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Trying to Put It in Words

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 10:41
Trying to Put It in Words

The Republican Senate members have laid another egg in their attempt to "repeal and end Obamacare." As with the House Republican bill, polling data shows the majority of Americans reject the Senate version. The elephant in the room is what makes the whole exercise stink. That elephant is the unwavering faith in the private marketplace to decide who gets what in our society. Americans sense something is fundamentally wrong but search for words to express this problem.

The Tea Party Republicans objected to the Affordable Care Act as an unwarranted expansion of government. Honestly, they were not concerned with addressing the problem of the large and growing stress on American households to access health care without going bankrupt. In their tiny-minded world, lack of anything, from housing to education to health care, is a matter of personal priorities and market choices. Therefore, if people do not have health insurance, it is because they do not want to buy it.

Trying to negotiate with that extreme view, then-President Barack Obama struck a compromise position on health care, invoking a public interest in health and declaring health insurance a personal responsibility. The ACA strikes the middle ground in softening the Tea Party's approach to caring about the high cost of health insurance and, therefore, has the government either buying insurance for those with very low incomes (by extending eligibility for Medicaid) or subsidizing those of modest incomes in meeting their "personal responsibility."

The initial revolt against the ACA was against the government creation of a new personal mandate, which to the Tea Party was an intrusion to force people to buy something they did not view as a high enough priority to forgo other wants like housing or education. Moreover, while the exchanges were a private marketplace, the Tea Party objected to taxes subsidizing people buying health insurance.

What stinks in all this is that access to health care really does not belong in the marketplace. Too much of health fits into the normal space of a public good. In fact, the portion of health care that belonged in the public good space made the ACA such an ugly compromise, angering both the right and the left, by making it an individual mandate to buy health insurance.

A public good has several characteristics. One common problem is the free rider problem, resulting from providing a good where it is difficult to exclude usage. Examples include clean air and proper functioning roads. If you live in a nation with people who are healthy because of proper infrastructure investments like proper sanitation, then certain diseases are not going to be very common, like cholera. But how would you exclude someone from the sanitation system? Second, when the externalities of a good are positive, then people will tend to under consume them because people other than the purchaser will benefit. Living in a society of well-educated people helps democracies function and makes it easier to start a business needing highly trained or trainable workers for instance. But because education can be personally expensive, left as a private good, many people would not get enough education to help economic growth or support democratic institutions. Health is similar. If people get their children inoculated against childhood diseases like measles and whooping cough, the diseases become less prevalent and your children will be less likely to get them. Third, some goods are rights. You have the right to life, which means personal safety, so we accept police as a public good. Many people think that the right to life also means access to health care, the ultimate in the necessity of a right to life. All modern advanced industrialized economies, except the United States, assume health care is a publicly provided human right.

When something is a private good, and we leave it to the market to allocate, then price is the signaling device and the rationing mechanism. The price of a good, as a popular automobile, sends a signal to automakers which type of cars to build. In addition, the price rations who will get the automobile and who will not. If your income is too low, or if you do not care that much about the specifics of any particular automobile, you will not buy a high-priced popular car. In health, this can have the two drawbacks mentioned. Some people will not contribute, because they will get some of the benefits of living in a healthier advanced economy, even if they do not themselves spend their own money to get healthy. Further, some people will not buy enough health insurance, leaving it to others to support our health infrastructure. Imagine how we could have adequate emergency room space if no one had health insurance and, instead, assumed that hospitals would exist and be properly staffed when people needed an emergency room if they had an appendicitis. Worse, some people will be priced out of the market. Health insurance will be too expensive, and their health will likely suffer from it. The results are death by poverty. These results are not equivalent to Janis Joplin’s prayer for the Lord to buy her a Mercedes-Benz.

The United States relies, more than other advanced economies, on private, market-based provisions of major human capital investments like education and health and personal investments like housing. The result is that a higher share of U.S. GDP (gross domestic product, the value of all the new goods and services in a country) is consumption (items bought by private households). In a middle-income nation, such as the United States through 1986, where the majority of income is earned by the middle 60% of the population, this has a lot of virtues. One of which is that providers aim to please this income group because they are the majority of the economy (in a market-based system where price is the rationing tool, it is "one dollar one vote," hence the majority of the economy is where the majority of the income lies). And, it means that the rise in prices will follow the income growth of the economic majority, assuring they can continue to be customers. However, today, the majority of income is with the top 20% of income earners, and in a few short years will be the top 10% of earners. That means prices and goods and services today tilt to the top 20% and will soon follow the incomes of the top 10%. Think about why it is never difficult for middle-aged men to buy their little blue pill, but sometimes your doctor may run out of flu shots.

From 2000-2009, the share of Americans getting private health insurance through their employer declined from 63.9% to 55.8%. Employer-based private health insurance had provided the bedrock of the American health care system. Medicaid was introduced in 1965 to fill the void for low-wage workers whose employers tended not to provide health insurance. This is the typical U.S. policy response when price rations portions of people out of the market. From 1965-1986, while America was a middle-income nation, the average wage of production and non-supervisory workers increased by a factor of 3.6, while health care costs increased by factor of 4.3. But, from 1986-2008, health care costs increased by a factor of 3.3 while the average wage went up by only a factor of 2.2. Health care costs were rising much faster than wages for the middle class. The increase in health care more resembled the increase in income for the top 20%, the economic majority. As a result, not just the poor, but middle-class workers were being priced out of health care, too.

The ACA solution was an extension of subsidies to those who cannot afford a necessity. The flaw was that insurance is cheapest when it is universal, including both high- and low-risk individuals in the pool to share broadly in the risks. This is why Social Security is so effective in covering workers’ families against premature death, an onset of a disability or living into old age. It is why Medicare works as health insurance for the elderly, some of whom are very healthy and some who are critically ill. Creating an adequate market for something that is a public good proved too difficult, especially in those states with Republican governors who refused to extend public health coverage by expanding Medicaid and balked at promoting the private health insurance marketplace.

While Republicans claimed it was the private market exchanges that failed, nothing in their proposed legislation addressed fixing those market places. Clearly, this was a cynical manipulation. In the first place, Republicans objected to the rules that standardized health insurance policies, providing the information to make market-based comparisons in buying health insurance. A market cannot function efficiently if consumers do not have the information to compare products. Consequently, Republicans insistence on destroying that market information will make the problems of the exchanges worse. Second, shrinking the public health coverage that Medicaid expansion provided will make the insurance markets less efficient because fewer healthy people will be able to afford health insurance, leaving more people with poor health or pre-existing health issues seeking private health insurance. This will make pricing in the exchanges uncertain, but certainly higher for people who do not have employer-provided health insurance—a group that is growing.

Republicans proved there is no market-based solution to fixing the ACA. It already was a damaged proposition precisely because it sought a market-based solution to something that was inherently a public good.

Since the Republicans did not address the shortcomings of the ACA, one can only conclude the intention was a giant tax cut for wealthy Americans. Further, in a nation where income inequality is at a crisis level, exacerbating income inequality by piling even more money on the entitled rich will hurt economic growth, a point well documented by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Monetary Fund.

The only solution to fix the shortcomings of the ACA is a public good approach. The most efficient way to do health insurance is not through an analogy to state-based automobile insurance mandates because, ultimately, automobiles are a private good and people can opt out of owning a car. Instead, health insurance is like Social Security. Because becoming unhealthy is a universal risk, and because people having health insurance provides so many public benefits, it is best provided as a public good like Social Security and Medicare. The only issue for debate is what form the public good should be funded and care allocated.

The ACA slowed health care cost escalation; in no small part by redefining the market for health care away from the top 20% of income toward the middle. By expanding the demand, the price point in delivery shifted. Making health care a true public good would help the United States achieve the lower per capita health expenditures of other advanced economies who treat health as a public good.

The stinking elephant in the room is an undying faith in the private marketplace. This will continue to be an ever-growing problem. When 10% of the people hold half the income in the nation, those 10% will be consuming more than half of everything produced in the United States. That does not matter that much if they are buying half the Cadillacs, but it does matter when it is half the health care, half the housing and half the education. A nation so lopsided is one that will not, and cannot, develop. Just look at the problems to be solved in Mexico and Turkey, the nations we are approaching.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 06/26/2017 - 11:41

What is Medicaid?

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 15:06
What is Medicaid?

It may be America’s biggest health plan, covering more than 70 million people, but many people do not know what Medicaid is. Here's what you should know:

Every State Has a Different Name for Medicaid: One reason few people know Medicaid itself is that each state runs its own plan and typically does not include Medicaid in its name. If you live in West Virginia, for example, you might know it as Mountain Health Trust or WV Health Bridge. In Ohio, maybe you participate in the Buckeye Health Plan or another managed care program paid for by Medicaid.

Medicaid is for People Struggling to Make Ends Meet: Whatever your state calls Medicaid, it is the health plan that provides access to health care for people struggling the most to make ends meet. States generally determine the rules for who qualifies, but all states provide Medicaid for some low-income people, families and children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities. The federal government pays most of the cost of benefits, with states covering the rest.

More People are Eligible Because of Obamacare: Under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, states can expand who qualifies to include all adults who have low incomes (that is, below 138% of the federal poverty level). This year, for example, a single person with household income less than $16,643, or a family of four with income less than $33,948, would be eligible for Medicaid in Nevada. Thirty-one states and Washington, D.C., have expanded coverage in this way, resulting in 11 million more people getting health insurance they otherwise could not afford.

Benefits to Meet Personal Needs: Each state’s Medicaid plan pays for health services you usually think of when it comes to health insurance: things like doctor visits and hospital stays. These plans also can pay for other important services that other health insurance plans do not. Here are some examples of things you might not expect:

  • Help at home for children with special care needs, such as those with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism, and for their parents.
  • Funding for schools throughout the country to provide services to Medicaid-eligible children and hire school nurses, counselors and speech therapists.
  • Nursing home care for seniors and people with disabilities.
  • Help with basic daily activities to enable people with disabilities, including seniors, remain in their own homes and communities.



Jackie Tortora Fri, 06/23/2017 - 16:06

Tags: Medicaid

What You Need to Know About the Senate Health Care Bill

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 11:41
What You Need to Know About the Senate Health Care Bill AFL-CIO

This week, Senate Republicans unveiled their vision for health care in America. We won't spend much time going over numbers and percentages (you can read that here), but here is what you need to know right now about this bill. It will:

1. Make millions of working people pay more for less care

2. Tax your workplace plans if you get decent health coverage at work

3. Give massive tax breaks to wealthy corporations and CEOs

4. Take away health care from millions of working people

5. Drastically cut Medicaid, which provides vital services for a large group of Americans

There isn't a lot of time to stop this complete hijacking of our health care. 

Call your senators today and every day to demand they vote "no" on a bill that takes away our health care: 1-888-865-8089. Tell your friends to call too. 


Jackie Tortora Fri, 06/23/2017 - 12:41

Why Working People Benefit from Apprenticeship Training

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 11:00
Why Working People Benefit from Apprenticeship Training Mike Gillis

There is a distinct difference between a job training program and an apprenticeship, and leaders in the labor movement are spreading this message.

 “Apprenticeships are comprehensive experiences, where individuals not only learn a skill, they practice and develop that skill in conjunction with the needs of the business community, while earning a fair, living wage,” said Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale. “Any job training program that does not involve businesses and industry, a decent living and solid instruction, fails in comparison. Highly skilled manufacturing jobs are the future, and apprenticeship programs are an essential part of filling those jobs.”

Representatives from industrial labor unions, manufacturing employers, state labor federations, state and federal labor agencies, and education and workforce and development advocacy groups met earlier this week in Oakwood, Pennsylvania, to discuss state and national efforts to bolster apprenticeship programs.

Apprenticeship training programs mean working people who participate in them learn the latest technologies and skills, and also learn how to stay safe on the job. “Embracing and developing these training programs will modernize systems and procedures to improve productivity and safety,” said Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga.  

The event was co-hosted by the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and the Ohio AFL-CIO.

Jackie Tortora Thu, 06/22/2017 - 12:00

Tags: Apprenticeships

Why Do We Need Medicaid?

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 11:54
Why Do We Need Medicaid?

Like many Americans, you may have parents or other loved ones in nursing homes because they require around-the-clock care.

Nursing-home care is expensive, typically $80,000 per year for a semiprivate room—far more than the income of a typical senior. Medicare generally pays only for short-term nursing-home stays. Yet only about 1 in 10 people 65 and older have private long-term care insurance to cover nursing-home costs. For a great many people, that insurance is too expensive.

Medicaid is the one thing people can count on when their money has run out. Losing that coverage, as could happen to some people if congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump succeed in gutting Medicaid funding to pay for tax cuts for corporate CEOs and the wealthiest 1%, would force working people to make impossible choices about how to care for their parents and other family members when they can no longer care for themselves.

This is just one reason why Medicaid matters to working people and their families. Consider a few other impressive Medicaid facts and think about what would happen to you, your family, your friends and your community without it:

  • Medicaid helps seniors and other people with significant disabilities stay in their homes and communities, instead of being forced to go to nursing homes.
  • Medicaid guarantees more than 30 million children access to medical care.
  • Nearly 5 million children with special care needs, such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism, are covered by Medicaid and other public insurance.
  • Medicaid pays for half of all childbirths in the United States.

Watch the video above reminding all of us why Medicaid is so important to working people, and why slashing Medicaid’s federal funding by half to pay for huge tax cuts for the wealthiest 1%, CEOs and corporations is so wrong.


Jackie Tortora Fri, 06/16/2017 - 12:54

Tags: Medicaid

Tell the Labor Department Not to Repeal the Persuader Rule

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 10:22
Tell the Labor Department Not to Repeal the Persuader Rule UAW

The Labor Department issued a proposal on Monday that would rescind the union-buster transparency rule, officially known as the persuader rule, designed to increase disclosure requirements for consultants and attorneys hired by companies to try to persuade working people against coming together in a union. The rule was supposed to go into effect last year, but a court issued an injunction last June to prevent implementation. Now the Trump Labor Department wants to eliminate it.

We wrote about this rule last year. Repealing the union-buster transparency rule is little more than the administration doing the bidding of wealthy corporations and eliminating common-sense rules that would give important information to working people who are having roadblocks thrown their way while trying to form a union.

AFL-CIO spokesman Josh Goldstein said:

The persuader rule means corporate CEOs can no longer hide the shady groups they hire to take away the freedoms of working people. Repealing this common-sense rule is simply another giveaway to wealthy corporations. Corporate CEOs may not like people knowing who they’re paying to script their union-busting, but working people do.

If the rule is repealed, union-busters will be able to operate in the shadows as they work to take away our freedom to join together on the job. Working people deserve to know whether these shady firms are trying to influence them. The administration seems to disagree.

A 60-day public comment period opened Monday. Click on this link to leave a comment and tell the Labor Department that we should be doing more to ensure the freedom of working people to join together in a union, not less. Copy and paste the suggested text below if you need help getting started:

“Working people deserve to know who is trying to block their freedom from joining together and forming a union on the job. Corporations spend big money on shadowy, outside firms that use fear tactics to intimidate and discourage people from coming together to make a better life on the job. I support a strong and robust persuader rule. Do not eliminate the persuader rule.”

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 06/15/2017 - 11:22

Union Member and Public School Teacher Reflects on Opportunities DACA Has Provided

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 07:35
Union Member and Public School Teacher Reflects on Opportunities DACA Has Provided Maria E. Dominguez

This post originally ran in 2015.

This week marks the five-year anniversary of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an important time to mark the contributions of DACAmented workers to our communities and our economy. DACA has allowed hundreds of thousands of aspiring Americans and union members to live and work without fear in the United States. The labor movement reiterates unwavering support for the expansion of these much-needed deferred action programs. The following blog from Maria E. Dominguez, a first-grade bilingual teacher from Austin, Texas, demonstrates just how valuable these programs are. 

On the third-year anniversary of President Barack Obama’s DACA program, I can’t help but reflect on how DACA has changed my entire life, both professionally and personally. After being granted DACA, I had the opportunity to pursue my life dream of being a public school teacher. Thanks to DACA I am able to serve my community as a first-grade public school bilingual teacher. In addition, I was able to obtain a driver’s license and travel within the United States. Another one of my dreams came true when I was granted advance parole with DACA and, in July of 2014, I traveled to my hometown in Guanajuato, Mexico, after more than 20 years. I saw my grandmother, cousins and other relatives who I had not seen in decades. It was an incredible experience for my whole family.

Many of my students’ parents would be eligible and should be applying for the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program today, if it were not being obstructed in the courts. Even though I work with very young children of immigrants, some of them understand their parents’ situation and are frightened to talk about it due to the very real threat of retaliation or deportation. I hope someday my students and their parents can live without fear and proudly say that they also have benefited from deferred action and gained work authorization. I know it would make an incredible difference in their families’ lives, just as it has for mine.

As a member of Education Austin and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), I have been granted the opportunity to work with the immigrant community—in particular, undocumented youth. I have volunteered at the citizenship drives offered by Education Austin and at DACA forums and clinics held in partnership with University Leadership Initiative in Austin, Texas. I have helped U.S. residents fill out their citizenship applications and DREAMers fill out their DACA application as part of my commitment to Education Austin and AFT. I also have worked with community leaders to bring essential information to the parents at my school for the first time. In March, I attended the AFL-CIO’s We Rise initiative training for union members in Washington, D.C. It showed members how to begin implementing DACA and DAPA educational forums and clinics at their locals. I also have participated in conferences with AFT that focus on immigration and how we as members can work with our locals to help our community. Finally, I have shared my knowledge and my personal story as a DACAmented teacher during educational forums and teacher conferences because I believe in the power of collective action.

I could not do what I do every single day in the classroom if it were not for President Obama’s executive action on immigration. I only wish that Republicans in Congress would muster the same political courage to address our broken immigration system. DACA works, and I’m a testament of that, but it only covers a small portion of our population. It is a small fight that we won, but we need to keep working in order to see a bigger change that can benefit others who will not qualify for DACA or DAPA. We must keep fighting because there are people trying to push us back, as we see in Texas with the injunction. So we cannot give up. Even though we might only see small steps now, I know that if we keep working, we’re going to see a huge change that will benefit everyone. Immigration should not be used to score cheap political points. We’re talking about people’s lives—people like me, who want nothing more than to contribute to our communities. Join me today and call for a permanent solution to our broken immigration system. Our families and our communities can’t wait. 

Editor's Note: During the AFL-CIO's We Rise initiative training in Washington, D.C., Dominguez said she benefited from DACA, to which AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka responded, "No, we benefited from you," to a roomful of enthusiastic applause. Read more at NBC News.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 06/15/2017 - 08:35

Tags: DACA

Freelancers Take to Twitter to Say #EbonyOwes Them Back Pay

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 10:49
Freelancers Take to Twitter to Say #EbonyOwes Them Back Pay AFL-CIO

Stories have surfaced in the past few weeks that Ebony owes numerous writers back pay for work they did for the magazine. A story from The Establishment spurred the #EbonyOwes hashtag into trending territory on Twitter. The article cites numerous freelance writers who say that the magazine owes them.

According to a press release, the National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981 represents 23 Ebony writers who are collectively owed more than $50,000 in unpaid wages. The union estimates that more than $200,000 in back wages are owed to as many as 50 freelancers. The magazine recently made a public commitment to fix the problem, but NWU President Larry Goldbetter said that words aren't good enough:

Some of the invoices we’ve seen are over a year old. We are pleased Ebony Media has been responsive to the grievance, but we are now at a point where we need a payment schedule in writing. For a freelancer to have to struggle to pay rent because Ebony owes is ridiculous.

Here are some of the stories told on #EbonyOwes:

Still waiting on my $2,000 from @EBONYMag months after my work. Per my contract w/@thekylesfiles it's 150+ days PAST DUE #freelanceisntfree

— Cat (@emdashcat) April 19, 2017

“Why Isn’t ‘Ebony’ Paying Its Black Writers?” Heh I almost wrote about this a couple of years ago. I'm still owed.

— Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) April 25, 2017

Make that 11 #EbonyOwes. It's #NationalVolunteerWeek but I'm no @EBONYMag volunteer. Thx 4 your article @BasicBlaecGirl. Ready to advocate

— Zerline Hughes (@zerlinehughes) April 25, 2017

I don't know about the race angle, but I know about Ebony failing to pay writers. The magazine owes me $1,200.

— Eric Deggans at NPR (@Deggans) April 25, 2017

Last week I shared that @ebonymag hasn't paid or contacted me & many others. This week they blocked me. I'm not even mad. I'm disappointed.

— Baratunde (@baratunde) May 31, 2017

Hey @EBONYMag I filed my story in November. It ran in February. You need to pay me. #ebonyowes

— Liz Dwyer (@losangelista) May 31, 2017

It's #EbonyOwes story time courtesy of one of my very last experiences at @EBONYMag

— Pedro Vega Jr. (@pedrovegajr) June 1, 2017

Yep, for these pictures that I illustrated, I still haven't been compensated. ⏰ #EbonyOwes

— NYANZA D (@nyanzad_) May 31, 2017

322 days for me and haven't seen one dime from @EBONYMag while execs live live it up on the gram. Still disgusting. #EbonyOwes

— AJ Springer (@JustAnt1914) June 12, 2017 Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 06/14/2017 - 11:49

Call Today to Oppose Secret Negotiations to Strip Millions of Health Care

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 09:16
Call Today to Oppose Secret Negotiations to Strip Millions of Health Care AFL-CIO

There are reports that Republican leadership in the U.S. Senate is moving behind the scenes to finalize a bill and hold a floor vote on Trumpcare before members of Congress leave for the July 4 recess. The legislation has been fast-tracked, meaning that it won't get the usual committee review before going to a floor vote. This would greatly shorten the time that the public (and members of Congress) has to read the legislation to determine exactly what it does and how many Americans it harms.

These secret negotiations could strip health care from millions of Americans, just to pay for a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. Taking away the freedoms of working people in order to serve the wealthiest 1% isn't the path forward that the United States needs.

Call today at 1-888-865-8089 and tell your senator to oppose Trumpcare legislation negotiated in secret that strips health care from working people.


Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 06/14/2017 - 10:16

How We Should Rewrite the Rules of NAFTA for Working People

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 09:58
How We Should Rewrite the Rules of NAFTA for Working People

The North American Free Trade Agreement is typically called a "trade deal," but in reality it’s not much about trade. Its hundreds of pages of set rules for how the United States, Mexico and Canada can run their economies. Those rules give global corporations strong rights and privileges but don’t contain a single provision to ensure more jobs, better wages, clean air and water, affordable medicines, or any of the other benefits trade is supposed to bring.

By any measure important to working people, NAFTA was a failure. It didn’t raise wages. It didn’t help protect the environment or ensure that people who wanted to join together and negotiate on the job could do so. NAFTA’s rules are rigged—and they must change.

Trade is not inevitably bad for working people. A new NAFTA, with rules that working people help write, could create good jobs, raise wages, protect our natural resources and raise standards of living across North America.

These rules must ensure working people can join together to negotiate for better wages and working conditions. They must ensure citizens are free to make decisions about our economy, including being free from the threat of unlimited investor-state dispute settlement lawsuits by foreign corporations. They must promote investment in our roads, ports, and schools and promote "Buy American" provisions to create jobs locally.

The AFL-CIO has developed comprehensive recommendations that aim to stop NAFTA’s vicious cycle and replace it with a virtuous one. A better NAFTA is possible. And it starts by bringing working families into the conversation so we can be part of the solution.

Read more about the AFL-CIO’s NAFTA recommendations, and share this post with a friend. To join our trade activist team, text “trade” to 235246.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 06/12/2017 - 10:58


Together We Can Make Pay Equity a Reality for All Working Women

Sat, 06/10/2017 - 05:15
Together We Can Make Pay Equity a Reality for All Working Women AFL-CIO

Today is the 54th anniversary of the passage of the Equal Pay Act, the 1963 law that prohibits employers from paying men and women different wages for the same work solely based on sex. The Equal Pay Act’s passage is an important example of the labor movement’s long history of partnering with progressive women’s organizations to advocate for equal pay for women. Indeed, Esther Peterson—one of the labor movement’s greatest sheroes—was instrumental in the enactment of this landmark legislation.

Pay equity and transparency are bread and butter issues for working women; when they come together to negotiate collectively for fair wages and important benefits, like access to health insurance and paid leave, they can better support their families. (Indeed, women in unions experience a smaller wage gap than women without a union voice).

 Since the passage of the EPA, the gender wage gap has narrowed, but it persists. Women overall typically are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, and that number has barely changed in the past 10 years. And the gap is even larger when you compare the earnings of women of color to white men.

 Clearly, we still have much to do to ensure pay equity, and there’s been some progress, thanks to tireless working women and their allies across the country. For instance, in the past two years, more than half the states have introduced or passed their own remedies to increase pay transparency, strengthen employer accountability and empower working people to take action against pay discrimination. But stronger protection from pay discrimination shouldn’t depend on where you happen to live or where you work. Working women deserve a national solution.

 That’s why the AFL-CIO, the National Women’s Law Center and countless other organizations support the Paycheck Fairness Act, part of a comprehensive women’s economic agenda. The PFA would strengthen the EPA by: protecting employees from retaliation for discussing pay; limiting the ability of employers to claim pay differences are based on “factors other than sex”; prohibiting employers from relying on a prospective employee’s wage history in determining compensation; strengthening individual and collective remedies against employers who discriminate; and increasing the data collection and enforcement capacity of key federal agencies.  

 Let’s not forget that raising the federal minimum wage also would boost women’s earnings in a big way. A driving factor in the gender wage gap is women’s overwhelming majority representation (two-thirds of workers) in minimum wage jobs, including those who pay the lower-tipped minimum wage. Legislation like the Raise the Wage Act would give women the well-deserved raise they’ve earned.

 We need strong policy solutions like the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Raise the Wage Act to help close the gender wage gap. Working women and the families who depend on them can’t afford to wait another 54 years.

Fatima Goss Graves is the senior vice president for program and president-elect at the National Women’s Law Center. In her current role, she leads the center’s broad agenda to eliminate barriers in employment, education, health care and reproductive rights and lift women and families out of poverty. Prior to joining the center,, she worked in private practice and clerked for the Honorable Diane P. Wood on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


Jackie Tortora Sat, 06/10/2017 - 06:15

Tags: Equal Pay

Finding Pride: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 15:37
Finding Pride: 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.

Finding Pride: "It was early on the afternoon of Aug. 12, 2004. I was on an annual family vacation in the Poconos, in northeast Pennsylvania. I was 23 years old. I got word that my then-home state governor, Jim McGreevey of New Jersey, had hastily called a press conference. Rumors about the governor’s sexual orientation had followed him around for years. I remember asking my father what he thought the press conference was about. 'Pay to play or something like that,' he said. There is a long and troubling history of corruption in New Jersey politics. Something told me this press conference would be different. I had a pit in my stomach."

Are You Ready for a 35% Raise?: "Starting today, working people could see a 35% increase in the value of their 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts over a career. That is because new protections designed to ensure the retirement savings system truly works for working people and retirees begin to take effect."

What Does the 'Fiduciary' Rule Mean for You?: "Thanks to the Department of Labor’s new 'fiduciary' rule, which went into effect this week, you are finally legally entitled to retirement investment advice that serves your best interests, regardless of who provides that advice or how they choose to pay for it."

The Bankers Behind Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis: "Centuries ago pirates prowled the Caribbean brandishing scabbards and rifles; today, they wield fat checkbooks on Capitol Hill."

America’s Freedom to Protest Is Under Attack: "It’s no secret that America’s star is fading on the world stage these days, under a president whose authoritarian tactics have outraged allies and enemies alike. But a recent audit by an international human-rights monitor reveals that, even before Trump’s buffoonery took over the White House, Washington was failing dramatically to live up to its reputation as a beacon of democracy."

Under Trump, Worker Protections Are Viewed with New Skepticism: "'I had the feeling that the administration has already decided what it wants to do,' Peg Seminario, director for safety and health at the AFL-CIO, said of proposed changes to restrictions on beryllium."

Trump Administration’s Proposed Reversal of Contraceptive Services Coverage Is Wrong for Working Women and Families: "The Donald Trump administration’s draft proposal to reverse the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers and health plans cover most contraceptive services at no cost is wrong for working women and families. The draft as written allows any employer—whether a church, a non-profit related to a church, or a for-profit corporation—that has any moral or religious objection to choose not to cover these contraceptive services. It also exempts any insurance company with a moral or religious objection from covering contraceptive services."

New U.N. Report: Working People's Freedom to Stand Together Is Under Attack: "A new U.N. report highlights how the rich and powerful prevent far too many working people in the United States from asserting their most basic human and workplace freedoms."

With Pride: What Working People Are Doing This Week: "Welcome to our regular feature, a look at what the various AFL-CIO unions and other working family organizations are doing around the country and beyond. The labor movement is big and active—here's a look at the broad range of activities we're engaged in this week."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/09/2017 - 16:37

What Does the 'Fiduciary' Rule Mean for You?

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 10:33
What Does the 'Fiduciary' Rule Mean for You?

Thanks to the Department of Labor’s new "fiduciary" rule, which went into effect this week, you are finally legally entitled to retirement investment advice that serves your best interests, regardless of who provides that advice or how they choose to pay for it.

The rule requires all financial advisers, including broker-dealers and insurance agents, to act in their customers’ best interest rather than their own, charge reasonable fees and refrain from making misleading statements.

So what does that mean for you?

If you previously received advice from a non-fiduciary adviser, here are some of the key changes you can expect.

1. You should see new, more investor-friendly investment options recommended in your IRA.

In order to meet the best interest standard, your adviser may recommend new and different types of shares of mutual funds, such as "T" shares, that were introduced in response to the rule. These new shares can cut several percentage points off the sales charges you pay to purchase those funds. That’s money that will stay in your individual retirement account rather than going to pay your financial adviser.

Or your adviser may offer new "clean" shares, which allow you to negotiate how much they get paid for the services they provide in selling you that fund.

Mutual fund investors aren’t the only ones who’ll see benefits from the rule. Annuities also have been given a tune-up. New annuities with more investor-friendly features, including much shorter surrender periods and lower fees, have been introduced in response to the rule.

2. You should get a better deal if you roll over money from your workplace retirement account.

The new conflict of interest rule only allows rollover recommendations—recommendations to move money out of your workplace plan and into an IRA—if the move is in your best interest. One possibility is that you will see fewer rollover recommendations once the rule takes effect, but firms may also respond by offering retirement savers a better deal on their rollover investments.

If your adviser recommends you roll money out of a company 401(k) plan and into an IRA, ask on what basis she determined that you would be better off in the IRA. Ask in particular how your costs will compare. While costs shouldn’t be your only consideration, minimizing costs is one of the surest ways investors have of improving their long-term investment performance.

3. You may be encouraged to move your money to a fee account.

Some firms have concluded that the easiest, cleanest way to minimize conflicts is by moving clients from commission accounts to accounts where investors pay a fee for advice. That can take the form of a flat fee, hourly fee or a percentage of assets under management.

Fee accounts can offer a good deal for investors, assuming the fees are reasonable and the investor wants and benefits from the ongoing advice offered with such accounts. If your adviser suggests moving from a commission account to a fee account, ask on what basis she determined you’d be better off in a fee account. In particular, ask how your costs in the fee account would compare to the costs you previously paid in your commission account.

If your costs would go up, ask what additional services you will receive to justify those higher costs and determine whether those are services you want or need. Don’t be afraid to try to negotiate a lower fee. Some firms reportedly have been willing to lower fees to match average commission costs from previous years in order to demonstrate that the fee account really is in the customer’s best interests.

What if your adviser drops your account?

While most firms have moved forward in good faith to implement the rule in an investor-friendly fashion, others have been more resistant. Some, for example, have threatened to drop smaller retirement accounts rather than serve them under a best-interest standard.

What should you do if this happens to you? Take a moment to count your lucky stars. A firm that will only "advise" you if it can profit unfairly at your expense is not where you want to keep your money. There are many firms willing to serve even the smallest accounts under the new standard and at a reasonable cost.

Once you find such an adviser, have them do a careful review of your existing investments. Chances are your money is in investments that pay generous compensation to the seller, but charge high fees to the investor or expose you to inappropriate and unnecessary risks.

In these circumstances, the long-term benefit to your retirement savings from switching advisers—tens or even hundreds of thousands in added savings once your reach retirement—should greatly outweigh any temporary inconvenience of moving accounts.

One last word of caution.

Remember, the rule only applies to retirement accounts. If you have been working with a non-fiduciary adviser, such as a broker-dealer or insurance agent, you’ll likely continue to get suitable sales recommendations rather than best-interest advice in your non-retirement accounts.

If that doesn’t appeal to you, remember—there are lots of firms that are eager to serve even the smallest accounts under a fiduciary standard. Maybe it’s time to find one.

Barbara Roper is the director of investor protection at the Consumer Federation of America.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/09/2017 - 11:33

Trump Administration’s Proposed Reversal of Contraceptive Services Coverage Is Wrong for Working Women and Families

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 09:33
Trump Administration’s Proposed Reversal of Contraceptive Services Coverage Is Wrong for Working Women and Families

The Donald Trump administration’s draft proposal to reverse the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers and health plans cover most contraceptive services at no cost is wrong for working women and families. The draft as written allows any employer—whether a church, a non-profit related to a church, or a for-profit corporation—that has any moral or religious objection to choose not to cover these contraceptive services. It also exempts any insurance company with a moral or religious objection from covering contraceptive services. 

The AFL-CIO has long been committed to ensuring that women have the right to quality health care, including equal access to contraception, and the ability to exercise that right regardless of where they work. When the U.S. Supreme Court undermined that right in its 2014 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the AFL-CIO objected to the expansion of employers’ ability to restrict working women’s rights to contraceptive services and the unprecedented extension of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Trump administration now relies on that same act to expand dramatically what kind of objections to providing contraceptive services may be made and which entities may raise them. And the administration’s expansive reading of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act threatens the LGBTQ community as well, in light of state and federal laws proposing religious exemptions from marriage equality and anti-discrimination laws.

The National Women’s Law Center, the National Partnership for Women & Families and the ACLU have condemned the proposal because it threatens the health and economic security of working people. The AFL-CIO is joining with them and others to stop this proposed change before it can do real harm.

The rights of working people to contraceptive equity and health care are protected by federal anti-discrimination laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Working people who come together in union to negotiate fair pay and fair treatment on the job also have created contractual rights to contraceptive coverage and against workplace discrimination. The administration’s proposal ignores those rights, and that it cannot do.

The draft proposal is part of a larger assault on civil and human rights. The AFL-CIO recently joined the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and more than 100 other organizations in signing a letter calling for an end to this assault.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/09/2017 - 10:33

New U.N Report: Working People's Freedom to Stand Together Is Under Attack

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 09:14
New U.N Report: Working People's Freedom to Stand Together Is Under Attack Culinary Union Local 226

new U.N. report highlights how the rich and powerful prevent far too many working people in the United States from asserting their most basic human and workplace freedoms.

Maina Kiai, former U.N. special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, led a mission to the United States in 2016 and documented the obstacles that working people confront when they exercise their freedom to join together in union. His findings are damning.   

The overarching story that surfaces in the report is that wealthy corporations and corporate lobbyists are actively blocking working people’s freedom to join together in union on the job and that U.S. legal framework “provides few incentives for employers to respect workers’ rights.” According to Kiai, these are some of the intimidation tactics the wealthiest 1% use to chill the exercise of rights are fully legal: 

  • When facing a union organizing drive, 75% of employers hire consultants specializing in “union avoidance.” These consultants openly boast of their success in suppressing unionization. This is a $4 billion industry dedicated to taking away people’s freedom to join together in union using strategies of fear, intimidation and misinformation.
  • Employers also routinely cross the line and engage in unlawful tactics to prevent freedom of association. They do so because they can—with little or no consequence.
  • Employers who fire people for engaging in concerted action or threaten to shut down the workplace if working people decide to stand together rarely face consequences, and when they do, the remedies are long delayed and notoriously weak.

Sadly, rather than working to strengthen this legal framework, many government officials collude with corporate CEOs and employers to dismantle the power of existing unions and keep new ones from forming. The special rapporteur was alarmed to learn that Mississippi and other states openly court companies by touting the lack of the freedom of people to join together in union and ability to exploit working people. 

In addition, 28 states have enacted “right to work” laws, which are deliberately crafted to take away people’s freedom to join together and negotiate. By weakening people’s workplace freedoms, they contribute to unfair labor practices and violate international human rights law that require governments to protect the exercise of rights. Corporate CEOs and lobbysists have contributed to the steep decline of voice on the job and perpetuated income inequality, concentrating wealth in the hands of the rich and powerful few who are rigging the rules in their own favor and weakening our democracy.

The report also highlights the many structural remnants of the legacy of slavery in our country, which can be clearly seen in the gaps in our labor protections. Millions of working people are excluded from the basic protections of our labor law, including people who engage in agricultural and domestic work.  This work, once done by people who were enslaved, is now predominately done by immigrants, many of whom are undocumented. 

More than 5% of the workforce in our country lack formal work authorization, with much higher concentrations in low-wage, hazardous industries. As the special rapporteur has noted, immigration enforcement in the United States generally takes priority over protecting labor rights, allowing employers to retaliate in ways that can lead to deportation.

The report also makes clear that just because working people may have visas, this does not necessarily mean they have rights. Guest worker programs in the United States tie workers to specific employers and allow for rampant exploitation.

On another front, the special rapporteur has made strong statements affirming that the right to strike is intrinsic to the fundamental right of freedom of association. Nonetheless, this report highlights numerous limitations to the right to strike in the United States, including prohibitions on secondary strikes and strikes by public employees, as well as the ability of employers to replace people who are on strike. In the special rapporteur’s view, the permanent replacement of people who are on strike negates the right to strike, stripping working people of their strongest tool for pressing their demands.

Unfortunately, the realities for working people in the United States have not improved since the rapporteur’s visit. The budget introduced by the president slashes funding for agencies responsible for defending our workplace rights, while dramatically increasing funds to arrest, detain and deport working people. Rather than addressing such profound injustices, the new administration is doubling down on enforcement strategies that scapegoat and criminalize communities of color.

The obstacles to freedom to join together in union in the United States violate international standards and norms, and undermine the most fundamental principles and rights at work. Working people had little rights before there were laws to protect them, and it was through organizing and asserting their freedoms that they created a legal framework to foster a vibrant labor movement. As that legal framework grows ever more hostile to the freedom of working people to come together and negotiate, working people must once again flex their collective muscles and find ways to rebuild their power.

Jackie Tortora Fri, 06/09/2017 - 10:14

Are You Ready for a 35% Raise?

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 13:23
Are You Ready for a 35% Raise?

Starting today, working people could see a 35% increase in the value of their 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts over a career. That is because new protections, designed to ensure the retirement savings system truly works for working people and retirees, begin to take effect.

Under this new pro-saver rule, known as the "fiduciary rule," a paid adviser who gives investment advice on your individual retirement accounts has to act in your best interests, charge reasonable fees and avoid making misleading statements. The change applies only to investment advice for retirement accounts like 401(k) plans and IRAs; for non-retirement accounts and government employee retirement plans, the old rules still apply.

Like most people, you probably assumed the law already required financial advisers to put their clients' best interests first. While registered investment advisers have been required to do this, other investment professionals, like stock brokers and insurance agents, have been exploiting legal loopholes that have allowed them to recommend investments with the largest kickbacks or commissions, as long as the investments were generally "suitable" for their clients.

These financial conflicts of interest take a huge bite out of your retirement savings because you end up with investments that cost more and generate lower returns than investments that are in your best interests. Conversely, eliminating your adviser’s conflicts of interest can create big gains. You will earn bigger net of fees returns that could add 35% more to your accounts over 35 years of investing.

While the good news is those loopholes close today, there is some bad news, too.

Some of the new protections—most importantly, the provisions making the best interest standard for advice on IRAs legally enforceable by you—do not take effect until Jan. 1, 2018. Wall Street lobbyists are pushing hard to stop that from happening, and President Donald Trump has directed Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to "reconsider" the rule. The new Department of Labor may try to rescind retirement savers' 35% raise by stopping these protections from ever going into effect. It is important to let your U.S. representative and senators know you want all of the protections of the new rule.

If you would like to find out more about what these new protections will do for you, check out the latest guidance for retirement investors from Barbara Roper of the Consumer Federation of America.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 06/08/2017 - 14:23

Finding Pride

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 07:35
Finding Pride Tim Schlittner

It was early on the afternoon of Aug. 12, 2004. I was on an annual family vacation in the Poconos, in northeast Pennsylvania. I was 23 years old. I got word that my then-home state governor, Jim McGreevey of New Jersey, had hastily called a press conference. Rumors about the governor’s sexual orientation had followed him around for years. I remember asking my father what he thought the press conference was about. “Pay to play or something like that,” he said. There is a long and troubling history of corruption in New Jersey politics. Something told me this press conference would be different. I had a pit in my stomach.

CNN carried it live. I was watching alone in one of the resort’s bungalows. The governor started: “Throughout my life I have grappled with my own identity, who I am.” Bam. He was coming out. I started to shake. Then I started to cry. As McGreevey fully admits, he didn’t come out. He was shoved out, in large part because of his own bad decisions and questionable ethics. But it was one of the most beautiful speeches I have ever heard. It is this passage that I still carry around on my phone to this day:

I do not believe that God tortures any person simply for its own sake. I believe that God enables all things to work for the greater good. In this, the 47th year of my life, it is arguably too late to have this discussion. But it is here, and it is now. At a point in every person's life, one has to look deeply into the mirror of one's soul and decide one's unique truth in the world, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is.

As McGreevey spoke these words, I remember thinking: I can’t wait until I’m 47. I have to come out.

It was Aug. 5, 2005, nearly a full year after McGreevey’s historic speech. And I was still in the closet. A few months earlier, I made out with a girl at a bar in front of close friends. I remember thinking: What the hell am I doing? I was a fraud. I prepared to head back to the Poconos for my family vacation. But my parents wanted to talk first. This couldn’t be good. A couple of my cousins had approached my father to express concern about my drinking. My first reaction was defensive. Alcoholism runs in my family. Why was I being singled out? My father asked if I was happy. I said, “No.” Finally, I felt the words moving from the depths of my body up toward my mouth. It was time. “I’m gay,” I said and began weeping. My parents were not just accepting, they were exceptional. In the following days, I embarked on a road trip to tell the people closest to me. Each shared words of encouragement. Everyone accepted me—except me. Just like McGreevey, I was shoved out.

The next years were a grind. I refused to leave the comfort zone of my routines. I spent all of my social time with straight friends. I closed down bars. One year, during Capital Pride, I got so intoxicated that I was passed out in bed before the parade began. I talked a good game. I joined LGBTQ organizations. I posted about marriage equality and employment nondiscrimination on social media. But I didn’t date. I had no gay friends. Community was nonexistent. I had come out but gone nowhere.

At age 30, I sought the help of a therapist. His advice was direct and clear. Stop drinking. Stop punishing yourself. Live a life that is free and true. I remember thinking sarcastically: “OK, I’ll get right on that.” But each week as we talked and strategized, I became more convinced that something had to change. The evidence was right there in front of me. In his coming out speech, McGreevey said there is a point in every person's life they must decide their unique truth in the world. This was that moment for me. I was an alcoholic. And my disease was holding me back from a life of happiness.

So on Dec. 20, 2015, I quit drinking. A year later, as I celebrated 365 days of sobriety, my therapist wrote this on his blog:

Recently, I had the privilege to witness change. After four years of working with a very hopeful and otherwise successful man battle alcohol, I attended his 1-year sobriety celebration. When he walked into my office, he came with a glimmer of hope—knowing something should be different—but had little idea of the next steps to take. Despite a very active social life, he was lonely for LGBT friends/family. He wanted a boyfriend. He wanted to be in better shape. He wanted to lose weight. But without vision, without a clear idea of how to change, it was sometimes hard to sustain hope. The route was long, sometimes difficult, sometimes circuitous. But he persevered. His life is utterly transformed.

The transformation my therapist described is ongoing but undeniable. I am proud of who I am, challenges and all. I recently returned from a trip to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where I spent time with a network of gay sober men who are enriching my life in countless ways. I am starting to date. I’ve lost 60 pounds and am more active than ever. I’m less self-conscious. I like what I see in the mirror.

Harvey Milk said that if a bullet should enter his brain, he wanted it to destroy every closet door. I took down my closet door 12 years ago this August. But for too long, I stood in the door frame filled with doubt, pity and self-loathing. That is finally starting to change. Inch by inch. Step by step. Day by day.

Pride to me is authenticity. It’s honesty. And it’s hope. As we head into a weekend of inspiration, as Pride At Work celebrates solidarity and honors our out-union leaders, as Washington, D.C., marks pride, and as the nation marches for equality, I will be there. By choice. With enthusiasm and optimism. Sober.

And that makes me really proud.

Tim Schlittner is the AFL-CIO director of speechwriting and publications and co-president of Pride At Work.

Jackie Tortora Tue, 06/06/2017 - 08:35

Tags: Pride at Work

With Pride: What Working People Are Doing This Week

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 12:06
With Pride: What Working People Are Doing This Week

Welcome to our regular feature, a look at what the various AFL-CIO unions and other working family organizations are doing around the country and beyond. The labor movement is big and active—here's a look at the broad range of activities we're engaged in this week.

Actors' Equity:

One week from today: march with us in @LAPride’s #ResistMarch! Info & RSVP:

— Actors' Equity (@ActorsEquity) June 4, 2017


It's #WorldEnvironmentDay! Let's not go back to these days → #1u

— AFGE (@AFGENational) June 5, 2017


AFSCME Raises Alarm Over IT Outsourcing in OH under Gov @JohnKasich #1u #OHunion #OHleg

— AFSCME (@AFSCME) June 5, 2017


School vouchers don't just undermine public schools, they undermine our democracy

— AFT (@AFTunion) May 31, 2017

Air Line Pilots Association:

Help ALPA stand up for the safety of Canadian #airline pilots and passengers! #safeskies #safetysaturday

— ALPA (@WeAreALPA) June 3, 2017

Alliance for Retired Americans:

How did your elected officials do protecting #SocialSecurity & #Medicare? Check out the Alliance 2016 Voting Record:

— Alliance Retirees (@ActiveRetirees) June 5, 2017

Amalgamated Transit Union:

Spokane #transit workers sue authority over refusal of pro-union bus ad #1u #publictransit

— ATU, Transit Union (@ATUComm) June 5, 2017

American Federation of Musicians:

Festival calls not paying musicians "networking opportunity.” Actually it's called exploitation when we aren't paid

— Amer. Fed. Musicians (@The_AFM) June 2, 2017

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance:

This June we celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month! Share why you stand with immigrants & tag us @APALANational. #IStandWithImmigrants #IHM2017

— APALA (@APALAnational) June 2, 2017

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA:

June is Pride Month! AFA-CWA supports all LGBTQ Flight Attendants & workers in their fight for protections on the job & in their communities

— AFA-CWA (@afa_cwa) June 1, 2017

Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers:

17 job-supporting @DemSenators tell @MDLZ @Nabisco CEO: Stop offshoring U.S. production & U.S. JOBS! #OreoJobs #1u

— BCTGM International (@BCTGM) June 5, 2017


The so-called right-to-work is a misguided movement that strips the American workers' collective voice: #RTW #1u

— Bricklayers Union (@IUBAC) June 5, 2017

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists:

The Rev. Terry Melvin,@CBTU72 President, welcomed the convention congregation to the finest worship service in the labor mvmt. #cbtu17 #1u

— CBTU (@CBTU72) May 28, 2017

Communications Workers of America:

CWAers are in full Get-Out-The-Vote mode, working the phones for @PhilMurphyNJ’s campaign for New Jersey governor

— CWA (@CWAUnion) June 3, 2017

Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO:

“Forming a union will allow us to do a better job of advancing our goals and those of the university..." #1u

— DPE (@DPEaflcio) June 5, 2017

Electrical Workers:

Low-wages, workplace accidents mar construction industry in U.S. South #1u

— IBEW (@IBEW) June 5, 2017

Farm Labor Organizing Committee:

ICYMI: huge victory for #farmworkers in NC!

— FLOC (@SupportFLOC) May 26, 2017

Fire Fighters:

RT @CAFirefighters: Already short-staffed @cityofredding preps dangerous new #firefighter layoffs.

— IAFF (@IAFFNewsDesk) June 5, 2017

International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers:

Women Make Less Than Men Straight Out of College. And It's Getting Worse. @IFPTE #womenscommittee #1u #canlab

— IFPTE (@IFPTE) June 2, 2017

International Labor Communications Association:

2017 ILCA Labor Media Contest deadline extended to June 30, 2017! View and Download the Call for Entries here:

— ILCA Communications (@ILCAonline) June 2, 2017


Iron Workers ready for the future #ThursdayThoughts

— Ironworkers. (@TheIronworkers) June 1, 2017

Jobs with Justice:

The tomato-growing industry has been transformed for the better by @CIW, through its Fair Food Program.

— Jobs With Justice (@jwjnational) June 5, 2017

Labor Council for Latin American Advancement:

"NEPA is fundamental to combating #EnvironmentalRacism." - Chapter President Eddie Rosario of NYC LCLAA #ProtectNEPA #1uLatino #GreenLatinos

— LCLAA (@LCLAA) June 4, 2017


#LIUNA Local 1089 in Canada invests in children’s mental #healthcare at @bluewaterhealth

— LIUNA (@LIUNA) June 1, 2017


A true labor-management partnership at the VA via @thehill @NFFE_Union #1u

— IAMAW (@MachinistsUnion) June 5, 2017

National Association of Letter Carriers:

Indianapolis Branch 39 members Dave Tunison (l) & Jim Gilmour raised nearly $2,000 for @MDAnews during the recent @MDACentralIN Musclewalk.

— Letter Carriers (@NALC_National) May 28, 2017

National Day Laborer Organizing Network:

.@CityAttorneyLA—we need you to side with LA’s immigrants #FreeRomulo

— NDLON (@NDLON) June 2, 2017

National Domestic Workers Alliance:

#StatusOfBlackWomen is the most comprehensive report on Black women in every state. Report releases on June 7!

— Domestic Workers (@domesticworkers) June 5, 2017

National Guestworker Alliance:

Celebrating a big win against racism, xenophobia, and criminalization in Louisiana! #immigration #resist

— GuestworkerAlliance (@NGAdignity) May 31, 2017

National Nurses United:

Big winners in California’s new healthcare plan: Households and small businesses #HealthyCA #SB562

— NationalNursesUnited (@NationalNurses) June 4, 2017

National Taxi Workers Alliance:

Signs of Wage Error by Uber Came Well Before an Admission

— NY Taxi Workers (@NYTWA) June 2, 2017

The NewsGuild-CWA:

Workers at GateHouse publications won a stunning victory at May 25 shareholders meeting. $NEWM

— NewsGuild (@news_guild) May 31, 2017

NFL Players Association:

The #NFLPA goes green to close out #mentalhealth month. The staff is here for you. Visit to learn more.

— NFLPA (@NFLPA) June 1, 2017

North America's Building Trades Unions, AFL-CIO:

Laborers win significant battle to protect Illinois prevailing wages

— The Building Trades (@BldgTrdsUnions) May 31, 2017

Pride At Work:

March with P@W & Labor at the @EqualityMarch17! Meet at 9 AM, outside the @AFLCIO - 2 blocks from the start of #EqualityMarch #1u #1upride

— Pride at Work (@PrideatWork) May 31, 2017

Printing, Publishing & Media Workers Sector-CWA:

Our Government Printing Office employees are among those under assault by Trump Budget

— CWA Printing Sector (@CWAPrintingSect) June 5, 2017

Professional Aviation Safety Specialists:

Say "No" to HR1461! PASS joins Federal Workers Alliance to oppose bill that will harm veterans & the dedicated employees @DeptVetAffairs

— PASS (@PASSNational) June 2, 2017

Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union:

On-call scheduling is officially banned in #nyc thank you @NYCMayor #FairWorkWeek

— RWDSU (@RWDSU) May 30, 2017

School Administrators:

Hall Passes, Buses, Lunch Duty: What If The Principal Could Focus On Achievement?

— AFSA Leadership (@AFSAUnion) June 3, 2017

Solidarity Center:

6 million+ #SouthAfrica workers are w/o jobs. In a country of 55M ppl & 22M workers, that figure is staggering.

— Solidarity Center (@SolidarityCntr) June 5, 2017

Transport Workers:

One way to succeed in business? Have a daughter!

— TWU (@transportworker) June 5, 2017

Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO:

This is a serious problem and proof that unions are needed now more than ever. #1u

— Transp. Trades Dept. (@TTDAFLCIO) May 25, 2017


New post on! We Are the UAW – Potter Park Zoo

— UAW (@UAW) June 1, 2017

United Food and Commercial Workers:

MT @labourreporter: Teachers at the Islamic Institute of Toronto join UFCW #union

— UFCW (@UFCW) June 1, 2017

Union Label and Service Trades Department, AFL-CIO:

Locals 455, 540 and 1000 Stand Together to Defeat Anti-Union Legislation in Texas

— Union Label Dept. (@ULSTD_AFLCIO) May 31, 2017


After 49 years, one airline food worker earns only 31¢ over his city's airport minimum wage. #FedUp @United

— UNITE HERE (@unitehere) June 5, 2017

United Steelworkers:

Calif. Public Employee Board Files Complaint after Oak Valley Hospital Rescinds Union Rights

— United Steelworkers (@steelworkers) June 5, 2017

Working America:

Hundreds of Walmart Employees Say They've Been Punished for Taking Sick Days #paidsickdays #paidleave

— Working America (@WorkingAmerica) June 5, 2017 Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 06/05/2017 - 13:06

Undermining Our Democracy: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 13:10
Undermining Our Democracy: 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.

Op-Ed School Vouchers Don't Just Undermine Public Schools, They Undermine Our Democracy: "Trump wants to siphon billions of dollars from public schools to fund private and religious school vouchers. It’s an idea that’s bad for kids, public education and our democracy."

Workers Want a Green Economy, Not a Black Environment: "To justify withdrawing from the Paris climate change accord, President Trump said during his press conference today, 'I was elected to represent the city of Pittsburgh, not Paris.' From terrible experience, Pittsburghers know about pollution."

Trump Helps Republicans Revive House Bill That Weakens Unions: "The AFL-CIO was particularly outraged by the provision that said voters who stayed home for union elections would be counted as casting a 'no' ballot. 'If political elections were held in this fashion, virtually no one would have been elected, because the number of people who stay home, leave ballot sections blank or vote for someone else outstrips the number of votes officeholders receive,' the AFL-CIO wrote in response to a pro-ERA op-ed."

In Texas, S.B. 4 Is an Attack on All Working People: "A powerful new video from the Texas AFL-CIO shows that the state’s new 'show your papers' bill, S.B. 4, isn’t just an attack on immigrants, but an attack on all working people. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed S.B. 4 into law last month. In response, many communities and organizations, including the Texas AFL-CIO, are choosing to fight back."

13 Ways the Trump Budget Hurts Working People: "There are tons of analyses and numbers that could keep economists busy for days, but the bottom line is President Donald Trump’s budget will have negative effects on the lives of everyday Americans. Here are some of the most notable examples of a budget that betrays working people...."

A Memorial Day Message from Will Attig, Iraq War Veteran and Union Veterans Council Executive Director: "I want everyone to take a second to reflect on what Memorial Day means to you. As a member of one of the hardest-hit Infantry units in Iraq, this day means a lot to me. It represents the 51 names memorialized on a wall at Fort Campbell, Ky. Those names represent 51 comrades, friends and brothers whom my unit lost during Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom, they are but just 51 names out of a list of 1.1 million American veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice."

St. Louis Plumbers Go Above and Beyond to Save Kitten: "Union plumbers, members of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA) Local 562, responded to a service request at a hospital with a plumbing problem. But this call was a little different, a 6-week-old kitten had fallen into the drain and gotten stuck. Alan Glosemeyer and Chad Beckmann responded by tirelessly working to save the kitten."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/02/2017 - 14:10

Could Your Old Boss Keep You from Getting a New Job?

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 12:15
Could Your Old Boss Keep You from Getting a New Job?

Non-compete agreements and their increasing use by employers in low-wage and skilled trades industries was the topic of discussion on Wednesday, when the North Carolina State AFL-CIO held its first-ever Facebook Live chat with experts at the North Carolina Justice Center's Workers’ Rights Project.

Director Allan Freyer and senior attorney Carol Brooke, with the Workers' Rights Project, are the authors of a new North Carolina Justice Center brief, titled Keeping Secrets? How Non-Compete Agreements for Low-Wage Workers Hurt Hiring and Hold Down Wages.

About 1 in 5 Americans are currently working under a non-compete—an agreement between an employer and an employee that, once the employee leaves, will restrict the type of employment they can accept afterward. Usually the restrictions are limited by time and geographic region.

Originally, non-compete agreements were signed in high-wage, high-skill industries with crucially important employees who might know a company’s trade secrets, have received significant company-specific training, or held access to key customer information.

That practice has changed in recent years for the benefit of bosses but not working people (or the marketplace).

Non-competes are now being used in low-wage industries like housecleaning and food service—not with the people keeping the accounts, but the people doing the cleaning and making the food—jobs where there are no trade secrets or proprietary knowledge at risk.

In the absence of a collectively negotiated union contract, the only leverage most individual frontline workers in low-wage jobs have to bargain for better pay is their labor—and the threat of taking it elsewhere or going into business for themselves.

Now their bosses are using the threat of lawsuits over non-compete violations to trap people making sandwiches, digging ditches and cleaning apartments in low-wage jobs that don’t allow them to enjoy the fruits of their labor—at least 14% of the nation’s workforce, according to the Justice Center.

In a win for its 10 former employees, a Chapel Hill-based housecleaning company agreed to stop trying to enforce an agreement after the Justice Center came to their defense, arguing in Orange County Superior Court that non-compete agreements in low-wage industries violate state policy by imposing unreasonable hardships on people trying to get a better or different job.

"When the workers started, they didn’t understand what they were signing," Brooke said. "Those who did understand the implications felt they had no choice if they wanted the job."

Enforcement of non-compete agreements varies by state. Courts in green states can rewrite entire agreements. Courts can rewrite illegal clauses in blue states and will invalidate non-competes with even one illegal clause in red states (source).

How courts view non-compete agreements varies from state to state, but courts in most states disfavor their use. California and two others ban them completely. North Carolina courts look at whether the agreement is in writing, whether the employee is getting anything in return, and if the time and area restrictions are reasonable—which, in the case of most people earning little more than the minimum wage, they are not.

"Even if the workers win in the end, it's a lengthy process," Brooke said. "The workers we represented went through over two years of stress and constant concern."

Non-compete agreements are also a growing problem for mid-wage, skilled trades workers like plumbers, who often have had significant training but work within a general occupational body of knowledge and under a code that’s available to anyone who wants to be a plumber. Existing firms are using non-competes to lock down these employees, preventing competition and limiting the ability of customers to hire whomever they want.

"There is legitimate interest in preventing your company from being burned from the inside by employees," Freyer said. "But a contract that prevents a plumber from working for three years is ridiculous."

So, what can people do to end the abuse of non-compete agreements in low-wage and skilled trades industries?

Find work at a unionized employer because union contracts that don’t already forbid non-compete agreements would require negotiations before bosses could impose them. (Read how the same federal law imposing that requirement could be used at non-unionized employers.)

But without a union on their side—after going through the entire hiring process before they’re handed a non-compete agreement and told to sign it—most people will find themselves between a rock and a hard place, Brooke said.

"That’s why we need some kind of public policy fix that affects all workplaces and all employers," Freyer said. "We need a solution for all workers."

Policymakers could start by producing a minimum income standard under which people can’t be forced to sign a non-compete—or just do away with them all together.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/02/2017 - 13:15


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