N.Y. Bike Share Workers Join Transport Workers

TWU photo

Next to food trucks, one of the fastest growing trends in cities across the country is bike sharing, with racks of bicycles for rent by the hour or longer positioned around town for easy pick up and drop off. But it takes dozens and sometimes hundreds of workers to make bike-sharing operations run smoothly. On Tuesday, the more than 200 workers in New York City’s Citi Bike program chose the Transport Workers (TWU) to help make their jobs run more smoothly, too.

The bicycle mechanics, dispatchers, call center operators and technicians began their organizing drive for better wages, regular schedules and a voice on the job with TWU Local 100. The support throughout the workforce was so strong, Citi Bike voluntarily recognized their choice of Local 100 as the workers’ representative.

The union represents bus and subway workers in the city, and Local 100 President John Samuelsen said:

We view bike sharing as another important mode of public transit. We fully intend to throw our energy and political support behind expanding these bike-sharing systems and ensuring they are designed in a way to support existing transportation networks.

He also said that contract bargaining will focus on “advancing the livelihoods of bike share workers” and added that bike share workers in several other cities are seeking union representation.

The New York victory, said Citi Bike worker Dolly Winter, “feels great, very empowering.”

In related news, last week the 550 call takers and reservation agents at Global Contact Services in Queens, N.Y., who schedule paratransit services for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, voted to join Local 100. Read more here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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After 11 Years, CNN Techs Finally Get Justice

Photo courtesy Gregor Smith on Flickr

After 11 years, technicians working for a CNN subcontractor have received justice after the company initiated what Communications Workers of America called a “phony reorganization scheme to get rid of unionized workers.” The National Labor Relations Board found overwhelming evidence that the news channel engaged in anti-union activity and that CNN was a joint employer of the technicians and subcontractor. CNN was ordered to rehire about 100 workers and compensate 200 others, with the total CNN has to pay expected to be tens of millions of dollars. Additionally, the channel is required to restore any bargaining unit work outsourced since previous contracts ended, recognize the employees’ union, and begin bargaining with the two National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians locals that represent the workers.

In December 2003, CNN terminated its relationship with subcontractor Team Video Services, whose workers were represented by NABET-CWA in Washington, D.C., and New York City. The union filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB. In 2008, a judge ruled against CNN, but the channel appealed the ruling and challenged the NLRB’s legal authority in the case. The delays lasted until this year. During that time, many of the workers lost their homes, went bankrupt and struggled to pay medical bills. A number of them have passed away.

NABET-CWA President Jim Joyce said the union’s members were grateful for the decision:

These workers have waited far too long for this measure of justice to finally be delivered and have suffered far too much as the result of these unlawful activities. CNN should finally do the right thing now and immediately comply with the orders of the National Labor Relations Board issued today.

Tyrone Riggs, one of the workers who lost his job in 2003, echoed those sentiments:

Today is a good day to stand up straight. I never gave up hope. I never wavered. I knew justice would prevail.

CWA President Larry Cohen added:

All of us in CWA should be proud of our work and the coalition that helped support Senate confirmation of the NLRB members in July 2013. Without a functioning NLRB, this decision would never have been possible. But today belongs to the 300 technicians and their families, and our hearts and minds are with them.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Study Takes Down T-Mobile’s ‘Facade of Good Behavior’ Toward Workers

If you looked at the list of awards T-Mobile has received over the past few years as a “Top Workplace,” “Best Place to Work,” “Best Employer,” etc., you might be knocking on the door to apply for a job—despite the history of National Labor Relations Board complaints against T-Mobile for its alleged mistreatment of workers.

University of Massachusetts sociology professor Tom Juravich and graduate student Essie Ablavsky decided to take a closer look at the accolades T-Mobile touts as proof it is a top-flight employer and found that the awards are as phony as T-Mobile’s claims.

The study, “The Corporate Rating Sham: The Case of T-Mobile,” found that the majority of corporate recognition contests are based on self-nomination and self-reported data with little independent verification. The programs often lack transparency in terms of the criteria used for evaluation, resulting in the inclusion of questionable employers, and many of the firms conducting national evaluations also provide consulting services to the same companies they are supposed to be rating. According to the report:

Rather than evaluating actual company performance, the ratings are a better indicator of a company’s allocations of resources to win awards and its work to create a facade of good behavior.

Juravich and Ablavsky say that at the same time T-Mobile was named one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by one corporate ratings organization, a highly respected independent analyst gave T-Mobile a CCC rating, the lowest score possible.

As the National Consumers League (NCL) points out, T-Mobile has drawn the attention of concerned observers—members of Congress, investors, progressive organizations—for its treatment of workers, “ranging from overbearing and disrespectful management styles, to suppression of workers’ rights.” Says NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

T-Mobile is a good demonstration of what is wrong with corporate recognition awards. The company’s well-known problematic labor practices put these ‘best of’ awards in doubt. A company’s treatment of workers must be a key factor in any ratings process, and awards for quality must not be allowed to mask abusive workplace policies.

T-Mobile workers at call centers and retail stores across the country have been fighting for a voice on the job and respect at work for several years. They say they have faced an extensive anti-union campaign by the company that in 2012 closed seven call centers in the United States and shipped more than 3,300 jobs overseas.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and ver.di, which represents workers at T-Mobile’s parent company Deutsche Telekom, are working to help T-Mobile workers get the union representation they want. Find out more at TMobileWorkersUnited.

Click here to hear from workers about what it’s really like to work at T-Mobile.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Meet the Women Workers Who Make All Other Work Possible

Domestic workers are essential to the global economy. They care for children, the elderly and people who need extra help around the house so that family members can leave the house and go to work. Unfortunately, as Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, points out, many domestic workers, while caring for our families, do not earn enough to provide for their own.

Domestic workers in the United States and across the world are organizing for living wages, better working conditions and a bill of workers’ rights, which has passed in four states.

Poo recently has been named a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant recipient. Read her NBC News interview hereand check out the video in the post.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Union YES! American Airlines Passenger Service Agents Win Largest Organizing Victory in the South in Decades

Union, YES! American Airlines Passenger Service Agents Win Largest Organizing Victory in the South in Decades

In what Communications Workers of America (CWA) heralds as “the largest labor organizing victory in the South in decades,” passenger service agents at American Airlines voted to form a union after a 19-year struggle.  In the vote announced today, 86% of the 9,000 agents who voted favored the union, which will now represent 14,500 agents, the vast majority of whom live in the South. American Airlines agents in the West are represented by the Teamsters and the two unions form a joint CWA-IBT unit to bargain with the airline.

Nearly three-quarters of the agents work in Texas, North Carolina, Florida and Arizona and several thousand are home-based reservations agents.  The wide range of jobs the members work include: reservations, ticket and gate agents, baggage service agents, customer assistance representatives, customer service supervisors, club representatives, passenger operations center representatives and special service counter agents.

About the result, CWA said:

The vote clearly shows that workers who can make a fair choice about union representation want bargaining rights. New American agents are concentrated in southern states and work at diverse locations, including large and small airports, call centers and at home. Across every group, they voted for bargaining rights and union representation.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke about the broader importance of the victory:

Clearly, one of the largest labor organizing victories in the South in decades is a historic day. But it also shows that the future of the U.S. labor movement is alive, as these workers can be found at airports, call centers, even working from home. The right to collectively bargain will always be what our working family fights for.

The agents themselves were ecstatic about the victory. Richard Shaughnessy, who has been an agent at Miami International Airport for 27 years, said:

The merger between American Airlines and US Airways is an exciting time for all of us. But even more exciting is our victory today. We’re the front-line employees who interact with our customers every day, and we are looking forward to a positive relationship with management to make this merger ‘work’ for all of us. We are anxious to get to the bargaining table.

Carroll Locklear, a home-based reservations agent in Texas, said:

I’ve been with American Airlines for 18 years, and through all of those years I have been praying for this day. We have been the odd employees out for so long because we were the only employees without union representation. Gone are the days that management can take what they want when they want. This will be a win-win for all of us.

Eula Smith, a customer service agent in Charlotte, N.C., added:

We feel stronger now with this vote. I’m a 60-year-old woman with 42 years with this employer. You can’t live in the South and make a decent wage unless you are in senior management in a corporation or belong to a union. We need this. We need not just a union, we need CWA.

Ken Grunwald, a 23-year reservations agent at the call center in North Carolina, said:

I’m proud to remember everyone over the years who worked so hard for our union voice, who never gave up in the face of adversity, and who gave their blood, sweat and tears so that we would have the opportunity to celebrate this victory today. It’s a victory for all American Airlines employees! I’m so excited to think that we will finally be able to negotiate a legally binding contract. We now all have each others’ back.

Janet Elston, an agent at Dallas International Airport, concluded:

Nineteen years ago, a handful of agents started a drive to obtain representation for [American Airlines] airport and reservations agents. Many hundreds of activists have spent thousands of hours over the years to get us to today’s election result. They never wavered and never, ever gave up. We have finally achieved what most thought was impossible: union representation for our work group. Now we’ll begin a new working relationship with our company, with a legal binding contract.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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New Website Keeps You on Top of Southern California Carwash Workers’ Fight for Justice

New Website Keeps You on Top of Southern California Carwash Workers' Fight for Justice

We’ve been reporting on the fight for justice for Southern California carwash workers—and their CLEAN Carwash campaign’s many victories—since the carwasheros launched their campaign. Now with a new website, you can keep up with the latest developments in the workers’ campaign.

Here are some of the new features:

  • There’s the “A Better Carwash” map of union carwashes, which is constantly updated as we have more victories for workers. This way, you’ll always know where the latest carwashes are that have fair wages and working conditions throughout California.
  • There’s also an Action Center that gives people more ways to help carwash workers beyond “Like” us on Facebook (which is cool, too, but sometimes we want to do more, right?).
  • The campaign’s blog features regular and personalized blog posts from a worker’s perspective about important issues, struggles and developments in the campaign that you’ll want to know about.
  • A new Worker Center page that not only lays out the work of this important service to “carwasheros” but creates ways to contribute to it in different forms as well.

Check it all out, bookmark the site and use it as a resource for knowing all about the campaign, its progress and changes in the industry. You also can follow the CLEAN Carwash Campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

For news on New York City carwash workers, visit the WASH New York campaign and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union website.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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California Passes Paid Sick Days Law but Home Health Care Workers Left Out

Six and a half million California workers will now have access to paid sick days, thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Workers will be able to earn three paid sick days a year. Unfortunately, home care workers were excluded from the final bill.

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski said in a statement:

While this law is a historic step forward, California’s unions won’t rest until every single worker in our state receives equal access to paid sick days. Home care workers, like all workers, deserve the opportunity to earn paid sick days on the job. We’ll continue to fight for In-Home Supportive Services workers to ensure that California treats all workers with fairness and dignity.

California has become only the second state in the United States to offer guaranteed earned paid sick days (cities and municipalities across the country have been taking the lead in this area).

Read more about the legislation and the home care worker exclusion from Ellen Bravo, director at Family Values@Work.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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How the Government Can Lead on Supporting Businesses that Lift Working Standards

How the Government Can Lead on Supporting Businesses that Lift Working Standards

Through our tax dollars used in government purchasing, U.S. taxpayers are collectively the largest buyer of goods in services in the world. Being that big gives us power. And it gives us responsibility to hold the government accountable for how it spends those dollars. However, our government does very little to ensure our tax dollars are spent responsibly, whether it’s through buying uniforms, electronics or food from businesses that support decent conditions in the thousands of workplaces in the United States and around the world. A new report by the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) lays out some clear ideas to improve federal government purchasing and the capacity to protect and respect human rights of workers in its own supply chain. On Sept. 10, the AFL-CIO hosted a panel with ICAR human rights and corporate accountability experts, law and business professors from Georgetown University and a journalist from The New York Times to discuss how the U.S. government can obey labor laws and respect workers’ rights.

Labor and human rights activists have long known about this lack of accountability, and both the mainstream press and U.S. Congress have noted the staggering scale of the problem both at home and abroad. The ICAR report reviews the limits of the existing legal framework, explains how previous efforts to improve the rules failed and presents a menu of policy choices to finally take action to improve a system that often rewards unfair competition by contractors who cut costs by violating labor laws at home and abroad. Instead, the ICAR report shows how to build respect for labor rights into the government purchasing process and give incentives to contractors to take the high road.

Any viable plan to improve government purchasing practices requires a stronger mandate to eliminate unfair competition by establishing clear rules, transparency and sufficient staff, budgets and training at contracting agencies that do this important work. This past July, the Obama administration proposed actions to take such measures in awarding contracts for goods and services produced in the United States. Those improved policies will need support to be implemented. However, around the world our government relies on the same failed systems used by most companies to monitor their own working conditions and labor rights in their supply chains. We also must take measures that address our government’s global supply chain. The ICAR report analyzes the government purchasing process and pinpoints the many places in the process where government contractors can be held accountable. Some proposals borrow solutions that have beenimplemented by local and state governments and universities to clean up supply chains. There are innovative solutions to these problems such as the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which shows how major purchasers can use their power to improve conditions in supply chains. The U.S. government should draw lessons from the accord’s commitment to accountability.

It is possible to improve working conditions in supply chains that depend on our tax dollars, if we use our power to demand better practices. The ICAR report provides detail about how to do that effectively in the complex process of government purchasing.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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6 Reasons Why Scott Walker 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 (surprise, surprise) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Here are six reasons why Walker has been bad for working people:

1. Walker promised to create 250,000 jobs in his first term, but with only a few months left the state is dead last in the Midwest in terms of job growth and he’s less than halfway toward reaching his jobs goal. [The Washington Post, 9/5/14]

2. And jobs aren’t just the one negative in Wisconsin’s economy. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ranked the state 49th in economic outlook and Wisconsin was one of only five states projected to contract in the second half of 2013. On top of that, new estimates show the state will be facing a $1.8 billion shortfall in the next budget cycle. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/28/13; Media Matters, 1/27/14]

3. As governor, Walker made the largest education cut in the state’s history—more than $1 billion. [Politifact, 2/8/12]

4. Walker signed legislation that would pre-empt local government control, preventing them from requiring paid sick days for workers, regardless of how much the community might want them. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/5/11]

5. Despite the fact that wages are stagnant and the minimum wage continues to lose buying power, Walker opposed raising the minimum wage, calling such a proposal a “political grandstanding stunt.” [The Associated Press, 1/23/14]

6. And the kicker that we’re all too familiar with: Walker signed a bill to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights, barred the traditional collection of union dues and forced workers to pay more for their health care and retirement benefits. [2011 Wisconsin Act 10; The New York Times, 2/22/14]

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Sunday At Last, Sunday Football! And It Comes with a Union Label

Photo by Craig Hawkins via Flickr/Creative Commons

The first Sunday of the NFL season is here—the world champion Seattle Seahawks kicked off the action Thursday with a 36–16 win over the Green Bay Packers. But while we are settling into our recliners and couches or at our favorite sports bar, thousands of union members, on and off the field, are making sure the games run as smoothly as Peyton Manning’s two-minute drill.

From Soldier Field in Chicago to “Jerry World” in Dallas and at stadiums around the country, nearly 1,700 members (active and practice squad players) of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) are seeing their first action of the 2014 season. The other folks on the field—the men in the striped shirts—are members of the NFL Referees Association.

The announcers, camera operators, technicians, field workers and other hardworking folks bringing the game to your flat-screened football cave or favorite bar include members of SAG-AFTRA, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA (NABET-CWA), Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Laborers (LIUNA).

For the fans who head for the concessions in many stadiums, their hot dogs will be served and their beer will be drawn by union members, including the 25,000 UNITE HERE members who work at some 58 NFL and other major league stadiums and arenas.

If you didn’t get a chance earlier this year, check out how one Seahawk fan and IBEW Local 191 member transformed himself into the large, green and angry SeaHulk—far more frightening than the Seattle secondary. Our friend David Groves at the Washington State Labor Council’s (WSCL’s) The Stand reported in February the story of how the local area contractors and others came together and raised the funds to make sure the SeaHulk (aka Tim Froemke) and his crew of body painters made it to the Super Bowl. Groves also pointed out that the Seahawks players are affiliates of the WSCL.

Check out this handy list of union-made products below so you can plan NFL Sunday watch parties that are all union, all the way:

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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