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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New AFL-CIO Ads Tell Republicans It’s Time to Act Now on Immigration Reform

The fate of comprehensive immigration reform with a road map to citizenship that fully protects the rights of all workers is in the hands of House Republicans. Today, the AFL-CIO launched a multi-city ad campaign telling Republicans to take action now. The ads also hold anti-immigrant Republican lawmakers accountable for their hostile statements about Latino immigrants.

The Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill in June, and last month a House bill patterned on the bipartisan Senate measure was introduced. But House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republican leaders have indicated they will not allow a vote on a comprehensive immigration reform bill with a road map to citizenship.

You can help “Fight the Hate,” by texting SHAME to 235246 and telling House Republicans it’s time to vote on citizenship. (Message and data rates may apply.)

The ads (see the videos above and below) will air in Spanish in Atlanta, Bakersfield, Calif., Denver and Orlando, Fla., and in English in metropolitan Washington, D.C.

In addition to the ads, labor will launch in-district mobilizations to increase pressure on House Republicans to support immigration reform with a road map to citizenship that protects workers’ rights. Says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

The time for acting on immigration reform is now, and the labor movement has decided to throw down in a big way to make it happen, Every day, over 1,000 people are deported, while House Republicans refuse to act on immigration reform with a road map to citizenship and workers’ rights. We won’t stop until the deportation crisis ends and aspiring Americans have the road map to citizenship they deserve.

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10 Ways Working Families Are ‘Kicking Ass’ for the Middle Class

Sure, working families have been under attack for years, but people across the country are rolling up their sleeves and fighting back to protect workers’ rights and raise living standards for everyone. Here are 10 ways they’re doing it:

1. Increasing the Minimum Wage

Four states (California, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island) have increased their state minimum wage in 2013, and on Nov. 5, New Jersey voters will vote on a ballot measure to increase their minimum wage.

2. Passing “Buy America” Laws

Three states (Colorado, Maryland and Texas) passed laws in 2013 to ensure that the goods procured with public funding are made in the United States.

3. Ensuring Paid Sick Days

Portland, Ore., Jersey City, N.J., and New York City became the latest three cities to adopt standards for paid sick days in 2013.

4. Protecting Immigrant Workers

In 2013, six states (California, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon and Vermont) have enacted protections for immigrant workers, including access to driver’s licenses and education.

5. Cracking Down on Businesses That Cheat Workers

Texas passed legislation in 2013 to crack down on businesses that cheat employees by treating them as “independent contractors” who lack worker protections (such as minimum wage and overtime protection, and eligibility for unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation).

6. Giving Workers the Right to a Voice on the Job

In 2013, some 15,000 home care workers in Minnesota won collective bargaining rights through state legislation, as did 10,000 in Illinois and 7,000 in Vermont. Thousands of other workers around the country have enjoyed organizing wins, too: 7,000 electrical workers, more than 5,000 Texas public school teachers, taxi drivers in New York and other cities, telecom workers, college and university faculty, EMS drivers, hotel and casino workers and domestic workers, to name a few.

7. Protecting Your Privacy on Social Media

Nine states (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington) have passed legislation in 2013 to prohibit employers from requiring access to your social media passwords or information as a condition of employment.

8. Fighting for LGBTQ Equality

Five states (Colorado, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Vermont) have passed legislation banning workplace discrimination or recognizing marriage equality.

9. Protecting the Rights of Domestic Workers

Two states (California and Hawaii) have passed legislation in 2013 to protect the rights of domestic workers. California’s Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights will benefit about 200,000 domestic workers, and Hawaii’s will benefit some 20,000 domestic workers.

10. Protecting Voting Rights

Twelve states (California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia) have passed legislation protecting voting rights in 2013, while voting rights legislation was vetoed by the governors of Nevada and New Jersey.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Meet Three Students Who Are Making a Difference

More students are graduating and entering the workforce than at any time since the baby boomers—but, for workers under 35, the unemployment rate is more than twice what it is for older workers. It’s a really serious challenge.

While many students use up every dollar and every hour to get a degree, tuition is increasing, wages are staying stagnant, and workers’ rights are disappearing, even as corporations make record profits.

That’s why we’ve launched the new Working America Student Workers Coalition. We want to provide students the opportunity to act collectively on issues related to economic equality for students and workers. Through this new coalition, students will learn valuable skills from professional organizers, learn about their rights in the workplace, and build a bigger, more diverse, and more inclusive labor movement.

In Denver, three student leaders are working to make this project a reality. Here’s what they had to say.

Erica Beegle
I have never had a problem finding work, but all of my jobs have been low paying, high turnover, no benefits, and most often been in the service industry. I’ve been the victim of wage theft; I’ve been paid below minimum wage; I’ve regularly had unreasonable scheduling demands, including long shifts with no breaks.
I know this is exceedingly common in food service. Employers often view workers like us as disposable. With so many people having experience in the industry, and a poor economy, employers will always be able to find someone who is willing to put up with their exploitation. I know this is not the only industry this happens in. In any low wage job, the attitude is similar. I know how hard it is to keep faith in a better future while struggling.
I’m really excited to be a part of the Working America Student Workers Coalition, so I can learn about the rights workers have and spread the word to others. I’m excited to learn organizing skills and gain leadership experience while focusing on issues that really matter to me: the minimum wage, wage theft, disrespect, sexism and racism in the workforce, and economic inequality. Right now is a particularly important time to get involved; our generation has an opportunity to change these outdated systems and attitudes. It is my hope that through our group, we all become more empowered workers, organizers and leaders—and that we can share those skills with all who will listen.

Chris Faller
I moved to Colorado seven years ago from England. Prior to moving to this country I was a union organizer—a branch worker for the social services in Manchester, with UNISON; then as a temporary worker’s union rep, with PCS. Since coming to the U.S., it’s been hard to do this kind of work for represent worker’s rights. Seven years is a long time to feel politically isolated and inactive. I teach part-time at a community college, as an Adjunct, here in Colorado, and I’ve seen real hostility to worker organizing—including people losing their jobs. A colleague from my Masters of Social Work (MSW) program invited me to help set up the Working America Student Workers Coalition.

At last, I have a chance to renew what feels like my calling—to work with young like-minded people, who are working part-time or full-time to put themselves through college. At last, I have a chance to advocate on their behalf and help others share their stories of low employment status, oppressive working hours and/or conditions, low wages and a feeling that they don’t have rights on the job. These issues unite virtually every student—here in Colorado and on the global stage.

I’m excited that this coalition is here to provide leadership, support, advocacy, community organization, and a way to impact legislation. I want to take this effort from Colorado and fight for student workers—and all workers—across the country.

I no longer feel politically isolated. I am working with like-minded individuals who continually inspire me in their dedication to workers, their sense of humanity and equality; their leadership and willingness to put others before themselves; in their aspirations and vision for a better future for workers; and, of course, their drive to build the Working America Student Workers Coalition.

Edgar Acosta
We face troubling times as students, saddled with debt and uncertainty of the job market after we graduate. The Working America Student Workers Coalition is an opportunity for great minds to come together and build a much-needed student movement. I’m glad I was given this opportunity to gain experience in the labor movement and share it with other students. I didn’t imagine that we could get this far in such little time and build a student club that focuses on workers’ rights and other issues affecting students. Our officers and members have diverse and backgrounds and a wide range of skills—it’s a great foundation for advocating for students’ and workers’ rights. I hope we can educate our fellow students, train leaders and foster an informed, engaged student worker base. I want to see students be prepared to take action and understand that there really is power in numbers!

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Dear David: Fired At Will?

Question:

How can we get rid of the “at-will employee” law, in Colorado or any other state? What would be the first step to take in that process?

— At-Will Employee, Colorado

 

Answer:

First, a quick primer: “At-will” employment means that you work at the pleasure of your management, and they can fire you—you guessed it!—at will. It’s a frustrating situation, but one a lot of employees find themselves in.

One way workers can deal with at-will laws is by having a union. Most unions include “just cause” as a stipulation in the collective bargaining agreement negotiated with their employer—it means that your boss needs to show an actual cause to fire you.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment website provides a handy summary of at-will employment and the common exceptions to at-will employment. Colorado is pretty typical in terms of its at-will employment laws: At-will employment is the default for private employees in all states. Some of the exceptions to at-will employment, like federal anti-discrimination laws andconstitutional due process protections for public employees, apply in every state, and in any state employees are able to contract—either individually or collectively—for the right to continued employment unless there is just cause for termination. While the at-will employment rules are generally similar throughout the country, there is some variation from state to state. This could be because the state’s legislature has created additional exceptions (for instance, while federal law does not ban firing employees based on sexual orientation, several state laws do) or because the state’s courts are more likely to find implied contracts or covenants that impose a higher burden on when employers can terminate an employee.

But I like the way you’re thinking here—bigger than just your own job. In Colorado, you’d have two paths to changing employment law. One would be to pass legislation through both houses and get the governor to sign it. Or you could try to do it through a ballot initiative.

That’s not exactly a walk in the park, though. In order to get that kind of change legislatively, you’d need to build a stong grassroots movement.

The way to start—whether it’s in your workplace or at the state level—is by having a few conversations with people you know. Chances are, most people don’t even know what “at will” means, so you have a chance to educate them. Once they understand what “at will” is and that there are alternatives to aspire to, they might just be fired up enough to help you reach others. That’s how a movement starts.

Got a question for David? Submit it here.

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Rep. Mike Coffman: Who Do You Work For?

Working America members to deliver thousands of furlough notices, petitions calling for end to privatization and radical corporate agenda.

(Aurora, Colo.) – On Thursday, Aug. 22, at noon, members of Working America and AFGE will deliver petitions and furlough notices from government employees and Colorado constituents to Rep. Mike Coffman’s office, calling for him to end his privatization efforts and end the shifting of public assets to fund a corporate agenda that paid for his re-election.

The event is part of the “Rep. Mike Coffman: Who Do You Work For?” campaign to educate Coloradans about the representative’s radical legislative agenda to privatize programs like Social Security and Medicaid and, most recently, his efforts to privatize the work of the Department of Defense.

WHO: Members of AFGE and Working America, constituents, organizers

WHAT: Lobby event at Rep. Mike Coffman’s office to ask “Who Do You Work For?”

WHEN: Thursday, Aug. 22, noon

WHERE: Rep. Mike Coffman’s District Office: 3300 S. Parker Road, Cherry Creek Place IV, Suite 305, Aurora, Colo. 80014

CONTACT: Ianthe Metzger: 202-538-2026, imetzger@workingamerica.org
Kevin Pape: 440-724-6980, kpape@workingamerica.org


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Working America, a national organization for working people without a union on the job, has 3 million working-class members who fight for good jobs and a just economy. Check out our brand new Web tool, fixmyjob.com.


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Working Coloradans Mobilize to Hold Rep. Mike Coffman Accountable for Privatization Efforts

Working America members will be launching the “Rep. MikeCoffman: Who Do You Work For?” campaign to educate their fellow Coloradans about the representative’s radical legislative agenda to privatize programs like Social Security and Medicaid, and most recently, his efforts to privatize the work of the Department of Defense.

“Rep. Coffman seems to feel that it’s more important to give tax breaks to corporations and focus on unnecessary privatization than try to bring jobs to his district,” said Working America State Director Kevin Pape. “He’s not looking out for Coloradans, and it’s time we let constituents know who he really works for.”

During the campaign, members will be collecting petition signatures fromCoffman’s constituents telling him that they do not support his privatization efforts and will hold a public event for petition delivery. They will also be hosting media events and submitting letters to the editor educating Coloradans about Coffman’s attempts to sell off public assets and shift tax dollars to the huge corporations that funded his campaign.

Working America has more than 125,000 members in the state of Colorado.

For updates, follow @WorkingAmerica on Twitter.

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Low Wage Workers Celebrate a Special Anniversary at the White House

Edgar became involved with Working America during our work on an Anti-Wage Theft campaign on Auraria Campus. He is a father, a husband, a part time student, an intern,  and a valet attendant.  He has since developed into a spokesperson on behalf of low wage workers everywhere.

In April, the Department of Labor facilitated a series of minimum wage round tables across the country. In Denver, Edgar’s participation and story struck the hearts of those who attended. He explained the difficult choices he is forced to make as a low wage worker, providing the only source of income for his family while his wife is on unpaid maternity leave caring for their newborn baby. He would love to be able to invest in his daughter’s future, but said it’s tough with his current income.

After this event in Denver, Edgar was invited to participate in the celebration for the  75th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act and a Senate committee hearing addressing the effects of raising the federal minimum wage in Washington D.C..

At this event, Edgar and three other participants were chosen out of close to 20 low wage workers to tell their stories to Acting Secretary of Labor Seth Harris and other top economic advisors. Vice President Biden spoke on behalf of raising the minimum wage with Edgar and other workers filling in the stage behind him: “The people behind me have an incredible amount of self-respect. They deserve to be paid in a way that reflects the dignity that they exude.”

President Obama has suggested that the federal minimum wage be increased to $9.00 an hour. A bill by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.55 an hour.

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Working America Helped Put Colorado Jobs Bill Over the Top

We had some good news for American workers out of Colorado last Friday. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) signed House Bill 1292, the “Keep Jobs in Colorado Act” into law.

This marked the successful conclusion to a two-year campaign waged by Working America, the Colorado AFL-CIO, and numerous other pro-worker organizations in the Centennial State.

It’s exactly the kind of bill that states should be passing.

When they assign projects, under the new law state agencies must take into consideration a contractor’s labor practices – wages, benefits, how they treat their workers – not just cost of the bid.

Plus, state-funded construction projects have to have at least 80 percent Colorado workers. Makes sense, right? Colorado projects should have Colorado workers? That requirement has been on the books for 80 years, but finally it has teeth – now there are penalties for contractors that don’t follow it.

A similar bill was first brought up in 2012. Since that time, Working America members and organizers had over 13,000 conversations, wrote over 1,000 handwritten letters, and collected over 1,300 petition signatures in communities around Colorado.

This is the type of commonsense legislation we hope to see elsewhere. Taxpayer funds should be used to hire local workers at good wages by contractors with good labor practices. Why Republicans in the legislature opposed this bill for two years is baffling, but thanks to the Colorado AFL-CIO working with pro-worker legislators and the advocacy of thousands of Coloradoans like you, it’s finally the law of the land.

Image by SenatorMikeJohnston on Flickr.

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Gov. Hickenlooper (D) Signs “Keep Jobs in Colorado Act”

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

On Friday, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signed the “Keep Jobs in Colorado Act,” which would increase protections for the state’s working families and help make sure that taxpayer money stays in the state. The bill reforms the state contracting system, requiring state agencies to focus on more than the bid in contracting and to include other factors that would help the state’s workers, such as wages and benefits.

Colorado law already requires that 80 percent of workers on state-funded construction projects must be state residents, but supporters of the new bill say that law rarely has been enforced because the only penalty for violating the law was jail time, something enforcement officials were reluctant to pursue. The new law lays out a series of civil penalties—up to contractor disbarment for extreme offenders. Exceptions to the 80 percent requirement already exist if employers can show there is not sufficient labor in-state for a particular project.

Republicans largely opposed the bill, which also requires contractors to provide proof of the country of origin for materials used in construction projects.

“This really was my number one priority coming into this legislative session,” said state Sen. Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood). “We need to do everything we can to keep and create jobs in Colorado and make sure our taxpayer dollars are being used as wisely as possible.”

The Colorado AFL-CIO applauded the passage of the bill:

“Gov. Hickenlooper signing the ‘Keep Jobs in Colorado Act’ is an important victory for Colorado workers, their families and the state economy,” said Mike Cerbo, executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO. “After six years of crafting these policies, we are excited to join the governor as he signs a momentous bill for all of Colorado.”

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