Migrant Workers ‘Shouldn’t Have to Be Tortured to Have Work’

Three times each month, dozens of women gather in dusty courtyards in rural towns in Manikganj, Dinazpur or other districts across Bangladesh to learn all they can about the only means by which they can support their families: migrating to another country for work.

In leading these information sessions, the Bangladesh Migrant Women’s Organization (BOMSA) seeks to assist women in understanding their rights—from what they should demand of those who facilitate their migration, to the wage and working conditions at the homes in Gulf and Asian countries where they will be employed as domestic workers.

“What I want for these women is that they are safe, they get their wages,” says Sheikh Rumana, BOMSA general secretary. Rumana founded the organization in 1998 with other women who worked with her for years in Malaysian garment factories. Before she migrated for work in Malaysia, Rumana was promised a good salary at an electronics plant. But when she arrived, she was put to work at a plant making jackets and paid pennies for each piece she sewed.

The gap between the promise and reality of migrating for work overseas is the focus of migrant worker activists across Asia. This month, Rumana and seven other migrant worker activists from Bangladesh, India and the Maldives are traveling across the United States as part of a Solidarity Center exchange program supported by the U.S. State Department. The group is meeting with U.S. activists working on labor rights, migrant rights and anti-human trafficking issues in Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles to discuss best practices to promote safe migration and share ideas for raising awareness about the risks of migrating for work.

Like BOMSA, the Welfare Association for the Rights of Bangladeshi Emigrants Development Foundation (WARBE-DF) assists those seeking to migrate, provides support for workers overseas and assists them upon their return. The organization also has successfully pushed the Bangladeshi government to ratify the United Nations (UN) convention on the protection of migrant workers and is campaigning for passage of the International Labor Organization convention covering decent work for domestic workers, says Jasiya Khatoon, WARBE-DF program coordinator and AFL-CIO Solidarity Center exchange participant.

“Lack of job opportunities” is what drives millions of Bangladeshis out of their country in search of work, Khatoon says. Some 8.5 million Bangladeshis are working in more than 150 countries, according to 2013 government statistics.

Many workers migrating from Bangladesh and elsewhere are first trafficked through another country—where a lack of proper documentation may result in their arrest. In Mumbai, India, a transit point for many migrants, human rights lawyer Gayatri Jitendra Singh works both to assist imprisoned migrant workers and to change the country’s laws so that, rather than penalizing migrant workers, the laws recognize the culpability of traffickers and corrupt labor brokers.

Singh, a former union organizer, and other migrant advocates, point to the actions of labor brokers as the biggest underlying problem in the migration process. Many labor brokers charge such exorbitant fees for securing work that migrant workers cannot repay them even after years on the job, essentially rendering them indentured workers. They remain trapped, often forced to remain in dangerous working conditions because their debt is too great. Unscrupulous brokers also lie about the wages and working conditions workers should expect in a destination country, the migrant advocates say.

Singh and the other migrant advocates came to the United States filled with fresh stories about the suffering of migrant workers and their families: a Bangladeshi domestic worker in Jordan and another in Lebanon who had just returned to Bangladesh, still suffering the effects of nightly sexual abuse by their employers; the family of an Indian construction worker who died in Qatar and is unable to pay for the return of his body; the 12-year-old Bangladeshi girl whose passport cites her age as 25 so she can migrate overseas to support her family because her father is ill.

Bangladeshis “wouldn’t go if there were jobs in their country,” says Rumana. But faced with grinding poverty and no chance for decent work in Bangladesh, they uproot their lives to make a living. But as long as they do, Rumana says, they “shouldn’t have to be tortured to have work.”

This post originally appeared on the Solidarity Center website.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , ,

Still Without a Contract, Golden Gate Ferry Captains Hold One-Day Strike

Golden Gate Bridge District photo via Facebook

The ferryboat captains—members of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA)—who operate San Francisco’s commuter ferries between Sausalito, Larkspur and the city are holding a one-day unfair labor practice strike today. The action follows another round of negotiations with the Golden Gate Bridge District that failed to reach a settlement.

MEBA is a member of the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition, and the 450 workers in the unions that make up the coalition have been in negotiations since April and working without a contract since July 1.

The ferry captains announced the strike early Thursday to give commuters time to plan alternate transportation.  Ferryboat captain Rob Barely said:

Like many of my co-workers, going on strike is the last thing I want to do. However the district, in its continuing failure to negotiate with us on good faith, has left us with little choice.

On Wednesday, MEBA filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Public Employees Relations Board against the district.

On Sept. 16, members of Machinists (IAM) Local 1414 held a one-day unfair labor practice strike over retiree health care proposals.

In addition to the retiree health care issue, management has proposed a three-year contract that would increase the cost of employees’ health care premiums, negating a minimal wage increase.  Alex Tonisson, co-chair of the coalition, said one health care proposal could leave workers liable for $12,000 a year in health care costs.

In August, the workers authorized a strike if a settlement could not be reached. Golden Gate Bridge workers include ferry deckhands and captains, bus servicers and mechanics, bridge ironworkers and inspectors and construction trades workers.

The Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition includes the following unions: International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 21, the Inlandboatmen’s Union-ILWU (IBU-ILWU), Teamsters locals 665 and 856, Machinists (IAM) Local 1414, Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA) (Captains), Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 6, Laborers (LIUNA), Operating Engineers (IUOE), Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA), Carpenters and Plasterers and Cement Masons (OPCMIA).

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Reasons Why Bob Beauprez 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 Bob Beauprez, who is running for governor in Colorado.

1. Beauprez supported legislation that deregulated financial systems, one of the major causes of the 2008 financial crisis that hit Colorado families so hard. [H.R. 2061, introduced 5/3/05; The Denver Post, 6/11/06]

2. He voted for laws to weaken consumer protections. [H.R. 2061, introduced 5/3/05; The Denver Post, 6/11/06]

3. He also voted for laws reducing the supervision of bankers and co-sponsored more than 100 pieces of legislation on taxation and banking that benefited Wall Street at the expense of working families. [H.R. 2061, introduced 5/3/05; The Denver Post, 6/11/06; Library of Congress, accessed 7/30/14]

4. Beauprez voted to enrich his Wall Street friends and even tried to reduce oversight on the bank where he made his $400 million fortune. [Library of Congress, accessed 7/30/14; H.R. 2061, introduced 5/3/05; The Denver Post, 6/11/06]

5. On taxes, Beauprez is even worse, having voted in favor of $774 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while trying to make working families pay a 23% tax on everything they buy. [H.R. 5638, Vote 316, 6/2/06; The Denver Post, 10/7/06]

6. At the extreme right-wing sight Townhall.com, Beauprez endorsed “right to work” legislation that does nothing but strip rights from workers, and he was a keynote speaker at a right to work convention in New Orleans. [Townhall.com, 7/14/12]

disclaimer_universal_WV (1)

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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

tomfoley_blog

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]

disclaimer_CT

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Hey, Alaska, Here’s How You Can Make a Big Difference (Be the Bear)

The latest video from Alaska AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami lays out the consequences of the November elections in the country’s northernmost state. He calls upon Alaskans to step up and help make sure that working family candidates win by knocking on doors, making phone calls and talking to their friends, neighbors and co-workers.

Alaska is not for sale (sorry, Koch brothers) and when working people unite, we’re the bear, not the salmon.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , ,

You Have a Secret Weapon in this Election (Tell Your Friends)

It’s not news to anyone that the Koch brothers have billions to spend on influencing elections. But they only have two votes to cast between them. That’s where you come in.

Joyce and Karen Koch, aka the Koch Sisters (they’re not related to each other, or the Koch brothers, but are sisters where it counts), remind us on National Voter Registration Day that our power as people is in our voices and votes, if we use them.

Today, the Koch Sisters challenge you to find at least three people to register to vote.

It’s really easy to register, all it takes is a simple click (no tech savvy required).

Share this link and tell friends and family to register to vote today (even if you think you’re already registered, it doesn’t hurt to check to make sure your registration is up to date).

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Maine Gov. Paul LePage Afraid to Debate Steelworker Mike Michaud

Apparently Maine Gov. Paul LePage (you know, the guy who previously removed the labor mural from the Maine Department of Labor and said the state’s child labor laws were too burdensome for business) has indicated he will not debate his challenger in this election, United Steelworkers member Mike Michaud.

The Maine AFL-CIO reacted to LePage’s duck:

“Paul LePage has spent four years advocating for policies that harm working people, and now he won’t even face them in person,” said Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO. “No matter how many debates LePage ducks, there will be no hiding from his failed, divisive record of putting special interests and billionaire funders before working-class Mainers.”

Check out “6 Reasons Union Member Mike Michaud Is a Candidate Who Cares About Working Families.”

disclaimer_universal_WV (1)

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Voter Registration, Just a Click Away

Today is National Voter Registration Day and while volunteers around the country will be on street corners, outside of groceries stores, at bus and subway stops and elsewhere to help people register, you can get started right now, right here with just one click.

If we’re going to beat back the attack on working families by the likes of Mitch McConnell, Scott Walker, the Koch brothers and other extremists, all of us—you and your family and friends—must be registered to vote.

The AFL-CIO has teamed up with TurboVote to make voting easy for you and for your friends and family. Not only can you register or update your registration, but TurboVote will help you with absentee ballots, vote-by-mail information, finding your polling place and even sending reminders by email and text so you won’t forget to vote.

In the past few years, 22 states have passed new laws restricting the right to vote and changing voter registration rules. So even if you’re already registered, you should double check that you and the people most important to you are prepared to vote this year. Have you moved since last Election Day? Make sure you’re registered to vote at your new address. Maybe your friends have moved recently and need to update their voting information.

It’s easy. Click here to get started.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , ,

7 Reasons Mark Begich Is a Candidate Who Cares About Working Families

Photo courtesy Bernard Pollack on Flickr

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 Begich, who is running for U.S. Senate in Alaska.

1. Begich wants to continue growing the Alaska economy and create more good jobs by investing in infrastructure. Begich said, “My top priority is growing Alaska’s economy by creating good jobs right now for Alaskans and investing in critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, ports and harbors to help create jobs. I secured more than $1 billion to build and fix Alaska’s infrastructure, to create new jobs and expand our economy.”

2. He voted to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. [S. 2223, Vote 117, 4/30/14]

3. He also voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill to ensure that working women receive equal pay for equal work. [S. 2199, Vote 103, 4/9/14]

4. He has consistently defended the rights of working families and earned a lifetime AFL-CIO voting record of 98% from his tenure in Congress.

5. He has worked to bring jobs back home from overseas and to penalize businesses that outsource America’s jobs. [S. 3816, Vote 242, 9/23/10]

6. While many in Congress have called for cuts to programs like Social Security, Begich supports increasing benefits. “When you tell seniors, ‘We want to make sure your dollars rise as your costs do,’ there is automatic excitement because they recognize we understand what they’re going through….Are we for or against helping seniors have a dignified life in their later years? I’m for that.” [The Washington Post, 3/24/14]

7. As a member of both the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, he has pushed for increased funding for the Veterans Affairs (VA) and for innovative programs to provide better access to care and to attract more qualified individuals to work in VA health facilities across the nation. “There are few more important responsibilities we have as a nation than to give proper care to those who have sacrificed so much for us. Since day one in the Senate, I have been fighting to make sure Alaska’s veterans—especially those off the road system in rural villages—receive adequate health care. We have made incredible progress. But we are not done and we cannot ignore the devastating and unacceptable situation happening at VA centers in the rest of the country. Alaska’s first‐in‐the‐nation system is working and it should serve as a model for the rest of the country.” [Alaska Business Monthly, 5/29/14]

disclaimer_universal_WV

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,