In 24 hours starting late Wednesday, workers who have been standing together in collective action scored three major victories. Walmart workers got a raise, Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Communications Workers of America (CWA) members settled their strike with FairPoint, and United Steelworkers made safety at oil refinery plants a national issue.
Says AFL-CIO Communications Director Eric Hauser:
One 24-hour period shows how much progress can be made when workers come together to speak with one voice. Collective action must be at the heart of the growing discussion about raising wages. Only when workers pool their power can they make progress that benefits not just union members but all workers and entire communities.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, collective action, collective bargaining, CWA, FairPoint, ibew, labor, our walmar, Rights At Work, strike, union, USW, Walmart
Not content to just verbally attack working families, as he did in his recent State of the State address, new Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) has taken action to strip rights from workers. He signed an executive order that prevents public employee unions from collecting fair share fees from nonunion workers. He also has hired a legal team to pursue a federal court ruling that the fees are unconstitutional.
While the law requires public employee unions in Illinois to represent all workers in collective bargaining efforts, fair share fees make sure that nonunion workers pay for that representation. Rauner argues that fair share fees are being used for political activity, but local unions dispute that claim and say that Rauner’s move is “a blatantly illegal abuse of power.”
Roberta Lynch, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, said Rauner’s action was based on “a paper-thin excuse that can’t hide his real agenda: silencing working people and their unions who stand up for the middle class.”
Writing on Huffington Post, political organizer and strategist Robert Creamer said:
Since unions—and collective bargaining—are the major weapons everyday people have to raise their wages, his assault on unions is a direct attack on the middle class and its future in America.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Bruce Rauner, collective bargaining, Illinois, labor, Rights At Work, union
Some 18,000 California registered nurses, members of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU), who work at 86 Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics are voting this week on a new contract. The agreement, reached after months of negotiations, will give the RNs a stronger voice on patient care and provides breakthrough improvements in workplace protections.
The union also called off a scheduled two-day strike this week against Kaiser Permanente.
CNA/NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro praised “the unity of Kaiser RNs and their devotion to assuring the highest level of quality care for patients as well as protections for the nurses who deliver that care.”
The unions said a key to the settlement was the agreement by Kaiser to establish a new committee of direct care RNs and nurse practitioners who will work with management to address the concerns RNs have about care standards in Kaiser facilities. Zenei Cortez, RN, co-president of the CNA, said:
We have an agreement that will strengthen the ability of Kaiser RNs to provide the optimal level of care our patients deserve, while establishing additional security for nurses.
In addition to the new patient care and workplace protection improvements, Kaiser has committed to hiring hundreds of new RNs and to providing training and employment opportunities for new RN graduates. The agreement also provides significant economic gains and additional retirement security.
Read more here.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, California, collective bargaining, labor, nurses, Rights At Work, union
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “President Obama eloquently and forcefully advocated for working families throughout his State of the Union Address,” last night. He also said:
The president’s focus on raising wages through collective bargaining, better paying jobs, a fairer tax code, fair overtime rules, and expanded access to education and earned leave sent the right message at the right time.
Read the rest of the statement below:
So did his embrace of union apprentices and immigrants who want to achieve the American Dream. The president has again demonstrated his strong commitment to creating an economy that truly works for all working people.
Fighting income inequality is one of the biggest challenges of our time. As Oxfam recently reminded us, the world’s wealth continues to be increasingly concentrated in the hands of a very few. If we are serious about solving this monumental challenge, the size of the solutions must meet the scale of the problem. We must have a similarly vigorous response to the barriers to raising wages: our opposition to fast-tracked trade deals that are giant giveaways to big corporations must be resolute. We can’t face the competitive challenge of China with a trade deal that fails to adequately address currency manipulation, climate change or that gives corporations rights that people don’t have.
Now is the time for politicians to champion a Raising Wages agenda that ties all the pieces of economic and social justice together. America has now heard what the president thinks about this agenda. We thank the president for his passion and his advocacy. We are ready to see what he and Congress will do about it. That is the ultimate standard of accountability.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Barack Obama, china, collective bargaining, labor, minimum wage, Richard Trumka, Rights At Work, state of the union, union
In what Communications Workers of America (CWA) heralds as “the largest labor organizing victory in the South in decades,” passenger service agents at American Airlines voted to form a union after a 19-year struggle. In the vote announced today, 86% of the 9,000 agents who voted favored the union, which will now represent 14,500 agents, the vast majority of whom live in the South. American Airlines agents in the West are represented by the Teamsters and the two unions form a joint CWA-IBT unit to bargain with the airline.
Nearly three-quarters of the agents work in Texas, North Carolina, Florida and Arizona and several thousand are home-based reservations agents. The wide range of jobs the members work include: reservations, ticket and gate agents, baggage service agents, customer assistance representatives, customer service supervisors, club representatives, passenger operations center representatives and special service counter agents.
About the result, CWA said:
The vote clearly shows that workers who can make a fair choice about union representation want bargaining rights. New American agents are concentrated in southern states and work at diverse locations, including large and small airports, call centers and at home. Across every group, they voted for bargaining rights and union representation.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke about the broader importance of the victory:
Clearly, one of the largest labor organizing victories in the South in decades is a historic day. But it also shows that the future of the U.S. labor movement is alive, as these workers can be found at airports, call centers, even working from home. The right to collectively bargain will always be what our working family fights for.
The agents themselves were ecstatic about the victory. Richard Shaughnessy, who has been an agent at Miami International Airport for 27 years, said:
The merger between American Airlines and US Airways is an exciting time for all of us. But even more exciting is our victory today. We’re the front-line employees who interact with our customers every day, and we are looking forward to a positive relationship with management to make this merger ‘work’ for all of us. We are anxious to get to the bargaining table.
Carroll Locklear, a home-based reservations agent in Texas, said:
I’ve been with American Airlines for 18 years, and through all of those years I have been praying for this day. We have been the odd employees out for so long because we were the only employees without union representation. Gone are the days that management can take what they want when they want. This will be a win-win for all of us.
Eula Smith, a customer service agent in Charlotte, N.C., added:
We feel stronger now with this vote. I’m a 60-year-old woman with 42 years with this employer. You can’t live in the South and make a decent wage unless you are in senior management in a corporation or belong to a union. We need this. We need not just a union, we need CWA.
Ken Grunwald, a 23-year reservations agent at the call center in North Carolina, said:
I’m proud to remember everyone over the years who worked so hard for our union voice, who never gave up in the face of adversity, and who gave their blood, sweat and tears so that we would have the opportunity to celebrate this victory today. It’s a victory for all American Airlines employees! I’m so excited to think that we will finally be able to negotiate a legally binding contract. We now all have each others’ back.
Janet Elston, an agent at Dallas International Airport, concluded:
Nineteen years ago, a handful of agents started a drive to obtain representation for [American Airlines] airport and reservations agents. Many hundreds of activists have spent thousands of hours over the years to get us to today’s election result. They never wavered and never, ever gave up. We have finally achieved what most thought was impossible: union representation for our work group. Now we’ll begin a new working relationship with our company, with a legal binding contract.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, airline, Arizona, collective bargaining, CWA, CWA-IBT, Florida, labor, North Carolina, Rights At Work, Texas, union
Have you ever thought about how much money your employer is saving when you perform job duties off the clock?
Well, a group of bus drivers in Baltimore banned together and won a $350 million wage theft case against their employer, Durham School Services, for that exact reason.
From 2011 to 2013 Durham failed to pay workers overtime for things like bus inspections, cleanings and fueling, In These Times reports.
“We work hard and don’t make a lot of money to begin with,” Rosedale driver Martin Fox commented in a union press statement. “For many of us, the pay we didn’t receive was the difference between being able to pay the electric bill and having food on the table for our families. We are glad to finally win back the pay that was stolen from us.”
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 750 has been trying to organize drivers and aides for quite some time. The union was instrumental in getting the workers to file suit, and the union hopes that this move will be a stepping stone in the unionization process.
As it pertains to Durham School Services, there are several instances of this type of behavior. Worker complaints have been recorded in Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Florida. In 2011, California school bus drivers won a class action suit against Durham for $7 million in lost wages.
Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks on Flickr
Tags: baltimore, collective bargaining, Corporate Accountability, maryland, Rights At Work
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.
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
Tags: aflcio, auto workers, chattanooga, collective bargaining, Grover Norquist, Richard Trumka, Rights At Work, Tennessee, uaw
The following is a guest post from Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers. It originally appeared on The Huffington Post
The GOP is all about freedom—for corporations, that is. Republicans believe, for example, that business should be free from the kind of government regulation that would prevent chemical companies from spewing poison into West Virginia drinking water.
When it comes to freedom for workers, though, the GOP is all about squelching that. Republicans believe workers should not be free to form labor unions, that they should not enjoy freedom of association, that they should be denied their right to collective action.
Usually, the GOP explains this as picking sides. In one corner, the corporation sits whining that it doesn’t want unions pressuring executives to more equitably share the fruits of workers’ labor. In the other corner, workers assert they have the right to organize and demand better pay and treatment. In this match up, Republicans always bet on the deep-pocketed corporation. When there’s no fight, when both executives and workers want a union, Republicans still oppose workers’ rights. That’s because organized labor has always stood for everything the GOP hates: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance and the 40-hour workweek. Republicans denounce workers exercising their right to concerted action, at the workplace and in Washington.
Volkswagen is the perfect example. Republicans are blasting VW (actually criticizing a corporation!) because VW is [not opposing] an attempt by the UAW to organize the German automaker’s Chattanooga, Tenn., assembly plant.
VW wants to establish works councils at its Chattanooga plant, similar to those it has in Germany. In Europe, these groups of white- and blue-collar workers collaborate on issues such as plant rules, work hours and vacations. In VW’s experience, cooperating with employees through these councils increases productivity and profitability.
Because the councils discuss labor issues such as work hours, VW and the UAW have determined that to legally establish them in Chattanooga, the plant must be unionized.
This is intolerable to the GOP. Two of Tennessee’s most powerful Republicans, Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, insist they know how to run an auto company better than VW. Despite this successful international auto company’s actual business experience with works councils, these GOP politicians say that they know what’s best, that they just know unionization won’t be good for VW.
A union-hating group, the National Right to Work (For Less) Committee, traveled to Chattanooga from its headquarters near Washington, D.C., with a carpetbag full of cash for legal challenges to the unionization effort. And GOP crank Grover Norquist sent his Washington, D.C.-based organized labor-hating group, Center for Worker Freedom (To Work For Less), to Tennessee to thwart the Chattanooga workers’ right to unionize.
VW objected to the interference. CEO of VW Chattanooga Frank Fischer asked the outside agitators to stop, saying, “Volkswagen is committed to neutrality and calls upon all third parties to honor the principle of neutrality.”
They ignored him—disregarding a CEO, a figure before whom Republicans typically grovel! That is how much Republicans hate unions.
They refuse to believe what VW is saying, that works councils are valuable management tools, despite evidence that the model already succeeds in the United States.
Just last month, the Jobs with Justice Education Fund released a study titled, “Improving Government Through Labor-Management Collaboration and Employee Ingenuity.” The research shows that government saved millions and improved service when it established collaborative working relationships with unionized public workers.
For example, the report says, such collaboration helped the Federal Aviation Administration save millions when it installed new technology at air traffic control centers. A division of the Navy that designs and builds ships used labor-management councils to improve productivity and quality.
Similarly, Adam Davidson, co-founder of NPR’s “Planet Money” podcast and blog, wrote in The New York Times last week about a cooperative relationship between Harley-Davidson and the two unions that represent workers at its York, Pa., assembly plant. They are the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and my union, the United Steelworkers (USW).
Before Wall Street crashed the economy, inefficiency was part of the all-American motorcycle company’s charm, Davidson wrote. But during the great recession, high costs and slow turnaround threatened to bankrupt the icon. Harley rejected the paths of too many predecessor manufacturers—robots, union-busting and off-shoring. Instead, it chose to actively cooperate with its highly paid, exceedingly skilled and deeply devoted workers and redesign its plant to increase productivity. Workers accepted layoffs and pay freezes to save the company.
On the day Davidson visited the plant, one worker solved several production problems, saving Harley millions of dollars. Millions. The turnaround earned Harley an Industry Week Best Plants award last year. Davidson noted that while fewer than 10 percent of American manufacturing workers are unionized, more than 30 percent of the finalists for the Industry Week award are.
The Jobs with Justice report says the cooperative examples it uncovered demonstrated “the power of partnerships that, if adopted by comparable agencies and unions, will help transform antagonistic, outmoded and inefficient labor relations models.”
But Republicans Norquist, Haslam and Corker are doing their darndest to make sure that can’t happen at VW in Chattanooga.
There, Matt Patterson, who heads a Norquist puppet group opposing the UAW, explained to The New York Times the real reason the Republicans are fighting the UAW: “Unions are very political, the UAW is one of the most political. If they help elect politicians who pass huge government programs, that requires taxes.”
There it is. The truth about the GOP’s opposition to unions. Republicans hate that unions are organizations of workers who traditionally have fought to ensure that their government serves workers with programs like Social Security and Medicare, programs that Americans love and that they’re willing to pay taxes to support.
This week, 1,600 VW assembly workers will vote on whether to be represented by the UAW. They have the right to self-determination without GOP carpetbagger interference.
Tags: Bill Haslam, Bob Corker, chattanooga, collective bargaining, Grover Norquist, Rights At Work, Tennes, uaw, USW, Volkswagen
While 11.3% of U.S. workers officially belong to unions, the labor movement is much larger. The movement isn’t limited to official union members and the last year showed that, as workers marched side by side, union members or not, to fight back against injustices championed by corporate interests that are out of touch with America’s working families. As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said at the federation’s constitutional convention in Los Angeles, “Politicians and employers want to divide us; they try it every single day. They want to tell us who can be in our movement and who can’t, and we can’t let them.”
An article at The American Prospect describes the trend of new ways workers are standing up for their rights:
Those government union membership statistics, however, don’t capture an entire swath of new, exciting and emerging labor activists—’alt-labor’ activists—whom alarmed employers would like to see regulated by the same laws that apply to unions. Yet, before we regulate them as unions, shouldn’t we first count them as unions?
Who isn’t being counted in those official numbers? A lot of people:
- Striking fast-food workers who are calling for a $15-an-hour wage.
- Walmart workers who went on strike for Black Friday.
- Day laborers who have joined one of hundreds of workers’ centers nationwide.
- Restaurant workers, home health care workers, taxi drivers and domestic workers organizing for workplace power outside traditional unions.
- Millions of members of Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.
These numbers also don’t count people like the college athletes who are seeking to unionize and the many workers who are trying to form unions but are thwarted by employers or weakened labor law.
Some of the extremists opposed to these groups want them limited in their ability to organize, while not wanting to count them in the official numbers, so labor looks weaker. As the Prospect notes:
However, in a 21st century economy in which collective bargaining has been so severely weakened by structural changes and the roll back in workers’ rights, these new labor activists represent an important frontier for people concerned about worker power and economic inequality writ large. You know that workers are on to something when employers start to get nervous. It turns out the low union membership statistics may not be as good a measure of labor’s future as employers would hope.
And the reality behind those official statistics, and the rise of alt-labor, should be heartening to supporters of working families.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, black friday, collective bargaining, fast food, labor, minimum wage, Richard Trumka, Rights At Work, Walmart, Working America
Last spring, Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter approached National College Players Association (NCPA) President Ramogi Huma about help in getting college athletes more of a say in their own fate so they can improve playing conditions. Huma and Colter worked with the United Steelworkers (USW) and this week they filed the paperwork and cards with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), seeking to establish the first union for college athletes in history called the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA). The number of players who signed union cards wasn’t disclosed, but Colter expressed that it was more than enough for the process to move forward.
Colter explained the reasons he thought union representation was important for players:
The action we’re taking isn’t because of any mistreatment by Northwestern. We love Northwestern. The school is just playing by the rules of their governing body, the NCAA. We’re interested in trying to help all players—at USC, Stanford, Oklahoma State, everywhere. It’s about protecting them and future generations to come. Right now the NCAA is like a dictatorship. No one represents us in negotiations. The only way things are going to change is if players have a union.
As was bound to happen, the NCAA replied with some boilerplate nonsense and confidence that it didn’t have to do anything else to compensate or protect players who make member schools billions of dollars a year:
The NCAA responded with a statement from Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy who said, “student-athletes are not employees within any definition of the National Labor Relations Act,” and that there is no existing employment relationships between the “NCAA, its affiliated institutions or student-athletes.”
“This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education,” Remy said in the statement. “Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.”
The labor movement was quick to endorse the players desire for a union. USW is the union of record on the paperwork the players submitted. The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) also expressed support for theircollege counterparts.
USW President Leo W. Gerard said:
Too many athletes who generate huge sums of money for their universities still struggle to pay for basic necessities, and too many live in fear of losing their scholarships due to injury or accident….These students deserve some assurance that when they devote weeks, months and years of their lives to an academic institution, that they will not be left out to dry, without the same basic protections that we all expect from the institutions we serve.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka alluded to the challenges college athletes face being part of the larger labor struggle:
The lesson that strength comes from standing together is one Colter has learned fulfilling his 60-hour-plus weeks as a football player, and it is true for all workers, whether they teach school, build Volkswagens in Chattanooga, [Tenn.,] or serve as home health care workers.
With that context in mind, here are eight reasons college athletes need a voice on the field:
1. Sports can kill you: There are many stories over the years of college and high school football players dying because of on-field or practice-related problems, particularly concussions, like the one that killed Frostburg State University player Derek Sheely last year. Many players don’t think the NCAA does enough to protect the safety of players, and the NCAA is on record saying that it has no legal obligation to protect players from head injuries. The NCPA has developed a safety plan it wants the NCAA to adopt.
2. The costs of a sports-related injury are not covered by the college: The NCAA doesn’t require schools to cover the costs that athletes incur when they are injured in relation to their sport. These injuries have left players with debts that can exceed $10,000, with many of those injuries reducing a player’s ability to earn money to pay for those costs.
3. An injury can end a player’s education: If a player gets injured, even through no fault of their own, they can be dropped by the college. Many colleges do the right thing and let them continue going to school, but it isn’t required.
4. Only half of football and men’s basketball players graduate: One of the key arguments against increased compensation for players is that they’re “getting a free education.” But an incomplete education doesn’t do a whole lot to expand the career options of the vast majority of players who don’t play professional sports. If schools don’t prioritize graduation for these players, are they really providing them with a free education? Or are they exploiting them for their talent and then casting them aside?
5. Athletic scholarships don’t cover all of a player’s costs: A recent study has shown that, on average, a college athlete’s scholarship leaves them about $3,200 short of the costs of attending college each year. Players are not allowed to receive pay for work to cover that cost.
6. Players who fail to live up to expectations can be cast aside: When a player takes a chance on signing to play with a school and they don’t live up to that school’s expectations, that player can lose their scholarship and lose their opportunity at finishing their education. The NCPA is calling for these players to be given given non-athletic scholarships so they can finish their degrees, since they sacrificed other opportunities by signing with the school that no longer wants them.
7. Colleges make billions off of players, who get a tiny piece of that pie: The power conferences in football and men’s basketball make an estimated $5.15 billion annually off of the players. Beyond scholarships, players get no compensation, despite the fact that schools not only make money off of the players for the games and TV contracts, but also off of merchandising, particularly in the form of apparel and video games (although there has been some limitation of this type of revenue in recent years).
8. Players don’t control their own destiny: If a player thinks they could be better served or have more opportunity at another school, they don’t have a ton of options. Most transfers require players to sit out a year and to lose a year of eligibility, unless they transfer to a lower division school that offers less visibility and can limit their future prospects in their sport.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, collective bargaining, Illinois, Leo Gerard, NCAA, NLRB, Northwestern, organizing, Richard Trumka, sports, steelworkers