Trumka Sets the Record Straight on Fast Track

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sets the record straight when it comes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Fast Track in this short audio clip. If you want to know what’s really happening on the trade front, give it a listen.

 

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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150 Workers Will Die Today

Despite significant advancements in workplace health and safety in the 44 years since the Occupational Safety and Health Act become law, today and every day 150 people will be killed on the job or die from job-related illnesses and diseases. That and other sobering statistics about the preventable deaths and injuries workers face each day are in the 2015 edition of the AFL-CIO’s annual Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect released today.

In 2013 (the latest figures available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) 4,585 workers were killed on the job, and some 53,000 died from occupational diseases. Also, nearly 3.8 million work-related injuries and illnesses were reported. The true toll is likely two to three times greater or 7.6 million to 11.4 million injuries a year. Said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

No worker should be exposed to fatal injuries and illnesses at work, yet every day 150 men and women die from a work injury or occupational disease. Their deaths remind us that Americans still—in 2015—face too many dangers at the workplace.

The report includes state-by-state profiles of workers’ safety and health and features state and national information on workplace fatalities, injuries, illnesses, the number and frequency of workplace inspections, penalties, funding, staffing and public employee coverage under the OSH Act.

Here are some key facts from Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect:

North Dakota remains the most dangerous state for workers, with an average of 14.9 fatalities per 100,000 workers, more than four times the national average of 3.2 deaths per 100,000 workers. The next deadliest states for workers are Wyoming (9.5), West Virginia (8.6), Alaska (7.9) and New Mexico (6.7).

On the other hand (see graphic above), states with the highest union density are among the safest for workers, with 13 states ranked in the top 20 for both union density and lowest rates of workplace fatalities.

Death on the Job also finds that Latino and immigrant worker deaths, injuries and occupational illnesses are on the rise. In 2013, 817 Latinos died on the job—a rate 18% greater than the national average—and 66% of Latinos killed on the job were immigrants.

In the area of job safety enforcement to ensure employers are not violating workplace safety laws, the report says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) remain underfunded and understaffed.

In addition, penalties for employers who are found to be lawbreakers are weak. The average federal OSHA penalty for serious violations is just $1,972 and the median federal OSHA penalty for worker deaths is only $5,050. Of the 390,000 worker deaths since 1970, only 88 cases have been criminally prosecuted.

Also many important workplace and mine safety rules remain stalled, some due to administration inaction but mainly because of congressional Republican and corporate opposition. For example, in 2013, OSHA issued a rule that would reduce silica dust exposures and strengthen worker protections against silica, which causes lung cancer, kidney disease, autoimmune diseases and silicosis, a debilitating and irreversible lung disease. It is estimated the rule would save some 700 lives a year and prevent 1,600 cases of silicosis annually. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, the American Chemistry Council and other industry groups are lobbying against finalizing this commonsense rule.

You can join the workplace safety by clicking here to sign a petition telling Congress that workers need a stronger silica standard. Read the full Death on the Job report at www.aflcio.org/death-on-the-job.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Raising Wages Is ‘Measuring Stick’ for Presidential Candidate Support, Trumka Declares

As the 2016 presidential battle begins to roll down the campaign trail toward Election Day 18 months from now, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “The labor movement’s doors are open to any candidate who is serious about transforming our economy with high and rising wages.”

In a live-streamed speech this morning from the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., Trumka said:

We have created an agenda for shared prosperity called raising wages. It will be our inspiration and our measuring stick throughout the presidential campaign.  Raising wages is grounded in a fundamental idea—that we can become a high-wage society, a society in which the people who do the work share in the wealth we create.

He also stressed that the labor movement opposes Fast Track and:

We expect those who seek to lead our nation forward to oppose Fast Track. There is no middle ground, and the time for deliberations is drawing to a close.

Trumka pointed to the skepticism and cynicism many voters feel, especially after nearly two generations national leaders have either “taken steps that worsened inequality or fiddled around the edges, trying to raise wages in an economy fundamentally built to lower wages.”

President Obama has spent much of his presidency getting our nation out of a deep economic crisis. Now we have an economy where GDP is up, and the stock market is up, but wages remain flat—and this has happened again and again since the 1970s. Once again, America is emerging from an economic crisis—but those of us who count on paychecks are not. And that’s not an accident. Workers are being held down on purpose.

He said the decline in wages, soaring corporate profits and booming CEO pay are not the result “of the wandering and clumsy hand of capitalism.” Instead, he said:

Since the 1980s, the growing political power of the wealthiest among us has rewritten our labor laws, our trade laws, our tax laws, our monetary policies, our fiscal policies, our financial regulations…all to push wages down and to increase corporate profits, to put speculation over private investment and tax cuts over public investment.

The results, Trumka said, are runaway inequality, unemployment, falling wages, rising economic insecurity, collapsing infrastructure and deteriorating national competitiveness—all driven by gigantic imbalances in economic and political power.

In the 2016 campaign, “there will be no place to hide for those who aspire to lead America,” he said.

The problems of income inequality and stagnant wages are so clear, so abundant, that only direct, sweeping action to change the rules will put our nation on a fresh path of progress. We are hungry for a path to a prosperous 21st century. And America’s workers know that the first step on that path is raising wages.

But he emphasized that a raising wages agenda is a broad vision that includes earned sick leave, full employment and fair overtime rules for workers. It also includes taxing Wall Street to pay for massive investments in infrastructure and education, so Wall Street serves Main Street, not the other way around and the ability for workers to bargain collectively with employers for good wages and benefits without fear of retaliation.

Any candidate who wants to appeal to workers has to put forth a bold and comprehensive raising wages agenda. They must be committed to investing in a prosperous future for America. They must have an authentic voice and a commitment, from the candidate down through his or her economic team, to see this agenda through to completion.

Read the full address here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Trumka Details Labor’s Fight Against Fast Track and Bad Trade Deals

In an extensive interview with Vox.com, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka outlines the labor movement’s fight against Fast Track, the flaws in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, the trade relationship between the United States and China and the shortcomings and negative impact on the middle class of the nation’s trade policy.

Below are excerpts from the interview. Click here for the full interview.

Fast Track

We’re opposed to Fast Track. It’s too important a decision, and it affects too many lives of too many people for too long to be done in the dark and then plunk something out of the dark, a thousand-page treaty, and say, ‘Vote it up or down with no amendments.’ We think that’s the most undemocratic thing you can do. We think that’s dangerous.

TPP

‘It also fails to help create jobs here because it doesn’t have strong rules of origin,’ Trumka says. In other words, Trumka fears that Chinese companies could put factories in a TPP country like Vietnam or ship raw materials to a TPP country for assembly, which would give China the preferential access to U.S. markets provided by the TPP without having to follow the TPP itself.

It [undermines] things like Buy American policies. Say the taxpayers in Minneapolis decide they want to use their money to do something and they want to make it a Minnesota product, [if] that violates this trade agreement, and it can be negated.

Currency Manipulation

[The TPP] fails to address currency manipulation. Currency manipulation…has or will cost us between 2.3 million and 5.8 millionjobs. China leads that group. Twenty countries have been determined to have manipulated their currency. And yet there’s nothing in the agreement to stop it. So all of the benefits they claim we could get from TPP, even if you assume every one of the benefits is right, could be wiped out the next day by a country manipulating its currency, to negate all this.

Trade

He also says that the AFL-CIO is not opposed to all trade liberalization; rather, they’re opposed to ones they consider detrimental to workers’ interests: ‘We’re opposed to bad trade deals, not trade deals.’

Click here for the full interview.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Fast Track Bill Introduced—Join the Drive to Stop Fast Track

Legislation granting Fast Track trade authority to President Barack Obama was introduced in the Senate today. In a statement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

At a time when workers all over the country are standing up for higher wages, Congress is considering legislation that will speed through corporate-driven trade deals. For decades, we’ve seen how fast-tracked trade deals devastated our communities through lost jobs and eroded public services. We can’t afford another bad deal that lowers wages and outsources jobs.

Call your senators—855-790-8815—and tell them to say no to Fast Track.

Fast Track would make it easier to ram through complicated trade deals without significant oversight from members of Congress or the public, just a simple “Yes” or “No” vote with no amendments allowed on trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who has been a leading voice in the Senate against Fast Track, said:

There’s too much at stake for Congress to be rushing through a bill that would allow more NAFTA-style trade deals. Our manufacturing sector has lost more than 5 million jobs since 1994. While we’ve seen an impressive recovery, the more than 629,000 Ohio jobs tied to the auto industry could be at risk if our trade deals don’t protect against competitors that cheat trade law or manipulate currency. Rushing a trade package through Congress without a healthy debate is not only reckless, but it’s a betrayal to middle class and working families in Ohio.

Trumka called on Congress to reject Fast Track and “maintain its constitutional authority and leverage to improve the TPP and other trade deals.” He added:

Trade deals have wide-ranging impacts and shouldn’t be negotiated behind closed doors and then rubber-stamped.  The current Trans-Pacific Partnership deal under discussion would cover 40 percent of the world’s GDP.  A deal this big should be debated in a full and open manner like every other piece of legislation.

On Saturday, a coalition of labor, environmental, consumer, faith, farm, business and other groups is staging a national day of action to stop Fast Track. Click here to find a Fast Track action near you.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Walmart, Fast-Food Workers Lead Nationwide Fight for $15 Strike

Today, tens of thousands of Walmart workers, fast-food, retail and other low-wage workers are engaged in a massive, nationwide strike in their fight for $15 an hour, consistent full-time hours and the right to join a union.

Lisa Pietro, a two-year Walmart employee from Winter Haven, Fla., who made just $8.95 an hour before Walmart’s recent increase to a minimum of $9 an hour, said:

I’m proud to be part of a growing movement of moms and dads, brothers and sisters like me, who are standing up for better jobs. A company like Walmart, which brings in $16 billion in annual profits, can afford to provide the pay and hours that our families need. The raise we just won at Walmart shows what working people can accomplish when we stand together.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

The voices of Walmart and fast-food workers have shown the power of collective action in standing up to corporate greed and a system that for far too long has only benefited those at the very top.

Since the Black Friday Walmart strikes and the fast-food workers strikes began more than two years ago, the movement for $15 an hour, full-time work and consistent scheduling has grown to include retail workers, home care providers, airport workers, adjunct professors and more and gained support around the globe.

wlamart 1

The growing voice of the workers and support from their communities and many lawmakers has pressured employers like Walmart, McDonald’s and others to raise wages some but not nearly close to $15. Said Trumka:

While some wages have been raised, there is much work to be done, and workers will continue to speak out until wages are fair, conditions are improved and every voice is heard in the workplace.

For more, see #Fightfor15.
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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Two New Reports Detail How Walmart Keeps Profits High, Wages Down

A new study finds that Walmart’s promised raise for its lowest-paid employees to $9 per hour in 2015 and $10 per hour in 2016, will still require large taxpayer subsidies to compensate for the lowness of Walmart’s wages. Meanwhile a new report from the AFL-CIO finds Walmart is seeking to cut its costs for higher-paid, U.S. high-tech workers by recruiting temporary foreign tech workers at lower wages.

Meanwhile a new study from Americans for Tax Fairness finds that Walmart’s promised raise for its lowest-paid employees to $9 per hour in 2015 and $10 per hour in 2016, will still require large taxpayer subsidies to compensate for the lowness of Walmart’s wages.

The AFL-CIO report  finds that Walmart has been increasingly submitting applications for H-1B visas. These visas let U.S. companies employ foreign workers. The report criticizes the reasons the company is using the visas:  “Walmart is driving down standards in the tech industry in the U.S. by using H-1B visas and contractors excessively. This keeps costs low and allows for IT guest workers to be paid less.”  Over the past eight years, Walmart has filed 1,800 petitions for the visas, including a high of 513 in 2014.  Numerous other companies also have filed similar petitions for work in Bentonville, Ark., the home of Walmart’s corporate headquarters. Said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

At a time when we face unprecedented levels of inequality and decades of wage stagnation, it is irresponsible to expand access to employment-based temporary work programs that will continue to hold down wages, increase worker vulnerability and reduce social mobility for deserving workers.

The report also reveals how Walmart has quietly backed corporate lobbying groups pushing to expand the program and increase the number of H-1B visas that are available. In the meantime, the number of H-1B applications for IT workers in Bentonville continues to grow—suggesting that local Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) recent graduates lose out on IT jobs.

The study, from Americans for Tax Fairness finds that the $9 per hour standard would still mean that most of those low-wage workers, even working at Walmart’s full-time standard of 34 hours a week, would bring home less than $16,000 a year.  Such a low rate would qualify a single worker for at least three government assistance programs.  If the worker has one or more children, they would qualify for eight programs.

The 2016 standard of $10 per hour would raise employees’ annual take home pay by less than $2,000, and if the worker with that salary had one or more children, they would still qualify for all eight government assistance programs.  Raising wages to a minimum of $15 per hour with a 40-hour workweek, the report finds, would raise the annual take-home pay for the lowest-paid employees to $31,200 a year, which would lift most workers out of the eligibility bracket for government assistance.  Based on the last year of profits made by the Walton family, such a raise would still leave the company’s owners with $10 billion in profit (not to mention their massive existing fortunes).

Read the full Americans for Tax Fairness report.  Read the full AFL-CIO report.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Bringing ‘Common Sense’ to NoVa

More than 35 people gathered at the Northern Virginia labor office on Monday, March 23, to participate in a 90-minute Common Sense Economics workshop conducted by the AFL-CIO. Among those taking part were representatives from the NAACP, religious social action networks, immigrant rights groups, young people and elected officials, as well as union representatives, including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

The workshop was led by Roberta Reardon (former SAG-AFTRA co-president, left in the picture below) and Will Fischer (right in the picture) of the AFL-CIO. The course helped explain in laymen’s terms what is happening to jobs in America and how workers can regain control of the debate regarding living wages, workplace safety and trade agreements. Each participant left with a pledge to conduct similar workshops within their own organizations.

“This session was very valuable as Virginians gear up for fall elections that will include all members of the General Assembly as well as numerous local positions,” noted NOVA Area Labor Federation President Daniel Duncan. “We will be working with all these groups and others to help the middle class fight back.”

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Trumka: Yes, You Should Ask for a Raise

This post originally appeared in the U.S. News & World Report.

In 2015, nearly 5 million American workers might get a pay raise. By joining together to ask for one. Through a union.

Minimum wage hikes, overtime expansion, paid sick leave and other policy improvements are important to raise wages in America. But the best way for workers to get a raise is by asking for one with a collective voice. That’s what workers do—bargain together in unions to improve our lives.

And this is an exceptional moment for raising wages through collective bargaining. More new contracts will be bargained by unions and employers in 2015 than at any other point in modern American labor history.

Autoworkers in Michigan, public workers in Illinois and New Jersey, communication workers at AT&T and Verizon, clerks at Kroger and Foodtown, postal workers, employees of Disneyland and others will negotiate wages and benefits. Government will not dictate the outcome. Workers expressing their collective voice will sit down with management and decide on a fair allocation of the rising profits resulting from the recovery.

Five million workers asking for a raise? Yeah, and it’s about time. All U.S. workers should ask for more. Wages have been stagnant for over a decade. In fact, between 1997 and 2012, the income of those in the bottom 90 percent fell by $2,868, even as workers’ productivity rose. Current data tell the same story. The last two months point to economic recovery and robust job growth, but with virtually no upward effect on wages.

What we are seeing is wage theft on a grand, macroeconomic scale. Workers feel deep frustration in the face of the relentless disparity between productivity and wages. I know, because that’s what they tell me. In every industry, in every state, at every hourly wage level. But workers don’t need any more economic analysis; we want solutions.

That’s why collective bargaining is so important in 2015 and long term. First, income inequality is not just a low-wage worker problem; falling wages are a fact for workers at every pay level up to the top 10 percent. Second, collective bargaining is the primary way to address wage stagnation across the whole economy. Income inequality is not a mysterious phenomenon; it results from the economic rules we have created. It can be solved by changing those rules.

And that solution must recognize the precarious position of workers acting alone. Again, today’s data support this assertion. A January story in The Wall Street Journal reported on a survey of U.S. workers that found while only 8 percent were satisfied with their pay, fewer than half had asked for a raise. The Journal concluded, “When it comes to pay, people are afraid to ask for more.”

Workers should not be afraid to demand what we have earned. Unions and collective bargaining are critical to righting this imbalance. Historically, when unions are strong, wages rise in proportion to profit. And it is not only union members who benefit; there is a spillover effect lifting the pay of all workers. From 1935, when the National Labor Relation Act was passed, to 1980, almost 70 percent of income growth benefited the bottom 90 percent and only 7.1 percent went to the top 1 percent.

Collective bargaining is ground zero in the debate about raising wages in America. It should be front and center as Congress considers policy and as presidential candidates announce agendas. Moreover, the results will illuminate the larger issue underpinning chronic wage stagnation: that vibrant worker organizations are key to restoring the balance of economic power in our country.

Even workers who are not yet represented by a union should be encouraged to speak up, especially with a collective voice. No worker should be afraid to ask for a raise, and federal law protects that right. Everyone who works should ask for a raise in 2015. We deserve it, and the health of our economy depends on it.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Don’t Forget About Fast Track

While much of the Internet this week was focused on escaped llamas, figuring out what color a dress is or mourning the loss of SAG-AFTRA member and Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy, we can forget that legislation is still being pushed that would make the lives of working families worse. Whether it be the “right to work” policies pushed by the allies of Gov. Scott Walker (Wis.), who likes to compare workers to terrorists, and in other states like New Mexico and West Virginia, or the ongoing negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership using the Fast Track process, we need to stay alert.

If you’re not sure what Fast Track is, check out the video above where AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka explains it quite simply. If you need a more in-depth primer, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) provides one. Meanwhile, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) is holding meetings across the country to try to convince members of Congress that Fast Track is wrong for the country. And the more we look at what TPP might turn out to be, we find out that it has elements like Investor-State Dispute Settlement or that it won’t require potential members to comply with international labor rights.

If you think this doesn’t sound like what working families or America’s economy need right now, sign the AFL-CIO’s petition opposing Fast Track.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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