Winner and Loser of the Week

In a new weekly feature, we’ll be taking a look at the winners and losers of the week in the struggle for the rights of working families. The winner will be the person or organization that goes above and beyond to expand or protect the rights of working families, while the loser will be whoever went above and beyond to limit or deny those rights.

Winner of the Week: Kain Colter and the Northwestern University Football Players

College athletes, who balance a full-time school load with intense athletic workouts are some of the hardest-working people in the United States. Yet the NCAA says it has no responsibility to protect them from potentially deadly injuries, such as concussions, and allows players to lose educational opportunities if they get injured. Colter and a number of his teammates are standing up and saying they deserve better and are attempting to organize a union that would address these and other concerns.

Loser of the Week: Uintah, Utah, Elementary School District Official

A Utah elementary school district official apparently thought the best way to deal with parents who hadn’t given their kids enough lunch money was to order cafeteria workers to give those kids lunches and then take them away and throw them in the trash in front of everyone. Taking food away from children is bad enough, but doing it in a publicly humiliating way is truly despicable. Poverty and hunger matter in the classroom.

Photo by Northwestern Wildcats on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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10 Ways Working Families Are ‘Kicking Ass’ for the Middle Class

Sure, working families have been under attack for years, but people across the country are rolling up their sleeves and fighting back to protect workers’ rights and raise living standards for everyone. Here are 10 ways they’re doing it:

1. Increasing the Minimum Wage

Four states (California, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island) have increased their state minimum wage in 2013, and on Nov. 5, New Jersey voters will vote on a ballot measure to increase their minimum wage.

2. Passing “Buy America” Laws

Three states (Colorado, Maryland and Texas) passed laws in 2013 to ensure that the goods procured with public funding are made in the United States.

3. Ensuring Paid Sick Days

Portland, Ore., Jersey City, N.J., and New York City became the latest three cities to adopt standards for paid sick days in 2013.

4. Protecting Immigrant Workers

In 2013, six states (California, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon and Vermont) have enacted protections for immigrant workers, including access to driver’s licenses and education.

5. Cracking Down on Businesses That Cheat Workers

Texas passed legislation in 2013 to crack down on businesses that cheat employees by treating them as “independent contractors” who lack worker protections (such as minimum wage and overtime protection, and eligibility for unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation).

6. Giving Workers the Right to a Voice on the Job

In 2013, some 15,000 home care workers in Minnesota won collective bargaining rights through state legislation, as did 10,000 in Illinois and 7,000 in Vermont. Thousands of other workers around the country have enjoyed organizing wins, too: 7,000 electrical workers, more than 5,000 Texas public school teachers, taxi drivers in New York and other cities, telecom workers, college and university faculty, EMS drivers, hotel and casino workers and domestic workers, to name a few.

7. Protecting Your Privacy on Social Media

Nine states (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington) have passed legislation in 2013 to prohibit employers from requiring access to your social media passwords or information as a condition of employment.

8. Fighting for LGBTQ Equality

Five states (Colorado, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Vermont) have passed legislation banning workplace discrimination or recognizing marriage equality.

9. Protecting the Rights of Domestic Workers

Two states (California and Hawaii) have passed legislation in 2013 to protect the rights of domestic workers. California’s Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights will benefit about 200,000 domestic workers, and Hawaii’s will benefit some 20,000 domestic workers.

10. Protecting Voting Rights

Twelve states (California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia) have passed legislation protecting voting rights in 2013, while voting rights legislation was vetoed by the governors of Nevada and New Jersey.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Members of Congress Who Work Less Than Half of the Year Pass Bill to End Your Overtime Pay

On Thursday night, in their continuing trend of demonstrating no interest in the well-being of American workers, 223 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to end overtime pay for as we know it for hourly workers.

HR 1406, the hilariously named, “Working Families Flexibility Act,” would replace time-and-a-half pay for hours worked past 40 hours with a “comp time” system that favors the employer. As the video above explains, “comp time” sounds like you’re getting time off to spend as you see fit, but in fact allows your boss to decide when you take your days off – and when you don’t.

(Here are 7 things you should know about “comp time.”)

If your boss decides that your request for days off “unduly disrupts the operations of the employer” they have the right to reject it. If your boss decides that your request was not made “within a reasonable period,” you can’t take your vacation.

So instead of getting paid extra for working more than 40 hours a week, as we’ve done for decades, you get some days off that your employer has complete control over. And yes, you can still take the option of overtime pay, but what’s to stop your boss from treating you differently because of it? (Nothing.)

To review: The Working Families Flexibility Act provides less flexibility to working families. Classic bill naming!

What’s sickening about this vote in the House is that three Democrats voted for the bill along with all but 8 Republicans: Tim Matheson of Utah, Henry Cuellar of Texas, and Collin Peterson of Minnesota. The House Republican caucus has continuously demonstrated their lack of concern with American workers (33 votes to repeal Obamacare, anyone?) and it’s a shame that these three so-called “representatives” decided to cross the aisle on this harmful, misguided bill.

But in general, we should keep this vote in mind next time those 223 members of Congress come back around asking to get “rehired” in November 2014. After all, Congress operates less than half of the year, and yet they earn an exorbitant salary for their troubles – paid by you, the taxpayer.

They might think that our bosses should completely control how we spend our time. Don’t forget, though: we are their bosses. And if they don’t change their attitude and their work ethic, a pink slip might be in order.

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99 Stories and More to Come: Job-Killing Sequester Cuts Hurt Families Across the United States

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Forget the silly fluff pieces mainstream media are reporting about sequestration’s effect on White House tours—there is real pain happening all over the United States.

Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel of The Huffington Post cover 99 stories of the job losses and pain felt in states across the country in Sequestration Effects: Cuts Sting Communities Nationwide.

Here are the first 10 stories:

1. Air Force base jobs lost in Tullahoma, Tenn.—The Aerospace Testing Alliance announced it is cutting 128 of 1,809 civilian jobs at Arnold Air Force Base in Tullahoma starting April 19. It also has put in place a 20% pay cut and weekly furloughs for workers at a research facility. [Link]

2. Loss of jobs in Rock Island, Ill.—The U.S. Army garrison, Rock Island Arsenal, announced it is firing 175 employees, 44 of whom are temporary workers, 131 of whom will see their jobs unrenewed when their terms expire. [Link]

3. Medical response times lengthened in central Nebraska—Medical responders have had response times lengthened because of the closing of a control tower at the Central Nebraska Regional Airport. [Link]

4. Food pantry closed in Murray, Utah—The Salt Lake Community Action Program closed its food pantry, one of five locations that serve more than 1,000 people every month. Executive Director Cathy Hoskins told The Huffington Post that in addition to the closure, the organization has stopped paying into employees’ retirement plans, won’t fill an open job and told some staffers to take a week’s unpaid leave. “I’ve had one person retire, we’re not replacing them. We’re not doing any hiring at all,” Hoskins said. “We’re trying very hard to boost our volunteers, but this is hard work working in a pantry. And if you get a volunteer, usually it’s a short-term volunteer because it’s just very, very difficult work…. No raises, no increases, none of that stuff. We’re cutting everything we possibly can.” [Link]

5. Research employees lost in Durham, N.C.—The Duke Clinical Research Institute is planning to “downsize” 50 employees. [Link]

6. Contractor jobs lost in southwest Oklahoma—Northrop Grumman Information Systems’ Lawton, Okla., site issued 26 layoff notices. The defense contractor CGI is anticipating that sequestration would affect 270 workers at its Lawton site. [Link]

7. Health care jobs cut in Hampton Roads, Va.—Officials at Hampton Roads Planning District Commission announced that 1,600 jobs in the region’s health care sector would disappear. “It won’t be job cuts,” said James A. Clary, an economist with the group. “It will be not filling the positions.” [Link]

8. Health care workers laid off in Saranac Lake, N.Y.—Adirondack Health, a medical center at Lake Placid, announced it was laying off 18 workers after firing 17 in December. [Link]

9. Rehabilitation center for Native Americans closed in Sitka, Alaska—The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium announced that on April 30, it is closing the Bill Brady Healing Center, a residential drug and alcohol treatment center for Alaska Natives. Michael Jenkins, communications director, said the approximately 20 people who work there will be transferred to other positions in the organization, furloughed or fired. “For the most part, because of our location here in Southeast, alcohol and drug abuse has a very high incidence. So taking this away is going to make it difficult,” he said. [Link]

10. Education jobs lost in Sioux City, Iowa—The Iowa Early Intervention education program is bracing for the loss of 11 teaching positions, while the Sioux City Community School Board is looking at potentially 30 staff positions being eliminated. [Link]

Read the rest of the 99 stories on The Huffington Post.

Remember, the sequester is a completely made-up, dumb idea and can be easily repealed by Congress. This year alone, 750,000 people will lose their jobs because of the sequester.

Working families are calling on Congress to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from benefit cuts (i.e., raising the retirement age and the “chained” CPI), repeal the sequester and close tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthiest 2%.

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New Fronts Open in the Coordinated War on Workers: Utah and South Dakota

Photo from deltaMike on Flickr, via Creative Commons

Last year, the War on Workers came to Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire, Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and most notoriously, Wisconsin. Seemingly identical bills containing collective bargaining restrictions sailed through statehouses all over the country in 2011, and 2012 is proving just as dangerous to workers’ rights.

Gov. Mitch Daniels and the Indiana legislature kicked off the year by ramming through a right-to-work law, with identical measures making their way to ballots in Ohio and Minnesota. This week, Arizona shocked workers advocates by introducing four bills with the most egregious attacks on workers’ rights in the country.

Now two new fronts have opened.

In Utah, legislators introduced a measure that Democratic Rep. Brian King called “our little version of Scott Walker.” See if this sounds familiar:

A bill introduced last week in the Utah legislature would ban government employees from collectively bargaining on any issue except for wages and health benefits. The proposal would bar unions from having a say in things like training, equipment and disciplinary procedures.

Like Arizona, Utah is already a “right-to-work” state, so these measures are completely punitive, political, and intended to put politicians in charge of the decisions that affect workers lives.

In South Dakota, we had some luck. Again, this is also a “right-to-work” state with a low 5.1 percent union density. Average state worker salaries have actually been decreasing in South Dakota. But that’s not enough for the anti-worker crowd, who want to remove any chance of working families advocating for themselves and their future.

A ban on public worker collective bargaining was introduced by Republican Rep. Brian Liss, but was quickly killed by lawmakers in a House committee. Liss was the only one who spoke in favor of the bill. In fact, Liss’s co-sponsor in the Senate, fellow Republican Sen. Stan Adelstein, withdrew his support after “conversations with friends and supporters on both sides of the aisle,” according to “The bill would be in opposition to my values of supporting fair compensation, and recognition for our state’s capable public employees,” said Adelstein.

Sen. Adelstein’s comments reflect a barely noticed trend throughout the War on Workers. For the most part, the battle lines on collective bargaining issues have been based on party. But the attacks have been revealing moderate or otherwise reasonable Republicans who are recognizing these efforts for what they are: punitive, unnecessary, and not at all related to creating jobs and getting the economy back on track.

This is going to be especially important as we fight back against the War on Workers in states like Utah and Arizona, where Republicans dominate the legislatures.

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