Hey, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, can we talk for a minute? I love you guys. I think “The Heist” is one of the best albums of the past few years. I’ve sung three different songs of yours at karaoke and I’m practicing a fourth. I’m one of the people who knows that when you talk about Capitol Hill in your songs, you’re not talking about D.C.
One of my favorite things about your songs, beyond the high-quality sound and performance, is how you talk about real-world issues and problems in honest, open and thoughtful ways. You don’t talk down to your listeners and you give them things to think about that they might not otherwise think about. That’s a great thing to do. From discussions on LGBTQ equality in “Same Love,” to talking about racial profiling and Trayvon Martin at the American Music Awards, to dealing with drug addiction and abuse on songs like “Otherside,” you’re bringing up important topics in ways that few popular musicians ever do. That’s to be applauded.
I’m also a fan of how you have stayed true to your principles and refused to sign with record companies that would exploit you. So, can I ask you a favor? You’re performing a show tonight sponsored by T-Mobile. T-Mobile is a company as bad or worse than those record companies you talked about in songs like “Jimmy Iovine.”
Workers employed by the wireless provider have described the company’s tactics as “brutal psychological terror.” These practices include things like verbal abuse, threats, forcing workers to wear dunce caps and sit in a corner if they don’t meet their quotas. In one town, so many T-Mobile workers have gone to the doctor reporting migraines, stroke symptoms, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression, the doctors have started referring to the symptoms as “T-Mobile disease.” When those workers try to stand up for themselves and just work in a reasonable environment, they report being fired, disciplined, interrogated in basements and systematically told to keep quiet.
So far in your career, you’ve done a great job at raising awareness about injustice when you’ve seen it. You can do it again by shining a light on T-Mobile and its mistreatment of workers. At the end of “Jimmy Iovine,” you said something about how you’d prefer to be a starving artist than succeed at getting screwed over by a greedy corporation. And that was a bold stance for you that has paid off. Now you have the chance to help T-Mobile workers avoid both starving and getting screwed over.
Our friends at United Students Against Sweatshops and MoveOn.org asked your fans to sign a petition asking you to break up with T-Mobile.
Can you help some brothers and sisters out?
Read more about T-Mobile’s mistreatment of workers.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Corporate Accountability, music, Rights At Work, safety, T Mobile
Pennsylvania Republicans are pushing falsely titled “paycheck protection” legislation that would take away rights from workers and keep them from having good wages and benefits. The legislation would hamper workers’ ability to organize unions and represent themselves in negotiations with employers, leaving them open to any number of assaults on salary, benefits and working conditions. The legislation would prevent the deduction of union dues from public employee paychecks and is supported by groups related to the infamous Koch brothers, wealthy extremists who are behind many attacks against working families across the nation.
But Pennsylvania’s workers are ready to fight back. More than 2,000appeared at a frozen rally Tuesday in opposition to the legislation. Many of those in attendance weren’t members of the unions potentially affected by this legislation. The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO reports:
One of the rallies erupted outside the front doors of the Capitol, where more than a thousand workers were literally frozen out of the event in the nearly sub-zero temperatures because Capitol police claimed the crowd had exceeded capacity limitations in the Rotunda. PA AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder was handed a bull horn by Capitol Police and the nearly frost-bitten crowd had their own impromptu rally on the Capitol steps as Snyder explained the implications of the Koch brother’s-inspired anti-labor legislation.
Supporters of the bill say taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for such payroll deductions. As usual with anything associated with the Koch brothers, this reasoning is dishonest, because taxpayers don’t actually pay the minimal costs associated with making such deductions, those costs are included in contracts negotiated between workers and their employers. In fact, paycheck deductions are very standard from people who choose to make United Way contributions, retirement contributions, etc.
Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder told the crowd the real reason behind the legislation:
The supporters of this attack claim this is all about restoring ethics to government. If this were all about restoring ethics then perhaps they would stop trying to prevent the uninsured from gaining access to affordable health care. If this were about ethics they would support raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits to unemployed workers who are still looking for a job. No this isn’t about ethics, this is all about distractions, more smoke and mirrors and playing political games instead of solving our problems: creating jobs, expanding the middle class and putting Pennsylvania back to work. We won’t be fooled.
While the legislation currently being considered only targets public employee unions, there is little doubt that success on this legislation would lead to further attacks on the rights of working families. The Pennsylvania federation said:
Don’t be silent on this issue. We expect this bill to move very quickly, with significant resources flooding into Pennsylvania to back this latest attack on the middle class.
Residents of the Keystone State who support working families and oppose this legislation should take actionand email Gov. Tom Corbett (R) and their state legislators.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, collective bargaining, paycheck deception, Pennsylvania, Right to Work, Rights At Work, Tom Corbett
The National Labor Relations Board filed an formal complaint yesterday against the retail behemoth Walmart, alleging that the company violated the rights of nearly 70 workers rallying over workplace conditions in 14 states.
The Los Angeles Times reports the complaint, the largest ever against Walmart, refers to charges made in November 2012 during the Black Friday actions by associates speaking out for respect on the job and for Walmart to publicly commit to provide regular hours and a living wage of $25,000 a year. The complaint alleges Walmart illegally fired and disciplined nearly 70 workers in 34 stores.
“Walmart thinks it can scare us with attacks to keep us from having a real conversation about the poverty wages we’re paid,” says Barbara Collins, a fired Walmart worker from Placerville, Calif., who is one of the workers named in the complaint. “But too much is at stake—the strength of our economy and the security of our families—to stay silent about why Walmart needs to improve jobs. Now the federal government is confirming what we already know: We have the right to speak out, and Walmart fired me and my co-workers illegally. With a new CEO taking over in a few weeks, we hope that Walmart will take a new direction in listening to associates and the country in the growing calls to improve jobs.”
Making Change at Walmart reported in a press release:
If Walmart is found liable, workers could be awarded back pay, reinstatement and the reversal of disciplinary actions through the decision; and Walmart could be required to inform and educate all employees of their legally protected rights. While historic, the complaint alone is not enough to stop Walmart from violating the law. Since the start of the year, Walmart has continued to retaliate against workers who speak out for better jobs.
In other news, the Internet group Anonymous leaked a set of Walmart PowerPoints for managers that included ways to discourage workers from joining a union and how to identify “early warning signs.”
The PowerPoints also detailed legal ways an employer could discourage workers from organizing:
“Walmart’s aggressive anti-worker campaign is real, it is ugly and unnecessary,” says Dominic Ware of Leandro, Calif. (OUR Walmart member and former associate). “Instead of spending money on these misleading and false campaigns to intimidate workers and their rights, Walmart should be focused on publicly committing to improving jobs, raising wages and making sure that workers are able to raise their concerns without fear of illegal retaliation.”
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: California, Corporate Accountability, Los Angeles, NLRB, Rights At Work, Walmart
Missouri Republicans are attempting to pass “right to work” for less legislation and, despite claims that the legislation is “pro-business” and will “help” the state’s economy, they can’t seem to think of one person or business the law would actually help. The state’s speaker of the House, Tim Jones (R), was recently asked at a press conference to name businesses that would benefit from the law. His answer:
AFSCME noticed the speaker’s response and created the above image and created a webpage to help expose the admission from Jones that the law doesn’t actually help Missouri’s businesses. On Facebook, AFSCME posted the image with this caption: “We’ve created this simple website so you can see if there are any companies in your state that stand to benefit from Right to Work.”
Clicking on the link leads you to a humorous site that is definitely laughing at Jones and his extreme allies, not with them.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, afscme, Missouri, Right to Work, Rights At Work, speaker tim jones, Tim Jones
The editorial board of the Salem Statesmen Journal, one of the most influential newspapers in Oregon, is not messing around.
Their piece on the coming fight over making Oregon a so-called “right to work” state goes right to the point: this law is bad for Oregon, and the only reason we’re talking about it is because of deep-pocket out-of-state special interests.
Don’t know what a “right to work” law is? The editorial kicks it off with a succinct definition:
Under right-to-work laws, employees in unionized workplaces no longer can be required to pay unions for the cost of being represented. That’s the sum and substance of right to work, in one sentence.
These laws, passed in 24 states, have nothing to do with protecting those who have a job from losing it or granting anyone who needs a job the right to find it. Yet the phrase persists, because political factions that back such legislation aren’t courageous or honest enough to call them what they are.
Right-to-work is a misnomer. If proponents were straight with us, they’d call these transparently vindictive efforts a “Right to Weaken Unions Act” or a “Right to Punish Those Who Oppose Us Measure.” The laws drain money from unions under the guise of creating a more business-friendly environment for states.
As we’ve written, the national “right to work” effort sputtered in 2013. In Oregon, Portland attorney Jill Gilbson Odell is sponsoring a “right to work” initiative intended for the 2014 ballot. “There’s national money to be had,” she told the Associated Press, mentioning “large donors” who would back her. But 2013 saw little movement for Odell’s effort, and popular Gov. John Kitzhaber has already stated his opposition.
Yet Oregon remains a top target for national “right to work” backers. “[It’s] as if a big red X has been affixed to a map of our state by outside influences who have decided in secret that we are to be the next target in their misinformation campaign,” the editorial board writes.
Odell’s claims may indeed pan out, and the anti-worker initiative could get the big dollars it needs to get to the ballot. In that case, the Statesmen Journal has a simple suggestion:
The misinformation campaign is coming. Right-to-work proponents are expecting you to roll over and play dumb. We suggest you sit up and become informed.
Here are some real facts to get you started:
- States with “right to work” laws have lower average wages than free bargaining states. Workers earn an average of $1,500 less annually in “right to work” states.
- Fewer workers have employer-based health insurance in “right to work” states. There are also higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities in these states.
- Research in favor of Oregon’s “right to work” initiative is deeply flawed (and funded by the same donors who are pushing the policy in the first place.)
- Businesses don’t use “right to work” as a primary factor when deciding where to locate.
Learn more about “right to work” laws at WrongforEveryone.com.
Photo by NSNewsflash on Flickr
Tags: ALEC, Corporate Accountability, Oregon, Right to Work, Rights At Work
A year ago, in one of the most shocking reversals in the state’s history, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a “right to work” bill into law behind closed doors as more than 12,000 protesters raged outside.
Right wing groups crowed, saying union restrictions in the home of the auto industry meant the labor movement was on its last legs. They talked about which states would go next.
And then, nothing.
Well, not nothing. But what anti-worker pundits said would be a domino effect was more like a cricket effect. In 2013, no state passed a “right to work” law.
Incorrectly-named “right to work” laws put restrictions on contracts union workers can make with employers. They ban fair share clauses which require that workers pay dues to have the protection of the union. Unions are left in the position of providing services without being able to fund those services, and they starve.
“Right to work” laws have nothing to do with freedom. They are simply a tactic to defund unions and weaken the ability of workers to advocate for themselves. And it shows: states with “right to work” laws have lower wages, higher poverty rates, and more workplace injuries and fatalities than free bargaining states.
In 2013, workers didn’t stand for it.
In Missouri, where Republicans controlled supermajorities in both the state House and Senate, some legislators pursued a “paycheck deception” bill, which restricts unions’ ability to make political contributions. Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) called it a step toward a “right to work law.” Based heavily on an ALEC model bill, paycheck deception moved swiftly through Republican-lead committees.
But workers, union and non-union (including hundreds of Working America members), made their voices heard. Emails, letters, and phone calls flooded legislative offices in Jefferson City. The bill passed the Senate after an 8-hour Democratic filibuster, but House legislators were getting skittish. Bill proponents were having a hard time answering simple questions about why additional restrictions on union dues were needed. Support for the bill dwindled with each test vote.
“Paycheck deception” passed the House by a narrower than expected margin, and Speaker Jones prepared to move on to “right to work.” But Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed paycheck deception, calling it unnecessary. By the September veto session, too many moderate Republicans had abandoned the effort, and the bill died outright.
Did Republicans get the message? Absolutely not. In December special session centered around tax incentives for Boeing, a small group tried and failed to insert “right to work” language. ALEC member Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Springfield) called it “a good opportunity to begin that fight” ahead of 2014.
In Ohio, the anti-union effort has centered around gathering petitions to get “right to work” on the 2014 ballot. As we know, you need to get a certain number of signatures to get an issue on the ballot. For Ohio, that number is 385,000, and you always want extra signatures in case some are validated.
The Tea Party group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom started circulating petitions in February 2012. After 20 months, they announced they have collected 100,000 signatures.
At this rate, as Ohio bloggers at Plunderbund noted, the anti-union group would need 40 m0re months to put “right to work” on the ballot. And since they’ve already burned through $118,000 in paid petition gatherers, chances are they’d run out of money first.
Let’s compare that with 2011, when Gov. John Kasich and Republicans in the legislative rammed through the union-busting Senate Bill 5. The bill passed on March 30. On June 29, after only 3 months, We Are Ohio delivered 1.3 million signatures to the Secretary of State to get a repeal of SB 5 on the ballot. In November, SB 5 was repealed by 60 percent of voters.
What’s going on here? What the Tea Party and the anti-union forces in Ohio don’t get is that once you get past a small group of billionaires and right-wing ideologues, there is no desire to restrict collective bargaining in Ohio. None. People are looking for good jobs, affordable health care, and decent schools to send their kids.
Meanwhile, the 2011 battle over Senate Bill 5, largely ignored by the national media, still reverberates throughout the Buckeye State. Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican supporter of SB 5, lost a Senate bid despite more than $19 million in outside aide. Mitt Romney haplessly flip-flopped on SB 5 and consistently delivered an anti-union message, lost in Ohio in part because of union members of all political stripes voting for his opponent. And in 2013, SB 5 supporter Toledo Mayor Mike Bell was ousted, while a Tea Party-backed pension-cutting amendment was rejected in Cincinnati by a 57-point margin.
In Oregon, the story is even shorter. An Portland attorney named Jill Gibson Odell is sponsoring a “right to work” initiative in her state. Odell is excited about the “national money to be had” to assist her campaign, so she’s not even pretending “right to work” is something Oregonians themselves want. In 2013, little to no progress was made on getting the issue on the ballot, and popular Gov. John Kitzhaber said he will publicly oppose it. Meanwhile, workers in Portland got paid sick days, and a statewide sick leave ordinance is expected to pass in 2014.
What to expect in 2014? Well, as the AP reports, the main targets for “right to work” proponents are Missouri, Ohio, and Oregon, showing that these folks have learned nothing from the past year. While their efforts stall, Americans of all political persuasions are starting to support minimum wage increases, sick leave, wage theft protections, and progressive tax codes in increasing numbers.
Working America will be vigilant to mobilize against any “right to work” measure, wherever it crops up. But make no mistake: Michigan wasn’t the start of a domino effect. It was a wake up call. And outside the right-wing think tank bubble, American workers are fully awake.
Photo by detroitfreepress on Instagram
Tags: ALEC, Eric Burlison, Jay Nixon, Jobs, John Kasich, john kitzhaber, Josh Mandel, Michigan, Mike Bell, Missouri, Mitt Romney, Ohio, Oregon, Paid Sick Days, paycheck deception, Right to Work, Rights At Work, SB5, Tim Jones
Last week students from the University of Memphis Progressive Student Alliance, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) Local 68, courageously took over a local T-Mobile store to deliver a holiday message to the company. Watch these brave students as they face down the vicious management reaction and peacefully deliver their holiday message.
After you watch the video, please share it.
In the fall semester, USAS started a national campaign to support T-Mobile workers’ organizing. There are more than 25,000 T-Mobile workers across the United States who currently face high-stress working environments, arbitrary management, yelling and abuse and a brutal ongoing company campaign to prevent workers from joining together to seek changes at work.
Students were appalled to learn that many universities have deep commercial ties to T-Mobile through purchasing, service and infrastructure contracts, making their schools important corporate clients. Outraged that the universities would continue to give money to an abusive employer, they have taken action to demand that several universities cut their contracts with T-Mobile. Now they are speaking out to tell T-Mobile to respect its workers.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW. Teresa Casertano contributed to this post.
Tags: aflcio, memphis, Rights At Work, students, T Mobile, Tennessee
There are 10 million restaurant workers in America, yet most of them make less than $9 an hour. According to Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, 90 percent of restaurant workers don’t have paid sick leave so two-thirds of people who cook and prepare our food could come to work sick.
To support employers in the restaurant industry that do treat their workers well, check out the ROC Diners Guide so we can vote with our dollars on the kinds of establishments we want to see more of.
The ROC Diners Guide is available as a PDF or as a mobile app on the Android and iPhone.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: minimum wage, Paid Sick Days, restaurant, Rights At Work, tipped workers
Liz Shuler is secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO.
Today, we earn more college degrees and have infinitely more choices, but what has it meant? Take a look:
- Progress toward gender equality has stalled. Women’s annual earnings are just 77% of men’s.
- Most (60%) of women’s job gains during the economic recovery have been in low-wage jobs.
- The unemployment rate for young (ages 16 to 24) women workers is 14.5%.
- 43% of women working in the private sector are not able to take a single paid sick day when they are ill, and more than half of working mothers (54%) do not have even a few paid sick days they can use to care for their sick children.
- Women in unions, on average, make 12.9% more than their nonunion counterparts, are 36.8% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and are 53.4% more likely to have participated in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.
How can we get progress on gender equality moving again? We could start by raising the minimum wage, enacting family-friendly policies like the FAMILY Act, investing in good jobs and restoring collective bargaining rights so all workers can stand together.
Photo by National Nurses United on Facebook
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Education, equal pay, Liz Shuler, minimum wage, paycheck fairness, Rights At Work, women
That’s the question Nancy Becker, an American employed by Amazon in Germany since 2001, asked as she trekked to Seattle this week to stand up for the rights of workers in the online retailer’s “fulfillment centers.” The centers—little more than warehouses where workers are faced with near-impossible workloads for minimal pay—are the subject of rallies in Seattle and Germany on Monday. Becker traveled from her workplace in Germany, “I’m coming to Seattle to dare Jeff Bezos to try working as a picker for a single week. I’m sure he would not survive.”
In recent months, workers at Amazon’s warehouses in Bad Hersfeld, Leipzig and Graben in Germany have engaged in a series of rolling strikes. They are hoping to increase pressure on Amazon by sending protesters to the company’s Seattle headquarters, where they were joined by American workers also opposed to the low wages and harsh work conditions that the company’s American warehouses share.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:
We welcome the German Amazon workers and their union, ver.di, to the United States. Just as German workers have stood in support of U.S. workers employed by global corporations, we join your fight for fairness at one of the largest corporate retailers in the world. It’s time that Amazon make good on its obligations to its workers, not just its shareholders and executives, and we will be there in Seattle to make our voices heard.
The complaints about Amazon are pretty similar in both countries: “The Amazon system is characterized by low wages, permanent performance pressure and short-term contracts,” said Stefanie Nutzenberger, a board member of ver.di, the union representing the German Amazon workers. Instead of classifying fulfillment center workers as retail employees, the company calls them “logistics” workers and then pays them lower rates than they would have to pay retail workers. This misclassification allows the company to claim that it’s paying workers a higher wage for their field than other companies, when the reality is they would have significantly higher wages if correctly classified as retail workers. And despite claims that Amazon has made about safety being a top priority, “Last month, an investigation by the BBC’s “Panorama” program into a U.K.-based Amazon warehouse found conditions a stress expert said could cause ‘mental and physical illness.’”
Workers categorized the conditions similarly:
“The workers are treated more as robots than human,” Markus Hoffmann-Achenbach, an organizer for Ver.di at the Amazon warehouse in the city of Werne, said by email. He was on his way to Seattle to participate in the demonstration.
“As a worldwide company,” Mr. Hoffmann-Achenbach added, “Amazon should treat their workers fairly and with respect in every country. The solidarity of American unions and ver.di, the united services union of Germany, is a sign that social movements are not bounded by national borders and that in times of globalization, the workers worldwide stand together as one.”
Amazon officials seemed to have little sympathy for their own workers:
But Amazon’s German country head Ralf Kleber said the company had no intention of bowing to pressure from striking workers and was more worried about bad weather hurting Christmas deliveries, he told Reuters in an interview last month.
You can almost hear Kleber ending the sentence with a “bah” or a “humbug.”
Photo by jurvetson on Flickr
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, amazon, Corporate Accountability, Germany, international, Richard Trumka, Rights At Work, seattle, solidarity, washington, workplace safety