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Pride Month Profiles: Irene Soloway

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 11:03
Pride Month Profiles: Irene Soloway Sisters in the Brotherhoods

For Pride Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various LGBTQ Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our first profile this year is Irene Soloway.

As a young adult in 1978, Irene Soloway moved from St. Louis to New York. She was working in a bar that had a significant clientele who were roofers. Soloway referred to the behavior of her boss at the bar as "appalling," so she quit. The roofers in the bar that she knew jokingly offered her a roofing hammer. She took it as a challenge, and it made her want to show them that she could do the job.

Soloway did some roofing work, but hated it. She moved through various jobs in the construction industry, but settled on carpentry, both because she liked the work and the Carpenters union opened its doors to women. She became a member in 1979, when she began the Women in Apprenticeship Program. Soloway and other women were made to feel that they belong, that the program was more than tokenism.

At the time, not only were there few women in the building trades, even fewer of them were feminist Jewish New York lesbians. Soloway said that she rarely faced any direct discrimination. Instead, the concerns of rank-and-file members, women or otherwise, were largely ignored in her local at the time. She said:

The union and the apprenticeship in the Carpenters Union was now what I would consider sexist...we were never discriminated against within the school—but the specific issues that were barriers to women were never addressed specifically. So it was a second hand...diffuse kind of way that sexism was expressed.

Even when concerns were raised, leaders in the local were told to keep their concerns quiet, as they were all "brothers" in the union. Soloway explained:

We tried to inform the Carpenters Union of what we thought they needed to do to make the union receptive to women and to be inclusive. And we...became aware...that the Carpenters Union was not interested in fresh, new ideas coming from rank and file. We came in with ideas about having sexual harassment for the men in construction. We came in with ideas about having a Women's Committee that would address the issues of women in construction. We actually came in with ideas about how the apprenticeship school could be more in touch with the apprentices around issues of ethnicity and race and issues....And what we were always told was: We're all one Union and we're all brothers, and there's no point out these differences because we're all carpenters.

This was the first time she had been in a union and Soloway was very excited about it because she believed that it was a structure that was supposed to support her and provide a steady job. But her local at the time was very undemocratic and her concerns weren't taken seriously. Despite the fact that she was often the only woman in the meetings, she kept attending for the next five years, never backing down from the agenda that she pursued. 

In 1979, Soloway had been a founding member of United Tradeswomen, a group of diverse women working in the building trades. The organization was originally formed to recruit women into apprenticeship programs but quickly grew to provide support and advocacy for women who were starting to enter the construction industry in New York. Much of Soloway's early activism took place outside the union hall.

Fear and intimidation weren't limited to the union hall, they were also present in the workplace. Rumors were rampant that members who spoke out against union leadership were met with violence or had their careers and lives destroyed. Soloway wasn't intimidated. By 1994, she noted in an interview that many of the things she and allies had pushed for at the time have come to pass:

Now almost fifteen years later—they actually are being addressed, so that in terms of, yes, there is actually a Women's Committee now that's...sanctioned to meet within the Carpenters school, and it's advertised in the Carpenters paper that there is such a committee, and who the contact people are—so there's, at least, an acknowledgement of this committee. And there is specific training—sexual harassment training—for men and being done by women who are Carpenters—graduates of our school—who are now teaching at the school—which is an important part of the program. And another one of our other ideas was about teaching labor history in the Carpenters school, which was then ignored, and now, you know, like history's being taught in the Carpenters school.

During the mid-1980s, she got a job with the city's Health and Hospitals Corporation. The shift from at-will work that was left to the whims of the local's power structure to a secure job with security was a major turning point in her life. When she started working for the city, she felt that her job was more secure and she could speak out more. In the civil service, they had elected stewards, not ones chosen by the power structure. She won the steward position after becoming outspoken about asbestos problems on her worksite. She started refusing to work in contaminated areas. Management wasn't prepared for the problem and had to deal with it because of her. Several men came and asked her to run for steward. She won.

Soloway also helped produce the newspaper "Hard Hat News" and had to use pseudonyms like Brick Shields, to disguise her identity. She worked on a long, but successful, campaign to expand representation for rank-and-file members within the district council. In 1990, she appeared with other carpenters before the New York City Commission on Human Rights to testify about gender and race relations in the industry. She shared widespread reports that women in the industry faced threats of rape and physical violence and were subjected to pornography and insulting personalized graffiti on the worksite. 

While she was working as a carpenter at Lincoln Hospital, she began taking pre-med classes and completed the coursework to become a physician's assistant. She left carpentry and began work at a methadone clinic. She looked back on her activism and those of her fellow carpenters and what impact it had:

We still felt very much on the outside of the construction industry. It felt very kind of scary to us, but we kind of created cultural groups that supported ourselves and each other, that was able to move forward into that industry. Now I think that women are more into the industry, so I think we did do something. I think we did, like, move ourselves inside—from the outside to the inside—by creating an identity for ourselves, as well as educating ourselves and each other, and trying to educate the union about us....I think our presence and our strong continued presence for each other and ourselves was the main accomplishment of this group. 

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 06/11/2019 - 12:03

Tags: LGBTQ Rights

Stop the War on Working People: In the States Roundup

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 09:11
Stop the War on Working People: In the States Roundup AFL-CIO

It's time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states. Click on any of the links to follow the state federations on Twitter.

Alaska AFL-CIO:

The front page of the Daily News-Miner today: Dunleavy administration warns workers of possible #layoffs. Tell your legislators you oppose a #DunleavyShutdown. visit to write your legislator TODAY!#akgov #akleg
Full story:

— Alaska AFL-CIO (@AKAFLCIO) June 7, 2019

Arkansas AFL-CIO:

America's Workplaces Aren't Often Safe for LGBTQ Employees via Teen Vogue

— Arkansas AFL-CIO (@ArkansasAFLCIO) June 10, 2019

California Labor Federation:

Californians deserve protection from high-interest, predatory loans. Join the @Cali4EJ coalition and support #AB539 to guarantee access to safe and affordable credit. Take Action by visiting #StopTheDebtTrap #1u

— California Labor Federation (@CaliforniaLabor) June 10, 2019

Colorado AFL-CIO:

After hearing powerful testimony from SEIU Local 105 President @RonRuggiero105 the Colorado AFL-CIO unanimously voted for a resolution to fully support SEIU Local 105 and its members as they fight for a good contract with Kaiser Permanente. #@SEIU105

— Colorado AFL-CIO (@AFLCIOCO) June 7, 2019

Connecticut AFL-CIO:

The Trump administration's plot to cripple the union contract between the VA and @AFGENational will make it harder for front-line workers to give veterans the care they deserve. We stand with AFGE and VA workers nationwide. #SaveOurVA #1u

— Connecticut AFL-CIO (@ConnAFLCIO) June 5, 2019

Idaho AFL-CIO:

I just signed a @theactionnet petition: Tell Volkswagen: It’s time to stop your war on workers!. Sign here:

— Idaho State AFL-CIO (@IdahoAFLCIO) June 3, 2019

Indiana State AFL-CIO:

Unions: fighting for working people yesterday, today, and tomorrow. #1u

— Indiana AFL-CIO (@INAFLCIO) June 5, 2019

Iowa Federation of Labor:

Rep. Cindy Axne Leads Fight to Protect Health Care for Iowans

— Iowa AFL-CIO (@IowaAFLCIO) June 7, 2019

Kentucky State AFL-CIO:

Paducah Unions Observe Workers Memorial Day by Helping Feed the Hungry

— Kentucky AFL-CIO (@aflcioky) May 6, 2019

Maine AFL-CIO:

THANK YOU @chloemaxmin for engaging with labor early on in the process to create a great piece of legislation that will not only fight climate change, but provide good paying working class jobs with benefits! #mepolitics @AFLCIO #1U #ClimateAction #ClimateChange

— Maine AFL-CIO (@MEAFLCIO) June 10, 2019

Massachusetts AFL-CIO:

"...the muscle-flexing by airport workers may reflect the return of a model in which aggrieved employees threaten the wheels of commerce." Workers across the country are changing the tides! #UnionPower #OneJobShouldBeEnough #1u

— Massachusetts AFL-CIO (@massaflcio) June 10, 2019

Metro Washington (D.C.) Council AFL-CIO:

CBTU and CLUW among the constituency groups represented at the Metro Washington Council Constituency Group Open House

— MetroDCLaborCouncil (@DCLabor) June 6, 2019

Michigan AFL-CIO:

“Our state’s economy is driven by the labor of the working men and women of this state. It makes perfect sense that all agencies related to labor and economic development be placed under one coordinated effort." President Ron Bieber, Michigan AFL-CIO

— Michigan AFL-CIO (@MIAFLCIO) June 6, 2019

Minnesota AFL-CIO:

This is why I went on a two-day strike this past week #Solidarity with the workers at Guardian Angels nursing home in Elk River who stood up for their residents last week. #1u @SEIUHCMN @seiumn

— Minnesota AFL-CIO (@MNAFLCIO) June 10, 2019

Missouri AFL-CIO:

Deteriorating infrastructure are a threat to safety and quality of life! #InfrastructureNow

— Missouri AFL-CIO (@MOAFLCIO) June 8, 2019

Montana AFL-CIO:

Support Missoula's future, support apprenticeship utilization.

— Montana AFL-CIO (@MTaflcio) June 7, 2019

Nebraska State AFL-CIO:

I just took action on @theactionnet: Add Your Name: No Vote on NAFTA Until It Is Fixed. Take action here:

— NE State AFL-CIO (@NEAFLCIO) June 6, 2019

Nevada State AFL-CIO:

Inspiring to hear how @Local4041 used organizing & communications to pass collective bargaining through #NVLeg for 20k state employees! Big win for NV working families #IAMComms19

— Nevada State AFL-CIO (@NVAFLCIO) June 6, 2019

New Hampshire AFL-CIO:

Great work to everyone who made the Public Workers Memorial possible. An important and long overdue tribute.

— NewHampshire AFL-CIO (@NHAFLCIO) June 7, 2019

New Mexico Federation of Labor:


— NMFL (@NMFLaflcio) June 6, 2019

New York State AFL-CIO:

Can you describe your housing? “The landlord is, as I said, our boss because he's the owner of the house” How many rooms are there? “Only 2.” For how many people? “9 or 10 people.” - Boris

Take action! Text Farmworkers to 877877 today!#Justice4Farmworkers #UnionStrong


North Carolina State AFL-CIO:

United we stand. Divided we fall. Together we win, so say, "#CountMeIn" to building a bigger, more engaged, more powerful labor movement to win for working people! #1u

— NC State AFL-CIO (@NCStateAFLCIO) June 7, 2019

North Dakota AFL-CIO:

ND AFL-CIO 60th Annual Convention Delegates celebrate ND Mill and Elevator Day with @BCTGM President David Durkee, greetings from MN & SD AFL-CIO and Manitoba Labor Feds, & elect new President and Board: #1u

— North Dakota AFL-CIO (@NDAFLCIO) June 8, 2019


Always a beautiful sight when to many friends of ⁦@AFLCIO⁩ and working people join together. Thanks to ⁦@CincyAFLCIO⁩ and ⁦@UAW⁩ for hosting the annual COPE dinner and celebrating #DignityOfWork

— Ohio AFL-CIO (@ohioaflcio) June 7, 2019

Oklahoma State AFL-CIO:

Check out our June Newsletter with information about Companies who Falsely Labeled Products "Made in U.S.A", AFL-CIO State Convention, Union Made Fathers Day, Millennialization of American Labor and more!

Check it out at

— Oklahoma AFL-CIO (@OK_AFL_CIO) June 3, 2019

Oregon AFL-CIO:

“Oregon’s union movement will continue to fight to protect the compensation of all workers and against these types of harmful cuts.”

— Oregon AFL-CIO (@OregonAFLCIO) June 7, 2019

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO:

A strong union contract for VA workers = a strong VA for veterans. We stand with @AFGENational! #SaveOurVA #1u@3Afge @PhilGlover15 @unionveterans @Darrinkellypgh

— PA AFL-CIO (@PaAFL_CIO) June 5, 2019

Rhode Island AFL-CIO:

RICOSH / ILSR Alliance Luncheon Fundraising Event. R.S.V.P. to #1U

— Rhode Island AFL-CIO (@riaflcio) June 10, 2019

Texas AFL-CIO:

ULP Strike by IBEW 520 in Austin, TX #1u

— Texas AFL-CIO (@TexasAFLCIO) June 10, 2019

Virginia AFL-CIO:

What a ‘Living Wage’ Actually Means--If you ask a dozen lawmakers what constitutes a “living wage,” you’ll get a dozen answers. Where does the term come from? And is it even accurate? Read about it here:

— Virginia AFL-CIO (@Virginia_AFLCIO) June 7, 2019

Washington State Labor Council:

Thank you for your leadership, @PattyMurray and @RepJayapal, and for standing up for working people!

— WA State AFL-CIO (@WAAFLCIO) June 7, 2019

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO:

Intertwined: The Labor Movement and LGBT Rights,

— WI AFL-CIO (@wisaflcio) June 9, 2019 Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 06/11/2019 - 10:11

Pride Month Profiles: Bill Olwell

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 08:16
Pride Month Profiles: Bill Olwell UFCW

For Pride Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various LGBTQ Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our next profile is Bill Olwell.

In 1953, Bill Olwell started working as a grocery clerk at Lucky's supermarket in Seattle, where he became a member of the Seattle Retail Clerks Local 1001. In 1959, he became a business representative for the local and in 1968, he was elected president. He held that position for a decade, and starting in 1972, he was an international vice president of the Retail Clerks International Association, as well.

Afraid that others would exploit his sexual orientation, he stayed in the closet during this time and often took a friend who was a lesbian to union social events as a cover story. "It wasn't that often, but I used her for years, and it took the heat off," he said. But as Olwell rose up the union's ranks, political opponents began attempting to derail him using gay smears, despite the fact that his activism was focused on labor, not LGBTQ rights.

Olwell also served as president of the King County Labor Council. He was an outspoken advocate for racial integration in construction and strongly opposed the Vietnam War. These more radical stances were at odds with many in the Seattle labor movement at the time, so they began a smear campaign against him focused on his homosexuality. 

The efforts were too little and too late. Olwell had worked hard for the membership and helped secure contracts after several strikes. He also helped organize insurance and bank workers. One of his biggest victories was negotiating with Seattle's high-end department stores to end long-standing gender-based discrimination. Women comprised approximately 75% of the local and Olwell had helped many of them get a big bump in pay. They supported him enthusiastically: "Those members could have cared less about me being gay. From that day on, there was a huge change in me. I stopped worrying about what people knew."

When he was running for re-election as president of Local 1001 in 1969, Olwell realized that focusing on the issues that actually matter to workers was not only the right thing to do, but popular as well:

I always knew that if I could get the election on my experience and my delivery, I would win, and as it turned out I did. Once I put my contracts up front, the gay thing just wasn't an issue. I don't think it cost me ten votes out of the four thousand that voted. We had 121 polling places, and I won every polling place but one, and the day after the election, I started working on that one.

He later moved to Washington, D.C., with his partner Eddie Miller. In the nation's capital he worked on the merger between the Retail Clerks and the Amalgamated Meat Cutters to form the new United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). Despite another campaign to smear him because of his sexuality, he was elected national vice president. In 1981, he became the international union's executive vice president and assistant to President Bill Wynn. UFCW would grow to become the largest member of the AFL-CIO during this time, surpassing 1 million members.

Despite the frequent and vicious attacks against his sexuality, Olwell never let them distract him from his efforts on behalf of working people:

People would dismiss me as a lightweight because I'm gay, and then when they saw my influence, they figured that Bill (Wynn) and I had an affair. I was a trench fighter, a real political operator. The question of my gayness only came up when people couldn't think of anything else to say against me.

In 2015, the UFCW's LGBTQ constituency group, OUTreach, named its "Champion of Equality Award" in Olwell's honor. 

Additional source: Out in the Union: A Labor History of Queer America by Miriam Frank.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 06/11/2019 - 09:16

Tags: LGBTQ Rights

Reject Toothless Laws: The Working People Weekly List

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 10:52
Reject Toothless Laws: 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 the latest edition of the Working People Weekly List.

SEC Adopts New Broker Rules That Consumer Advocates Say Are Toothless: "The Securities and Exchange Commission voted on Wednesday to pass the so-called Regulation Best Interest. The commission said the changes would help Main Street investors by tightening the standards governing brokers who sell investment products and outlining a fresh interpretation of the duties of investment advisers who provide financial guidance. 'When working people seek out investment advice, they expect and deserve to be able to rely on the people providing that advice to prioritize their need for a secure financial future over the financial professional’s interest in getting rich,' said Heather Slavkin Corzo, a senior fellow at Americans for Financial Reform and director of capital markets policy at the AFL-CIO."

Trump’s North American Trade Deal Must Do More to Protect U.S. Jobs, Rep. Andy Levin Says: "Mexico didn’t foist NAFTA on the United States, despite President Donald Trump’s constant claims that the U.S. loses 'so much money' on the deal. We did it to ourselves, and we did it deliberately. Corporations wanted to create in Mexico a low-wage haven where they could shift production, expecting us to happily buy the imported goods built with cheap Mexican labor—while exporting our jobs."

House Votes to Give ‘Dreamers’ a Path to Citizenship: "The Democrat-led House passed legislation on Tuesday to grant a path to citizenship to about 2.5 million immigrants whose legal protections President Trump has moved to end, advancing a measure that highlights the bitter partisan differences over immigration. The bill, which passed 237 to 187, with seven Republicans voting yes, would create a new legal pathway for young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, known as Dreamers, and for those with Temporary Protected Status, granted to immigrants whose countries are ravaged by natural disaster or violence."

Trump’s War on Worker Rights: "President Trump ran for office as a champion of American workers and a friend of labor unions, but his administration has systematically favored employers at the expense of workers. In recent months, the administration has moved to tighten qualifications for who must be paid the minimum wage and who must be paid overtime. It is asking the Supreme Court to rule that companies can fire workers on the basis of sexual orientation. The number of workplace safety inspectors employed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fallen to the lowest level in the agency’s half-century of operation."

A Court Blocked Trump’s Bid to Weaken Unions. The White House Found Another Way: "President Donald Trump suffered a major legal setback last August in his effort to deconstruct the administrative state when a federal judge struck down key portions of three executive orders aimed at weakening federal unions and making it easier to fire government employees. But since then, the administration has been achieving the same goals through a different avenue―the bargaining table. And they’ve done it with an assist from presidential appointees whose job is to referee labor disputes within the federal government."

Delaware Governor Signs Bill Protecting Collective Bargaining Rights of 2,000 More State Employees: "Delaware Gov. John Carney signed a bill on Thursday that allows more public employees to collectively bargain for fair wages and good working conditions in the state. Previously, only select professions were afforded this protection and now more than 2,000 workers will have all the benefits that collective bargaining brings. Passage of the bill was possible through the direct and sustained involvement of a number of union members that have been elected to the state legislature."

Profiling Labor Leaders and Activists for Pride Month: "For Pride Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various LGBTQ Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. First, let's take a look back at LGBTQ Americans we've profiled in the past."

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Ironworkers: "Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the Ironworkers."

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 06/10/2019 - 11:52

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Fire Fighters

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 08:03
Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Fire Fighters AFL-CIO

Next up in our series, which takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates, is the Fire Fighters.

Name of Union: International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).

Mission: To be a strong representative for our members through collective bargaining; to maintain their health and safety; to provide them with education, training and resources to do their job; and to be politically active in campaigns and legislation in order to make a difference in who gets to have the power that drives the decisions that affect members and the work they do.

Current Leadership of Union: Harold A. Schaitberger serves as the ninth general president of the IAFF. He was a local president and state president before coming to the IAFF to create its political and legislative operation. He was first elected president in 2000. Schaitberger began his professional career as a firefighter in Fairfax County, Virginia. 

Edward A. Kelly serves as the IAFF general secretary-treasurer, hails from Boston and was elected in 2016. The IAFF is also represented by 16 district vice presidents who together form the IAFF Executive Board. The union conducts its convention every two years.

Current Number of Members: 316,000.

Members Work As: Firefighters and paramedics.

Industries Represented: Fire and emergency services in the United States and Canada.

History: Founded on February 28, 1918, delegates representing 24 locals met in Washington, D.C., and held their first IAFF convention. In the following 100 years, the IAFF expanded the role it plays for its members in the political, health, safety, financial and technological arenas.

Throughout its first 100 years, the IAFF has been the leader in improving the health, safety and careers of its members. It has worked to pass legislation that takes care of the families of fallen members and has advanced the fire service forward through health and safety improvements.

The IAFF takes great pride in developing the services it offers its members. From opening its members-only behavioral health facility in 2017 to having a robust disaster relief program on the ground supporting members in the aftermath of our worst natural disasters, the IAFF strives to provide the best value possible for the investment its members make.

And as the IAFF enters its second century, the resources and value it provides to members continues to grow. With the creation of its very own Financial Corporation, the IAFF now provides opportunities for its members to not only improve their financial well-being, but to improve their union. A great example of this is E-18 Media, the IAFF’s multimedia production company. Founded in 2013, E-18 is part of the IAFF’s rapid response team tasked to repel attacks against members by creating and editing videos, making online ad buys and producing educational content from its state-of-the-art, in-house studio at IAFF headquarters.

Take a deeper dive into the history of the IAFF.

Current Campaigns: The IAFF’s Southern Strategic Organizing Initiative to increase membership has seen a 30% growth in membership across the states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

Member trainings include the Affiliate Leadership Training Summit, Communications Training Academy, Fire Ground Survival, FIRE OPS 101, HazMat, the Partnership Education Program, Peer Fitness Trainer Certification, Peer Support, the Political Training Academy (U.S.)Occupational Medicine Resident Program and an Online Learning Center. 

Other activities driven by the IAFF include: FIREPAC, the IAFF App, the Media Awards Contest, Fire Fighter Quarterly Magazine, the IAFF Foundation, the IAFF Motorcycle Group and a series of scholarships to advance the education of our members and the children of members who have died in the line of duty.

Member Efforts: Health and safety resources for IAFF members include: the Behavioral Health Program, Burn Injury Assistance, Cancer Awareness and Prevention, the Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery, Line-of-Duty Death Resources, the Presumptive Health Initiative, Suicide Awareness, the Wellness Fitness Initiative and the World Trade Center Health Program.

Learn More: WebsiteFacebookTwitterYouTube.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 06/10/2019 - 09:03

The TWU Celebrates Its 20th Organizing Victory!

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 11:34
The TWU Celebrates Its 20th Organizing Victory! TWU

The TWU organizing machine is in full swing.

Under this new leadership, the Transport Workers union has just won our 20th new worker organizing drive. We continue to grow and thrive across the entire transport sector. Since 2017, our membership has increased from 137,000 to 151,000.

The TWU is by far the fastest growing union in the country. Our most recent victory came on June 6, when Envoy Air pilot simulator instructors voted unanimously to join our union.

We’ve secured organizing wins with the following work groups:

  • JetBlue Airway inflight crew members
  • Spirit Airlines customer service agents
  • PSA Airlines dispatcher coordinators
  • Kalitta Air cargo dispatchers
  • Envoy Air pilot ground simulator instructors
  • San Francisco bike share workers
  • Washington, D.C., Big Bus workers
  • New York City Big Bus workers
  • Miami Big Bus workers
  • Las Vegas Big Bus workers
  • Chicago Big Bus workers
  • Los Angeles Big Bus workers
  • San Francisco Big Bus workers
  • Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe, Arizona, bike share workers
  • Cleveland bike share workers
  • SP Plus Corp. transportation ferry bus drivers
  • SP Plus transportation shuttle bus drivers
  • Bronx, N.Y., Quality Bus Service drivers
  • New York City Mount Sinai Hospital Shuttle Drivers
  • New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority Bus White Collar Unit
  • New York City MTA staff analysts

Thank you to our organizing teams! Thank you to the workers who stepped up to fight back against the bosses and take action to improve the economic security of your families.

It is the goal of our leadership to demonstrate every day that we are America’s Fighting Democratic Union!

John Samuelsen is international president of TWU, which originally published this post.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/07/2019 - 12:34

Economy Gains 75,000 Jobs in May; Unemployment Steady at 3.6%

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 10:15
Economy Gains 75,000 Jobs in May; Unemployment Steady at 3.6%

The U.S. economy gained 75,000 jobs in May, and the unemployment rate remained at 3.6%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wage growth of 3.1% was lower than last month's 3.4% and, a downward revision of 75,000 for the job numbers for March and April signals that the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee needs to inch down interest rates.

In response to the May job numbers, AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs tweeted:

Though payroll gains were modest, they happened in most industries but were most modest for the highest wage industries. Biggest gains were average and low wage industries. @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) June 7, 2019


Amid a not-so-good jobs report from @BLS_gov Black unemployment stops worsening. Black women's unemployment rate falls from 5.3 to 5.1% as labor force participation rose 62.5 to 62.8% @APRI_National @CBTU72 @drjlastword @rolandsmartin @AFLCIO #JobsReport

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) June 7, 2019


Long-term unemployed as a share of the unemployed continues its disturbing rise, now up to 22.4% from January's 19.3. This is a warning that the 151,000 a month payroll growth is too modest. @AFLCIO #JobsReport

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) June 7, 2019


Over the year, since last May, unemployment fell for all major occupations except administrative and office support which rose from 3.3 to 4.0%. Given the wide use of computers by those workers, the unemployment challenge isn't structural. @AFLCIO #JobsReport

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) June 7, 2019


Another not-so-bad number is modest 2.8 thousand gain in motor vehicle manufacturing, this is a good sign. @UAW @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) June 7, 2019


Retail trade weakness continues, this time the big loss was in clothing stores, down 12.8 thousand. Heavy leveraging of retail firms make this continued weakening ominous. @UFCW @AFLCIO #JobsReport

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) June 7, 2019


Losses in state government employment (down 10,000) and local government (down 9,000 including 3,100 in education) are continuing worrying signs we are failing to restore public investment to the levels needed for sustained growth. @AFSCME @AFTunion @AFLCIO #JobsReport

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) June 7, 2019


Another sign why a 151,000 payroll gain rate a month is too low: women who were unemployed in April were more likely to have dropped out in May (746,000) than found a job (643,00) a reversal from faster job growth @AFLCIO #JobsDay #JobsReport

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) June 7, 2019

Last month's biggest job gains were in professional and business services (33,000), health care (16,000) and construction (4,000). Employment in other major industries, including mining, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, leisure and hospitality, and government, showed little change over the month.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates fell for blacks (6.2%). The unemployment rates for teenagers (12.7%), Hispanics (4.2%), adult men (3.3%), whites (3.3%), adult women (3.2%) and Asians (2.5%) showed little or no change in May.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed in May and accounted for 22.4% of the unemployed.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/07/2019 - 11:15

Delaware Governor Signs Bill Protecting Collective Bargaining Rights of 2,000 More State Employees

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 12:00
Delaware Governor Signs Bill Protecting Collective Bargaining Rights of 2,000 More State Employees Office of Governor John Carney via Flickr

Delaware Gov. John Carney signed a bill on Thursday that allows more public employees to collectively bargain for fair wages and good working conditions in the state. Previously, only select professions were afforded this protection and now more than 2,000 workers will have all the benefits that collective bargaining brings.

The Delaware State AFL-CIO played a critical role in moving the bill through the legislature to the governor’s desk. "This is a proud moment for our unions that represent our state workers," said James Maravelias, president of the Delaware State AFL-CIO. "This shows our constant commitment to their livelihood and our ever-present representation."

"Allowing more state workers to collectively bargain for better wages is a critical step toward improving the lives of all Delaware families," said state Sen. Jack Walsh, the prime sponsor of the legislation. "As the state’s largest employer, we have led the way time and again when it comes to caring for our workers. From paid parental leave and loan forgiveness for public school teachers to cost-of-living wage hikes and stronger labor unions, we are creating a stronger workforce and a brighter future for thousands of our residents."

Michael Begatto, executive director of AFSCME Council 81, praised Carney for helping get the bill through the General Assembly. "It’s not just a big moment, this is a huge moment," he said. "I won’t use the words of our former vice president, but this is a big deal. Believe me, it’s that big of a deal."

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 06/04/2019 - 13:00

Profiling Labor Leaders and Activists for Pride Month

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 09:20
Profiling Labor Leaders and Activists for Pride Month

For Pride Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various LGBTQ Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. First, let's take a look back at LGBTQ Americans we've profiled in the past:

Check back throughout June as we add more names to this prestigious list. 

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 06/03/2019 - 10:20

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Ironworkers

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 08:52
Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Ironworkers

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the Ironworkers.

Name of Union: International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers

Current Leadership of Union: Eric Dean serves as general president, a position he has held since 2015. Prior to that he served as general organizer, general secretary, general vice president, president of the Iron Workers District Council of Chicago and Vicinity and numerous positions for Iron Workers Local 63 in Chicago.

Other officers include General Secretary Ron Piksa, General Treasurer Kenneth "Bill" Dean and general vice presidents Marvin Ragsdale, Darrell LaBoucan, Bernie Evers, Stephen Sweeney, Kevin Bryenton, Robert Boskovich, Don Zampa, James Mahoney and Steve Pendergrass.

Current Number of Members: 130,000.

Members Work As: Ironworkers who work on bridges, structural steel, ornamental, architectural and miscellaneous metals, rebar and in shops. 

Industries Represented: Ironworkers are employed by every industry that needs construction and have worked on nearly every major construction project in North America, including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), the Gateway Arch, the expansion of oil sands plant in Alberta, the World Trade Center and Freedom Tower, among many others.

History: The International Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers of America was formed in 1896, when 16 delegates came together for the founding convention in Pittsburgh. By that time, steel had become the primary material used in the erection of bridges and buildings and the abrupt change from wood and stone drove demand for ironworkers. Ironworkers became known as "cowboys in the sky" for their daring and dangerous work. They joined together to ensure that their voices were unified and heard.

Current Campaigns: The Ironworkers promote standards of excellence for the industry and apprenticeships. Countdown to Zero promotes safety and prevention of death and injury. Iron Worker Women provides news and resources for ironworker women. The Ironworkers participate in the Helmets to Hardhats program that provides training and career opportunities for veterans.

Community Efforts: The John H. Lyons Sr. and Eric S. Waterman scholarships help the children of ironworkers go to college. The Ironworker magazine and IW mobile app are the primary communication tools for ironworkers across North America. The Ironworkers Relief Fund helps members and their families who have been affected by disasters and other traumatic events.

Learn More: WebsiteFacebookTwitter.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 06/03/2019 - 09:52

Fix Our Crumbling Infrastructure: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 09:38
Fix Our Crumbling Infrastructure: 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 the latest edition of the Working People Weekly List.

Pelosi Slow-Walks Trump’s New Nafta Deal: "'We are not going to be a cheap date,' said Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, a Pelosi ally who is pushing the administration to reopen negotiations with Mexico to strengthen enforcement of labor provisions. 'Nancy Pelosi is not going to sign an agreement if it is not a good agreement. She is not going to bring it to the floor unless she knows that it is going to make the changes that we need in Nafta, period,' he added, echoing the sentiments of people close to the speaker."

Leo Gerard to Step Down After 18 Years as Head of United Steelworkers: "The United Steelworkers announced on Wednesday the retirement of four top officials, including International President Leo W. Gerard, effective mid-July. The changes begin a period of major leadership transition for the Pittsburgh-based union ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Mr. Gerard—high profile in the steel industry and recognizable for his sharp wit and Canadian lilt—will step down after more than 50 years with the largest manufacturing union in the country. The union has 850,000 members in North America. Elected international president in 2001, Mr. Gerard 'has largely decided to enjoy his well-earned retirement and looks forward to spending more time with his wife and family,' according to a union press release."

How Boots Riley Helped Salt Lake Film Society’s Front-of-House Staff Unionize: "'There’s a bunch of us that are organizing to get us paid more. Get some benefits. We could really use your energy to jump things off.' The Salt Lake Film Society is Salt Lake City’s hub for independent cinema, and the front-of-house staff are the ticket selling, snack providing gate keepers to audiences looking for inspiration on the big screen. They’re mostly under the age of 30, and all are passionate film lovers. Although many of them have worked at these theaters for years, the jobs have stagnant wages and provide no sick time and no path for advancement. Many employees were attracted to jobs at these theaters by their love for film, but despite their commitment to the organization, workers saw limited opportunity for growth. So they reached out to the Utah AFL-CIO, who connected them with an organizer from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the union that represents people in all kinds of behind-the-scenes jobs in the entertainment industry across North America. Despite representing the people who make movies in Hollywood and the people who work front-of-house in theaters with live shows, movie theater front-of-house staff is largely unrepresented in the United States. But the IATSE doesn’t back down from a challenge."

The Interstate Is Crumbling. Try Fixing the Section Used by 200,000 Vehicles a Day: "Dense cities have grown up around the aging freeways, hemming them in so that expensive engineering feats are needed to do work on them. Yet work is often unavoidable. I-4, for instance, was built in the 1960s to handle 70,000 vehicles a day. Now it is jammed with up to 200,000."

Giving Workers a Voice: 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 across 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."

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Jung Sai Garment Work Strikers: "For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our next profile is about the Jung Sai Garment Work Strikers."

‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: A Union Organizer Goes to Washington: "'State of the Unions' podcast co-hosts Julie and Tim talk to Rep. Andy Levin (Mich.), a former AFL-CIO employee and career union organizer and activist. They discuss labor law reform, trade and the path to power for working people in Michigan and across the country."

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Theatrical Stage Employees: "Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE)."

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Monica Thammarath: "For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our next profile is Monica Thammarath."

Teamwork On and Off the Ice: Worker Wins: "Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with women's hockey players forming a union and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life."

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes: "For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our next profiles are Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes."

We Need Action on Infrastructure, Not More Talk: "More than half a century ago, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower and a Democratic-majority Congress empowered millions of Americans to build an interstate highway system that became the envy of the world. Back then, our nation understood that investment in infrastructure was crucial to creating a better future."

Phoenix Rising: Betty Guardado Ousts Incumbent in City Council Race: "Labor union member and activist Betty Guardado was elected to the Phoenix City Council this week, and with strong union support, she ousted the incumbent. Guardado easily beat her opponent as she won more than 62% of the vote."

Power Connection: Connecticut AFL-CIO Empowers Fight for $15: "In a monumental leap of economic justice last week, the Connecticut Legislature passed a law that increases the state minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2023. The increase brings Connecticut into parity with its neighboring states of New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey, which have passed similar increases. The victory comes as a result of unprecedented coordination among labor unions and allied advocates in the state that have been fighting for an increase for years."

Path to Power Is Clear in the Ocean State: "The Rhode Island AFL-CIO has been busy in 2019, leading the fight on a number of important legislative initiatives. There are numerous union members who have been elected to the state legislature and that has provided an opportunity to pass legislation that will make a huge difference for our members and for working people across the Ocean State."

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Farm Labor Organizing Committee: "Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC)."

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Arlene Inouye: "For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our next profile is Arlene Inouye."

It's Time to Fix Our Roads and Infrastructure with Funding from Congress: "Bent rims. Broken springs. Bridges and roads unfit for drivers. Search #FTDR (short for “Fix the Damn Roads”) on social media, and you’ll find countless stories from Michiganders who are paying the price of crumbling, potholed roads and highways."

The PRO Act: Pathway to Power for Workers: "Abigail Disney, granddaughter of the co-founder of the Walt Disney Co., called out the family business’ current CEO last month for making what’s supposed to be the happiest place on earth pretty darn miserable for its workers."

Invest in Infrastructure: In the States Roundup: "It's time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/31/2019 - 10:38

Giving Workers a Voice: What Working People Are Doing This Week

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 06:11
Giving Workers a Voice: What Working People Are Doing This Week AFL-CIO

Welcome to our regular feature, a look at what the various AFL-CIO unions and other working family organizations are doing across 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.

A. Philip Randolph Institute:

Judge Orders New Union Vote at Kumho Tire Plant in Georgia

— APRI National (DC) (@APRI_National) May 16, 2019

Actors' Equity Association:

"It took me nine years and four states to get my Equity Card!" - Equity member Mary Martello shares how she received her Equity card! #HIGMEC

— Actors' Equity (@ActorsEquity) May 29, 2019


.@AFGENational supports civil and equal rights for workers from all backgrounds. That’s why we applaud the House for passing the Equality Act that would prohibit discrimination against all LGBTQ Americans, including federal employees. #1u

— AFGE (@AFGENational) May 29, 2019


“If we’re going to change how we do things, who knows how to better do it than front-line staff. To give those people a voice and the opportunity to do their jobs more efficiently, that improves patient care.”

— AFSCME (@AFSCME) May 28, 2019


"As teachers, we ... see the impact of discrimination on the faces of our kids. As a responsible adult & mandated reporter, it is my duty to stand up for ... my students." -MN Teacher of the Year Kelly Holstine on why she boycotted the White House

— AFT (@AFTunion) May 29, 2019

Air Line Pilots:

Airline #pilots want to make a very safe system even safer. #KeepFlyingSafe

— ALPA (@WeAreALPA) May 24, 2019

Alliance for Retired Americans:

Thanks for fighting for retirees @RepLawrence! We appreciate your votes to protect #Medicare and #SocialSecurity #RetireeHero #RetireeVR18

— Alliance Retirees (@ActiveRetirees) May 28, 2019

Amalgamated Transit Union:

CT Lawmakers Supporting Federal #Transit Worker Protection Bill #publictransit #safebus

— ATU, Transit Union (@ATUComm) May 15, 2019

American Federation of Musicians:

Outrageous! ALL musicians deserved to be paid fairly for ALL their work ALL the time. #1u #Organize! ✊🏿✊✊🏾

— AFM (@The_AFM) May 24, 2019

American Postal Workers Union:

"The survey is being pushed immediately before the APWU will begin interest arbitration...There is more than a good chance that the results of this survey will be utilized, as has been done previously, in interest arbitration against you."#APWUnited #USPS

— APWU National (@APWUnational) May 21, 2019

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance:

This #APAHM let's pledge to get #AAPI communities counted in the Census! We have everything you need to join our campaign here -->

— APALA (@APALAnational) May 13, 2019

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA:

Flight Attendants! Sign this petition to demand the DOT & FAA immediately implement our 10 hours rest & to encourage members of Congress to hold them accountable: It's been 8 months since we achieved 10 hours min. rest. This is unacceptable! #Fightfor10

— AFA-CWA (@afa_cwa) May 28, 2019


In 2016, @MDLZ outsourced 600 #Nabisco jobs to Mexico & paid workers as low as 97 cents/hr.

In 2017, CEO @Dirkvandeput took $42M pay package.

In 2018, shareholders rejected CEO pay & MDLZ then eliminated worker pensions.

That's not just low, that's #OreoLow. #1u

— BCTGM International (@BCTGM) May 15, 2019


Great presentations, @GlobalCCS & @ccsknowledge, at our #Boilermaker + Building Trades Town Hall yesterday. Great to see so many MPs, local officials & trade union members come out to learn about #CCUS & why it MUST be part of the climate change solution.

— Boilermakers Union (@boilermakernews) May 24, 2019


We need investment in #infrastructure like school #construction, not the walls. #BuildSchoolsNotWall #buildfortomorrow #1u

— Bricklayers Union (@IUBAC) May 28, 2019

California School Employees Association:

Charter schools are among the nation’s most segregated, an Associated Press analysis found in 2017. #education4everyone

— CSEA (@CSEA_Now) May 28, 2019

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists:

The @NAACP’s@Tiffanydloftin is dropping wisdom and wit at CBTU’s political townhall. #CBTUVotes #Be2020Ready

— CBTU (@CBTU72) May 23, 2019

Coalition of Labor Union Women:

Nationwide, there are more than 5,000 outdoor statues of people of all sorts. But estimates show fewer than 400 of them (or 8%) are of women.

— CLUW National (@CLUWNational) May 26, 2019

Communications Workers of America:

Over the last 12 years, New York has lost nearly 40,000 call-center jobs because major corporations decided to ship them away. The practice of subsidizing corporations that destroy good, middle-class jobs must end now.

— CWA (@CWAUnion) May 29, 2019

Department for Professional Employees:

By joining together in union, physicians and other professionals can negotiate for more manageable workloads and other tools to prevent burnout. #1u

— Department for Professional Employees (@DPEaflcio) May 29, 2019

Electrical Workers:

College isn't for everyone. The #IBEW is partnering with this Chicago-area school to let kids know about careers in the skilled trades.

— IBEW (@IBEW) May 24, 2019

Farm Labor Organizing Committee:

One distinctive of FLOC is our members drive our initiatives. They speak and we get their permission to speak on issues. We are made up of some of the hardest working poor people: migrant/seasonal farm workers/ & city dwellers in urban Toledo. Here are some NC members:

— Farm Labor Organizing Committee (@SupportFLOC) May 28, 2019

Federal Employees:

NFFE's statement on the Trump Administration's plan to close multiple Civilian Conservation Corps Centers.

— NFFE (@NFFE_Union) May 24, 2019

Fire Fighters:

Cancer leading cause of death among #firefighters

— IAFF (@IAFFNewsDesk) May 29, 2019

Heat and Frost Insulators:

Did you know you can get paid to go to school? There's no catch. The Insulators Union wants to recruit you for the upcoming Mechanical Insulators class. Put yourself in a competitive field and work with the best instructors! Visit

— Insulators Union (@InsulatorsUnion) May 29, 2019

International Labor Communications Association:

“I went straight from college to work as a union organizer in Mississippi,” said the late author and working people's storyteller #1u

— Labor Communications (@ILCAonline) May 28, 2019


An inspirational story of a small business owner who defied the odds to achieve success. Happy National Small Business Week! #SmallisMighty
View case study:

— Ironworkers. (@TheIronworkers) May 24, 2019

Jobs with Justice:

.@Google is taking full advantage of contract employees--who now outnumber those actually employed by Google. Being a contractor often means lower wages and fewer perks for working people.

— Jobs With Justice (@jwjnational) May 29, 2019


LIUNA is proud to provide the best training and apprenticeship programs in North America. Congrats Local 1059!

— LIUNA (@LIUNA) May 28, 2019


“If we keep avoiding the issues that are damaging our air, plants, and waters, then we will fail to keep our environment and communities in existence.” - Erica Capetillo #Trabajadoras #LatinoWorkerPriorities #ProtectNEPA

— LCLAA (@LCLAA) May 29, 2019


Meet personal support worker Jamillah Wyllie of @iamawcanada.#MemberMonday #MembersoftheIAM

— Machinists Union (@MachinistsUnion) May 27, 2019

Metal Trades:

Union workers at the Hanford nuclear reservation are entitled to back pay estimated at more than $140,000 for sick leave after Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., took up their complaint.

Read more here:

— Metal Trades Dept. (@metaltradesafl) May 28, 2019

Mine Workers:

The United Mine Workers would like to thank the @NAACP for supporting our legislation and standing with us while we fight to secure the pensions our miners deserve!

— United Mine Workers (@MineWorkers) May 29, 2019

National Air Traffic Controllers Association:

Team USA is forming for World Controllers’ Cup 2019. As 28 countries and over 200 controllers and aviation professionals play Nov. 3-9 in Riviera Maya, Mexico,
Team USA invites NATCA members to join them. Visit for more information.

— NATCA (@NATCA) May 28, 2019

National Association of Letter Carriers:

Nominate a letter carrier #hero! Letter Carriers are in constant touch with the public & so when they notice something unusual, they go out of their way to rescue people. Since 1974, the NALC has been recognizing letter carriers for these selfless deeds.

— Letter Carriers (@NALC_National) May 29, 2019

National Domestic Workers Alliance:

Time off is good for both workers AND employers. Vacation and paid time off from work is associated with improved health, lower stress, lower likelihood of depression, and more happiness at home and at work.

— Domestic Workers (@domesticworkers) May 28, 2019

National Nurses United:

BREAKING: Federal #WorkplaceViolence prevention legislation has just picked up several new cosponsors!

👉 Join NNU nurses in taking action --> Ask you Congress member to support H.R.1309: #WednesdayMotivation

— NationalNursesUnited (@NationalNurses) May 29, 2019

National Taxi Workers Alliance:

Report: Uber and Lyft’s rise tanked wheelchair access to taxis – The San Francisco Examiner

— NY Taxi Workers (@NYTWA) May 23, 2019

News Guild:

Solidarity with the workers of #GateHouse -- those who are facing #layoffs & those who are left to do more with less. We are fighting for a voice at work and for journalism that serves our communities. DM us to find out how to form a Guild unit. #SaveLocalNews #GateHouselayoffs

— NewsGuild (@news_guild) May 23, 2019

NFL Players Association:

.@josh_dobbs1 ✈️ #AthleteAnd Pilot

— NFLPA (@NFLPA) May 29, 2019

North America's Building Trades Unions:

Nevada Governor @SteveSisolak passed a bill restoring #PrevailingWage to public construction projects in the state!

“As of now, any gov’t project that costs more than $250,000 must pay a prevailing wage. Assembly Bill 136 lowers that to $100,000.” 👏💪

— The Building Trades (@NABTU) May 29, 2019

Office and Professional Employees:

“Finding a job in the US is pretty easy these days. Finding a good one isn’t.” #1u

— OPEIU (@opeiu) May 29, 2019

Painters and Allied Trades:

Check out the documentary "Bridge Brothers", which explores the lives of our own IUPAT bridge painters, working on two of Philly's most important bridges.

— GoIUPAT✊🏽 (@GoIUPAT) May 25, 2019

Plasterers and Cement Masons:

“Infrastructure is not a partisan issue. It is an American priority. Our nation’s leaders must find common cause — as we have — and once again make America a global leader on infrastructure.” Hear, hear @RichardTrumka & @ThomasJDonohue! #BuildForTomorrow

— OPCMIA International (@opcmiaintl) May 26, 2019

Professional Aviation Safety Specialists:

Over 1,000 gov jobs in rural communities lost if program cut that trains low-income, rural students to respond to natl emergencies. Wildfires rising in number & severity. Fed govt needs all hands to combat them. We support our brothers & sisters @NFFE_Union fighting this action.

— PASS (@PASSNational) May 29, 2019

Professional and Technical Engineers:

This is a prime example of why professionals are organizing more and more! Solidarity with these workers!

— IFPTE (@IFPTE) May 20, 2019

Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers:

Wow! Great news!

"This is a victory for farm workers, as we have finally had our day in court. All workers deserve to have a voice and be heard at their place of work, and farm workers deserve to be treated with respect and dignity."

— RWDSU (@RWDSU) May 24, 2019


The latest digital issue of #sagaftra magazine is ready for your weekend viewing. Click here to check out what we’ve been up to!

— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) May 24, 2019

School Administrators:

Union actors are fighting for a fair wage and health care. It's time we join together and stand our ground. AFSA stands with our sisters and brothers at @SAG/AFTRA. #StrikeBBH

— AFSA Leadership (@AFSAUnion) March 22, 2019


#NationalMaritimeDay SIU President Mike Sacco greets apprentices ⁦

— Seafarers Union (@SeafarersUnion) May 22, 2019

Solidarity Center:

In corporations' quest to maximize profits, #migrantworkers forced to fish on boats for months, sleeping in dirty cargo holds & subject to beatings & often, denied wages. #forcedlabor #modernslavery @GCMigration @FES_Migration @GAATW_IS

— Solidarity Center (@SolidarityCntr) May 29, 2019


TCU/IAM Local 626 member Janice Scott is living the American dream. She used the benefits provided by the the union to obtain an Associates Degree in Business Management from Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC).

— Transportation Communications Union/IAM (@TCUnionHQ) May 15, 2019

Theatrical Stage Employees:

All people are equal & all people deserve respect & fair treatment. On March 20th, 2019, International President @matthewloeb established the IATSE Pride Committee, which is tasked with coordinating activities that support LGBTQ+ workers in the entertainment industry. #IATSEPride

— IATSE (@IATSE) March 28, 2019

Transport Workers:

The TWU supports the Cabin Air Safety Act of 2019. We are fighting for a solution for this public health crisis! #ToxicFumes #ToxicFumeEvent #ToxicCabinAir #CabinAirSafety #OrganizeTheSkies

— TWU (@transportworker) May 29, 2019

Transportation Trades Department:

America’s transit workers are in desperate need of protections. It’s long past time for Congress to step up and pass the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act. #DriveOutAssault

— Transp. Trades Dept. (@TTDAFLCIO) May 28, 2019


"The basic promise of America is that regular folks can work hard and get ahead if there are a fair set of rules. We need to find a way to restore this promise to working people." - @RepGolden

— UAW (@UAW) May 29, 2019


"In front of my 4 children, I will get to do something I never thought I would, I will walk across the stage and receive my Associates Degree in Criminal Justice." -UFCW Free College program graduate and @UFCW227 chief steward Amy Beasley
More info here:

— UFCW (@UFCW) May 29, 2019

Union Veterans Council:

Today we pay respect to our fallen brothers and sisters, not only the ones that lost their lives on the battlefield, but also the ones who return home to face an invisible enemy.
Let us recommit today to always remember the fallen and fight like hell for the living.#1u

— Union Veterans Council (@unionveterans) May 27, 2019


That's right - Americans know that people who come to this country for a better life, who work hard, raise families, and contribute to their communities epitomize the American dream - and deserve to stay.#DreamAndPromiseNow #TPSJustice #1u

— UNITE HERE (@unitehere) May 29, 2019

United Steelworkers:

How Volkswagen Has Gotten Away With Union-Busting:

— United Steelworkers (@steelworkers) May 26, 2019

Utility Workers:

Prevailing Wage laws ensure fair pay, higher safety standards, and quality union jobs. It’s time for WV to bring back #PrevailingWage #1u

— UWUA National (@The_UWUA) May 28, 2019

Working America:

The United States is the only advanced economy that does not federally mandate any paid vacation days or holidays.

About one in four workers in the U.S. don't get any paid vacation time or holidays at all.

— Working America (@WorkingAmerica) May 29, 2019

Writers Guild of America, East:

Parents shouldn't have to worry about choosing between “prioritizing time with the kids [and] focusing on the means of providing for them" — fair union contracts with strong family leave policies are one way to empower families to choose both. #1u

— Writers Guild of America, East (@WGAEast) May 23, 2019 Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/31/2019 - 07:11

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Jung Sai Garment Work Strikers

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 08:38
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Jung Sai Garment Work Strikers Cathy Cade

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our next profile is about the Jung Sai Garment Work Strikers.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, San Francisco's Chinatown was a hotbed of garment manufacturing. Large companies handled the purchase of materials, the design of garments and the cutting of textiles. Contract shops, which used largely immigrant labor, handled the assembly work, sewing and cutting. Manufacturing companies pressured the contractors for low bids, and since entry into the industry was relatively cheap, an oversupply of contractors meant that the companies had the upper hand in any labor disputes. If a contractor paid its workers higher wages, the manufacturers would just go to other contractors who paid lower wages.

The system also allowed the manufacturers to avoid any blame for the sweatshop conditions in the contractors' factories. The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), the forerunner of UNITE HERE, attempted to organize the seamstresses in San Francisco in the 1960s, but had limited success. By 1973, the garmet industry was cited by the then-called California State Division of Industrial Welfare, with a one-week probe finding more than 600 violations in just 92 shops in the Bay Area. Many of the contractors were aware of the loopholes that allowed them to evade compliance with state labor law.

The Jung Sai factory was a large plant in Chinatown that in the early 1970s was owned by Esprit de Corp, a company that made clothing for young people. Work in the factory was plagued by harassment, intimidation, speed-ups, lack of breaks, low wages and disrespect for the workforce that consisted largely of Chinese immigrant women. The factory was owned by Douglas Tompkins, who was strongly anti-union. Among the worst violations were daily rationing of toilet paper to two roles for 135 employees and the firing of workers with experience and replacing them with cheaper workers with less skill. Workers who showed they had skills in English were fired and workers were rarely, if ever, allowed to talk with white, non-Chinese speaking management.

On July 4, 1974, four workers (Lily Lee, Lam Bick Chung, Nam Hing Leung and Frankie Ma) began distributing and collecting union authorization cards. While most workers were supportive, management hit back hard. Ma, notably the best of the pro-union leaders in terms of speaking English, was fired within the week. Workers were subjected to psychological pressure and retaliation. Tompkins held a meeting to inform the workers of his position on unionization and the workers' demands. The meeting was filled with threats and offers of higher pay for abandoning unionization. The next day, the workers voted to strike, and they walked out on July 15. Two days later, Tompkins locked the workers out and closed the factory. Dozens of strikers were arrested, and a driver working for Tompkins hit several protesters with a truck. Police harassed the protesters and refused to call an ambulance until forced to.

On July 24, the workers established a Jung Sai Strike Support Committee that began to meet on a regular basis. The Jung Sai workers expressed solidarity with others in the city fighting back against similar treatment. The strike got support from outside the industry, too, as the struggles of Chinese immigrants was an inextricable part of the story. Among the successful tactics the committee launched was a caravan of 30 cars that drove through the streets of Chinatown telling everyone of the conditions at the factory. News of other strikes around the country were coming fast and furious, with more than 1,000 strikes in 1974 alone. The Jung Sai strikers were part of a nationwide movement, and their action inspired others to stand up for themselves as well.

Tompkins responded with more use of police and the courts to undercut the strike. A sympathetic judge granted the company a restraining order against too many pickets. He also arranged to "sell" the plant to his manager, who would supposedly open up the plant again and rehire not only the strikers but other fired workers as well. Other promises of guaranteed work, improved benefits and higher salaries all turned out to be false. 

Esprit de Corp and Tompkins refused to do anything until they were forced to in December 1975. A judge ordered the plant to be reopened, workers hired back and back pay paid out, among other improvements. The average settlement for workers was in the $8,000–$12,000 range. The company used legal maneuvers to delay the payouts for more than four years after the ruling, but eventually it was forced to settle.

Not only did the strike eventually result in gains for the Jung Sai workers, it energized immigrant activism in the Bay Area and beyond, particularly among Chinese immigrants. While the seamstresses at Jung Sai engaged in marches, car caravans, plant shutdowns, community rallies, press conferences, mass media events and an immigrant workers' cultural festival, the rest of the country watched. And many learned from what the Jung Sai strikers did.

Source: "Jung Sai Garment Workers Strike," by Harvey Dong, which appears in Ten Years that Shook the City: San Francisco 1968–1978, edited by Chris Carlsson, 2011. 

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/30/2019 - 09:38

‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: A Union Organizer Goes to Washington

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 09:09
‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: A Union Organizer Goes to Washington

State of the Unions” podcast co-hosts Julie and Tim talk to Rep. Andy Levin (Mich.), a former AFL-CIO employee and career union organizer and activist. They discuss labor law reform, trade and the path to power for working people in Michigan and across the country. 

State of the Unions is a tool to help us bring you the issues and stories that matter to working people. It captures the stories of workers across the country and is co-hosted by two young and diverse members of the AFL-CIO team: Mobilization Director Julie Greene and Executive Speechwriter Tim Schlittner. A new episode drops every other Wednesday featuring interesting interviews with workers and our allies across the country, as well as compelling insights from the podcast’s hosts.

Listen to our previous episodes:

State of the Unions” is available on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotifyStitcher and anywhere else you can find podcasts.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/29/2019 - 10:09

Tags: Podcast

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Theatrical Stage Employees

Tue, 05/28/2019 - 08:51
Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Theatrical Stage Employees

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).

Name of Union: International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees

Mission: To support members' efforts to establish fair wages and working conditions throughout the United States and Canada, embrace the development of new entertainment mediums, expand the craft, innovate technology and grow the union to new geographic areas.

Current Leadership of Union: Matthew D. Loeb serves as international president. He was first elected in 2008 and has since been re-elected twice. He has been a member of the United Scenic Artists Local 829 since 1989, Local 52 since 1996 and of Local 491 since it was first established in 1994. Loeb was IATSE’s first director of Motion Picture and Television Production. He also serves on UNI Global Union's world executive board and is president of UNI's Media and Entertainment Industry sector. 

James B. Wood is the general secretary, and IATSE also has 13 international vice presidents: Michael J. Barnes, Thomas Davis, Damian Petti, Michael F. Miller Jr., Daniel Di Tolla, John Ford, John Lewis, Craig Carlson, Phil LoCicero, C. Faye Harper, Colleen A. Glynn, James J. Claffey Jr. and Joanne M. Sanders.

Current Number of Members: 140,000.

Members Work As: Virtually all the behind-the-scenes jobs in crafts ranging from motion picture animator to theater usher.

Industries Represented: All forms of live theater, motion picture and television production, trade shows and exhibitions, television broadcasting, concerts, and the equipment and construction shops that support all these areas of the entertainment industry. 

History: IATSE formed in 1893 when representatives of stagehands from 11 cities met in New York. They pledged to support each others' efforts to obtain better wages and working conditions. As technology advanced, the union moved to embrace new developments and an expansion of the craft. This dedication to adaptability in structure and goals helped grow IATSE to a membership of more than 140,000.

Current Campaigns/Community Efforts: Member safety is one of the pillars of IATSE and they have a hotline and smartphone app specifically dedicated to it. IATSE provides training in digital organizing and social media along with activism and offline organizing. The union provides scholarships, supports the efforts of women and young workers in the industry and highlights the community service of IATSE locals.

Learn More: WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 05/28/2019 - 09:51

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Monica Thammarath

Fri, 05/24/2019 - 11:36
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Monica Thammarath AAJC

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our next profile is Monica Thammarath.

Monica Thammarath was born and raised in San Diego, the daughter of refugees from Laos. She is a proud product of California's public education system and she earned two bachelor's degrees, one in political science and the other in social welfare. She is currently pursuing a master's in public administration at American University.

While in college, Thammarath began organizing to provide services that help students gain access to affordable and high-quality education. After graduation, she began working as the education policy advocate for the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center. She has since taken the position of senior liaison in the Office of Minority Community Organizing and Partnerships at the National Education Association, where she works on social justice issues like immigration, voting and collective bargaining rights. 

She serves on the national executive board of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), the national governing board of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum and the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, where she serves as co-chair of the education committee. In 2017, she was elected as the youngest person to ever hold the office of national president of APALA. Upon taking the office, she said: 

APALA has always held a special place in my heart. I am honored to have been elected as the new National President, and I am excited to strengthen our chapters, our community and labor partnerships, and elevate the voices of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) workers and workers of color everywhere.

In an interview with, she explained the importance of her work:

I realized that no matter how many girls I worked with, some of them would never have the opportunities to succeed unless the policies at the federal level reflected their needs. And those policies would never change unless people like me—people who personally understood the needs of those most impacted—were at the table to make their needs known.

And she spoke about the surprising road from college to her professional career:

If you asked me what I thought I’d be doing after college, moving from California to Washington, D.C., to work on federal education policy wouldn’t have been my answer. If you told me that four years later, I’d still be in D.C. working to connect the labor movement to civil rights and community organizations, I would have said you were crazy.

Thammarath's time as president of APALA has been eventful and the organization has been active. Since she took office, APALA has focused on building power for Asian and Pacific Americans, as well as defending workers' rights, fighting for justice for immigrants, temporary protected status and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals holders, countering rising hate and white supremacy, fighting for women and reproductive rights, defending diversity, joining the efforts to stop Brett Kavanaugh from being confirmed to the Supreme Court, defending public education and advocating for sustainable jobs in a changing climate, among other efforts.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/24/2019 - 12:36

Teamwork On and Off the Ice: Worker Wins

Fri, 05/24/2019 - 10:50
Teamwork On and Off the Ice: Worker Wins

Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with women's hockey players forming a union and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life.

Top Women's Hockey Players Form Union in Pursuit of Pro League: More than 200 of the top women's hockey players in the world have come together to form the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association. Among the goals the union is pursuing are a "single, viable women's professional league in North America," coordination of training needs and the development of sponsor support. Olympic gold medalist Coyne Schofield said: "We are fortunate to be ambassadors of this beautiful game, and it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of players have more opportunities than we had. It's time to stand together and work to create a viable league that will allow us to enjoy the benefits of our hard work."

New England Macy's Workers Reach Tentative Agreement to Avoid Strike: Workers at several Macy's stores throughout New England have agreed to a tentative deal that will avoid a strike. Nearly 1,000 workers, represented by UFCW Local 1445, agreed to a three-year deal that includes better wages and health care options, among other gains. The union said: "Thanks to the strength of the Macy's members who with the support of the UFCW Local 1445 membership, allies, customers and other unions around the country won a tentative agreement security time and one half on Sundays, reduced cost of health insurance premiums and good wage increases and no give backs!"

Educators at D.C. Public Charter School Join AFT: Educators at Washington, D.C.'s Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School have voted to join the AFT. The teachers are currently bargaining on their first contract and chose the union because they want to make sure that the school is a place where kids will thrive, teachers want to work and parents want to send their kids. Kindergarten teacher Andrea Molina said: "While we teach our kids about social justice and equity, we do not always experience it ourselves. Our teachers and staff are a strong, dedicated team; they work around the clock to make our school an amazing place to teach and learn and to set an example for other schools in the district. Our victory tonight will ensure we are treated with the dignity and respect that reflects the commitment we each have made to our school.”

New York Tenement Museum Workers Join UAW: Workers at the Tenement Museum in New York voted to join UAW Local 2110. The workers are joining together to make sure they maintain the things about the job that are working and to improve things that aren't. Nicole Daniels, a museum educator, explained: "A big part of it is we want to protect the things that are working and secure the things that are already keeping so many of us here....So a lot of it is about preserving the things that work already, but also standardizing systems....There’s a huge range of people across the departments, some of whom are part-time and others full-time, some of whom have benefits through the museum and others who don’t. Some of the ones who don’t have benefits through the museum get them from their parents or their partners. We want to serve the whole group, so we’re just going to have to see what’s needed."

New Lear Manufacturing Facility Workers in Flint Join UAW: Nearly 600 employees at the new Lear manufacturing plant in Flint, Michigan, voted to join the UAW. The new plant makes automotive seats. UAW President Gary Jones said: "We are thrilled to bring Lear’s exceptional workers into the UAW family and are excited about the prospect of new jobs available in Flint. The UAW represents more than 400,000 members and has welcomed over 10,000 new members since August. We welcome these workers and the opportunity to be a part of Flint’s rebirth. We look forward to getting down to business, bargaining great contracts and helping our new members make a positive impact on the community."

Stop & Shop Strike Leads to Victory for Working People: After an 11-day strike that followed more than three months of negotiations, more than 30,000 Stop & Shop Workers, represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers, reached a tentative agreement with the supermarket chain. The employees work at more than 240 stores across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In a statement, the union said: "The agreement preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases, and maintains time-and-a-half pay on Sunday for current members. Under this proposed contract, our members will be able to focus on continuing to help customers in our communities." Stop & Shop workers have since ratified the contract.

Rutgers Faculty Avoids Strike with Tentative Deal: Faculty members at Rutgers were able to secure a new tentative contract in the proverbial last minute before they went on strike. The 4,800 full-time faculty and graduate workers represented by Rutgers AAUP-AFT will need to vote on the contract. Rutgers AAUP-AFT President Deep Kumar described the terms of the deal: "We made history today. For the first time in the union’s nearly 50-year history, we won equal pay for equal work for female faculty, faculty of color, and for faculty in the Newark and Camden campuses. We won significant pay raises for our lowest paid members, our graduate employees who will see their pay increase from $25,969 to $30,162 over the course of the contract. In other historic firsts, the union won $20 million for diversity hiring and a guarantee of a workplace free of harassment and stalking, enforced with binding arbitration. Academic freedom now applies to social media.”

Quartz Editorial Staff Vote to Join NewsGuild: Editorial staff at news outlet Quartz, which covers the economy, tech, geopolitics, work and culture, have voted to be represented by The NewsGuild of New York/CWA Local 31003. The union has asked Japanese media company Uzabase, which owns Quartz, to voluntarily recognize the union. The editorial staffers are looking to swiftly begin the bargaining process and are looking to strengthen existing benefits and improve pay equity, diversity and job security. "We love Quartz, and we love working here. For us, organizing is a way to double down on our commitment to the publication and the continued pursuit of its excellence. We are excited about the future of Quartz, and we want to make sure we are a part of it," said Annalisa Merelli, Geopolitics reporter.

Researchers in University of California System Launch New Union: Researchers in the University of California system are in the final stages of forming the first union exclusively for researchers who are not faculty or graduate students. The new union, Academic Researchers United (ARU), is a unit within UAW Local 5810. ARU members are seeking better pay and benefits, job security, transparency in hiring and promotion, and other protections. "At this moment, academic researchers have no job security and are facing super uncertain career paths," said Anke Schennink, president of Local 5810.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/24/2019 - 11:50

Tags: Organizing

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 09:18
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes Wikimedia Commons

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our next profiles are Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes.

Silme Domingo was born in Killeen, Texas, in 1952. His father was a Filipino immigrant who had served in the U.S. Army during World War II. The family moved to Seattle in 1960, where Silme attended high school and college.

Meanwhile, Gene Viernes was born in Yakima, Washington, in 1951, also the son of immigrants from the Philippines. His father worked as a fruit picker and in local canneries. Gene grew up working in the fields with his father before going to school. At 14, he lied about his age and joined International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 37 and worked in the cannery. He spent many of his summers working as an "Alaskero," the nickname for Alaskan salmon cannery workers. At the time, Local 37 largely consisted of Alaskeros who lived in the Seattle area and traveled to Alaska for the summer work every year.

Domingo also began working in the Alaska canneries, and before long, Domingo and Viernes were close friends. They formed the Alaska Cannery Workers' Association. In Seattle, Domingo, in particular, was active in protesting the activities of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, and he helped organize the first protests of the Marcos regime in Seattle, along with the Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP). Domingo would help establish the KDP chapter in Seattle.

By 1981, Domingo was secretary-treasurer of Local 37, and Viernes was a dispatcher. Along with a slate of reformers, they had taken over all of the offices except for president. The reform slate were opponents of Local 37 President Tony Baruso, who was a Marcos supporter with ties to local Seattle gangs. At the time, the Alaskan cannery industry was rife with racial discrimination, with white workers getting the best jobs as well as company-provided food and housing, while Filipino workers worked long, dangerous hours with meager food and squalid living conditions. The reformers not only ran for election as officers in the local, they engaged in class action lawsuits against the canneries.

On June 1, 1981, Domingo and Viernes were working out of the ILWU offices in Seattle when two gunmen walked into the offices and shot and killed Domingo and Viernes. Terri Mast, Domingo's partner, was left with two young daughters to raise alone. Mast fought back publicly, eventually leading to the murder convictions of Baruso and local gang members. Marcos also was found complicit in the conspiracy and a successful civil suit was brought against the dictator in the case. While we will never know what heights Domingo and Viernes could've achieved in their pursuit of expanded rights for working people and Filipinos, Mast would go on to be elected president of Local 37, cleaning up the corruption in the local. In 1987, Local 37 merged with the Inlandboatmen's Union (IBU). Mast was later elected national secretary-treasurer of IBU.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/23/2019 - 10:18

We Need Action on Infrastructure, Not More Talk

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 15:02
We Need Action on Infrastructure, Not More Talk

More than half a century ago, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower and a Democratic-majority Congress empowered millions of Americans to build an interstate highway system that became the envy of the world. Back then, our nation understood that investment in infrastructure was crucial to creating a better future.

The interstate highway system was such a success that, 60 years later, both parties still fight over who gets credit for it.

Today, our leaders often talk about big ideas but rarely summon the political courage to accomplish them. As a result, our roads, bridges, airports, railways and utilities are outdated and in need of urgent repairs. In 2014, our clogged roads cost $160 billion in lost productivity and wasted fuel. Our packed airports cost nearly $36 billion a year from air travel complications, and our crumbling infrastructure has cost American lives. It should not take another tragedy to change that.

As the heads of the nation’s leading business and labor organizations, we don’t always see eye to eye on things, but on this, we are in lockstep: Rebuilding and modernizing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure will benefit every business, every worker and every family in the United States. It will make every community safer, more resilient, healthy and secure. It will create good jobs, boost productivity, sharpen our nation’s competitive edge and ensure our current and future economic success.

It is frustrating that, despite widespread calls to act, the only response from Washington has been lip service. Talking alone does not create a single job or repair a single road. We need action.

Infrastructure is not a partisan issue. It is an American priority. Our nation’s leaders must find common cause—as we have—and once again make America a global leader on infrastructure.

For every dollar invested in public infrastructure, our country gets $3 in economic return. A $2 trillion investment, as President Donald Trump and congressional leaders have agreed upon in principle, would produce reliable transit systems, sound roads and bridges and safe drinking water.

We are aware that paying for this will be a challenge. It is important to consider all funding sources, including the gas tax, which hasn’t been raised at the federal level since 1993. An increase of 25 cents per gallon over five years would generate $394 billion and save Americans an average of $1,600 a year due to decreased car-repair costs and lower fuel costs, thanks to less time spent in traffic. In addition, raising the gas tax would put millions of men and women to work rebuilding our nation’s deteriorating roads and bridges.

But a gas tax alone cannot cover the $2 trillion bill. It is going to take a creative mix of federal, state, local and private resources to make the investment we need. Every long-term funding option, from payment structures to federally backed loans, should be explored. However, we agree that a 21st-century infrastructure is impossible without a major public investment.

We are also aware that neither party is perhaps as keen to take this step as it sounds on the stump. But according to a poll released in April, the public is tired of waiting. Seventy-nine percent of the voters polled believe Washington must act and invest in federal infrastructure, and in 2018, 79% of 346 state and local ballot measures aimed at infrastructure investment were approved.

The infrastructure investments we make today will determine the kind of country we will be decades from now. Our leaders in Washington have a historic opportunity to rebuild and modernize a nation desperately in need of repair. Labor and business are ready to unleash an unmatched network of leaders and members to support the passage of long-overdue legislation. But we can’t do it alone. The time for delay is over. Let’s build our future, and let’s start today.

Thomas J. Donohue is president and chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce. Richard L. Trumka is president of the AFL-CIO. This post originally appeared in The Washington Post.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/22/2019 - 16:02


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