Trumka: President’s Immigration Executive Action ‘Moves Us Forward’

Photo courtesy Victoria Pickering on Flickr

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement in response to President Barack Obama’s announced executive action on immigration reform:

Today is an important step toward rational and humane enforcement of immigration law. On behalf of America’s workers, we applaud the Administration’s willingness to act.  We have been calling upon the White House to halt unnecessary deportations since Spring 2013 because our broken immigration system is an invitation for employer manipulation and abuse, and U.S.-born workers as well as immigrant workers are paying the price.

By extending relief and work authorization to an estimated 4 million people, the Obama Administration will help prevent unscrupulous employers from using unprotected workers to drive down wages and conditions for all workers in our country.  Although this fix will be temporary, it will allow millions of people to live and work without fear, and afford them the status to assert their rights on the job.

The Administration is operating within its authority to advance the moral and economic interests of our country, and while we stand ready to defend this program, we must also be clear that it is only a first step.  Unfortunately, more than half of those who currently lack legal protections will remain vulnerable to wage theft, retaliation, and other forms of exploitation.

In addition, we are concerned by the President’s concession to corporate demands for even greater access to temporary visas that will allow the continued suppression of wages in the tech sector.  We will actively engage in the rulemaking process to ensure that new workers will be hired based on real labor market need and afforded full rights and protections.

But this announcement does move us forward – progress that is attributable to the courage and determination of immigrants who rallied, petitioned, fasted and blocked streets to make it happen.  Implementation of the executive action should begin immediately, before further delays open the door for legislative obstruction. Starting tomorrow, the administration should focus enforcement attention on high level targets, stop the community raids and leave workers, grandmothers, and schoolchildren in peace.

Going forward, we renew our call for comprehensive reform that provides a path to citizenship and real protections for workers.  We will continue to stand with all workers, regardless of status, to ensure that their voices are heard and their rights are protected.  Working together, we know that we will ultimately achieve a more just immigration system that promotes shared prosperity and respects the dignity of all workers.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Trumka: Labor Prepared to Combat Assaults on Workers’ Rights

While conservative legislators across the country are gearing up to propose extreme legislation, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued a statement that working families and the labor union are prepared to fight back and make sure that harmful and unpopular policies don’t pass. He said the labor federation would continue to focus on the agenda that working families want, one of raising wages and creating an economy that works for all Americans.

Trumka’s full statement:

In the wake of last Tuesday’s elections, many state and local politicians have already begun to signal their intent to wage assaults on working people in their states. While national political pundits debate outcomes, the AFL-CIO and its allies also have a keen eye on the developments at state and local levels.

We have no illusions there are radical politicians who are far more concerned with appeasing their corporate donors and being a tool for groups like ALEC than standing for working family issues. This is despite the fact that the Raising Wages agenda remain of utmost importance to most Americans. A majority of the electorate are struggling economically and 68 percent of voters agree that raising wages is good for workers and the economy. The majority of people want rights at work. We want the ability to stay home if we’re sick. We want fair and equal pay. And we believe if you work for and earn a pension, you should get it.

Make no mistake that the labor movement is more prepared and ready to combat these attacks than ever before.

We also know that this fight will not be the labor movement’s alone. We are fully engaged with our allies in the community and more importantly know that the values we stand for are in complete sync with the majority of Americans. It will take a collective effort to preserve and expand our values, and we are up to the task.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Working Families to Join ‘Justice for All’ March in Ferguson

In September, when AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke to the convention of the Missouri AFL-CIO, he addressed the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., that led to the shooting of Michael Brown, saying that it was important for labor to be a part of the necessary conversation about race in the United States. Now the AFL-CIO, including the federation’s director of civil, human and women’s rights, Carmen Berkley, and Neidi Dominguez, assistant director of community engagement, will be in Missouri this weekend as part of the “Justice for All” events, including a national march and rally in St. Louis and Moral Monday-themed civil disobedience.

If you are going to be in the area for the national march on Saturday, please RSVP to be included as part of the working families contingent.

Learn more about all of the events, which begin today at the Ferguson October website.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Trumka in Missouri: Racism Is Not Somebody Else’s Problem, It’s ‘Our Problem’

In a powerful speech given at the Missouri AFL-CIO Convention, national AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka took time to address the shooting of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown and the issues of race and class the shooting reignited in the national conversation. Trumka emphasized that racism is still a significant issue that we face not only as a country, but as a labor movement. He noted that both Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown, and Lesley McSpadden, Brown’s mother, are union members.

Highlights of Trumka’s speech:

You see, the question of unity brings up a hard subject, a subject all of us know about but few want to acknowledge—race. I’m talking about race in America and what that means for our communities, our movement and our nation.

Because the reality is that while a young man named Michael Brown died just a short distance from us in Ferguson, from gunshot wounds from a police officer, other young men of color have died and will die in similar circumstances, in communities all across this country.

It happened here but it could have happened—and does happen—anywhere in America. Because the reality is we still have racism in America.

Now, some people might ask me why our labor movement should be involved in all that has happened since the tragic death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. And I want to answer that question directly. How can we not be involved?

Union members’ lives have been profoundly damaged in ways that cannot be fixed. Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mother who works in a grocery store, is our sister, an AFL-CIO union member, and Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Michael Brown, is a union member, too, and he is our brother. Our brother killed our sister’s son and we do not have to wait for the judgment of prosecutors or courts to tell us how terrible this is.

So I say again, how can we not be involved? This tragedy and all the complexities of race and racism are a big part of our very big family as they always have been. A union is like a home. And in any home, good and bad things happen. We have to deal with all of them, honestly.

But that’s a philosophy. We can’t leave it at that. We have to look at real life today. We cannot wash our hands of the issues raised by Michael Brown’s death. That does not mean we prejudge the specifics of Michael Brown’s death or deny Officer Darren Wilson—or any other officer—his or her rights on the job or in the courts.

But it does demand that we clearly and openly discuss the reality of racism in American life. We must take responsibility for the past. Racism is part of our inheritance as Americans. Every city, every state and every region of this country has its own deep history with racism. And so does the labor movement….

I have a son. He’s not so young anymore but he’s not so old. I don’t worry about him. I don’t know, but I have a suspicion that like many of you, and certainly like me at that age, he may not always obey the nation’s traffic laws. So I worry he might wrap himself around a tree. But I never worry when he goes for a cross-country road trip or a night on the town that he may be stopped, shot to death by a police officer.

But for millions of mothers and fathers of young African American men and boys, men just like my son and boys who were as young as me and my friend Tommy—kids with promising futures in America, it is a constant fear, a constant fear.

And if you don’t feel that fear yourself, I’d just ask you, for a moment, to think about that. Think about what it would be like to watch your kid walk out the door and wonder, with good reason, if it’s the last time you’ll see him alive. Because you know it happens. If you haven’t had a close call yourself, you know people who have: friends, family, neighbors and people you worship with….

This is not somebody else’s problem. This is the reality of life for millions of our brothers and sisters. And so it is our problem. That is what solidarity means….

And think about what it means to be a police officer in this country where violence is so often the norm—about walking up to cars anticipating the worst, over and over again. None of us can really know the toll this takes unless we have worn the uniform. This reality, this experience, must be part of any conversation about how we move forward from what has happened here in Ferguson….

So we’ve got to talk to each other, not past each other. We’ve got to talk about how to help our police officers serve our communities. We’ve got to talk about registering and educating voters about jobs and housing and raising wages for all, and we’ve got to talk about accountability—about making sure the public has confidence that the laws of our nation will be enforced and enforced equally. And we have to do more than talk; we have to listen and then we have to act.

I’m not saying this is easy. If I knew how to fix the hurt in our communities, I would tell you. But I know how to start and that’s by listening….

Read the full speech.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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13 Years After 9/11, Honor the Victims, Help Those Still Suffering

IAFF photo illustration

Today we mark the 13th anniversary of Sept. 11. As we honor the memories of the lives that were lost that day, we also should remember the thousands of people who are still suffering.

More than 100,000 rescue and recovery workers—including firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, building and construction trades workers and transit workers—and hundreds of thousands of other workers and residents near Ground Zero were exposed to a toxic mix of dust and fumes from the collapse of the World Trade Center. Now more than 30,000 responders are sick and many have died from respiratory diseases and other health problems.

The AFL-CIO is a longtime advocate of the World Trade Center Health Program and supported the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which passed in 2010 and provided medical care and compensation to the victims. The law, which expires after five years, needs to be extended and has garnered bipartisan support to achieve that goal. This year, in remembrance of all who lost their lives on 9/11 and in honor of the brave responders who are still suffering, we ask you to contact your member of Congress and urge them to support the 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Working Families: Raise Alaska’s Minimum Wage!

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka joined with local labor leaders and working families to rally Alaska voters to support raising the state’s minimum wage. For several decades, Alaska had the nation’s highest minimum wage, but the wage has stayed stagnant in recent years, and Alaska’s working families are falling farther and farther behind.

Alaska’s Ballot Measure 3 would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.75 per hour to $8.75 per hour as of Jan. 1, 2015. The bill would raise the minimum wage to $9.75 per hour as of Jan. 1, 2016, then it would adjust the minimum wage each year for inflation after 2016.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Fast Food Workers and Allies Arrested In Nationwide Strikes

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) was among numerous people arrested as fast food workers and their supporters rallied in more than 150 cities on Thursday.  Thousands of workers walked out of restaurants and picked up picket signs, demanding that big restaurant chains pay them a living wage of $15-per-hour.  Home care workers also participated in the strikes.  Moore was arrested in West Milwaukee, Wis., and other arrests were made in New York City, Detroit, Chicago and elsewhere.

“I take great pride in supporting Milwaukee workers as they risk arrest in pursuit of a brighter tomorrow for their families,” Moore said in a statement. “I’ve read their letters, I’ve heard their calls and I’ve listened to their stories. I understand their struggle, but more importantly, I see their drive to fight for a future that is equal to their talents and worthy of their dreams.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka expressed support for the strikers:

Working families everywhere applaud the courage of the fast-food workers who are striking today and engaging in acts of civil disobedience in over 150 cities. And we applaud the unity and the collective spirit displayed by members of AFL-CIO state federations and labor councils who have joined today’s protests in solidarity.

This nation was built on the fundamental beliefs that work should be a gateway to the middle class, and that no job should ever trap someone in poverty. That’s why the “Fight for Fifteen” movement is surging and the protests are getting ever louder. It’s time for corporations to hear this resounding message: Every worker deserves a fair wage and the right to form a union without retaliation. We support them.

Kendall Fells, organizing director for Fast Food Forward, explained why protesters were willing to take arrest:

There has to be civil disobedience because workers don’t see any other way to get $15 an hour and a union. There’s a long history of this, from the civil rights movement to the farm workers movement.

Here are some key tweets related to the strikes:

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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Trumka: Ferguson Tragedy Highlights Race and Class Divisions We Have Long Neglected

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement in response to events in Ferguson, Missouri:

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Michael Brown, the teenager who was recently killed in Ferguson, Missouri.  His death and the anguish of the Ferguson community have rightfully become a national story.  Despite the tragedy, there is also an opportunity to have an important discussion about issues that we have long neglected in this country.  This conversation can only be had if cooler heads prevail.  We are a nation that still remains segregated by race and class and tragedies like this highlight those divisions.  It is encouraging that the Justice Department and FBI are closely investigating this incident so that the community of Ferguson is served.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Good News for All Americans in Social Security, Medicare Reports

Photo via the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

The annual reports from the Social Security and Medicare Trustees released today “have good news for all Americans,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Social Security and Medicare will be there for us and our families if elected leaders listen to the American people and reject calls to cut benefits. Instead of undermining these crucial programs, we must build on their success and adopt measures to strengthen and expand them.

Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, said the most important lesson from the Social Security report “is that Social Security has a large and growing surplus. Today’s report projects Social Security’s cumulative surplus to be roughly $2.8 trillion in 2014, growing to about $2.9 trillion around 2020.

Trumka noted that while “America’s most important retirement program” will remain strong for many more years to come:

It has become increasingly clear, however, that strengthening Social Security for the future must include improvements in benefits. Social Security remains the sole retirement income plan that is broadly available and that Americans can count on to provide secure lifetime benefits.

The Medicare report, Fiesta said, “reminds us once again that the Affordable Care Act is controlling health care costs.” He said:

It is great news that the life of the Medicare Trust Fund has been extended by another four years to 2030. Attempts to repeal health care reform would only undo the progress we have made in controlling health care costs.

The Social Security Trustees reported once again that the Disability Trust Fund can pay full benefits until 2016, with enough revenue after that time to cover about 80% of promised benefits. Trumka said:

Congress should act soon to ensure disabled workers and their families will continue to receive the benefits they have earned.  This can be done by allocating a larger share of current payroll tax contributions to the Disability program, as has been done many times before. Congress should reject calls to misuse this opportunity to undermine the sole source of disability income protection that is working well for America’s families.

Fiesta warned:

Current and future retirees must be wary of those politicians who will use today’s Social Security and Medicare Trustees reports as political cover for radical changes that would put seniors, the disabled and the families of deceased workers at risk.

Read Trumka’s full statement here and Fiesta’s here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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