute extravaganza made possible by the skills of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) and other performing artists. Anyone who takes in a show in the city likely will enjoy the talents of Actors’ Equity (AEA).

For the fans who head for the concessions, their hot dogs will be served and their beer will be drawn by men and women from UNITE HERE Local 100.

Away from the stadium, union members are making an impact, too. Folks taking the area’s huge mass transit system are being safely delivered to their destinations by members of the Transport Workers (TWU), Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and United Transportation Union (UTU).

A large number of the area’s hotels are staffed by members of unions of the New York Hotel Trades Council. Many of the firefighters, emergency medical personnel and other public service workers who are ensuring a safe and efficient Super Bowl week are members of the Fire Fighters (IAFF) and AFSCME.

Of course, the fans who flew in for the big game got there safely, thanks to aviation workers from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Air Line Pilots (ALPA), Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), Transport Workers (TWU) and Machinists (IAM).

Also, a big thanks to AFT and NFLPA for raising awareness about human trafficking during large sports events such as the Super Bowl.

Image via @northjerseybrk on Twitter

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Missouri Republicans Can’t Think of Anyone Who Benefits from ‘Right to Work’ for Less Laws, Either

Missouri Republicans are attempting to pass “right to work” for less legislation and, despite claims that the legislation is “pro-business” and will “help” the state’s economy, they can’t seem to think of one person or business the law would actually help. The state’s speaker of the House, Tim Jones (R), was recently asked at a press conference to name businesses that would benefit from the law. His answer:

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AFSCME noticed the speaker’s response and created the above image and created a webpage to help expose the admission from Jones that the law doesn’t actually help Missouri’s businesses. On Facebook, AFSCME posted the image with this caption: “We’ve created this simple website so you can see if there are any companies in your state that stand to benefit from Right to Work.”

Clicking on the link leads you to a humorous site that is definitely laughing at Jones and his extreme allies, not with them.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Tea Party Ballot Measure Absolutely Crushed by Ohio Voters

An overhaul of Cincinnati’s pension system backed by the Tea Party was thoroughly crushed on Tuesday. Cincinnati voters rejected the charter amendment, known as Issue 4, by a 57-point margin.

Issue 4 was placed on the ballot by a private group known as the Cincinnati for Pension Reform Committee. It would have required the city to pay off its $872 million unfunded liability in the current pension system within 10 years, or find cost savings or new revenue elsewhere to make up the difference.

Making up that huge gap, exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis, is nearly impossible in 10 years. That’s the point: Issue 4 was a barely concealed attempt to force cuts to public services in Cincinnati, and generally pit the city’s citizens against the workers who make it run.

The city is already taking steps to address the $872 million liability in a number of ways–and as with most cities, the public workers themselves are bearing the brunt. Issue 4 would have put those changes on steroids, and would have lead to either tax increases or cuts to public safety and city services: closed firehouses, slower emergency response times, and staffing shortages when we need help the most.

It’s no wonder then that opposing Issue 4 united unlikely allies: the Chamber of Commerce, AFSCME, firefighters, and the editorial board of the right-leaning Cincinnati Enquirer. “Today’s vote will be heard beyond Cincinnati and sends a message for those on the ideological extremes who think it is ok to impose their agenda on an entire city,” said Peter Linden of AFSCME Ohio Council 8, “Had this passed, outside money and political extremists would have cost Cincinnati taxpayers more money, with less services.”

It’s been two years since Ohio voters of all political stripes overturned Gov. John Kasich’s Senate Bill 5, which stripped collective bargaining from over 300,000 public workers. It’s been one year since Ohio voters chose pro-worker Senator Sherrod Brown over the Tea Party-affiliated Josh Mandel. Since that time, the effort to get a so-called “right to work” on the 2014 Ohio ballot has faltered, collecting less than a third of the signatures needed in 20 months.

It’s time that the corporate-backed anti-worker forces in Ohio get it through their heads that Ohioans are interested in more jobs and a stronger economy; not fewer rights at work, fewer public services, and attacks on the workers who are already making the most sacrifices.

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AFSCME Presents GIFtroit: The Story of Detroit’s Bankruptcy

In a humorous treatment of a serious subject, AFSCME is using GIFs—those ubiquitous, short animated photos—to tell the story of Detroit’s bankruptcy.

Featuring goofiness from cat boxing, to “Seinfeld’s” Newman, corgis on a treadmill, Eminem’s out-of-it halftime interview with Kirk Herbstreit and Brent Musburger and 20 more, GIFtroit outlines the facts behind Detroit’s bankruptcy, including Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) hijacking of state revenue due Detroit, his financial “martial law” edict that strips cities of the power to govern themselves, Wall Street’s role and more.

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GIFtroit also explains how more than 21,000 city retires are threatened with pension and health care benefit cuts while current city workers, including firefighters and police officers, face wage, benefit and job cuts.

While retirees and workers are the targets of the budget-gutting advocated by Snyder’s appointed “emergency financial manager,” Kevyn Orr, GIFtroit points out that Orr is:

Living in a taxpayer-funded hotel penthouse suite, spending extravagant amounts on room service and hiring assistants at $225,000 salaries.

Click here to see all of GIFtroit and share it on Facebook and Twitter.

AFSCME and other Detroit unions are challenging the city’s claims in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and Judge Steven Rhodes is expected to rule on the city’s eligibility for bankruptcy protection later in the fall. Today, more than 100 Detroit workers, retirees and residents who filed objections to the bankruptcy are getting a chance to speak out before Rhodes.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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AFSCME and Michigan Working Families Respond to Detroit Bankruptcy Filing



Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) authorized a bankruptcy filing yesterday  for the city of Detroit based on recommendations from financial manager Kevyn Orr, making it the largest city in the U.S. to ever take that step. AFSCME members and other public sector workers were not consulted for input before the filing.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders said in a statement:

Gov. Snyder’s plan to suspend democracy, drive one of America’s largest cities into bankruptcy and deprive workers of their hard-earned retirement security, moved dangerously closer to reality today when without a single negotiation with unions, workers or retirees, Snyder authorized Detroit’s financial manager to file for bankruptcy.

Despite assurances from Snyder’s hand-picked financial manager Orr that AFSCME would have ample opportunity to discuss alternatives, they unilaterally embarked on this treacherous path without meaningful input from those who would be most affected.

Orr had threatened weeks ago that the pension benefits earned by city retirees through their years of public service and in exchange for less pay could not be protected in bankruptcy.  Now it appears he and Governor Snyder are working hard to make good on that threat.  Detroit’s public service employees worked hard and played by the rules, and now their freedom to retire with dignity is in peril.

As recently as two weeks ago, Orr’s team refused AFSCME’s request to meet and discuss retirement issues. Just last week, Orr’s team claimed the union would have “months” to address these issues, and that meetings would soon be scheduled to do so.

This apparently wasn’t the governor’s true intent. According to published reports, Governor Snyder expressed disappointment with this pace to Orr on Monday, July 15, and the very next day, they began the process to rush Detroit into what could be a lengthy and what surely will be a very costly process.

It’s no secret why Orr and Snyder are in such a hurry: a Michigan court is scheduled on Monday to decide whether Orr and Snyder are using bankruptcy as a backdoor around the state constitution’s protection of pension benefits. Clearly, the Governor and the financial manager are eager to sacrifice the well-being of tens of thousands of workers and retirees, in violation of Michigan’s state constitution.

Public workers are not protected by federal pension insurance.  The average public service pension is $19,000 per year. A bankruptcy and possible suspension or reduction in pension payments would result in profound hardship for workers, retirees and their families.  Apparently Governor Snyder and Kevyn Orr want Detroit’s public service workers to rely on their children for food and shelter, or have to work until they die.

Metro Detroit AFL-CIO President Chris Michalakis and Michigan State AFL-CIO President Karla Swift released the following statement:

Every step of the way, the citizens of Detroit were told that they had to give up their right to democratic representation in order to avoid bankruptcy.  Now that this filing has come anyway, it is clear that either state control has failed or that Gov. Snyder and his emergency manager appointee were not honest about their intentions in the first place.

Today’s action can be taken as confirmation that Orr was hired, secretly and ahead of a declared financial emergency, because he is a bankruptcy expert.

As Chapter 9 proceedings begin, Detroit cannot afford any further attacks on working families, who have already sacrificed so much without a say in the process. City workers have already made severe concession to keep the city afloat.  It is time to put the needs of Detroit residents above the interests of out of town creditors.

Image via Ann Millsapugh on Flickr

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Home Care Workers File for Largest Union Election in Vermont History

A month after the Vermont legislature approved a bill allowing home care workers to collectively bargain, more than 4,500 home care workers filed an election petition seeking to form a union. Because of the new law, more than 7,000 workers are now eligible to join a union, and many participated in a march to file the petition. Home care workers in the state experience low wages and a lack of sick time, paid vacations and other benefits. The election is expected to be held in mid-July.

AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Laura Reyes joined the march and explained the importance of the filing in Vermont:

I am in Vermont today as thousands of home care providers in the Green Mountain State file for the largest union election in the state’s history. I know first-hand the struggle home care providers face. I also know the power and possibilities that are created when providers come together and form a union that cares about home care workers and the people we serve. I know it because I am a home care provider and have walked in the shoes of Vermont providers.

My oldest son was born two and a half months early. He had a brain hemorrhage, and the doctors diagnosed him with cerebral palsy. They said he would never speak or walk. That’s when I quit my job as an educator and became a home care provider. I knew that with constant care and attention, Damien would overcome the obstacles. And he did. Today he is not only walking and talking, he’s in college preparing for a full life of opportunity.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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