AFL-CIO Joins Broad Coalition to Fight for Affordable Medicines

Yesterday, the AFL-CIO’s own Thea Lee joined AARPDoctors Without BordersOxfam America and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association in urging President Obama to fix proposals in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a trade and economic governance deal currently under negotiation—that could leave us all paying more for life-saving prescription medicines.

One of the most harmful of the provisions Lee warned against including in the TPP was part of the U.S.-Korea FTA. It gives companies that make drugs or medical devices special rights—over and above those they already have under domestic law—to appeal government decisions about whether to include a drug or device in a government health program (such as Medicare) and how much to pay for it.

Public health advocates, doctors and patients don’t receive similar rights—they aren’t even mentioned in these provisions. No  trade agreement should “stack the deck” toward higher prices for life-saving drugs and devices. Yet the U.S.-Korea FTA does, and the TPP might do the same. America’s working people can’t afford unnecessary price increases for pharmaceutical products—to say nothing of our brothers and sisters in developing countries.

Another potentially harmful provision reportedly included in the draft TPP is patent protection so extreme  it will lead to “evergreening” (indefinite perpetuation) of medicinal patents, thus preventing price competition from generic drugs. The AFL-CIO has a long history of supporting intellectual property rights—after all, workers in creative and innovative fields rely on intellectual property protection to support their pay and benefits. But extreme patent protections (like rules requiring a new 20-year patent term every time the drug changes from liquid to pill to capsule, or rules that prevent people from challenging the validity of a patent) are unnecessary and can put our families’ health at risk. That’s just wrong. Such rules hurt patients and simply shouldn’t be in international trade deals.

Finally, to expand access to affordable medicines, many in the coalition argued the TPP must omit investor-to-state dispute settlement, also known as ISDS or corporate courts. These, too, have been in trade deals like NAFTACorporate courts provide foreign investors with private justice, complete with their own special rules and their own private “courts” staffed by private lawyers, unaccountable to the public. Pharmaceutical companies could use ISDS to challenge states’ Medicaid drug pricing policies, such as their use of drug formularies or rebates. These challenges could raise costs for these programs (making it less likely states will pursue the ACA Medicaid expansion).

The TPP must not straitjacket nations’ policy choices regarding how to organize their health care delivery systems. Instead, these agreements should promote U.S. medical and pharmaceutical exports in ways thatrespect the human right to health care and national choices about how to best defend that right. 

Read the full AFL-CIO/AARP/MSF/GPHA/Oxfam letter here.

Sign a petition here demanding the TPP not interfere with affordable medicines or harm working families in other ways.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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7 Reasons Right to Work Is Wrong for Warren County, Ky. (and Everywhere Else)

7 Reasons Right to Work Is Wrong for Warren County, Ky. (and Everywhere Else)

In Warren County, Ky., a fiscal court has given preliminary approval to a local “right to work” for less ordinance. The measure is worded as to prevent any worker covered by the National Labor Relations Act from being required to join or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment. Since it is already illegal in the United States to require workers to join unions, the real focus of the measure is to weaken workers in negotiations with employers for decent wages and benefits. Instead of passing illegal ordinances that are a big waste of time and resources for the county, those efforts should be spent in other ways like focusing on raising wages for Warren County residents.

If you’re in Kentucky, call the fiscal court today and tell them you oppose the right to work ordinance: 1-855-721-3304

Here are seven specific ways that this measure would hurt workers in Warren County, most of which would apply to workers in other Kentucky locales (and elsewhere) if the process were repeated elsewhere:

1. It’s illegal and will create an administrative nightmareA Kentucky court already has said that right to work laws can only be made at the state level. If it goes into effect, it will lead to legal wrangling and make compliance very difficult for companies that work in more than one Kentucky county.

2. The law is being pushed by rich extremists from out of state: The Bluegrass Institute, a Kentucky “think tank,” that is pushing local right to work laws like this one receives massive amounts of funding from out-of-state interests that won’t be affected by the negative impact of such laws on Kentuckians. A shadowy network of groups, many of them connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the D.C.-based Heritage Foundation, and the billionaire Koch Brothers, pushes these laws across the country, with little concern about the local impact and without revealing their funding and broader agenda.

3. The law is being advanced with little input with a high level of secrecy: On Dec. 11, the court voted to pass the law. The right to work measure was part of a bill called Promotion of Economic Development and Commerce for Warren County and it was handed out 15 minutes before the vote, a vote that was held 19 out of 20 during the meeting. Where was the public input? Who proposed the measure? Who supported it? What economic impacts would it have on workers? Were any questions asked or answered during the process?

4. It hurts working families: There is a pattern of right to work laws decreasing wages, lowering household income, increasing poverty, undermining workplace safety and failing to improve access to health care.

5. These laws don’t actually boost the economy: A significant body of research backs that claim, and even some conservatives, such as Stanley Greer, a spokesperson for the National Right to Work Committee, have admitted it: “We’re not purporting to prove that right to work produces superior economic performance.”

6. Voters don’t want it: In November, Kentucky voters rejected candidates funded by out-of-state interests with extreme agendas, including right to work.

7. Kentucky residents have other priorities: The state’s hardworking families need a raise, more good jobs and more investment in education. This measure will accomplish none of that.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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NLRB Rules Employees Can Use Work Email for Organizing

Workers were given a potentially significant tool when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that employees can use work email accounts in union organizing activities, as long as they do it on their own time. The decision reversed a 2007 decision. Workers also are allowed to use work email to discuss wage and other workplace issues. The three Democrats on the board voted yes on the ruling, while the two Republicans abstained.

Bernie Lunzer, a vice president for the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which filed the case in 2012, said the ruling was: “A big victory for workers in general.”

CWA pursued the case after Purple Communications in Rocklin, Calif., refused to allow workers to use company email accounts in a union organizing drive.

The NLRB reasoned:

By focusing too much on employers’ property rights and too little on the importance of email as a means of workplace communication, the Board (in its earlier ruling) failed to adequately protect employees’ rights…and abdicated its responsibility ‘to adapt the Act to the changing patterns of industrial life.’

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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Holiday Gift Shopping? Check Out These Union-Made in America Ideas

Holiday Gift Shopping? Check Out These Union-Made in America Ideas

It’s getting there, but it’s not too late yet to find that perfect holiday gift that carries a union label and is made in America. Below is a wide range of gift possibilities, from clothes to games to sports equipment and more, made by members of UNITE HERE, Boilermakers (IBB), Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), Machinists (IAM), United Steelworkers (USW), Teamsters (IBT), UAW, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW (RWDSU/UFCW) and United Farm Workers (UFW).

This list is compiled from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor’s resource site, Labor 411Union Plus, the AFL-CIO Union Label and Service Trades Department and the BCTGM website. Check them out for even more gift ideas.

Apparel and Accessories

Brooks Brothers (UNITE HERE)

Joseph Abboud (UNITE HERE)

Majestic Athletic (UNITE HERE)

Timex watches (IAM)

Naturalizer shoes (UFCW)

Nunn Bush shoes (UFCW)

Red Wing Shoes (UFCW)

Beauty Products

Avon (UFCW)

Caress skin care (UFCW)

ChapStick (USW)

Dove beauty products (UFCW)

Revlon (UAW)

Old Spice (UFCW)

Games

(All made by RWDSU/UFCW)

Barrel of Monkeys

Battleship

Candy Land

Chutes and Ladders

Clue

Connect 4

Game of Life

Hi Ho Cherry-O

Monopoly

Mouse Trap

Operation

Pictionary

Risk

Scrabble

Sorry

Taboo

Twister

Yahtzee

Sports Equipment

American Athletic (Russell Brands) (UAW)

Louisville Slugger (UAW and IBT)

MacGregor Golf clubs (IBB)

Standard Golf (IAM)

Top-Flite golf balls (IBB)

Stocking Stuffers

Rayovac batteries (IBT and UAW)

Bic Lighters (USW)

Ghirardelli chocolates (BCTGM)

Jelly Belly (BCTGM)

Laffy Taffy (BCTGM)

Tootsie Roll Pops (BCTGM)

Wine and Beer

(Wines brought to you by UFW.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle (IBT)

Columbia Crest

St. Supery

Charles Krug

C.K. Mondavi

Gallo of Sonoma

Miller Beer (UAW and IBT)

Miller High Life

Miller Genuine Draft

Miller Lite

Milwaukee’s Best

Icehouse

Red Dog

Anheuser-Busch (IBT and IAM)

Budweiser

Budweiser American Ale

Bud Light

Michelob

Shock Top

Busch

Rolling Rock

O’Doul’s

If You’re in the ‘Big Spender’ Category (UAW)

Jeep

Ford Mustangs

Cadillacs

See more cars made by UAW.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Support the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act

Support the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act

A bipartisan bill currently before the Senate is focused on increasing efforts to prevent suicide among our veterans. According to a study done by the Veterans Administration (VA), an average of 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

The AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council strongly urges you to support the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. We need your help to push the Senate to vote on this measure before they go home for the Holidays. Sign our petition to tell them that this veteran’s crisis deserves their attention.

Increasing Access to Mental Health Care and Capacity at VA to Meet Demand

  • Requires VA to create a one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized source of information regarding all department mental health services.
  • Addresses the shortage of mental health care professionals by authorizing VA to conduct a student loan repayment pilot program aimed at recruiting and retaining psychiatrists.

Improving the Quality of Care and Boosting Accountability at VA

  • Requires a yearly evaluation of all VA mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs to find out what’s working and what’s not working and make recommendations to improve care.

Developing a Community Support System for Veterans 

  • Establishes a pilot program to assist veterans transitioning from active duty to veteran status.
  • Requires VA to collaborate with nonprofit mental health organizations to improve the efficiency of suicide prevention efforts.

The AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council strongly urges you to support the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. We need your help to push the Senate to vote on this measure before they go home for the Holidays. Sign our petition to tell them that this veteran’s crisis deserves their attention.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Republican Lawmakers Fight for Last-Minute Gift to Big Banks

If Republican lawmakers have their way, one of the final acts of the 113th Congress will be to make it easier for big banks to gamble with taxpayers’ money.

As Congress negotiates a last-minute deal to fund the federal government and avoid a shutdown on Dec. 11, it appears likely that a last-minute trade-off will roll back a provision of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act aimed at limiting bank bail-outs.

The provision, “Section 716,” requires banks that trade some of the riskiest types of financial products to conduct the activity in subsidiaries separate from the portion of the bank that is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

A group of pro-reform senators sent a letter to Senate budget negotiators late last week urging them to leave the controversial provision intact. The letter, signed by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) states, “Section 716 of the Act was a key component of the financial reforms. We urge you to oppose inclusion of provisions modifying or repealing this reform in any funding legislation.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) blasted the efforts to roll back derivatives regulation, calling it “reckless.” She said:

Middle-class families are still paying a heavy price for the decisions to weaken the financial cops, leaving Wall Street free to load up on risk. Congress should not chip away at important reforms that protect taxpayers and make our economy safer.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Help Save Christmas for the Children of Striking FairPoint Workers

FP-Picketers

This post originally appeared at NH Labor News.

When the IBEW and CWA workers said they were about to go on strike against FairPoint Communications, I knew they were in for a long fight. The decision to walk is not an easy one. Workers weigh the decision to walk against their personal financial situation. How long can we afford to go without pay?

A strike can be especially hard on the children of the striking workers. Some older children understand the reasoning behind the strike, others just know that mommy or daddy are not getting paid right now.

Many workers have already begun to inform their children that Christmas is going to be very, very small this year. Buying gifts falls way down on the list of priorities when you are on strike. Just keeping the roof over your head and the food in the fridge become serious issues.

This is where you and I can help save Christmas for hundreds of children.

CWA Local 1400 has compiled a wish list of gifts on Amazon for the children of its members who are currently on strike. There are hundreds of items to choose from, and every gift will bring a smile to a child’s face this Christmas.

After you purchase the gift through Amazon, have it shipped directly to the CWA hall at:

CWA Local 1400
Christmas Gifts
155 West Road
Portsmouth, NH 03801

Help make the holiday season bright by buying a few items for the children of these striking workers.

No gift is too big or too small, and every gift is special. Help to keep the magic of Christmas alive by spending a few dollars buying gifts for children who otherwise won’t be getting anything this year.

There are other ways you can help and show your support for the IBEW and CWA workers on strike against FairPoint.

Make a donation to the IBEW–CWA Strike Fund by clicking here.

If you live near one of the many strike lines throughout New England, please stop by and show your support. Hold a sign for a while. Bring a “box of Joe” or a couple of pizzas to show your support as they stand out in the cold.

The IBEW and CWA are also asking for people to drop off gift cards to local grocery stores and gas stations.

This holiday season dig deep and give a little extra to our brothers and sisters standing up for their rights against a greedy corporation who would rather outsource their jobs, than settle their contract disputes.

Send a gift to the children of striking workers today.

If you would like to donate to the IBEW–CWA Strike Fund, click here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Bike-Share Employees Reject Walmart Model, Vote to Unionize

Wanted: skilled employees willing to work in a hazardous, low-wage environment without training, benefits or a predictable schedule.

This isn’t an ad for working at Walmart. Rather, it’s a list of the reasons that workers at a bike-share venture in Boston voted to unionize with the Transport Workers (TWU) in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board conducted on Thursday. The election drew in 95% of eligible voters and led to an overwhelming three-fourths vote for union representation in a clear repudiation of practices that are becoming more common in technology-driven ventures.

“The workers want a better company,” said TWU Vice President John Samuelsen in a statement. “A union contract will provide them a platform to have real input in giving Boston a world-class bike share operation, and it will enable us to address current problems, including operational difficulties and safety concerns. We’re thrilled that the vote was so decisive.”

Prior to the election, the workers complained of unpredictable and disruptive last-minute scheduling, being told they’re not needed after being called in, needing too many repairs while having too few mechanics, unsafe rental vans when the company vehicles were out of service and $15 per hour wages that don’t match with the precision, organization and safety required in some of the company’s jobs.

“We all believe in Hubway and want it to succeed,” said Tom Langelier, a 29-year-old station technician with Hubway who voted to unionize. “But we’re expected to be on call as if there are formal rules, but there really are no rules. We’re all here in the first place because we bike and care about the future of our cities.”

Technology-driven sharing-economy ventures market themselves as attempts to make life more convenient, yet they still fall through old trapdoors of subtle and overt dehumanization in the search of profit. The workplace issues at Hubway and Citi Bike are not unusual. Take the examples of TaskRabbit employees earning just dollars a day after TaskRabbit revamped how it allocated their work, or the Facebook shuttle drivers whose split dawn and dusk shifts amount to a 15-hour workday. Yet the recent organizing victory at Hubway, along with similar victories in other bike-sharing ventures in Washington, D.C., and New York City, shows that a voice at work is just as important in the new technology-driven economy as it was in years past.

“These are supposed to be good green jobs you can live on and have pride in, not transient green jobs,” said Natalie Matthews, a 24-year-old office administrator, in a telephone interview. “The prime reason we want to organize is so we don’t lose more good people.”

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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321,000 New Jobs Added in November, Jobless Rate Remains 5.8%

The economy added 321,000 jobs in November—a big jump from October’s 214,000—and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 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 1.2 percentage points and the number of jobless workers has decreased by 1.7 million.

But even with better job growth this year—wages remain stagnant, with the median family income in the United States falling back to 1995 levels. Earlier this week, the BLS reported that productivity increased in the 3rd Quarter by 2.1%, but that unit labor costs fell by 1.5% because wage gains are still lagging productivity growth.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was 2.8 million, slightly down from October’s 2.9 million. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term jobless workers has decreased by 1.2 million.

Last month’s biggest job gains were in professional and business services (86,000), retail trades (50,000), health care (29,000), food services (27,000) and manufacturing (25,000).

Other sectors that showed increases included financial activities (20,000), construction (20,000) and transportation and warehousing (17,000).

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

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates in November for adult men rose to 5.4% from 5.1%. The jobless rates for adult women (5.3%), teenagers (17.7%), blacks (11.1%), Latinos (6.6%) and whites (4.9%) showed little change in November.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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