LIUNA, UAW Members Guests of First Lady at State of the Union

Two union members, one representing the benefits of union training and apprenticeship programs and the other the resurgence of the U.S. auto industry were guests of first lady Michelle Obama during last night’s State of the Union address.

Laborers (LIUNA) Local 300 member LeDaya Epps said:

The skills training I received through my union has done more than teach me a trade. It’s renewed my life. It has been a lifeline to a career I am proud of and allowed me to provide for myself and my three children.

Epps was unemployed a year ago, but with the help of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, an affiliate of the UCLA Labor Center, enrolled in an apprenticeship-readiness program sponsored by the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building Trades Council. After completing that training, she entered Local 300’s apprenticeship program.

The Compton, Calif., native is currently working on a project to expand the light rail train line for the LA Metro to Los Angeles International Airport.

During his address, President Barack Obama spoke forcefully about how job training and paid apprenticeships, such as the one that has opened doors for Epps, are “opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education.”

He also called for laws that “that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give American workers a voice [and]…that make sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work.”

Read more about Epps and her journey from jobless to a family-supporting union job from LIUNA, the North America’s Building Trades Unions and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Also sitting with Mrs. Obama was Tiairris Woodward of UAW Local 7 in Detroit. She works at Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant. Chrysler has emerged from its 2009 bankruptcy and now, like the entire American automobile industry, is making big contributions to the nation’s economy.

Woodward, a 43-year-old mom from Harrison, Mich., took on a second full-time job at Chrysler in 2010 after she found that she couldn’t support herself and her three children. After working 17-hour days across two jobs for some time, Tiairris was able to move solely to her Chrysler assembly line position. Within a year, she’d saved enough to buy a car and rent a new apartment and is attending college.

Earlier this month, Woodward wrote the White House thanking Obama for his actions that helped Chrysler survive bankruptcy and revived the auto industry. Read more on Woodward from the Detroit News.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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With 252,000 New Jobs, December Unemployment Drops to 5.6%

The economy added 252,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.6% from November’s 5.8%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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

Job growth in 2014—2.95 million new jobs—was the best since 1999. But as speakers at this week’s AFL-CIO National Summit on Raising Wages pointed out, even with better job growth this year, wages remain stagnant. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez outlined the defining economic fact of the past generation: productivity has gone way up and wages have stayed flat. (Read more about the summit here and here.)

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was unchanged from November at 2.8 million, and over the past 12 months, the number of long-term jobless workers has decreased by 1.1 million.

Last month’s biggest job gains were in professional and business services (52,000), construction (48,000), food services (44,000), health care (34,000) and manufacturing (17,000).

Other sectors that showed increases included financial activities (20,000), construction (20,000) and transportation and warehousing (17,000). Employment in wholesale trade and financial activities showed slight gains.

Employment in other major industries, including retail trade, mining and logging, information, warehousing and government, showed little change over the month.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates in November for adult women (5%) decreased from November’s 5.2%. The rates for men (5.3%), teenagers (16.8%), blacks (10.4%), Latinos (6.5%) and whites (4.8%) showed little change in December.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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7 Reasons Fast Track Is Off Track

During the secret discussion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, extreme corporate interests are pushing for a Fast Track process that would not only hurt working families in the United States, but in the other countries involved in any final deal. Here are seven reasons why Fast Track is off track.

1. People oppose it: More than 60% of voters oppose Fast Track for the TPP free trade deal.

2. It doesn’t reflect modern values: Fast Track is a copy of the approach to trade taken by President Richard Nixon, pursuing the passage of trade deals regardless of the effects a deal might have on wages, jobs, small businesses and the environment.

3. It’s a job killer: Past trade deals have cost American jobs in large numbers. For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement led to the loss of more than 682,000 jobs.

4. It makes it harder for workers to get a raise: Previous Fast Tracked deals have depressed wages and weakened the rights of workers to organize and collectively bargain.

5. It increases inequality: Previous trade deals have greatly exacerbated CEO-to-worker pay disparities, so that the current ratio is 354-to-1.

6. It’s undemocratic: Fast Track limits debate and prohibits amendments and doesn’t give the public the opportunity to influence the process.

7. It gives corporations more power: By including “investor-to-state dispute settlement” provisions, foreign investors in the United States and U.S. investors operating in foreign countries can skip traditional methods of complaining about laws they don’t like and sue nations directly in private arbitration tribunals made up of for-profit arbitrators. This would give corporations and foreign interests an influence over our economy that the rest of us don’t have.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Jobless Rate Dips to 5.8% with 214 New Jobs Added in October

The economy added 214,000 jobs in October, down from September’s 248,000 new jobs, but the unemployment rate fell to 5.8% compared to last month’s 5.9%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Since the beginning of 2014, the unemployment rate has dropped by .8 percentage points and the number of jobless workers has decreased by 1.2 million.

While jobs are being created—about 200,000 a month for the past year—wages remain stagnant, with the median family income in the United States falling back to 1995 levels. Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said:

The good news is that manufacturing jobs have grown over the past few months. The bad news is that they haven’t grown fast enough. I’m very concerned that a surge of imports from China and a paucity of public investment in infrastructure will continue to hamper the great potential of the productive sector of our economy….No doubt the economic anxiety that many Americans still feel is compounded by stagnant wage growth and diminished opportunities for middle-class careers.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was 2.9 million, slightly down from September’s 3 million. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term jobless workers has decreased by 1.1 million.

Last month’s biggest job gains were in food services (42,000), professional and business services (37,000), retail trades (27,000) and health care (25,000).

Other sectors that showed increases include manufacturing (15,000), transportation and warehousing (13,000) and construction (12,000).

Employment in other major industries, including mining and logging, wholesale trade, information, financial activities and government, showed little change over the month.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates in September declined for whites (4.8%) last month. The rates for adult men (5.1%), adult women (5.4%), teenagers (18.6%), blacks (10.9%) and Latinos (6.8%) showed little change in October.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Just the Facts? Not from Rick Snyder

Just the Facts? Not from Rick Snyder

In this week’s debate between Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer, Snyder ignored the advice Sgt. Joe Friday in “Dragnet” always proffered to witnesses and suspects, “Just the facts” when it came to his record on education, jobs and the economy. That’s alright. The good folks at You Got Schooled 2014 have the facts that Snyder ignored.

Here’s a sample. Click here for the full story.

On charter schools:

Rick Snyder: “They are giving parents choice because we have had a lot of failing schools, and the point was to give parents the opportunity to give their kids an education, create competition.”

Mark Schauer: “The first thing I will do is put the money back [Snyder] took from public schools. It is irrefutable.…Charter schools were allowed to expand with no oversight. That was a big mistake by this governor.”

The facts:

  • Traditional public schools perform better than charter schools, even when poverty is taken into account.
    “According to the Free Press’ review, 38% of charter schools that received state academic rankings during the 2012–2013 school year fell below the 25th percentile, meaning at least 75% of all schools in the state performed better. Only 23% of traditional public schools fell below the 25th percentile.“Advocates argue that charter schools have a much higher percentage of children in poverty compared with traditional schools. But traditional schools, on average, perform slightly better on standardized tests even when poverty levels are taken into account.” —“Michigan Spends $1B on Charter Schools but Fails to Hold Them Accountable,” Detroit Free Press
  • More than 80% of Michigan charter schools are run by for-profit companies.
    “Michigan has more for-profit charter schools than any other state in the country. ‘We’re an anomaly in the nation,’ says Western Michigan University professor Gary Miron. He says over 80% of the charter schools in Michigan today are operated by for-profit companies, while the national rate is 35%.” —“Three Little-Known Facts About Charter Schools in Michigan,” Michigan Radio

On $1.7 billion business tax cut:

Snyder: He thinks business owners shouldn’t be taxed on income beyond what regular folks pay. He said, “We made a fair system to encourage job creation.”

Schauer: “Yes, I will repeal the job-killing pension tax. It is wrong, it is bad tax policy and it is breaking a promise.…Our ‘accountant governor’ is missing some columns on his spreadsheet and it is called people.”

The facts:

  • Snyder shifted the tax burden from businesses to individuals, so low-income individuals and seniors saw their taxes increase the most. 
    “A major tax shift approved by the Michigan Legislature in 2011 made the state’s tax system significantly more regressive by cutting business taxes by 83% while increasing taxes for individual taxpayers by 23%, with a net loss of state revenue. Low- and moderate-income families were hardest hit, as many of the credits and deductions  intended to reduce their income tax burden were reduced or eliminated, most notably a 70% cut in the state Earned Income Tax Credit—a refundable tax credit that has been shown to lift children and families out of poverty, increase employment and reduce the need for public assistance.” —“Losing Ground: A Call for Meaningful Tax Reform,” Michigan League for Public Policy
  • Snyder’s tax increases included a new tax on pensions.
    “A big and controversial part of that income tax increase was the taxing of public and private pension income. That change alone was expected to raise for the state, and cost pension-receiving taxpayers, about $343 million in fiscal year 2012–2013.

    “The changes are phased in, with those reaching the age of 67 in 2020 or after facing more taxes.

    “According to a House Fiscal Agency analysis, a retired couple born after 1952 with $48,000 in pension income would pay $3,130 more in taxes.” —“Foul on Snyder for Playing Word Games with Pension Tax,” Bridge magazine

For even more on Snyder, check out 5 Reasons Why Rick Snyder Is One of the Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections.

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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248,000 New Jobs Drop Jobless Rate to 5.9% in September

The economy added 248,000 new jobs in September, a big increase over the 180,000 jobs added in August. The unemployment rate fell to 5.9% compared to 6.1% in August, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Over the past year, the unemployment rate has dropped by 1.3 percentage points and the number of jobless workers has decreased by 1.9 million.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was 3 million, unchanged from August. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term jobless workers has decreased by 1.2 million.

AFL-CIO Policy Director and Special Counsel Damon Silvers said while the drop in the jobless rate is encouraging, wages continue to stagnate.

For the economy to work for everyone, we need to see low unemployment rates coupled with wages that are rising, like we saw in the late 1990s, when real wages rose and the jobless rate dropped as low as 4%.

While long-term joblessness has dropped some, it remains a major problem. 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. Now, Congress is out of session until after the election, and even then House Republicans are likely to turn their backs on long-term jobless workers again.

Last month’s biggest job gains were in professional and business services (81,000), retail trade (35,000) and health care (23,000).

Other sectors that showed increases include leisure and hospitality (21,000), construction (16,000), information (12,000), financial (12,000) and mining (9,000).

Employment in other major industries, including manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing and government, showed little change in September.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates in September declined for adult men (5.3%), whites (5.1%) and Latinos (6.9%). The rates for adult women (5.7%), teenagers (20%) and blacks (11%) showed little change.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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As Governor, Union Member Mark Schauer Will Stand Up for Michigan Working Families

Phorto from www.markschauer.com

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 Mark Schauer, who is running for governor in Michigan.

Mark Schauer, a member of Laborers (LIUNA) Local 3555, has never forgotten his working-class roots. The son of a teacher and a nurse, Schauer paid for his college education with a paper route, by flipping burgers and pumping gas. When Schauer was in Congress, he was fierce champion for working people. He stood by workers by:

  • Saving auto jobs: Protecting Michigan’s heritage and jobs by fighting for the auto industry rescue.
  • Supporting the Make It in America law: Creating tough, new Buy American laws to invest in Michigan workers. [H.R. 4213, Vote 424, 5/28/10]
  • Demanding tax breaks for working families: Cutting taxes for middle- and lower-income families, expanding child care, college and home buying tax credits. [H.R. 1, Vote 70, 2/13/09]  

That’s just some of what Schauer did for working families in Congress. Here are his priorities as governor for every family in Michigan, not just a handful at the top.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Five Reasons Why Tom Foley Is One of the Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections

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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 Tom Foley, who is running for governor in Connecticut.

1. Foley wants to repeal the state’s law that requires employers to allow workers to earn paid sick days. He’s using the same tired arguments against paid sick days that already have failed to come true in Connecticut. [The Associated Press, 7/4/14]

2. He opposes raising the state’s minimum wage. [The Connecticut Mirror, 3/7/14]

3. Foley favors policies that will outsource jobs from the state. “There are probably big opportunities to save money by outsourcing,” he said. [The Connecticut Mirror, 6/14/10]

4. He would end other benefits for workers, including some health care coverage requirements and existing benefits for retirees. [The Connecticut Mirror, 2/2/10; 6/14/10]

5. Foley says he should be governor because of his business experience, but his experience is laying off thousands of workers and making millions in profits off of doing so. He even went as far as to tell workers to their faces that it was their fault he closed a plant, saying “you have lost these jobs” (see video). [Forbes, 9/5/88; New Haven Register, 8/20/14; Businessweek, 7/21/86; Hartford Courant, 5/21/10; NFN, 5/22/95; Hartford Courant, 5/21/10; The New York Times, 1/14/97; The Associated Press, 4/12/98; Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 10/31/08 and 3/24/98; Norwich Bulletin, 7/29/14]

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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11 Reasons Why Mitch McConnell 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 Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

1. He opposes wage increases, prevailing wage laws and black lung benefits. He also refuses to support legislation to secure pensions for mine workers and retirees. [Courier-Journal, 8/27/14; The Nation, 6/20/14; The Associated Press, 7/3/14; S. 468, introduced 3/6/13]

2. McConnell has voted against laws that would help stop outsourcing and has even voted for tax breaks that reward corporations for exporting America’s jobs overseas. [Senate Vote 181, 7/19/12; CNN, 7/19/12; The Wall Street Journal, 9/26/10; Senate Vote 63, 3/17/05; The Washington Post, 3/20/05]

3. He said that the government should cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—programs the working class depend on. [The Wall Street Journal, 1/6/13]

4. McConnell is out of touch with Kentucky’s working families, who are seeing their incomes fall behind the cost of living. He’s worth more than $27 million but blocked and voted against legislation to raise the minimum wage. [The Washington Post, 4/30/14; Washington Post candidate wealth profile, 2010; S. 2223, Vote 117, 4/30/14]

5. He supported massive tax breaks for the wealthy while voting against funding to keep teachers in the classroom. He sponsored legislation to permanently reduce the estate tax for the wealthy and extend the Bush‐era tax breaks for the richest Americans and opposed legislation that would give aid to states facing financial trouble to keep teachers in the classroom. [The Washington Post, 9/13/10; Chicago Sun-Times, Editorial, 2/5/10; H.R. 1586, Vote 224, 8/4/10]

6. Instead of helping jobless workers get back on their feet, McConnell blocked legislation extending unemployment insurance benefits. [Politico, 2/6/14]

7. While 40 million Americans are being crushed by student loan debt, he blocked the “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act” that would have enabled millions of Americans with expensive student loans to refinance into more manageable payments. [S. 2432, Vote 185, 6/11/14; The Huffington Post, 6/11/14]

8. McConnell has consistently voted against laws that would make it easier for Kentucky workers to get good pay, decent benefits and real job security. [Lexington Herald-Leader, 6/21/07; Senate Vote 227, 6/27/07; Senate Vote 243, 12/28/12; Congressional Record, 12/28/12; CQ, 12/28/12]

9. McConnell blocked and voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, a Democratic bill aimed at narrowing the pay gap between men and women. [Politico, 4/9/14; S. 2199, Vote 103, 4/9/14]

10. Many Americans believe that Washington is broken and too many politicians are playing political games instead of coming together to solve problems for working people. McConnell called himself a “Proud Guardian of Gridlock.” [Political Transcript Wire, 2/2/06]

11. According to the Washington Post, “Mitch McConnell raised the art of obstructionism to new levels. When McConnell and his united GOP troops couldn’t stop things from getting through the Senate, they made sure the Democrats paid a heavy price for winning.” [The Washington Post, 1/30/11]

Text MYVOTE to 30644 for important updates on the election. 

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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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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