While Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) was vacationing in Europe last week, a top state official resigned in protest over Pence’s efforts to cut middle-class wages. In his letter of resignation, Port Commissioner David Fagan wrote:
Indiana is ranked 38th in per capita income, and the governor’s solution is to cut wages on good middle-class jobs. What sense does that make?
Pence supports legislation to repeal Indiana’s prevailing wage law, known as the Common Construction Wage. Said Fagan in his letter:
By repealing Common Construction Wage, you will slash wages for Indiana workers, cripple Indiana contractors, starve small businesses and reduce our state’s tax revenue. In addition, you will undermine private-sector training for Indiana’s youth, which directly contrasts your statements in support of additional worker training.
Fagan, a Republican, also points out that the repeal of Indiana’s Common Construction Wage “undermines the free-market wages negotiated in the private sector” and that:
Supporters of the repeal have publicly stated their support for utilizing foreign guest workers in our construction industry. I cannot understand why Indiana’s Republicans have sided with out-of-state and foreign workers. That this is even being considered is a tragedy for our party and our state.
The Indiana legislature passed and Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a bill last week that critics, from human and civil rights groups to corporate CEOs to professional athletes, say opens the door to legal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people.
In a statement, Indiana State AFL-CIO President Brett Voorhies said the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) “condones discrimination against our own citizens.”
Throughout its long history, organized labor has always fought for education, fair wages, safe workplaces and equality. That is why, on behalf of the 300,000 working Hoosiers and the more than 800 local unions affiliated with the Indiana AFL-CIO, we call on the Indiana General Assembly to repeal the discriminatory RFRA or pass the ‘Fairness for All Hoosiers Act’ immediately.
In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote about legislation such as Indiana’s “rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality.” He added:
Our message, to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open. Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination.
Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to me. As long as anti-gay legislation exists in any state, I strongly believe big events such as the Final Four and Super Bowl should not be held in those states’ cities.
AFSCME President Lee Saunders announced today that the union will move its 2015 Women’s Conference in October out of Indianapolis “as a direct result of Gov. Mike Pence last week signing into law a bill that legalizes discrimination.” Said Saunders:
This un-American law allowing businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers sets Indiana and our nation back decades in the struggle for civil rights. It is an embarrassment and cannot be tolerated. The 1.6 million members of AFSCME cannot in good conscience make such a sizable financial investment in Indiana knowing that women and men in that state are deliberately being targeted for discrimination.
In the past few weeks, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has shown a lot of love and respect for the 11 Illinois residents who recently competed for the United States at the Winter Olympic Games. Check out his Facebook page. But, as many people who have left their comments there say, it’s time for Kirk to show some of the same respect and compassion for the state’s more than 99,000 jobless workers who lost their emergency unemployment benefits in December.
Call Kirk at 845-809-4509 if you live in Illinois and tell him the same thing.
You see, like the more than 1.7 million unemployed workers across the country, many jobless Illinois workers are no long receiving unemployment benefits because Republicans in Congress allowed the federal emergency unemployment benefits program to expire Dec. 31, and Kirk was one of the majority of Republicans who voted against renewing the program in January and again this month.
But, as soon as Thursday, Kirk and other Republicans will have a chance to do the right thing and vote on a bill to restore the emergency unemployment benefits program that provides a lifeline to workers after their state benefits run out—usually 26 weeks, but now less than that in many states, thanks to Republican state lawmakers.
Kirk—who has indicated he might support a restoration—is a key vote, along with Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.). If you live in Illinois, Ohio or Indiana, please call Kirk, Portman or Coats today at 845-809-4509 and tell them hundreds of thousands of their constituents and more than 1.7 million Americans need their votes. No matter where you live, please call your senators using the number above and tell them the same thing. Another 1.9 million Americans will out of benefits by June if the program is not restored.
Here are just a few examples of what Illinois voters are telling Kirk on his Facebook page:
Annie Kiser: You have MANY Republican constituents out of work 26+ weeks. THEY VOTE and your “no” on #EUC will cost you, Mr. Kirk #RENEWUI
Annemarie Purcell Diola: Please push for the extended unemployment benefits as soon as possible. My unemployment ran out the 3rd week of December, where I was approved for 10 weeks of Tier 1 EUC, was only able to collect 1 week of it. I have worked my entire life and followed the rules, but my family is suffering!
Michael Greenberger: And A LOT of veterans were unemployed when you PULLED THE RUG OUT FROM UNDER THEM. Why don’t you support jobless people?
Another great win emerges from autoworkers and industry collaboration. General Motors Co. (GM) will invest more than $1.3 billion to upgrade and expand five manufacturing plants in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana that also will create or retain more than 1,000 jobs, GM and the UAWannounced Monday.
UAW Vice President Joe Ashton, who represents GM workers, calls the investments a “win for American workers.” He says:
The UAW is proud to be a part of this successful collaboration with GM that has helped rebuild the nation’s economy, created good paying, union jobs in communities across the country and brought manufacturing that was moved overseas back to the United States. This is further proof that collective bargaining works.
In 2011, when the UAW negotiated new contracts with the Big Three automakers, the union won commitments from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler to invest more than $27.3 billion in their plants, creating 20,000 new jobs at the three automakers and thousands more in the industries that are part of the auto manufacturing supply chain.
At the ceremony at GM’s Flint, Mich., truck assembly plant announcing the investment, GM North America President Mark Reuss told the cheering workers:
These investments are a sign of our confidence in our workforce and our UAW partners that have given and tried so hard and in our vehicles and the continued demand for excellence in each one of these products. You earned this.
Since the auto industry was on the verge of collapse during the Bush recession, car makers and the UAW have worked closely in forging a partnership that was instrumental in securing the financing in 2008 and 2009 that kept the industry alive. Working together not only kept the auto industry afloat and saved tens of thousands of jobs, the negotiated investments like Monday’s GM announcement have opened the doors to good middle-class jobs.
Ashton notes that while income disparity grows in the country and the middle class declines, collective bargaining has created a ladder to the middle class for millions of America’s workers.
This announcement today is further proof that collaboration and collective bargaining works and will continue to be the way that we rebuild America’s middle class.
At the Flint ceremony, Barry Campbell, chairman of UAW Local 598, said he was “proud to pay my union dues, and this is just a great example why.”
GM’s nearly $1.3 billion investment includes:
$600 million in Flint Assembly for facility upgrades.
$493.4 million in Romulus (Mich.) Powertrain Operations.
$121 million in Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly for a logistics optimization center.
$30.6 million in Toledo Transmission Operations for increased capacity for an existing six-speed transmission.
$29.2 million in Bedford (Ind.) Castings, which includes $22.6 million to produce components for transmissions.
Across the country, creative labor-management partnerships are saving and creating jobs, keeping businesses competitive, growing the middle class and helping more Americans climb ladders of opportunity.
In the last three years, nine states have added new laws that prohibit local governments from passing paid sick leave ordinances. Seven of these laws were passed in 2013 alone and 14 states introduced such legislation in the last year, Think Progress reports. In every state where local preemption bills have passed on paid sick leave, members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) were among the co-sponsors of the legislation. In most cases, corporate lobby groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business and the National Restaurant Association also have been involved heavily in passing the laws. It’s bad enough these groups oppose paid sick days for working families, but they don’t even want democratically elected officials deciding on policies—they want to prevent these policies from even coming up for a vote.
Corporate groups routinely argue that paid sick leave ordinances will harm businesses, but the evidence so far rejects those claims. Bryce Covert of Think Progress writes:
Before 2010, Georgia was the only state to have such a pre-emption law, since then Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin have added them. This push comes as a direct response to local governments showing real momentum in passing paid sick leave ordinances. Six cities and the state of Connecticut have passed paid sick days laws and other cities are considering joining them in protecting workers, customers and employers from the negative effects of sick employees.
On June 15, hundreds of working families from Indiana, Michigan and Ohio will come together for the Middle Class Survival Rally in Monroe, Mich. The goal of the rally is to educate people about the ongoing attacks on working families in the United States.
Mike Smith, AFL-CIO Community Services liaison to the United Way of Monroe County, Mich., expanded upon the goals of the rally:
This is a movement, something we want everybody to be involved in. This is about Michigan and Ohio coming together. We share a border and we share a lot of members. Many of the local unions in the Toledo area go into Monroe County. This is about everybody working together, going in the same direction.
Ray Wood of UAWLocal 14 said the rally is open to the public: “It’s not a union issue, it is an everyone issue because what the unions have done is improve the quality of working life for everyone.”
Local 14 Secretary-Treasurer Mark Buford explained why the rally is important:
Your rights as a worker, your wages, your benefits are all under attack. Some companies are knocking people down to part-time and if you are looking for work and you are able to find a job, the wages are very low in a lot of cases. People have to stand up soon.
The rally will be held Saturday, June 15, from noon until 5 p.m. on Dog Lady Island in Monroe. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) will address the crowd.
Increasingly, big companies are using lockouts to avoid negotiations or bully their workers into bad contracts. It’s a sign that corporations are more willing than ever to exert power over their employees rather than let them have a say in the workplace.
Now, two groups of locked-out workers are fighting back. Starting today, workers from the Crystal Sugar plant in Fargo, Minnesota and Cooper Tire in Findlay, Ohio will kick off a tour of the Midwest to raise awareness of lockouts and support locked-out workers and their families. The workers are members of the Steelworkers and the BCTGM. They’ll host solidarity rallies all along their 1,000-mile journey from Fargo to Findlay.
Working America members will be taking part in events to show their support for workers’ rights to a voice on the job and a fair contract. “We understand how attacks on Cooper Tire and Crystal Sugar employees hurt all of us,” said David Wehde, organizing director for Working America. “These lockouts are an abuse of these companies’ power. We want workers to be able to get fair pay and benefits, and have some dignity at work. That’s why we’re supporting the Journey for Justice.”
In this time when unions are under direct attack by politicians and corporations hoping to drive them out of existence, we need to stand up and say that’s wrong.
You can follow the workers’ journey here or on Twitter.
Last November, our Ohio members joined thousands of other working families and stood up to Gov. John Kasich and corporate interests by overwhelmingly repealing Senate Bill 5, which would have cut collective bargaining rights for over 350,000 Ohio workers.
But only a few months later, a Quinnipiac poll shows that 54 percent of Ohioans would support a so-called “right to work” law, which in 22 other states have lowered wages for all workers, created less safe workplaces, and weakened the ability of unions to represent their members. (This does not bode well for the future of Indiana, the 23rd RTW state).
Indiana recently became a “right to work” state, meaning that workers can no longer be required to join a union or pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment. Do you think that Ohio should become a “right to work” state or don’t you think so?
According to the poll, those who said Ohio should become a right to work state include 55 percent of independents and 31 percent of Democrats, and 32 percent of union households, in addition to 3 out of 4 Republicans.
The campaign to repeal Senate Bill 5 was successful in explaining how the collective bargaining restrictions would hurt all workers. We must do the same for so-called “right to work.”
The goal of a “right to work” law is the same as the goal of Ohio’s Senate Bill 5 – weaken the voices and power of working people. Where Senate Bill 5 went through the front door, RTW laws go through the back door, draining the resources of the institutions that protect workers.
Like Senate Bill 5, the RTW pushers will talk about getting Ohio’s economy back on track. But RTW laws reduce wages for all workers, both union and non-union (accounting for different costs of living in the states). How on earth does putting less money in workers’ pockets help the economy?
Like Senate Bill 5, the RTW pushers will talk about the need to bring businesses to the state. But RTW is not a meaningful factor in those decisions. A survey of manufacturers in Area Development magazine showed that RTW laws ranked 16th in terms of influencing location decisions, slipping from 14th in 2009. RTW has never ranked in the top ten factors influencing where businesses move.
Like Senate Bill 5, the RTW pushers will talk about the need to create jobs. Yes, we agree: jobs should be the number one priority for Ohio leaders. But RTW laws have no impact on job growth. None whatsoever. There is no evidence that these laws get people have to work or improve the economy in any way.
“Right to work” isn’t about rights, and it’s not about work. So what’s it about? Like Senate Bill 5. It’s about politics. Right-wing legislators and conservative groups, aided by massive amounts of out-of-state money, want to divide working people: union and non-union, public and private. They want us to be squabbling and distracted while they further enrich the ultra-wealthy.
In Indiana, a group of pro-worker, moderate Republicans is recruiting candidates to run in primaries against several of the state legislators who helped ram through a “right to work” law earlier this year.
Workers’ rights wasn’t always a partisan issue. Even the lionized President Ronald Reagan was a supporter of collective bargaining rights, and over the years there have indeed been state and federal GOP elected officials who have carried on that tradition.
But lately, because of the growing, pervasive influence of ALEC, the Koch Brothers, Wall Street, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other radical anti-worker groups on the Republican Party (and as protecting the ultra-wealthy has increasingly become the GOP’s singular goal), collective bargaining and having a voice on the job have been transformed – at least in the eyes of the media and the broader public – into partisan issues.
The state house fights since 2010, we’ve seen instances of Republicans standing up to their leadership over workers’ rights issues. Some, like Wisconsin’s Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center), have been successful; with a reduced Republican majority in the Wisconsin Senate, Schultz now carries more clout than ever, as well as the distinction of being the only Republican to vote against Gov. Walker’s union-busting bill.
Others have fallen victim to political retaliation. In New Hampshire, a state with a long-standing tradition of moderate Republicanism, former union member Rep. Lee Quandt (R-Exeter) was removed from his leadership position after speaking out against his party’s anti-worker agenda. House Speaker William O’Brien used every tactic imaginable to whip Republicans into passing a “right to work” bill, yet failed consistently.
Part of the reason that the repeal of the union-busting Senate Bill 5 in Ohio was so successful was that it was not a partisan issue. The repeal campaign reached out consistently to those describing themselves as “conservatives,” and had the support of Republicans like the outspoken Sens. Bill Seitz and Tim Grendell, former U.S. Senator George Voinovich, and even right-wing radio host Bill Cunningham. The “Republicans Voting No On Issue 2” Facebook page has 3,500 members. In the end, more people voted No on Issue 2 to repeal Senate Bill 5 – in an off-year election – than voted to elect current Governor John Kasich in 2010.
What’s different about Indiana is that this is the first time that a moderate, pro-worker faction has broken off and formed a PAC with the expressed purpose of waging an intra-party fight over collective bargaining and workers’ rights.
In Indiana, five GOP Representatives and nine GOP Senators voted against right to work. 82 Republicans voted for its passage. While the pro-worker contingent is small, they are bold, and vocal. As the Chair of the Lunchpail Republicans David Fagan bluntly told Rachel Maddow, “If you can’t defeat right to work, we will defeat those elected officials who voted for it.”
Thanks to the folks at American Rights at Work for their research and efforts around American and union-made products! See their post on being pro-union and pro-football here.
Super Bowl Sunday is almost upon us, and the New England Patriots and the New York Giants are preparing to battle it out for dominance. But there’s an extra wrinkle in this year’s Super Bowl. Just days ago, down the street from Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis where the game will be held, Governor Mitch Daniels signed a union-busting “right to work” bill into law. In the other 22 states where these laws are on the books, wages for all workers have gone down, workplaces have become less safe, and the power of unions to advocate for their members has dissipated.
For you at home, there’s somewhat of a dilemma. You want to enjoy the experience of Super Bowl Sunday: the gathering of friends and family, the commercials, the rush of the game, and of course, the food. On the other hand, you don’t want to be just another cog in the enormous corporate machine, the “miasma of Madison Avenue-produced militarism,” the forces that have turned an annual sporting event into a full-on marketing assault on the American public; forces that are tied philosophically and financially to the political war on workers
So along with American Rights At Work, we want to help you throw your own pro-worker Super Bowl. Don’t believe the myths: there are plenty of products out there made in United States by well union workers, despite the best efforts of Walker, Kasich, and Daniels. Let’s get started!
• Snacks. Luckily, you can support American workers with every handful. Chips and other snacks by Doritos, Lays, Kraft, and Wise are American and union made. For something sweet (ideally around fourth quarter, with the Pats up two scores) try some Ghiradelli Chocolates.
• Drinks. Beer and football go together like…come on, nothing goes together better than beer and football. Crack open a brew from Budweiser, Busch, Leinenkugel, Michelob, Miller, Molson, Pabst, or Rolling Rock, and you’ll be enjoying a union-made product. But drink responsibly, guys – this game is Boston versus New York, so there will be enough trouble afterwards without you joining in. How about after third quarter you switch to Coke, Sprite, or juices from Welch’s or Minute Maid.
• Grill. Firing up the grill or the slow cooker? Throw on some hot dogs from Oscar Meyer, Nathan’s Hebrew National, Ball Park, or Hormel. Calm down, Wisconsin, we have you covered – get your brats and sausages from Johnsonville, Armour, or Eckrich. If you’re like me and want some poultry at half time, go for Butterball, Healthy Choice, Smithfield, or Tyson. Top it all off with some Heinz ketchup, French’s or Gulden’s mustard, Open Pit barbecue sauce, or pace salsa, and serve with a Vlasic pickle. Whew!
• Fun. Madonna’s a talented lady, no doubt, but she’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Toss around a Wilson’s football during half time – made by union workers in Ohio. (No passes to John Kasich, he’s lost his football privileges).
• Conversation. Just like Turkey Talk during Thanksgiving, the Super Bowl can bring its own brand of, shall we say, lively debate. Let’s call it “Chili Talk.” When you’re done discussing the Deion Branch–Hakeem Nicks matchup or if Tom Brady’s plays better with a shorter haircut (he does), the topic might turn to workers’ rights. This will especially be the case if the cameras show the protest activity expected for Indianapolis.
Here are some resources to prep for the Chili Talk at your Super Bowl gathering on Sunday:
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans such as ‘right-to-work.’ It provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works.’ Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining…We demand this this fraud be stopped.” –Martin Luther King in 1961
What some big NFL players like Rex Grossman and Jay Cutler have to say about “right to work” from the NFL Players Association.