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AFL-CIO Joins CWA Call for $4,000 Wage Increase for Working People

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 13:10
AFL-CIO Joins CWA Call for $4,000 Wage Increase for Working People CWA

The Donald Trump administration repeatedly has claimed that its tax bill would result in a $4,000 wage increase for working people. Today, the AFL-CIO has joined a campaign by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) to demand corporations guarantee this raise in writing. The labor federation is rallying the power of its 12.5 million members and the entire union movement to support this campaign in every industry.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

CWA has inspired an innovative movement to demand working people get our fair share and expose the scam that is the Republican tax bill. Working people have heard the same old lies about the benefits of economic policies written by and for greedy corporations for too long. This campaign is about holding corporations and politicians accountable to their claims and getting a much-needed raise for America’s workers.

On Nov. 20, CWA sent a letter to its major employers, including AT&T, Verizon, General Electric Co., American Airlines and NBC Universal, calling on them to commit to that raise in writing. In joining the CWA’s efforts, the AFL-CIO is encouraging all unions from all sectors to join in by reaching out to their employers and encouraging all working people to sign a petition that puts employers on notice that they will be held accountable if the Republican tax bill becomes law. 

In a powerful op-ed, CWA President Christopher Shelton laid out how the Republican tax scam would hurt working people and increase the deficit by more than $1 trillion:

Republicans are on the brink of passing a massive tax overhaul, and it’s looking like the biggest con of the Trump era so far. And that’s saying a lot.

The legislation being jammed through by the House and Senate Republicans is a tax giveaway to corporations and the richest 1 percent, paid for by working and middle-income families.

Across the board, working people will be hurt by this plan, whether by the new incentives to corporations to send U.S. jobs overseas, the loss of the medical expense deduction, new taxes imposed on education benefits, the inability to deduct interest on student loans, the loss of state and local tax deductions, or the forced budget cuts to Medicare, transportation, health care and other critical programs.

Despite the double-talk from Republicans anxious to sell this plan, it’s not hard to figure out who Republicans really want to help. Why else would tax cuts for corporations and tax changes that benefit the wealthiest Americans—like the estate tax—be permanent, while individual tax cuts for middle-income families are only temporary?...

Working people know better than to believe the boss’ promises unless they are in writing. That’s why my union has asked some of our biggest employers to sign an agreement that says if the tax plan passes, working people will get their $4,000.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 12/12/2017 - 14:10

Union-Made Holiday Gift Ideas

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 12:10
Union-Made Holiday Gift Ideas AFL-CIO

It's not too late yet to find that perfect holiday gift that carries a union label. Below is a wide range of gift possibilities, from clothes to games to sports equipment and more, made by union-members across the country.

This list is compiled from Union Plus, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor's resource site, Labor 411, the AFL-CIO Union Label and Service Trades Department (UL&STD) and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) website. Check them out for even more gift ideas.

Apparel and Accessories
  • Carhartt
  • Filson clothes and bags
  • Garnier Fructis hair care products
  • Joseph Abboud
  • Nunn Bush shoes
  • Phillips-Van Heusen
  • Red Wing Shoes
  • Shinola watches
  • Winston Leather
  • Wolverine boots
  • More clothing and apparel
Games and Toys
  • Boggle
  • Candy Land
  • Clue
  • Connect Four
  • Cranium
  • Easy-Bake
  • The Game of Life
  • G.I. Joe
  • Heroscape
  • Marvel & Disney toys and games made by Hasbro
  • Memory
  • Mousetrap
  • Mr. Potato Head
  • My Little Pony
  • Operation
  • Play-Doh
  • Rubik's
  • Sorry
  • Strawberry Shortcake
  • Tinkertoy
  • Tonka
  • Transformers
  • Trivial Pursuit
  • Twister
  • Weebles
  • Yahtzee
  • Check out other games and more toys
Sports Equipment
  • American Athletic gym equipment
  • Bell Sports
  • Ebonite Bowling Balls
  • Louisville Slugger
  • Remington Arms
  • Standard Golf Company
  • Wilson Sporting Goods
  • Other sports equipment
  • Armstrong
  • Black & Decker Tools
  • Channellock
  • Craftsman
  • Cutco knives
  • Klein Tools
  • Ridgid
  • SnapOn Tools
  • Stanley Hand Tools
  • Union Tools
  • Warwood
  • More tools
Stocking Stuffers
  • Rayovac batteries
  • Bic lighters
  • Allan Traditional Candy Canes and other candies
  • Boyer Mallo cups and other candies
  • Brown & Haley holiday gift boxes, baskets, tins and packages
  • Dare Foods Limited variety of gums, jellies, hard candy and gift tubs
  • Frankford Candy & Chocolate holiday candy toys, gift baskets, tins boxes and packs
  • Ghirardelli chocolates
  • Hershey chocolates
  • Jelly Belly
  • Jordan Almonds
  • Laffy Taffy
  • Linette Quality Chocolates
  • Nestle chocolates
  • Pearson’s Candy Company
  • Sconza Candy Company
  • See’s Candies
  • Other union-made snacks
Wine and Spirits
  • Andre champagne
  • Arbor Mist
  • C.K. Mondavi
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle
  • Cook's champagne
  • Gallo Estate wines
  • Gallo of Sonoma
  • St. Supery
  • Tott's champagne
  • Turning Leaf
  • More wine and spirits
  • Bass Pale Ale
  • Beck's
  • Blue Moon
  • Budweiser
  • Busch
  • Killian's
  • Kirin
  • Labatt Blue
  • Land Shark Lager
  • Michelob
  • Mickey's
  • Miller
  • Molson Canadian
  • O'Doul's
  • Olde English 800
  • Pabst
  • Red Stripe
  • Rolling Rock
  • Sam Adams
  • Schlitz
  • ShockTop
  • More union-made beer
If You’re in the ‘Big Spender’ Category

Check out many other gift ideas from by the Fire Fighters (IAFF).

Finally, if you are traveling and stay in a hotel, make sure it is a fair hotel!

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 12/12/2017 - 13:10

Call Congress on Wednesday to Push NAFTA Talks in a Better Direction

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 10:19
Call Congress on Wednesday to Push NAFTA Talks in a Better Direction AFL-CIO

Talks that could reform U.S. trade policy that has been driving down wages and rigging our economy for nearly 25 years continue in Washington, D.C., during the week of Dec. 11-16. 

These talks are critical because they could reshape the rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is called a “trade deal” but is really little more than a set of rules that promote outsourcing and give global corporations more rights under the law than ordinary families.

Join our national call-in day on Dec. 13 to tell Congress that the new NAFTA must ensure working people in the United States, Canada and Mexico the right to join together and negotiate for better wages and working conditions or the rest of the talks won’t make a difference. Dial 855-856-7545 to call.

The insidious thing about NAFTA is that unlike run-of-the-mill bad laws, it can’t be fixed by a simple vote of Congress. It takes the agreement of three countries to change it: the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Global companies that profit from NAFTA by polluting the environment and denying working people the freedom to join together to negotiate for better wages and working conditions love “trade deals” like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership because they are hard to fix. This means that profits for these companies keep mounting, even as they deny working people raises, reduce health benefits and close entire workplaces to take jobs to countries where they can exploit workers even worse than they can here.

While some good ideas have been suggested in the NAFTA talks (including Canada’s labor proposal and the U.S. proposal to limit investor-state dispute settlement), there are other proposals that would rig our economy even further by empowering Wall Street banks and big pharmaceutical companies at our expense.

Most importantly, these talks have not prioritized fixing the deplorable labor system in Mexico, in which abusive employers conspire with “protection unions” to keep wages and benefits down while the government looks the other way. If this abusive system can’t be dismantled, ordinary working families will continue to be denied rights in Mexico, which will continue to result in job losses and lower wages in the U.S. and Canada.

You can help push these talks in the right direction!

Call 855-856-7545 on Dec. 13, when a nationwide coalition of labor, environmental, consumer, faith and farm groups are holding a #ReplaceNAFTA call-in day to demand that NAFTA renegotiations include labor, environmental and climate provisions with swift and certain enforcement.

​If you miss the call-in day, you can still join the fight by texting TRADE to 235246.  ​

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 12/12/2017 - 11:19


Union Members Winning Elections Coast to Coast

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 12:10
Union Members Winning Elections Coast to Coast Union Members winning elections

This week, working family advocates won electoral victories from coast to coast, with Dahlia Vertreese winning election as mayor of Hillside, New Jersey, and Myrtle Cole being re-elected as president of the San Diego City Council.

These victories are part of a larger trend, where a strong independent union movement provides the support and expertise to help ensure that when working people run for office, working people win.

Strong independent union movements at the state and local level have been growing for years, and now the impact is being felt at a national level as we define a pro-worker agenda committed to the issues that matter most to working people everywhere.

Working people win when working people run. The New Jersey State AFL-CIO’s record says it all. A total of 965 union members have won office in that state’s program, with an annual win ratio of more than 70%.

Successful local candidate programs have gone national. America’s largest federation of labor unions passed a powerful national resolution on political independence, by promising to train and campaign for union members to win public office.

The goal is simple: to win better lives for working people in every corner of this great nation by putting working people in leadership roles.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 12/08/2017 - 13:10

Labor Department Proposes Legalizing Wage Theft

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 11:49
Labor Department Proposes Legalizing Wage Theft

Too many restaurant owners already break the law by stealing tips from their servers. Now the Department of Labor wants to give its blessing to this kind of wage theft.

The Labor Department is moving quickly to establish a new rule that would make tips the property of restaurant owners instead of workers.

This week, President Donald Trump's administration proposed getting rid of an existing rule that makes tips the property of servers that restaurant owners cannot take away.

Under the new proposal, restaurant owners who pay their employees as little as $7.25 per hour could do whatever they want with tips left by customers for waitstaff. Restaurant owners could even keep the tips for themselves.

The federal minimum cash wage for tipped workers—at just $2.13 per hour—is already lower than for other workers. This low subminimum wage means that tipped workers depend on tips for virtually all their take-home pay after taxes, so they receive their take-home pay directly from customers. Not surprisingly, tipped workers have higher rates of poverty, discrimination and sexual harassment. Undocumented and immigrant workers in the restaurant industry are particularly vulnerable to wage theft.

The administration’s proposal would take money out of the pockets of some of the lowest-paid workers in our country and hand it over to restaurant owners, many of them big corporations.

Does that sound familiar? This is the same kind of reverse Robin Hood scheme as the disgraceful tax bill now making its way through Congress.

We cannot let them get away with this. The administration is trying to sneak this change through without hearing from workers, customers or even employers who disagree at a time of year when tipped workers are the busiest. The deadline for comments on this proposal is Jan. 4, 2018.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 12/08/2017 - 12:49

President of IBEW Local 1253 Joins Sit-In to Fight ‘Dead-Wrong’ Tax Bill

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 10:50
President of IBEW Local 1253 Joins Sit-In to Fight ‘Dead-Wrong’ Tax Bill IBEW

Outraged by the GOP’s tax bill, a local Electrical Workers (IBEW) president was among five protesters who staged a sit-in and ultimately were arrested Monday at Sen. Susan Collins’ (R) office in Bangor, Maine.

"This bill gives massive tax cuts to the rich on the backs of working people. It was written by the rich and powerful for the rich and powerful," said Nick Paquet, an electrician in his second term as president of IBEW Local 1253 in Augusta, Maine. "Sen. Collins knows right from wrong, and this bill is dead wrong for Maine."

Collins has bucked the GOP party line on occasion, and Paquet thought she might do it again. As a father of four children ages nine to 19, he certainly hoped so. "To be honest, I really thought she wouldn’t vote for it, especially because of who she represents. We’re not well-to-do," he said. "We’re a very scrappy part of Maine up here, and good-paying jobs are hard to come by."

Instead, Collins joined all but one Republican in voting for the bill, which passed 51-49 in the early hours of Dec. 2. The legislation has to survive a second vote once it emerges from a House–Senate conference committee.

If Collins and at least one other GOP senator can be persuaded to change their minds, the bill would die. Paquet urged union families to "call, aggressively call" their senators to demand they oppose it. "You don’t have to do a sit-in like we did, but we really hope we inspire other union households to get involved."

A nonpartisan economic analysis predicts the national debt will soar by $1.5 trillion under the bill, which hands hundreds of billions of dollars to corporations and the rich. Meanwhile, it ends or nullifies major deductions for low-income and middle-class Americans, including medical expenses, home mortgage interest, student loan debt and union dues. An estimated 13 million people would lose health care and—contrary to GOP talking points—the bill would destroy, not create, jobs due to tax breaks that give companies incentive to move Americans’ jobs to other countries. At home, the bill would have crippling effects on federal money for infrastructure, costing many workers their livelihoods.

The Economic Policy Institute called the bill "a scam through and through," warning that in addition to its immediate consequences, "the deficits it will leave in its wake will be used to attack Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."

Motivated by all of that, Paquet arrived at Collins’ office around 3 p.m. Monday with a nurse, a veteran [with disabilities], a retiree and an AFL-CIO mobilizer. They asked to talk to Collins by phone—she was in Washington, D.C.—but had to settle for an hour’s discussion with a staffer. Police arrested them peacefully several hours later when they refused orders to leave. They were quickly processed in and out of the county jail on criminal trespass charges. They have a Jan. 17 court date.

What upsets Paquet as much as the bill’s content is that Republican leaders wrote it in secret without public hearings or Democratic input, then pushed it through the Senate at warp speed. He doubts Collins and most other senators have read the bill’s 479 pages, let alone fully understood it before voting.

"Why this big rush?" Paquet said. "Our voices aren’t being heard—state level, federal, they really forget who they’re working for. They were elected to serve their constituents, just like I was elected to serve my members."

This post originally appeared at IBEW.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 12/08/2017 - 11:50

A Roving Ambassador for Peace: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 10:31
A Roving Ambassador for Peace: The Working People Weekly List AFL-CIO

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s this week’s Working People Weekly List.

Labor Leader Tefere Gebre Awarded Peace Prize: "Tefere Gebre, a stalwart of the cause of organized labor, was given a 'Roving Ambassador for Peace' award in a ceremony, near Capitol Hill on Tuesday. Gebre, a native of Ethiopia, is an Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO. According to the program notes, he became in 2013, the 'first immigrant, political refugee, black man and local labor council leader elected as a national officer of the AFL-CIO.'"

JPMorgan and AFL-CIO CEOs: Finding a Job Is Still Too Hard. Here’s How We Can Fix That: "By the end of the year, it is estimated that almost 2 million new jobs will have been created in 2017. While that is certainly good news for the economy, we need strategies in place to ensure that this economic growth benefits all working families. Our country should be a land of opportunity for anyone willing to work hard to realize their dreams, regardless of their background."

Ending Temporary Protection for Foreign Workers Could Hurt U.S. Rebuilding Efforts: "The Trump administration has been eliminating some protections that allow more than 300,000 people to live and work in the U.S. under what is known as temporary protected status. Many could face deportation when their status expires."

Bank Deregulation Bill Will Leave Taxpayers Holding the Bag: "These days, it’s hard to keep straight all of Congress’ efforts to build plutocracy—the further consolidation of the power of the richest Americans at the expense of the rest of us.  With the Senate passing a multi-trillion dollar job-killing giveaway of our tax dollars to the people and companies who need it least, you might have missed the bill moving through the Senate to deregulate Wall Street and consumer finance."

Guest Worker Bill Will Put Hundreds of Thousands of Americans Out of Work: "When the Carrier Corporation announced it would be closing its furnace factory in Indianapolis, a decision that would have destroyed close to 1,000 middle class jobs in the U.S., there was widespread outrage from political leaders from both parties. But when the House Judiciary Committee narrowly passed H.R. 4092 — the Agricultural Guestworker Act this fall, a bill that would flood the meat processing and agricultural sectors with hundreds of thousands of untrained visa holders — there was mostly silence on both sides of the aisle."

CBO: Senate Tax Bill Increases Deficit by $1.4 Trillion: "The Senate GOP tax plan will increase the deficit by more than $1.4 trillion over a decade, according to a new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)."

Credential Engine to Bridge Gap Between Skilled Workers and Companies That Need Them: "In a new op-ed for Fortune, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon announce a project designed to bring together highly skilled, credentialed working people with companies that need their specific skills."

U.S. Government Turns Its Back on Migrant Rights—Again: "Last weekend, the U.S. government announced that it would pull out of negotiations on the U.N. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration ("Global Compact"). This decision abdicates U.S. leadership on a critical human rights issue and further weakens our position on the global stage. It also enables the Donald Trump administration to continue to advance an agenda that criminalizes migrant workers in our country and turns away people fleeing violence and persecution."

Here Come the Republican Benefit Cuts: "First, they run up the deficit with massive tax giveaways for millionaires and Wall Street; then they use the deficit as an excuse to cut benefits for working people."

Why You Should Care About the Federal Reserve: "The Federal Reserve Board makes key decisions about our economy and our financial system. It sets short-term interest rates and regulates the big banks."

Working People Arrested for Attempting to Hold Sen. Susan Collins Accountable for Anti-Worker Tax Vote: "On Monday, five working people were arrested in Bangor, Maine, after they refused to leave Sen. Susan Collins' office until she committed to opposing the horrible tax legislation passed by the Senate last week."

Congress Can Restore Service Members’ and Veterans’ Rights: "In October, in a 50-50 tie vote broken by Vice President Mike Pence, Congress passed a resolution that stripped service members and veterans of their right to band together in court when companies violate the law and harm thousands or millions of people. Congress has a chance to right that wrong this week. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s arbitration rule repealed by Congress would have stopped Wall Street banks, giant credit bureaus like Equifax and predatory lenders from putting fine print clauses in their contracts that strip people of their right to join together in court."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 12/08/2017 - 11:31

The Economy Gains 228,000 Jobs in November, and Unemployment Unchanged at 4.1%

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 09:43
The Economy Gains 228,000 Jobs in November, and Unemployment Unchanged at 4.1%

The U.S. economy gained 228,000 jobs in November, and unemployment was unchanged at 4.1%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This continues the recovery of the labor market at a tempered rate, which means the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee should continue to let the economy grow and not raise interest rates.

In response to the November jobs numbers, AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs tweeted:

So far this year, employment growth has averaged 174,000 a month compared to 187,000 last year. @AFLCIO #jobsreport

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) December 8, 2017


Continued attacks on health care access, like in the tax bill, have created uncertainty slowing growth in employment in health care. Growth has slowed to 24,000 a month this year from 32,000 a month last year. @AFLCIO #JobsReport

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) December 8, 2017


Wage growth continues to be moderate. Over the year, wages were up 2.5%. Combined with slowing average monthly job growth and uncertainty in health care from the tax bill; the @federalreserve needs to be slow on interest rate changes now. @AFLCIO #JobsReport

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) December 8, 2017


Convergence of Black employment-to-population ratio to overall employment rate that began back in 2011 is slowing. Overall employment-to-population ratio is still slow to recover. @AFLCIO @rolandsmartin @AprilDRyan @LVBurke #JobsReport

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) December 8, 2017


The broadest measure of unemployment (including part time but seeking full time and discouraged workers) is at 8.0% from 7.9% last month. So, labor market improvement stalls by broadest measures. @AFLCIO #JobsReport

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) December 8, 2017


2017 is on course to be the weakest average monthly job gain since 2012 and look at who agrees this is true. @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) December 8, 2017

Last month's biggest job gains were in professional and business services (46,000), manufacturing (31,000), health care (30,000) and specialty trade construction contractors (23,000). Employment in other major industries, including mining, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, leisure and hospitality, and government, changed little over the month.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for teenagers (15.9%) increased in November. The jobless rates for blacks (7.3%), Hispanics (4.7%), adult men (3.7%), adult women (3.7%), whites (3.6%) and Asians (3.0%) showed little change.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed in November, and accounted for 23.8% of the unemployed.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 12/08/2017 - 10:43

Department for Professional Employees Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 13:46
Department for Professional Employees Celebrates 40th Anniversary

On Dec. 7, 2017, the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, (DPE) celebrates its 40th anniversary.

In honor of DPE’s 40th year, we reflect on the growth of professional union members and recognize DPE’s affiliate unions. Since DPE’s founding, professional union members have grown from 18% to 42% of the labor movement. Today, more than 6 million professionals—including doctors, nurses, teachers, professors, scientists, engineers, entertainers, performers, sales representatives and administrative personnel—have joined together in union to negotiate for better pay, benefits and working conditions.

Here’s a message from DPE President Paul E. Almeida marking the occasion:

Earlier this year, the AFL-CIO 2017 Convention recognized the dramatic growth of professionals in unions and professionals’ role in the future of the labor movement when the delegates adopted Resolution 36—Celebrating DPE: 40 Years of Growing Professional Union Membership.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler congratulated DPE:

.@AFLCIO Secretary-Treasurer @lizshuler says happy birthday to DPE! Thanks Secretary-Treasurer Shuler! #40YearsofDPE #1u

— DPE (@DPEaflcio) December 7, 2017

Portions of this post originally appeared at DPE.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 12/07/2017 - 14:46

Credential Engine to Bridge Gap Between Skilled Workers and Companies That Need Them

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 12:44
Credential Engine to Bridge Gap Between Skilled Workers and Companies That Need Them

In a new op-ed for Fortune, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon announce a project designed to bring together highly skilled, credentialed working people with companies that need their specific skills.

An excerpt from the op-ed:

Getting people into available, good-paying jobs remains a challenge. It is more confusing than ever to understand what training, education, and experience in the form of apprenticeships, certificates, college degrees, or licenses are valued in today’s dynamic and changing economy. It is critical for job seekers and employers to understand what credentials are necessary to get a good job and which will be the most helpful in advancing their career.

In fact, there has been no single registry to house the estimated 250,000 credentials available in the U.S. today. There has been no search engine for human resource departments, job seekers, or curriculum planners to easily sort, assess, update, and better understand the skills and competencies needed to fill the 5.5 million open jobs that are reported to be available today....

The good news is that a promising solution is on the horizon. It’s a database called Credential Engine, which like websites that use algorithms to compare flights and the cost of hotel rooms, allows job seekers, employers, and educators to easily search, aggregate, and compare employment credentials.

This open-source tool will make it easier for industries such as health care, which is expected to grow 18% by 2026, adding about 2.3 million jobs in the process, to easily lay out the education and training credentials required to train, recruit, and hire staff. People searching for jobs or educational programs can visit the site and compare options....

Helping every American share in our economic growth requires close collaboration and partnership between business and labor. This goal is within reach if we can utilize technology to build the tools and provide resources that offer a clear pathway for job seekers to secure the skills that today’s growing industries need.

By cutting through the confusion and working together, we can pioneer better ways to make our economy work for everyone.

Read the full op-ed.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 12/07/2017 - 13:44

U.S. Government Turns Its Back on Migrant Rights—Again

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 12:41
U.S. Government Turns Its Back on Migrant Rights—Again AFL-CIO

Last weekend, the U.S. government announced that it would pull out of negotiations on the U.N. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration ("Global Compact"). This decision abdicates U.S. leadership on a critical human rights issue and further weakens our position on the global stage. It also enables the Donald Trump administration to continue to advance an agenda that criminalizes migrant workers in our country and turns away people fleeing violence and persecution.

There is an urgent need for a rights-based coordination of migration governance, and unions have been actively advocating for such an approach. Mass human displacement is on the rise due to conflicts, climate change and lack of economic opportunity. In the past two decades, more than 60,000 adults and children have died on migration routes as more and more people undertake dangerous journeys in search of a better life. In 2016 alone, at least 5,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe and we have seen a 17% increase in recorded deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2017. Those that make it to their destination are too often subject to exploitation, criminalization and discrimination. The stakes could not be higher.

The U.N. Compact is an opportunity for governments to build coherent migration policies that promote shared prosperity and protect workers' rights. Many migrant workers, particularly those who lack regular status, are subjected to wage theft, unsafe working conditions, harassment and abuse on the job. This is often enabled by domestic laws that exclude migrant workers from critical protections and criminalize those who come forward, making workers unlikely to report abuse. Some two-thirds of the world’s 244 million migrants are working, and like all working people, they should be allowed to work with dignity. Ensuring that migrants can exercise labor rights also benefits all workers by preventing employers from treating them as an exploitable underclass.

The Trump administration has pursued a domestic policy on migration that is discriminatory and cruel. From the ban on migration from predominantly Muslim countries and stripping Temporary Protected Status from workers who have been in the country for decades to raiding worksites and communities, the administration has rolled out policies and practices that violate fundamental human rights. In that context, it is unsurprising that the U.S. government has ceased working with the international community to ensure the safety of migrants and their families.

As the Global Compact process continues, we hope other countries will fill the void in leadership left by the United States. We urge them to use the labor demands document of the global unions as a guide. For our part, the AFL-CIO will continue to advocate for a rights-based approach to migration policy at the global level and promote immigration reforms at home that will help ensure safer workplaces, build a stronger economic future for our nation, and support the basic rights and dignity of all working people.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 12/07/2017 - 13:41

Here Come the Republican Benefit Cuts

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 11:24
Here Come the Republican Benefit Cuts

First, they run up the deficit with massive tax giveaways for millionaires and Wall Street; then they use the deficit as an excuse to cut benefits for working people.

This is what the Republican tax scam is all about. Anybody who’s been paying attention should have seen this coming a mile away. The only surprising thing is that they’re not even waiting for their tax bill to run up the deficit before they start demanding benefit cuts.

Last month, House Republican Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced, "Congress will turn next year to spending cuts to try to lower the deficit…that’s the second step after cutting taxes."

Yesterday Ryan said, "We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit." Just to be clear, by "entitlement reform," Ryan means cutting Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

Why would Ryan want to cut health benefits? Yesterday he claimed that, "Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt” and “that’s where the problem lies, fiscally speaking."

Well, gee, if you’re so concerned about the debt, maybe you shouldn’t be trying to ram through Congress a wasteful tax boondoggle that has an official price tag of nearly $1.5 trillion, but that will surely cost a lot more than that because it’s so chock full of budgeting gimmicks.

Other Republican leaders have joined the call for benefit cuts. Earlier this week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, "You’ve got to look at entitlements."

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said, "You also have to bring spending under control….The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries."

One group of Republicans in the House–the Republican Study Committee–is pushing a set of proposals to cut $1 trillion from entitlement programs.

Last week, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was pointing to the deficit as an excuse for letting children’s health benefits expire. The Children's Health Insurance Program provides health care for 9 million children, and its funding lapsed two months ago. Hatch explained that "the reason CHIP’s having trouble is because we don’t have money anymore."

"We don’t have money anymore?" Again, if Republicans really thought this were true, why would they be wasting $1.5 trillion on tax giveaways for millionaires and Wall Street? Why would they be wasting $151 billion on estate tax cuts for the wealthiest 0.2% of heirs in the country?

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) explained why Republicans are so intent on giving tax breaks to the wealthiest heirs: "I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it's on booze, or women, or movies."

In other words, working-class people are good-for-nothings who waste all their money, while Paris Hilton is powering the economy forward with her investments in miniature dog palaces.

Last week, Hatch showed this same kind of contempt for working people. He said, "I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won't help themselves, won't lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything."

The Republican leadership seems to have a double standard when it comes to deficits. Deficits are no big deal when it comes to giving a $1.5 trillion Christmas present to their millionaire friends on Wall Street. Yet deficits are an urgent national emergency when it comes to things that matter to working people—like Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, education and infrastructure.

This double standard is at the core of the Republican tax scam that dings working people while rewarding people at the very top who don’t need any more tax breaks. The Republican plan is to give millionaires and Wall Street massive tax breaks and make the rest of us pay the price in the form of outsourced jobs, Medicare cuts, Medicaid cuts, education cuts, infrastructure cuts, higher taxes on middle-class families, higher health insurance premiums, more people without health insurance and more people dying because they lack health insurance.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 12/07/2017 - 12:24

Why You Should Care About the Federal Reserve

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 12:16
Why You Should Care About the Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve Board makes key decisions about our economy and our financial system. It sets short-term interest rates and regulates the big banks.

For the past four years, it has been led by its first woman chair, Janet Yellen. Under Yellen’s leadership, the Fed has been focused on putting people to work—on full employment—in a way we haven’t seen in decades. This is why we have seen steady job growth over this period.

But President Donald Trump chose not to reappoint Yellen. The man he did nominate, Jerome Powell, comes from Wall Street, but he has worked with Yellen on the Fed. More appointments are on the way because of several vacancies on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors.

If not done right, this changing of the guard at the Fed poses a real threat to working people. If these vacancies are filled with the wrong people, monetary policy could turn hostile to jobs and the deregulation of the big banks could lead to investment capital moving away from Main Street and back to Wall Street speculation, starving operating businesses and threatening to bring about another financial crisis.

Some background. The Federal Reserve is an enormously powerful economic policy institution whose decisions have deep ramifications in the daily lives of working families. The Fed sets interest rates and its decisions impact a gamut of rates—including credit card rates, mortgage rates, auto loan rates and the rate of interest paid by federal, state and local governments. All of this, in turn, affects the level of economic activity, the availability of jobs and wages.

These are critical "bread and butter" concerns for all working people, which is why unions must monitor and influence appointments to the Federal Reserve.

The current situation. Trump’s nominee, Powell, is moving toward a confirmation vote in the Senate. In the coming months, Trump will be nominating more individuals to fill four other vacant slots.

Consequently, in the space of a few months, the president will have appointed five out of seven members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

Given its powers and given its policy discretion, it is essential that the Fed be governed by individuals of the highest caliber who have a true commitment to public service in the public interest. To make sure this is the case, we believe nominees should be selected in accordance with six fundamental criteria listed below and described in more detail here:

  1. Character and independence.
  2. Experience and record.
  3. Commitment to full employment.
  4. Managing inflation as part of the larger economic picture.
  5. Commitment to financial regulation.
  6. Policy driven by what is happening to real people, not mathematical rules.

These criteria are nonpartisan, and they should guide the president’s choice of nominees as well as consideration of nominees by the Senate. They also should guide future administrations, regardless of political stripe.

Applying these criteria can help ensure that the Fed helps the economy create jobs, that real wages rise in line with productivity growth and that working people share in the wealth we help create.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 12/06/2017 - 13:16

Working People Arrested for Attempting to Hold Sen. Susan Collins Accountable for Anti-Worker Tax Vote

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 11:07
Working People Arrested for Attempting to Hold Sen. Susan Collins Accountable for Anti-Worker Tax Vote Sarah Bigney

On Monday, five working people were arrested in Bangor, Maine, after they refused to leave Sen. Susan Collins' office until she committed to opposing the horrible tax legislation passed by the Senate last week.

The working people staged a sit-in at Collins' office after she voted in favor of the Republican tax bill. The protesters were later arrested for not leaving the office. Here is their story, as told through Sarah Bigney's Twitter:

Breaking: A group of workers have notified @SenatorCollins staff that they are not leaving her Bangor Office until she commits To oppose the tax scam. #mepolitics #peoplesfilibuster

— Sarah Bigney (@sarahBMaine) December 4, 2017

Jim , a retiree who depends on Medicare, is afraid that the tax cuts for the rich will jeopardize his health care #mepolitics @SenatorCollins

— Sarah Bigney (@sarahBMaine) December 4, 2017

We are occupying @SenatorCollins Bangor Office asking her to oppose the #GOPtaxscam @erinrn01 @MeNursesUnion @NationalNurses #mepolitics

— Sarah Bigney (@sarahBMaine) December 4, 2017

We are not leaving until @SenatorCollins commits to oppose. This tax plan hurts Maine working families #mepolitics Stop the #GOPtaxscam

— Sarah Bigney (@sarahBMaine) December 4, 2017

An electrician, a nurse, a senior all know the #GOPtaxscam will devestate our country. We can’t let this stand. #mepolitics

— Sarah Bigney (@sarahBMaine) December 4, 2017

Police have notified us that if we don’t leave at 5pm , we will be charged with trespass and arrested. #mepolitics #GOPtaxscam.
Not leaving until Collins meets with us and agrees to stand up for the working class

— Sarah Bigney (@sarahBMaine) December 4, 2017

Under the #GOPTaxScam, teachers will no longer be able to deduct the school supplies they buy for their classrooms with their own money, but millionaires get tax breaks. #thatsmessedup #mepolitics @SenatorCollins

— Sarah Bigney (@sarahBMaine) December 4, 2017

Police notified us we have until 530. Still no word from @SenatorCollins about which side she is on: the ultra wealthy and CEOs, or Maine working people. #goptaxscam #mepolitics

— Sarah Bigney (@sarahBMaine) December 4, 2017

Erin is a nurse and she is here because the #GOPTaxScam will hurt her patients. #mepolitics @MeNursesUnion @NationalNurses @AFLCIO

— Sarah Bigney (@sarahBMaine) December 4, 2017

Nick Paquet, electrician from Benton and father of 4. “How much more do the Waltons need? This is ludicrous.” #mepolitics @SenatorCollins #GOPtaxScam

— Sarah Bigney (@sarahBMaine) December 4, 2017

The staff for @SenatorCollins are backtracking on their pledge to have us arrested, appear to not want the bad press, maybe they know they don’t have the support of the public on giving tax cuts to the rich? #mepolitics #GOPTaxScam

— Sarah Bigney (@sarahBMaine) December 4, 2017

We can hear the DC staff of @SenatorCollins screaming at local police over the speaker phone in the back office, arguing about what to do with us. Don’t want a bad news cycle? #mepolitics

— Sarah Bigney (@sarahBMaine) December 4, 2017

We were arrested by @BANGORPOLICE, booked at Penobscot Co Jail, and released on bail. Our economy is rigged against working people and the #GOPTaxScam will make it much worse. We call on @SenatorCollins to oppose it. Thanks for the support! #mepolitics @erinrn01

— Sarah Bigney (@sarahBMaine) December 5, 2017 Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 12/06/2017 - 12:07

Gebre Awarded 'Roving Ambassador for Peace' Prize

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 12:01
Gebre Awarded 'Roving Ambassador for Peace' Prize AFL-CIO

On Tuesday, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre was awarded with the the Roving Ambassador for Peace from the World Peace Prize Awarding Council.

Father Sean McManus, president of the Irish National Caucus and chief judge of the WPPAC, spoke about why Gebre was chosen for the award:

I have the honor of being the Chief Judge of the World Peace Prize Awarding Council (headquartered in Seoul, South Korea) and was pleased to be able to propose Tefere Gebre on the basis that if one works in solidarity for justice for working men and women, one is, indeed, working for peace. I was delighted that our 14-member panel of international and interfaith judges unanimously agreed. We strongly believe that the labor movement should be recognized as powerfully contributing to world peace—based on solidarity, equality and justice for all.

Ethiopian-born Tefere became the first immigrant, political refugee, black man and local labor council leader elected as a national officer of the AFL-CIO. That is a significant, compelling narrative and a timely metaphor for today's America and for today's world—making him a most worthy recipient of the 2017 World Peace Prize "Roving Ambassador for Peace."

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 12/05/2017 - 13:01

Congress Can Restore Service Members’ and Veterans’ Rights

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 11:27
Congress Can Restore Service Members’ and Veterans’ Rights Department of Defense

In October, in a 50-50 tie vote broken by Vice President Mike Pence, Congress passed a resolution that stripped service members and veterans of their right to band together in court when companies violate the law and harm thousands or millions of people. Congress has a chance to right that wrong this week. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s arbitration rule repealed by Congress would have stopped Wall Street banks, giant credit bureaus like Equifax and predatory lenders from putting fine print clauses in their contracts that strip people of their right to join together in court.

Our organizations—Student Veterans of America and the Union Veterans Council—strongly opposed this resolution, along with the American Legion, the Military Coalition and 29 military and veterans groups. We warned senators that a vote against the arbitration rule was a vote against our military and veterans. After the bill narrowly passed both houses, the American Legion and the Union Veterans Council took the extraordinary step of calling on President Donald Trump to veto this shameful resolution.

Service members do have some protection against forced arbitration under the Military Lending Act. But four of the five top areas of service member complaints to the CFPB are not covered by the MLA.

A court decision in September illustrates how lenders use forced arbitration to prevent justice for service members. Before Shane Mathis entered the U.S. Navy, he borrowed $8,600 at 18.35% from Green Cap Financial LLC, secured in part by his 2004 Jeep. After he entered the service, he wrote three times to Green Cap and its successor, Lendmark Financial Services, asking that the interest rate be reduced, as required under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. His request was denied. Mathis then filed a lawsuit in North Carolina, but the court dismissed the case and forced him to submit his claim to a private arbitrator hired by Lendmark. In arbitration, proceedings are often kept secret and there is virtually no right to judicial review if the arbitrator ignores the facts or the law. Moreover, people do not have the same right to discover evidence of widespread problems. For example, companies that violate the SCRA often harm not just one service member but many more.

But in Congress, the voices of service members, 423 professors and legal scholars in every state, and 370 consumer groups were drowned out by the arguments of bank lobbyists, who have too much sway over some members of Congress and were able to distort the facts and mislead other members. Some senators were genuinely confused about the rule, believing erroneously that it hurt credit unions and community banks. Lobbyists even pushed the bogus argument that a person hit with an illegal $100 bank fee—who could band together with others if allowed to pursue a class action in court—will somehow win $5,400 if he or she is forced to go it alone in arbitration. In fact, the average person forced into arbitration actually loses $7,725.

This week, however, Congress has a chance to right its wrong. The Senate is considering a package of bills that would make changes to the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, among others. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) has offered an amendment that would reinstate the CFPB’s arbitration rule. The amendment exempts credit unions and community banks with fewer than $10 billion in assets, to make crystal clear that the rule will not harm small financial institutions and address the stated concerns of several key senators.

In October, the Senate voted against service members and veterans. With time to digest the facts and address senators’ concerns, now is our chance to get it right. Our military fights to protect our rights every day—today, we need to restore theirs.

This is a guest post written by Will Hubbard, vice president of government affairs of Student Veterans of America, and Will Attig, executive director of the Union Veterans Council at the AFL-CIO. This article originally appeared at HuffPost.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 12/05/2017 - 12:27

Working Families Reject GOP Tax Bill

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 09:12
Working Families Reject GOP Tax Bill AFL-CIO

Well after most of America went to bed on Friday, Senate Republicans passed a terrible tax bill that will have devastating effects on working families. In response to the Senate vote, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

The GOP tax bill that passed the Senate by one vote is nothing but an attack on America’s workers. We will pay more, corporations and billionaires will pay less. It’s a job killer. It gives billions of tax giveaways to big corporations that outsource jobs and profits.

President Trump said that he wanted to lower taxes for everyone as a Christmas gift to America, but this bill is simply a lump of coal to working families across the country. The only real gift is the major tax giveaways to Wall Street, big corporations and the super-rich, when what our country needs is investment in our schools and infrastructures that create jobs.

Other advocates for working families spoke out against the legislation. Here are some key excerpts:

Sandra Karas, treasurer of Actors’ Equity (AEA):

Senate Republicans, like their House colleagues, have stabbed us in the back. The Senate bill eliminates the deductions for ordinary and necessary business expenses, including agent fees, audition costs, research, coaching and classes, and transportation, among other expenses, which will raise taxes and make it harder for actors and stage managers to maintain their viability in the marketplace....

This latest tax bill as written not only doesn’t provide the relief for Equity’s middle-class workers, but by raising costs for thousands of artists, puts our entire industry at risk.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders:

Senators who voted for this tax plan just proved to their constituents once and for all that they are not on the side of working families. The bill represents a shameless giveaway to powerful corporate special interests at the expense of working people, seniors and children. This bill will advance a dangerous plan to force cuts to vital state and local public services and even to Medicare, Medicaid and public education.

This is not tax reform. It is a jackpot for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and a disaster for the working people who drive our economy.

AFT President Randi Weingarten:

President Trump and Senate Republicans threw the middle class under the bus today. They are handing huge tax breaks to their wealthy donors and corporations, at a time of record corporate profits and when the Dow has never been higher, while sticking it to the middle class and working folks, whose wages have been stagnant for decades and who crave basic economic security for their families. Trump and the Republicans are going after public education and services at a time when at least 29 states are still spending less on public schools than they did before the great recession. The old Republican cries against deficits, deficits, deficits are gone; passage of this bill makes it clear Republicans now only care about tax breaks for the rich. And nobody should be surprised if they use the massive deficits created by this bill to justify cuts to Medicare and Social Security....

The winners and losers are clear and the lines are drawn. President Trump and Senate Republicans have shut ‘we the people’ out of our government and broken every populist promise they made to working folks, in order to serve the interests of donors and big corporations.

Alliance for Retired Americans Executive Director Richard Fiesta:

Today’s Senate vote was shameful. With less than 2 weeks of consideration and debate, Senate Republicans just voted to give whopping tax cuts to the wealthiest individuals and corporations. Their plan will cause the deficit to explode and trigger $25 billion in cuts to Medicare next year, and another $385 billion over the next nine years.

At a moment when 10,000 Americans are turning 65 every day, members of the Senate have stolen the retirement health benefits that Americans have earned over a lifetime to provide an unneeded windfall to the top 1%. They seem determined to create a retirement crisis that will take decades to reverse.

The vast majority of Americans see this tax scam for what it is. The 4.4 million members of the Alliance for Retired Americans will remember who fought for their health care and who did not.

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) International President Larry Hanley:

America is the wealthiest country in history, but we can’t pay our bills. We owe $20 trillion and now Congress will add a trillion more dollars to give people with gold drapes money they do not even need. 

The Senate’s passage of their tax plan is likely the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich ever facilitated by Congress.

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) National President Monica Thammarath:

What the Senate has done is a shameful move to pad the pockets of the wealthy 1% at the hands of America's working and immigrant families. In addition to providing massive tax cuts for corporations, the tax scam threatens public education and affordable care and will exacerbate the growing income inequality in this country. Let's not be fooled by this ploy of 'trickle-down economics’—this is a power play of party politics to feed the insatiable corporate greed of the most powerful.

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:

Working people are angry. The GOP tax plan gouges middle-class families, seniors, the working poor and many others just so GOP members of Congress can deliver huge tax breaks to their millionaire donors. It’s appalling to see elected officials who are supposed to be representing the needs of working families in their districts completely disregard us to curry favor with the big corporations and rich political donors who fund their campaigns.

Communications Workers of America (CWA):

Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted to move ahead with their tax plan that hands over billions of dollars to corporations and the 1% at the expense of working and middle-income families who will be stuck paying the bill.

This tax plan is upside down. Instead of making working families pay more for tax breaks for the corporations and the wealthiest Americans, we should be closing the loopholes that Wall Street will continue to use. We should rebuild our infrastructure, make education affordable and make sure that corporations keep good jobs here in the U.S., instead of opening up new loopholes that encourage the offshoring of jobs, as this tax plan does.

Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia Phinney's statement on Sen. Collins’ support for corporate tax giveaway:

We are deeply disappointed that Senator Susan Collins is supporting the Republican tax plan, giving overwhelming benefits to the ultra-wealthy and big corporations on the backs of working people.

This plan further rigs the economy, deepens inequality and undercuts the future security of workers, seniors and young people. By incentivizing off-shoring, the bill is putting Maine manufacturing workers’ jobs at risk. By undercutting health care coverage, this bill will raise health care costs and decrease coverage for thousands of Mainers. By deliberately jeopardizing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, passing this proposal will hurt hundreds of thousands of Mainers.

By pushing this tax plan, Congress is selling out the American working class to further deepen the pockets of the wealthy few.

Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga:

Last year, Donald Trump and Rob Portman both ran as candidates who would look out for working Ohioans.  Today, it is with great disappointment that we see where their true intentions lie. Instead of taking the opportunity to provide meaningful tax reform for working people, they passed a bill that ultimately rigs the rules against us in favor of their super-rich donors and corporations. This bill is a huge money grab by corporate interests that had their way with Senator Portman to get everything they wanted while the average Ohioan will have to pay more taxes, and see jobs and profits outsourced overseas. They have, in effect, slapped working people in the face by doing the complete opposite of what they promised to get elected.”

Senator Portman could do well to watch the example set by Ohio’s senior senator. Senator [Sherrod] Brown spoke out against this atrocity of a bill, and he did so in the name of the working people who he stands up for every day. Senator Brown knows the harm this bill will bring to most Ohioans, and he knows better than to fall for the dishonest arguments that are being made in support of it.

Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain:

The GOP tax bill which passed the Senate is a direct attack on working people across America. It’s another attempt by the wealthiest in our nation to rig the rules of the economy against the rest of us. Through this tax bill, corporations and billionaires will pay less while the rest of us pay more. This bill gives billions of tax giveaways to big corporations that outsource jobs and profits and leave the rest of us to pick up the tab. 

The unions of the Oregon AFL-CIO are thankful for Oregon’s Senators Wyden and Merkley who did everything they could to expose this shameful bill for what it is: another version of the same economic policies that benefit the wealthy while leaving working Americans behind. 

United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard:

But Republicans feel like they’ve got to have a win. No matter what. Poor people, working people, old people be damned.

And damned they are by the GOP scam.

The GOP bill delivers massive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. The House version, for example, eliminates the estate tax. This is charged only on estates worth $5.49 million or more. So only the richest of the rich, the top 0.2%, pay. And among the tiny number nationwide that owe estate tax in 2017, the average effective rate paid is less than 17%, according to the Tax Policy Center. That’s because the rich employ experts to exploit loopholes so they never pay the official rate of 40%.

Call your representative today and tell them to vote against the bill when it comes back before the House.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 12/05/2017 - 10:12

Changing American Life? The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 10:25
Changing American Life? The Working People Weekly List

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s this week’s Working People Weekly List.

It Started as a Tax Cut. Now It Could Change American Life: "But the trickle-down story has yet to achieve its promised happy ending. Only the beginning reliably transpires, the part where wealthy people get relief. The spoils of resulting economic growth have largely been monopolized by those with the highest incomes. Pay for most American workers has been stagnant since the mid-1970s, after the rising costs of housing, health care and other basics are factored in."

Senate Women: Rules on Harassment Must Change: "The female members of the Senate, who number 21 out of 100, say the Senate’s rules for preventing sexual harassment were written to protect men and need to be changed as soon as possible."

GOP Goes for Win on Taxes, Consequences Be Damned: "An entire year of legislative defeats has grated on the GOP. Their promised Affordable Care Act repeal failed—again and again and again. Their Muslim ban was, well, banned by the courts. And now, in the waning days of November, their infrastructure bill, big beautiful border wall and brand new NAFTA are all missing. Republicans have lost so much, they’re downright desperate for a win. And that’s why they’re pushing a tax scam supported by a mere 25 percent of Americans, according to the latest Quinnipiac Poll."

Five Big Problems the Senate Republican Tax Bill Creates: "Over the past week, I’ve been speaking with conservative tax experts to try to better understand their case for the Senate’s tax bill, which Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is rushing to pass this week. What I’ve found is jarring."

Wages Really Are Rising Too Slowly. But Corporate Tax Cuts Won’t Help: "Republicans in Congress and the White House have clearly settled on a central theme to market recent plans to cut taxes on business: These cuts will end up boosting wages for American workers. As public relations, this theme is brilliant; too-sluggish growth in paychecks is a central concern for the American public. As economics, however, it’s bunk."

Will a Corporate Tax Cut Lift Worker Pay? A Union Wants It in Writing: "This week, the Communications Workers of America asked several companies that employ its members to promise to give workers a pay increase if the cut in the corporate tax rate goes through. The request, while unlikely to be heeded, highlights a critical question over who would benefit the most from the tax bill: shareholders or workers?"

What Union Activists Really Think About NAFTA and Trade: "We keep hearing that surveys show that Americans think the North American Free Trade Agreement is good for the United States, but if that is so, why did so many voters in states hard hit by ill-considered trade policies (such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) vote for the candidate who promised to fix bad trade policies in the past election?"

'Right to Work' Designed to Keep Black Workers Poor: "In his commentary, 'Unions Ignore Long History of Excluding Minorities from Jobs,' Missouri Rep. Shamed Dogan (R) highlighted past discriminatory practices in organized labor’s history as reason for implementing our state’s currently pending 'right to work' law, along with other anti-worker measures such as ending prevailing wage and minimum wage requirements."

GOP Tax Plan Is a Bad Deal for Women: "If you are looking for more reasons to oppose the GOP’s toxic tax plan, consider the impact it will have on women and families. It’s not just that women-headed households are less likely to be in the top 20%—those who have the most to gain from the GOP tax plan. The proposed GOP tax plan gives tax breaks to the wealthy while increasing taxes on working women. Women head 20% of households and, under this plan, they would end up paying more in taxes and seeing many important programs drastically cut or eliminated. This job-killing, multibillion-dollar giveaway to corporations (and the super-rich) is also a direct attack on the most vulnerable women and families in our country."

What the Experts Are Saying About Outsourcing and the GOP Tax Bill: "We know the Republican tax plan favors the super-rich and the wealthy corporations over working people. One of the many ways it will hurt working people is by setting up a territorial tax system, under which the active income of U.S. companies earned offshore will no longer be subject to U.S. taxes. This will further entice U.S. multinationals to shift their jobs and profits overseas."

Trump's TPS Decision Is Literally Tearing Families Apart: "This week, the Trump administration made the cruel announcement that it will strip away rights and work permits from 50,000 men and women from Haiti by ending their Temporary Protected Status. Our UNITE HERE sister, Marie Parfait, is one of the tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants who will be facing deportation in 18 months—even though she and others have been living and working here legally for nearly a decade."

Fighting the GOP Tax Scam: In the States Roundup: "It's time once again to take a look at the battles for the freedoms of working families in the states. Here is what the unions in the states are talking about this week. Click on any of the links to follow the state federations and labor councils on Twitter."

Working People Need a Strong CFPB with a Leader Who Supports Its Existence: "The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created after the Great Recession of 2008 wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy, causing millions of families to lose their homes to foreclosure and forcing millions of working people onto the unemployment rolls. Its mission is to protect working people from tricks and traps in consumer financial products like home mortgages and credit cards."

Don't Pass Huge Tax Cuts for the Wealthy on the Backs of Working People: "Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate have proposed a job-killing tax plan that favors the super-rich and wealthy corporations over working people. We cannot afford to let this bill become law."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 12/01/2017 - 11:25

What Union Activists Really Think About NAFTA and Trade

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:00
What Union Activists Really Think About NAFTA and Trade

We keep hearing that surveys show that Americans think the North American Free Trade Agreement is good for the United States, but if that is so, why did so many voters in states hard hit by ill-considered trade policies (such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) vote for the candidate who promised to fix bad trade policies in the past election?

The AFL-CIO decided to survey our activists to find out. Although a non-random sample, the results provide some insight into the opinions of active union members.

When asked whether NAFTA has been good or bad for working people in the United States, our respondents said NAFTA was bad, 65% to 35%. This is important because the framing of the question matters. Talking heads from the business and foreign policy community are on TV and in newspaper opinion pages every day, extolling the virtues of NAFTA "for the United States." But the United States isn’t a single entity—it is made up of individuals, families and businesses. Union activists know that while what’s good for Wall Street might be portrayed as "good for America," it’s not necessarily true for ordinary families.

Accordingly, our respondents also predicted the Trans-Pacific Partnership would have been bad for working people by a whopping 72% to 28%. They also chose jobs (42%) and wages (25%) as the two greatest threats of the TPP. Any 2018 candidate planning to run on "saving NAFTA" and "reviving the TPP" might want to think twice. That might work with Wall Street voters, but not with working families.

Nor were our activists persuaded by all the talk that the TPP was a "progressive" deal—86% of them correctly identified "big banks and Wall Street" as supporters of the TPP.

Union activists understand the threat posed by bad trade and globalization policies. Eighty-seven percent identified China as the highest U.S. trade priority and 45% identified trade agreements as a 7 out of 7 in terms of its importance as a policy issue. Perhaps that’s why an overwhelming majority—88%—disapprove of the job the president is doing.

The president made some big promises on trade policy. He promised to stop outsourcing, create jobs, raise wages and deal with China. While the jury is still out on the NAFTA negotiations, more trade work needs to be done, particularly on China, currency, overseas labor abuses and rigorous enforcement. No matter what happens with the NAFTA renegotiations or the 232 steel case, we can be sure that union voters are paying attention and will hold the president accountable.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 11/30/2017 - 13:00

'Right to Work' Designed to Keep Black Workers Poor

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 11:05
'Right to Work' Designed to Keep Black Workers Poor

In his commentary "Unions ignore long history of excluding minorities from jobs," Missouri Rep. Shamed Dogan (R) highlighted past discriminatory practices in organized labor’s history as reason for implementing our state’s currently pending "right to work" law, along with other anti-worker measures such as ending prevailing wage and minimum wage requirements.

To claim that unions continue to exclude minorities and are detrimental to working people is ridiculous and erroneous in the face of the facts. The truth is, enacting right to work and other anti-worker laws would only hurt the minority communities Dogan seeks to protect, by lowering wages, reducing benefits and limiting career opportunities.

Dogan claims that right to work is the key to helping black workers and stimulating the economy. This is contradictory to the racist history of such laws, which were originally conceived by a Texas lobbyist named Vance Muse. He hated unions, claiming "white women and white men will be forced into organizations with African apes…whom they will have to call 'brother' or lose their jobs."

From the beginning, right to work was designed to weaken unions and divide workers with a goal of keeping black workers poor and weakening their fight for equality and justice.

Today, more black workers than ever are represented by a union. According to the Economic Policy Institute’s August 2017 report, roughly 10.6 million of the 16.3 million workers covered by a union contract are women and/or people of color, and 14.5% of black workers age 18-64 are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, compared with 12.5% of white workers and 10.1% of Hispanic workers.

Even with this progress, we know there is much more that has to be done. This is why you will find the Coalition for Black Trade Unionists standing up for jobs and social justice, and fighting for all workers in the union halls and in the community.

Workers formed unions to demand a fair share and to make sure they had a voice. The world’s wealthiest individuals total only 8.6% of the global population but own 85.6% of global wealth. Without unions, we will continue to see global wealth rise for a precious few CEOs and special interests, while workers’ wages drop. This is what happens when workers are denied a voice.

St. Louis’ black community knows this all too well. That’s why an overwhelming majority of us voted against right to work back in 1978, and that’s why we’re working to make sure it fails again in 2018.

The CBTU joins me in calling on Dogan to do more than attack unions and hurt our middle class. Denying workers a voice on the job is not the way to stimulate the economy, but putting money in the average working person’s pocket allows them to spend their money locally and revitalize businesses.

I’ll close with the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who understood the importance of unions, not only to the black community, but to our society as a whole:

In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as "right to work." It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.

Lew Moye is president emeritus of the St. Louis Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and this post originally appeared as an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:05


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