Meet the Veterans Who Rebuilt the World Trade Center

On the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, here’s a little “Throwback Thursday” recognition of the veterans who rebuilt the World Trade Center and became highly skilled members of the union building and construction trades through the Helmets to Hardhats apprenticeship program.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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How the Government Can Lead on Supporting Businesses that Lift Working Standards

How the Government Can Lead on Supporting Businesses that Lift Working Standards

Through our tax dollars used in government purchasing, U.S. taxpayers are collectively the largest buyer of goods in services in the world. Being that big gives us power. And it gives us responsibility to hold the government accountable for how it spends those dollars. However, our government does very little to ensure our tax dollars are spent responsibly, whether it’s through buying uniforms, electronics or food from businesses that support decent conditions in the thousands of workplaces in the United States and around the world. A new report by the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) lays out some clear ideas to improve federal government purchasing and the capacity to protect and respect human rights of workers in its own supply chain. On Sept. 10, the AFL-CIO hosted a panel with ICAR human rights and corporate accountability experts, law and business professors from Georgetown University and a journalist from The New York Times to discuss how the U.S. government can obey labor laws and respect workers’ rights.

Labor and human rights activists have long known about this lack of accountability, and both the mainstream press and U.S. Congress have noted the staggering scale of the problem both at home and abroad. The ICAR report reviews the limits of the existing legal framework, explains how previous efforts to improve the rules failed and presents a menu of policy choices to finally take action to improve a system that often rewards unfair competition by contractors who cut costs by violating labor laws at home and abroad. Instead, the ICAR report shows how to build respect for labor rights into the government purchasing process and give incentives to contractors to take the high road.

Any viable plan to improve government purchasing practices requires a stronger mandate to eliminate unfair competition by establishing clear rules, transparency and sufficient staff, budgets and training at contracting agencies that do this important work. This past July, the Obama administration proposed actions to take such measures in awarding contracts for goods and services produced in the United States. Those improved policies will need support to be implemented. However, around the world our government relies on the same failed systems used by most companies to monitor their own working conditions and labor rights in their supply chains. We also must take measures that address our government’s global supply chain. The ICAR report analyzes the government purchasing process and pinpoints the many places in the process where government contractors can be held accountable. Some proposals borrow solutions that have beenimplemented by local and state governments and universities to clean up supply chains. There are innovative solutions to these problems such as the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which shows how major purchasers can use their power to improve conditions in supply chains. The U.S. government should draw lessons from the accord’s commitment to accountability.

It is possible to improve working conditions in supply chains that depend on our tax dollars, if we use our power to demand better practices. The ICAR report provides detail about how to do that effectively in the complex process of government purchasing.

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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I’m a Koch Sister, Too!

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler with Joyce and Karen Koch

You’ve heard of the Koch Brothers, the ultra-rich, corporate extremists whose deep pockets are flooding election-season airwaves. Too often, their goals are part of a political playbook to drive down wages, cut Social Security and Medicare and secure more corporate tax breaks at the expense of our environment. Their money may dominate America’s politics and lawmaking, but their values and ideals sure don’t.

We have a better alternative. Meet the Koch Sisters, Karen and Joyce, who share the same last name but not the same values as the infamous Koch Brothers. They’re not related to David and Charles Koch or to each other. But they’re sisters where it counts—in spirit, in solidarity and in their shared values. The Koch Sisters are bringing to the forefront of political debate the issues most Americans care about—from fair wages to protecting Social Security.

They’ll tell you themselves in this video.

Karen Koch is a teacher and mother of two. As a college business professor at Mott Community College in Michigan, she has spent her career preparing students for internships and their first jobs. She is also a member of the Michigan Education Association and comes from a UAW family. Joyce Koch, also a mother of two, is a grandmother and is married to a retired AFT teacher. She spent most of her career as a social worker and an administrator for an anti-poverty organization in New York.

Like so many of us, Karen and Joyce have worked hard all of their lives and want to ensure their children and grandchildren have the same opportunities they did. They share the belief that the working families of this country should have every opportunity to get ahead. Unlike the Koch Brothers, the Koch Sisters don’t have billions of dollars and they certainly aren’t trying to buy our democracy. But they care about our country and what money in politics is doing to it. And they believe their voice, and the voices of millions more people like them—like you and me—are as important as the special interests who use their vast wealth to influence politics and policy.

Perhaps the Koch Sisters are so very different from the Koch Brothers because for Karen and Joyce it’s about people, not profits.

The Koch Sisters stand for the right things that matter most at the right time. I admire Joyce and Karen’s courage for making their voices heard in AFL-CIO television and online ads to get the word out. In fact, I’m a Koch Sister, too! Let’s all join them and become a nation of Koch Sisters! Sign up today at kochsisters.org.

This post originally appeared on the MomsRising blog

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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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Jobless Rate Drops to 6.1%, but Just 142,000 Jobs Added in August

The economy added 142,000 jobs in August, down from July’s increase of 209,000 new jobs, but the unemployment rate dipped slightly to 6.1% compared to July’s 6.2%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Over the past year, the unemployment rate has dropped by 1.1 percentage points and the number of jobless workers has decreased by 1.7 million.

While the improved jobs numbers over the past several months show the economy is beginning to recover, job growth is still not robust enough to provide jobs for the millions who remain out of work or to boost wages for most Americans.

AFL-CIO Policy Director and Special Counsel Damon Silvers said,

Despite some real improvements lately, labor market conditions are still consistent with a recession, especially when it comes to wages where there has been no trend whatsoever that shows any significant move to higher wages.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was 3 million, compared to 3.2 million in July. But even with that drop, long-term joblessness continues to plague the economy. Yet House Republicans have, since the end of last year, refused to allow a vote on the extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits program that was approved by a bipartisan Senate majority. They are unlikely to change course when they return to work next week following their five-week summer vacation—something long-term unemployed workers certainly didn’t take.

Last month’s biggest job gains were in professional and business services (47,000), health care (34,000), leisure and hospitality (22,000) and construction (20,000).

Employment in other major industries, including manufacturing, retail trade, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities and government, showed little change in July.

Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) President Scott Paul said:

This jobs report is a big disappointment for factory workers. While we can never read too much into just a month’s worth of data, a goose egg for manufacturing doesn’t look like progress to me. And it will be hard to consistently move the manufacturing jobs number up unless our goods trade deficit with China comes down.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates in August showed little or no change for adult men (5.7%), adult women (5.7%), teenagers (19.6%), whites (5.3%), blacks (11.4%) and Latinos (7.5%).

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Biden Praises Shipyard Workers as ‘Best in the World,’ Cites Apprenticeships, Training

Via Vice President Joe Biden's Twitter account

Vice President Joe Biden called the nearly 5,000 workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard—most of whom are members of unions in the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department—“the best in the world,” during a visit to the Kittery, Maine, facility Wednesday.

I’ve traveled a million miles around the world as vice president and I traveled a million miles before that and the fact of the matter is you’re the best in the world. It’s true.

Biden also highlighted the emphasis by union and management on the training and apprenticeships that equip the workers with the skills needed to overhaul, repair and modernize the Navy’s Los Angeles class nuclear submarine fleet. Biden said apprenticeship and training programs at the facility are a model for private enterprises and for America’s path to revitalizing the middle class.

You’ve kept the most highly skilled workforce here in Maine and in New Hampshire. The rest of the world, the rest of the nation, private enterprise can learn a lot from your example.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), one of several Maine and New Hampshire lawmakers who accompanied Biden on the shipyard tour, said:

This is world-class work that you do, and everyone knows it.

Biden also told the workers that, along with the need to invest in workforce training and make higher education more accessible, workers must be able to share in the profits their productivity produces for corporations.

If you are responsible for the profit your corporation made, you as workers should have the opportunity to share in the benefits, share in the profits. That’s how we did business until relatively recently. That’s how we built the middle class.

Biden is leading a White House initiative on workforce development and job training that is working with employers, industry associations and labor unions in designing education and job training programs. A major goal of the program, said President Barack Obama earlier this year, is to:

Train Americans with the skills employers need and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now. That means more on-the-job training and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life.

Biden released his “Ready to Work” report on the same day Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which encourages the formation of joint labor-management skill training partnerships. More information on the WIOA is available from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Learn more at the White House’s Ready to Work website.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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12 Recent Victories for Workers in Raising Wages and Collective Bargaining

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here’s Your Union-Made Labor Day Shopping List

Labor Day is the unofficial end of the summer holiday season. While the day honors the hardworking men and women who make this nation go and grow, the weekend also gives us a chance for one more big backyard barbecue blowout. Here’s some union-made food and drink to get your barbecue off to a great start.

Text MADE to 235246 for more union-made-in-America product lists. 

Our list comes courtesy of Union Plus, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor’s website Labor 411.

Hot Dogs, Sausages, Other Grill Meats

  • Ball Park
  • Boar’s Head
  • Calumet
  • Dearborn Sausage Co.
  • Fischer Meats
  • Hebrew National
  • Hofmann
  • Johnsonville
  • Oscar Mayer

Condiments

  • French’s Mustard
  • Gulden’s Mustard
  • Heinz Ketchup
  • Hidden Valley Ranch
  • Lucky Whip
  • Vlasic

Buns and Bread

  • Ottenberg’s
  • Sara Lee
  • Vie de France Bakery

Bottled Water

  • American Springs
  • Pocono Springs
  • Poland Spring

Beer

  • Budweiser
  • Bud Light
  • Leinenkugel’s
  • Mad River
  • Michelob
  • Miller
  • Rolling Rock

See more from Union Plus.

Ice Cream and Frozen Treats 

• Del Monte Fruit Chillers
• Breyers
• Carvel
• Good Humor
• Hiland Dairy
• Labelle Ice Cream
• Laura Secord
• MacArthur
• Orchard Harvest
• Prairie Farms
• President’s Choice

Snacks 

  • Flips Pretzels
  • Frito-Lay Chips
  • Oreos
  • Triscuits
  • Wheat Thins

Visit our Made in America board on Pinterest.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Five Reasons Walmart’s New ‘Commitment’ to American Manufacturing is Nonsense

Walmart is hosting a manufacturing summit in Denver this week as part of its new program to supposedly invest in products made in America for its stores across the country. The retailer is claiming its new plan will invest $250 billion over the next decade and create 1 million jobs. We’re not buying it.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addressed Walmart’s summit and announcement:

But workers will not benefit from a Walmart-ification of our manufacturing sector. Jobs in the Walmart model won’t restore America’s middle class or build shared prosperity given the company’s obsession with low labor costs and undermining American labor standards. And the company’s ‘commitment’ to American manufacturing is meaningless unless it actually increases the proportion of its products that are American-made.

Here are five reasons why Walmart’s plan is nonsense:

1. The whole thing is misleading. When you dig deeper, you find that all Walmart is doing is counting the company’s natural growth as “new” investment. If the company maintains its current percentages of U.S.-sourced goods and continues to grow at the same rate as it has the last three years, $262 billion will be spent on U.S.-made goods anyway without Walmart making any changes or doing anything new. Doing a little less than what you’ve been doing and calling it “progress” isn’t exactly admirable.

2. As Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing notes, Walmart’s altruism doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny:

…in some cases—the economics now favor “reshoring” of work back to the U.S., due to an emerging domestic energy cost advantage, rising wages in Asia, and wage stagnation in the U.S. (which Walmart might know something about). And don’t forget to consider the challenges that come from outsourcing: supply chain disruption, quality and inventory control issues, intellectual property theft, and high shipping costs.

3. Walmart is the biggest importer in the United States and it has been increasing how much it imports every year. The company now imports 2.5 times as much as it did in 2002. Walmart should make a solid commitment to cut back on its growth in  imports, after decades of massive increases, to create a real net gain for American workers.

4. Walmart is off to a rocky start helping create U.S. manufacturing jobs. In the first year of the new plan, Walmart created only 2,000 new jobs, putting it way behind schedule toward reaching that goal of 1 million new jobs.

5. As the largest private employer in the nation, Walmart should start with itself to create real change for America. At the rate Walmart workers are paid, they won’t be buying many U.S.-made products or imports. Walmart must invest more in its own workforce if it wants a “buy American” strategy to succeed.

Walmart cashiers make, on average, less than $25,000 a year. An April 2014 study by Americans for Tax Fairness estimated that subsidies and tax breaks for Walmart and the Walton family cost taxpayers approximately $7.8 billion per year, including about $6.2 billion in assistance to Walmart workers due to low wages and inadequate benefits.

Trumka concluded:

This initiative seems like an attempt to change the conversation from the need for Walmart to improve jobs for its 1.4 million retail workers in the United States. If Walmart is truly committed to rebuilding the American middle class, it can start with its own workers, most of whom make less than $25,000/year and struggle to make ends meet.

Walmart should use its two-day summit to prove the company is committed to real and substantive change and an end to corporate whitewashing.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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