6 Reasons Union Member Mike Michaud is a Candidate Who Cares About Working Families

6 Reasons Union Member Mike Michaud is a Candidate Who Cares About Working Families

It’s an election year, and we are quickly approaching the time when working families will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote for candidates who support policies that protect or expand our rights, raise wages and work for an economy that benefits everyone, not just the wealthy few. We’re going to focus our spotlight on some of the key candidates who care about working families, and one of those candidates is Mike Michaud, who is running for governor in Maine. Here are six reasons why Michaud would be good for working people:

1. Michaud has never forgotten what it means to be a worker having to put in long shifts and struggling to pay the bills. Born and raised in Maine, he started working in high school, pumping gas at night and washing dishes at a truck stop off Interstate 95. After high school, Michaud went right to work at the Great Northern Paper Co., the same mill where his father and grandfather worked, and joined the United Steelworkers (USW). He kept working at the mill even while serving in the Legislature and remains a card-carrying member of USW today. [Congressional website, accessed 5/16/14; Portland Press Herald, 7/6/14]

2. As a state legislator and a member of Congress, Michaud has a lifetime AFL‐CIO voting record of 96% and has a long history of supporting American workers. He opposed the radical Ryan budget that would end Medicare as we know it, and he led the fight against unfair trade agreements that would outsource good American jobs. [AFLCIO Scorecard]

3. In Congress, Michaud sponsored “Buy American” legislation promoting the use of American goods in federal projects. He also led the charge to require the U.S. military to purchase American-made shoes, including those made by Maine-based New Balance. [Bangor Daily News, 6/27/13; 4/25/14]

4. He wants to rebuild the state’s infrastructure and restore Maine’s manufacturing advantage. One way he plans to do this is by creating a comprehensive workforce training and retraining program.

5. Michaud favors a fairer tax system that helps middle-class families get ahead and requires corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share.

6. He wants to invest in pre-kindergarten and vocational education, and make college affordable for any Maine child who wants to attend.

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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6 Reasons Why Scott Walker Is One of the Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections

It’s an election year and we are quickly approaching the time when working families will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote against a whole host of extreme candidates who support policies that limit rights, make it even harder to afford a middle-class life and pad the pockets of their corporate buddies. One of the “Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections” is (surprise, surprise) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Here are six reasons why Walker has been bad for working people:

1. Walker promised to create 250,000 jobs in his first term, but with only a few months left the state is dead last in the Midwest in terms of job growth and he’s less than halfway toward reaching his jobs goal. [The Washington Post, 9/5/14]

2. And jobs aren’t just the one negative in Wisconsin’s economy. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ranked the state 49th in economic outlook and Wisconsin was one of only five states projected to contract in the second half of 2013. On top of that, new estimates show the state will be facing a $1.8 billion shortfall in the next budget cycle. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/28/13; Media Matters, 1/27/14]

3. As governor, Walker made the largest education cut in the state’s history—more than $1 billion. [Politifact, 2/8/12]

4. Walker signed legislation that would pre-empt local government control, preventing them from requiring paid sick days for workers, regardless of how much the community might want them. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/5/11]

5. Despite the fact that wages are stagnant and the minimum wage continues to lose buying power, Walker opposed raising the minimum wage, calling such a proposal a “political grandstanding stunt.” [The Associated Press, 1/23/14]

6. And the kicker that we’re all too familiar with: Walker signed a bill to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights, barred the traditional collection of union dues and forced workers to pay more for their health care and retirement benefits. [2011 Wisconsin Act 10; The New York Times, 2/22/14]

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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7 Reasons Why Tom Corbett Is One of the Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections

It’s an election year and we are quickly approaching the time when working families will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote against a whole host of extreme candidates who support policies that limit rights, make it even harder to afford a middle-class life and pad the pockets of their corporate buddies. One of the “Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections” is Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.  Here are seven reasons why Corbett has been bad for working people:

1. Corbett promised to make Pennsylvania #1 in job creation, instead the state has fallen to 46th in the country under his policies. [PoliticsPA, 7/22/13; W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, accessed 5/29/14]

2. Rather than addressing the real reasons why unemployment is so high in his state, Corbett blamed drugs. Seriously. In an editorial in Cumberlink, he said: “Many employers that say we’re looking for people but can’t find anyone who has passed a drug test.” [Cumberlink, 10/7/13]

3. As governor, Corbett has cut funding for education and eliminated 20,000 public school jobs.  As a result, almost 70% of the state’s school districts had to increase class sizes, despite a state constitutional requirement to fund schools adequately.  [Patriot News, 04/16/13; Associated Press, 9/16/11; Allentown Morning Call, 7/20/13; The Sharon Herald, 2/15/13; Salon, 8/19/13]

4. While cutting education, Corbett has made sure to continue to give away massive tax breaks to corporations, to the tune of $3.2 billion a year. That’s a lot of money that could fund proper education and programs to create jobs. [PA Budget and Policy Center, 3/12/13]

5. Not just content to cut education, Corbett’s cuts weren’t felt very equally. A study from the Pennsylvania State Education Association found with the education cuts that “state funding cuts to the most impoverished districts averaged more than three times the size of the cuts for districts with the lowest average child poverty.”

6. Corbett has made it pretty clear that he’s opposed to raising the state’s $7.25-an-hour minimum wage, despite the fact that Pennsylvania’s working families are seeing their incomes fall further and further behind the cost of living. [CBS DC, 1/30/14]

7. Not content to cut funding for state programs, Corbett also sought to cut the revenue streams that fund those programs, too.  When he first came into office, he attempted to privatize the state lottery, proceeds of which fund programs that benefit many of the state’s residents. [York Daily Record, 11/1/13]

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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116 Win Union Plus Scholarships

116 Win Union Plus Scholarships

The 2014 Union Plus Scholarship program has awarded 116 union members and union family members $150,000 in higher education scholarships, ranging from $500 to $4,000. Click here to see the scholarship winners and their unions.

Union Plus Scholarships were introduced in 1992 to help support union members, leaders and families in their pursuit of higher education. To date, Union Plus has awarded more than $3.6 million in educational funding to more than 2,400 active and retired union members, their spouses and dependent children.

Union Plus Scholarship awards are granted to students attending a two-year college, four-year college, graduate school or a recognized technical or trade school. Recipients are selected based on academic ability, social awareness, financial need and appreciation of labor.

The students selected for university, college, trade school or technical scholarships represent a wide sampling of backgrounds, union affiliations, goals and accomplishments. The selection process is very competitive, with more than 5,000 applications each year.

For information about obtaining the Union Plus Scholarship and how to apply to the program, click here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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11 Ways the ‘Schedules that Work’ Act Would Make the Lives of Working Families Better

11 Ways the 'Schedules that Work' Act Would Make the Lives of Working Families Better

On Tuesday, Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the “Schedules that Work” Act to provide federal guidelines for making sure that employers offer fair, flexible and reliable schedules for working families who are often left in difficult situations because of erratic employer scheduling. Miller said the act is about “dignity” and ensuring workers can earn a decent living and meet family responsibilities.

Scheduling problems are particularly glaring in some of the fastest-growing and lowest-paying industries in the United States, including retail, food service and janitorial work. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) President Joe Hansen explained the problem in more detail:

If you ask a worker in the retail industry what improvements can be made to their job, the response is likely to include scheduling. Fair, flexible and reliable scheduling is a simple way to ensure workers are treated with dignity and respect. In a perfect world, employers would view workers as human beings with competing life demands rather than numbers on a balance sheet. But in reality, scheduling is more erratic than ever.

Here are 11 ways the act would improve the lives of working families. It would:

1. Give employees the right to ask for schedules that better meet their professional and family needs: Workers would have the right to request more flexible or more predictable schedules, request more or fewer work hours and ask for minimal fluctuations in scheduling. Employers would be required to consider and respond to schedule requests.

2. Give employees with specific needs more protections: Scheduling requests for priority reasons would have to be granted by employers, if possible.  Priority reasons include health conditions, child care, elder care, a second job, education or job training.

3. Protect workers from retaliation: Employers would be prohibited from punishing workers for their work requests.

4. Require reporting pay: Often workers are called in to work, only to be sent home or put on call without pay or guarantee of work. The law would require employers to provide at least four hours of wages for employees who report to work when scheduled for shifts of four hours or longer and are sent home before four hours of work.

5. Require call-in pay: For employees that are required to call in less than 24 hours before a shift and are not allowed to work for at least four hours, employers would be required to pay them at least one hour’s wages.

6. Require split-shift pay: Workers who are required to work nonconsecutive hours would be paid an additional hour’s wages for time spent between shifts waiting to work.

7. Require employers to provide employees with clear expectations about hours and scheduling: As part of working a job, employees would be provided with a general idea of the schedules and number of hours they will be working and employers would be required to tell workers about changes in advance. Short-notice changes would require additional pay.

8. Help women have more ability to meet work and family responsibilities: Women workers make up the majority of low-wage jobs that would be affected by the bill, and improving their scheduling would make it easier for them to meet both work and family responsibilities.

9. Provide students with increased flexibility in pursuing higher education: According to CLASP, unpredictable scheduling limits class choice, the number of classes taken, class schedules and access to campus facilities, all of which slow down student progress toward graduation.

10. Benefit the economy: Unreliable and unpredictable scheduling is a drain on workforce productivity and increases turnover. Making schedules more reliable would help reduce both of these problems, which would increase business profits and help create more jobs.

11. Benefit businesses, too: More reliable schedules also would contribute to higher job satisfaction, higher organizational loyalty, higher worker performance and productivity, lower absenteeism and lower turnover.

Hansen said UFCW supports the act:

This legislation would ensure all workers have the rights fought for and won by UFCW members for decades. Our contracts have long guaranteed predictable and adequate scheduling. The law of the land should do the same. I urge Congress to pass the Schedules that Work Act as soon as possible.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Union Plus Sponsors $20,000 Student Loan Contest

Union Plus Sponsors $20,000 Student Loan Contest

In its continuing mission to find new ways to serve union members and their families, Union Plus is sponsoring a contest to help three winners pay off a portion of their student loan debt. The Grand Prize winner will receive $10,000 toward their student loan obligations, while there also will be two $5,000 prizes for runners-up.  The contest also will give way other prizes, including courses, consultations and books provided by the Princeton Review.

Eligible entrants can sign up online and enter simply by signing up for program e-mails and mobile alerts. To be eligible to win, entrants must register by Aug. 15, 2014.

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Your Inspiration for Today: 11-Year-Old Asean Johnson

You may have seen a video of him before, but if 11-year-old Asean Johnson can stand up to Rahm Emanuel and school “reformers” like he does in this video from the AFT convention, you can stand up and fight the important battles in your community.

At the Los Angeles convention, he thanked his teachers, his family and his Chicago community for joining together not only to safeguard his schooling and opportunities in life, but also to win access for all students to art, music, libraries and vital school professionals like counselors and nurses. To the cheers of delegates, Asean said:

Now, we must take that fight to every city in America. If we come together, we will win. Let’s march together; let’s fight together; let’s work together. Let’s reclaim the promise of America’s schools together!

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Pittsburgh Adjunct Faculty Votes to Join USW

Pittsburgh Adjunct Faculty Votes to Join USW

Part-time professors at Pittsburgh’s Point Park University have voted to join the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers (AFA-USW). The votes were counted this morning by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The educators filed a petition with the NLRB in April and a mail ballot election was held for the 314 eligible instructors. The Point Park faculty are the second group of adjuncts to vote to join AFA-USW, after Duquesne University faculty voted for the union in the spring of 2012. The Point Park instructors cited similar issues as the Duquesne faculty, including stagnating wages, lack of benefits, little job security and inadequate office space and other tools to provide students with quality education.

USW President Leo W. Gerard called upon the college to engage the adjuncts fairly:

The adjunct instructors have spoken very clearly with this vote. Now it’s time for the Point Park administration to work with them to craft a fair collective bargaining agreement that provides the faculty with the benefits and basic protections that all workers deserve.

Sharon Brady, who has taught theater arts at Point Park for more than a decade, echoed Gerard:

I am looking forward to working with the administration, with the support of the USW, to enhance both the adjuncts’ experience and their effectiveness for the students they serve.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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What You Don’t Know About The Working Class and Education: Teaching to The Test, Quality And Education Among Top Concerns

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At Working America, we’re shedding light on the real issues that working class people care about. Every week we talk to new members about a particular topic that affects them and their communities.

For a few weeks, we surveyed more than 700 members on the topic of education. Below are some surprising, and not so surprising facts about how working class Americans view education.

  • 71% said that quality and cost are the most important factors in education. Unfortunately, due in part to widening income inequality, many members noted that class determines the type of education a student receives.

“Equal quality of education for all students in the U.S. is important. Where you live determines the kind of education you’ll get.” Colleen, Greensboro, N.C.

  • 84% had children in public school. As a result, funding public school programs and supporting teachers were top priorities for many of them. Notably, members were not in favor of teaching to the test, and the merits of such methods were questioned.

“My biggest concern is that teachers in North Carolina should be treated professionally,” said Lynne , a Working America member from Greensboro N.C. “The laws here disarm teachers and I don’t agree with it.”

  • The relationship between a college degree and solid work is still complicated. 86% of members indicated that they did not have a child in college, as a result, perhaps, many respondents indicated that they’d like to see job training and real-life curriculum integrated into schools. This comes on the heels of several reports noting that a college degree is becoming more and more necessary in today’s world.

“I believe everyone should be able to get a good education because it’s so necessary now days to a good future,’ said Linda from Chicago, Ill. “It’s not like it was 30 or 40 years ago when you could make a living without one, now you really need it.”

Working America has spent a good part of 2014 fighting to keep the specific needs of the working class at the forefront of the debate on education.

In Houston we helped save four public schools from closing, and in Pennsylvania we’re petitioning Governor Corbett to strengthen state funding for public education.

Photo courtesy of AFL-CIO NOW.

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California Ruling Ignores Real Factors Behind School Performance

Earlier this week in a suit financed and backed by corporate and wealthy benefactors—including those with investments in charter schools and educational technology—a California judge ruled that the state’s teacher tenure and seniority-based layoff statutes were unconstitutional.

Students Matter, the group that initiated the suit (Vergara v. California), claims tenure protects bad teachers and is the root cause for student underachievement, especially in schools that serve low-income students.

AFT President Randi Weingarten noted that on the day the decision was handed down:

Thousands of California classrooms were brimming with teachers teaching and students learning. They see themselves as a team, but sadly, this case now stoops to pitting students against their teachers. The other side wanted a headline that reads: ‘Students win, teachers lose.’

The suit, said California Federation of Teachers (CFT) President Joshua Pechthalt, “is not pro-student.”

It is fundamentally anti-public education, scapegoating teachers for problems originating in underfunding, poverty and economic inequality.

California ranks at the very bottom of all states in its per-pupil expenditures, at $8,342 (in 2011), according to the quality index published by Education Week. That’s 30% below the national average of $11,864, “reflecting the consistent shortchanging of the K-12 system by the state,” writes Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik.

Hiltzik also points out that the backers of the suit blame the teachers for the state of education in California but:

Not the imbalance of financial resources between rich districts and poor. Not the social pathologies—poverty, joblessness, racial discrimination, violence—that affect educational attainment in disadvantaged communities.

Says Weingarten:

It’s surprising that the court, which used its bully pulpit when it came to criticizing teacher protections, did not spend one second discussing funding inequities, school segregation, high poverty or any other out-of-school or in-school factors that are proven to affect student achievement and our children.  We must lift up solutions that speak to these factors—solutions like wraparound services, early childhood education and project-based learning.

Read Weingarten’s full statement here.

The ruling will be appealed.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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