Right now, Congress has a critical opportunity to strengthen workers’ rights.
Lawmakers, in 2019, introduced the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, H.R. 2474, which would give millions of America’s workers additional protections to organize and negotiate for better pay and benefits, and a voice on the job.
The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next week on this crucial piece of legislation. But greedy CEOs will do everything they can to oppose working people standing together.
It’s no secret that the right to form a union is under attack. “Right to work” laws are spreading, while wages have stagnated. More than ever, we need our lawmakers to stand up for working people’s rights—that’s where the PRO Act comes in. It would:
Penalize employers who violate workers’ right to organize.
Help workers secure a first contract.
Protect workers who go on strike.
Close loopholes that allow companies to misclassify workers as independent contractors.
I study atmospheric chemistry at Columbia University, where I research air pollution and offer teaching support for classes that introduce students to the science and societal impacts of climate change. Despite attending and working for a world-class university, my colleagues and I struggle to make ends meet in the most expensive city in the world.
I got involved in organizing a union with my fellow graduate student workers at Columbia because of our precarious benefits and lack of real workplace rights. In 2016, we overturned a decision made during President George W. Bush’s era by the NLRB and restored our collective bargaining rights. Since the NLRB ruling in the Columbia case, more than 20,000 graduate student workers across the country have been eligible to vote in union representation elections—and we have voted “yes” overwhelmingly.
As employees who are responsible for a growing portion of the teaching and research at our universities, graduate student workers have formed unions in record numbers to address chronic problems with sexual harassment and discrimination, unstable health benefits, and the precarious rights of international student workers, among other issues. These are some of the fundamental rights we know unions have addressed for decades across all sectors.
But in a desperate move to stifle the unprecedented momentum of the graduate student worker union movement, the NLRB has proposed a new rule that could take away the collective bargaining rights of research and teaching assistants at our universities.
Hey all! I wanted to share that the United Steelworkers (USW) has a new podcast, Solidarity Works, and our first episode went live this morning! I sat down with our Rapid Response director, Amber Miller, to chat about the three major bills our activists are pushing for in Washington, D.C., and what lies ahead for them in 2020.
You can find us on pretty much any streaming service (Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Stitcher, etc.), or at usw.to/podcast. We’ll be posting episodes monthly until March when I’ll switch to two episodes per month.
With a critical election right around the corner, the theme for the 2020 MLK Conference is “Give Us the Ballot,” drawn from Dr. King’s 1957 voting rights speech delivered at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom gathering in Washington, D.C.
Decades after Dr. King advocated tirelessly for full access to the voting booth, we are still facing voter disenfranchisement at alarming levels. In the labor movement, we know that ensuring full voting access and a fair count of every ballot is critical.
After many rounds of negotiations, and tireless support from allies like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Sens. Sherrod Brown and Ron Wyden, I’m writing to tell you that the AFL-CIO is endorsing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
We knew this deal was too important to get wrong or be rushed. In the face of pressure, working people persevered, winning truly enforceable labor standards and an elimination of special carve outs for big corporations. Also, the USMCA now closes loopholes designed to make it harder to prosecute labor violations.
The USMCA is far from perfect. It alone is not a solution for outsourcing, inequality or climate change. Successfully tackling these issues requires a full-court press of economic policies that empower workers, including the repeal of tax cuts which reward companies for shipping our jobs overseas.
But there is no denying that the trade rules in America will now be fairer because of our hard work and perseverance. More than 16,000 of you signed our petition to tell Congress that we deserve a trade deal that works for all of us.
Last year, the White House announced proposals to privatize the Postal Service. Postmaster General Megan Brennan is leaving the agency in January, and it’s likely that the White House’s next pick will have privatization high up on the agenda. We can’t let that happen—it’s time to mobilize support to protect the U.S. Postal Service.
Chairman McColley, Vice chair Thompson, Ranking Minority Member Antonio and members of the Senate Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee, thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony today. My name is Tim Burga and I am the President of the Ohio American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (Ohio AFL-CIO). The State Federation represents over 500,000 organized workers in nearly all sectors of employment. From making steel to baking bread, building our schools and teaching our children, keeping us safe and delivering the goods Ohio’s union members are doing the work that connects us all. I write to you today on behalf of our union members and Ohio’s working families in opposition to Senate Resolution 376, which urges Congress to adopt the trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada, also known as USMCA or NAFTA 2.0.
NAFTA and subsequent trade deals have been a disaster for the U.S. manufacturing sector and as a result our local communities. According to the Economic Policy Institute, Ohio has lost approximately 106,000 blue-collar jobs because of NAFTA, as manufacturing plants closed and relocated to Mexico. That’s because NAFTA was written to enrich corporations, providing a massive windfall for big-business at the expense of working people and the communities where we live and raise our families. To make matters worse, it soon became the template for other anti-worker trade agreements, perpetuating a vicious cycle of multinational corporations outsourcing jobs to low-wage, low-standard regions and destroying the livelihoods of working families in the process.
After a quarter-century of this race to the bottom, working people are fed up and demand a better way forward. We are hungry for a North American trade deal that lifts wages and improves livelihoods. But make no mistake: The deal the Trump administration is pushing on Congress falls short of what we need and deserve.
President Obhof claimed in his testimony that this trade agreement will be different because the USMCA’s “enforceable labor standards will enable the American worker to compete on a level playing field, while improving wages and labor standards among our trading partners.” One of the standards that proponents hold up as an example is a requirement that at least 40 percent of vehicles made in Mexico must be assembled by workers “making at least $16 an hour.” As written, the deal allows any party to block an enforcement proceeding by refusing to appoint
arbitrators to a dispute panel. And the $16 wage rule is an average, not a floor, so it includes engineers and other highly paid white-collar workers. This flaw would allow Mexican auto factories to continue to pay the vast majority of workers poverty wages.
To win working peoples support, the treaty needs robust enforcement mechanisms not currently in the plan. Without the necessary enforcement provisions, the American worker will have little faith that Mexico can or will keep up its end of the bargain to establish a Department of Labor, implement and enforce long-overdue labor reforms, allow workers to form real unions and negotiate better wages and working conditions. While the Mexican government has taken steps in the right direction, this proposal has no way of ensuring that they continue following through on their promises.
This deal needs to mandate transparent reporting and strong, guaranteed consequences for violations. With working people in Mexico currently facing wages as low as $2 per hour or less, we cannot accept a deal that doesn’t have the enforcement tools to raise standards for working people in all three NAFTA countries.
Under the proposed deal, any party can unilaterally shut down a settlement panel investigating trade violations. That’s akin to giving an accused thief the right to shut down his own trial. Negotiators had gotten rid of this loophole in recent trade agreements, so to turn back now would be another unacceptable concession to multinational corporations. If a trade deal cannot be enforced, then it’s not a deal at all.
Finally, the administration needs to rein in pharmaceutical corporations’ monopoly over prescription drug prices. The new USCMA would lock in exorbitant prices for life-saving medicines for a decade — a massive giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry and a blow to working families and consumers. These are the most egregious issues, but there is a range of other problems with the current proposal that also needs addressed, from allowing corporations to hide the origins of our food to leaving high-wage jobs vulnerable to continued outsourcing.
While I am glad that this much needed debate is happening right here in Ohio, Senate Resolution 376 falls short of what Ohioans need from our state Senate on this matter. This body should be urging Congress to correct the issues outlined above before bringing the USMCA up for a vote. For too long, Ohioans have suffered from lost jobs and lower wages because of so-called “free trade” deals that place the interests of multinational corporations over our workers. The USMCA as written is just more of the same failed policies. I urge this committee to vote NO on Senate Resolution 376 and instead ask Congress to change the USMCA so that it works for working families.
Thank you for taking the time to read my written testimony opposing SR 376. Please do not hesitate reaching out to my office with any questions.
A legend of the U.S. Senate and hero to working people joined us on our latest podcast. He’s famous for championing working families and wearing a canary pin on his lapel. If you haven’t guessed yet, our guest is Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio). Listen to our entire conversation here.
We talked about the ongoing UAW strike and the dignity of work. He discussed how fighting for workers doesn’t mean leaving anyone out—that being progressive means leaving no worker behind. Sen. Brown also ran us through his American-made apparel, including his union-made suits.
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.
On the latest episode of “State of the Unions,” podcast co-hosts Julie Greene and Tim Schlittner check in with AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council Executive Director Brad Markell about the UAW strike at General Motors and interview Veena Dubal, an associate law professor at UC Hastings College of the Law, whose work helped pave the way for passage of A.B. 5, the landmark pro-worker legislation in California.
The Ironworkers of Local 44 deliver top-quality craftsmanship with the highest level of professionalism and safety. Find out how we can take your next project to the next level. As the Ironworkers of Local 44, we commit to use our training and skills, each and every day, to produce the highest quality work worthy of our names.
Appropriations for Teach for America, charters, charter facilities, quality charter schools support, vouchers, non-public administrative cost reimbursement, auxiliary services, charter and private schools transportation, Bright New Leaders for Ohio Schools Program, community schools and choice programs, community school operating from home and EdChoice expansion program are all included in HB 166.
The biennial appropriation for these private ventures, excluding about $1.8 billion that will be extracted from school districts for charters and $600 million that will be extracted from school districts for vouchers, will be in the range of $800 million. Hence, the biennial support for private education ventures will be about $3.2 billion for the biennium.
The appropriation of $4 million for Teach for America is a travesty. In an earlier post, it was revealed that Teach for America had assets of $366,724,130 in 2017.
The appropriation language for Teach for America includes, “…support for ongoing development and impact of Teach for America alumni working in Ohio.” What are these alumni doing in Ohio to warrant state support? Teach for America is using the temporary teaching assignment to advance a more sweeping agenda. TFA needs to be investigated.
The Bright New Leaders for Ohio Schools Program will receive $2 million for an alternative principals’ training program which puts those who are not trained as educators into administrative positions in schools.
Charter schools will receive $250 per student for facilities each year. Online charters will receive $25 per student. (Why would online charters receive any funds for facilities?) Section 265.410 of HB 166 is bizarre:
Community School Operating From Home
A community school established under Chapter 3314 of the Revised Code that was open for operation as a community school as of May 1, 2005, may operate from or in any home, as defined in section 3313.64 of the Revised Code, located in the state, regardless of when the community school’s operations from or in a particular home began.
What is the deal? A charter school operating “from or in” a home? The kitchen? The family room? The laundry room?
Well there you have it. Private education ventures on public funds are in full bloom in Ohio.
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding | 614.228.6540
A wave of collective action continues to sweep across the country. Working people from all walks of life—teachers, hotel workers, federal government employees, actors—are joining together for better wages and benefits, access to health care, respect on the job and the rights and dignities we all deserve.
We need your help. The Department of Labor just released a proposal that could decimate training and labor standards in registered apprenticeship programs across the country, and we only have a few weeks to stop it.
Apprenticeships are key pathways to gainful employment, training workers for highly skilled jobs while paying living wages and providing health care. This new proposal would drive down standards for the world-class apprenticeship programs that workers and industries depend on. It would jeopardize not only good jobs, but safety standards in industries like construction. Watering down these programs is just plain wrong.
Right now, the Department of Labor is asking the public for feedback on this misguided proposal. We have to let them know that working people won’t stand for this. Help save our apprenticeships: Submit your comment now.
If you haven’t subscribed to our “State of the Unions” podcast yet, you’ll want to stop what you’re doing and go listen.
Every other Wednesday, podcast co-hosts Tim Schlittner and Julie Greene sit down with someone connected to workers—whether a union member, community partner, politician, columnist, policy specialist or labor leader—to tackle the ideas and issues facing the labor movement. This week I was lucky enough to be their guest, and you can check out our conversation here.
We got the chance to discuss work in the tech sector, the future of work and women’s strength in the labor movement. We also explored how, in the #MeToo era, a union contract can be one of the most important answers to workplace sexual harassment. We talked about innovation and change in the movement, too—as I said in the episode:
I don’t necessarily believe all the scare tactics that we’re hearing through reports saying we’re going to lose the 75 million jobs in 12 years, but with automation and robotics and artificial intelligence, there’s no doubt there’s going to be massive change going forward and probably faster than previous industrial revolutions. So I guess the question is: What is the labor movement going to do to keep up with that change, and how are we going to be modern and flexible and nimble…enough to represent the needs of workers as they transition to the jobs of the future?
This week on “State of the Unions” podcast, we had the opportunity to talk to National Nurses United (NNU) Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN, about the “Medicare for All” campaign, nurses’ history of organizing and the impact of nurses in the community.
Nurses don’t turn away from a crisis. They go toward it. And what we need is for our elected leaders, our politicians to not get sidetracked, not go another way, but to go toward that crisis with a real systemic fix. So being in the industry 24/7, we are always pushing back on management’s attempts to shortchange our patients.
This past Sunday, April 28, was Workers Memorial Day. Unions of the AFL-CIO observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew the fight for safe jobs.
Across Ohio, events were held to honor and remember those who lost their lives on the job. The Occupational Safety and Health Act and Mine Safety and Health Act promise workers the right to a safe job. Unions and our allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality—winning protections that have made jobs safer, saved hundreds of thousands of lives and prevented millions of workplace injuries and illnesses.
“We must remain vigilant to ensure that the workplace safety gains that have been made over the last five decades are not eroded and to put in place new needed protections,” said Tim Burga, President of the Ohio AFL-CIO, speaking at the Dayton-Miami Valley Central Labor Council event. “The goal everyday for every family is to have their loved ones return home safely at the end of their work day and collective bargaining agreements are the best tool to achieve safe and secure workplaces.”
Each year, thousands of workers are killed and millions more suffer injury or illness because of their jobs.
“The Workers Day Memorial is a reminder that the best way to honor workers who lost their lives on the job is by pushing for stronger workplace safety and protection measures,” said Ohio AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Melissa Cropper to a crowd honoring fallen workers at the Cincinnati AFL-CIO event.
Recently, workers have won new rules to protect us from deadly silica dust and beryllium, a stronger coal dust standard for miners and stronger anti-retaliation protections for workers who report job injuries.
But these hard-won gains are threatened. The Trump administration has carried out an all-out assault on regulations, targeting job safety rules on beryllium, mine examinations, injury reporting and child labor protections. The labor movement and allies have fought back and blocked some of these attacks. However, this assault has taken a toll: Key protections have been repealed or rolled back and agency budgets and staff have been cut. There has been no action on critical safety and health problems like workplace violence, silica in mining and exposure to toxic chemicals.
As the health of working people continue to be threatened by extreme right-wing politicians, we will always continue in the words of labor activist Mother Jones and, “Mourn for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”
In last Quarter’s article, I spoke to the many of the challenges to Labor organizing posed by today’s non-traditional workplace. Like everything else in today’s value-driven marketplace, Labor Unions must be increasingly aware of and invest in the value we bring to our membership. Everything we do must be about the education, safety, health and financial well-being of the rank and file members. By our own argument, their money is hard fought, and we must be the best possible stewards of how we manage it, invest it and bring value to those that provide it.
One of the most, if not the most, important influencing factor in organizing is worker safety. While worker safety has been a core value throughout our history, over recent years Labor Unions have become increasingly expert in workplace health and safety. More recently, we have become the dominant voice on the matter and the principal champions of worker safety. Our efforts to get the new silica standards in place are a good example of how we are working to ensure our members safety.
In recent years, we have increasingly invested in health and safety education and technical expertise. As a BAC member you have access to state of the art training through the International Masonry Institute and we offer classes at the local level held at one of the Regional Training Centers. We recognize that fighting for worker safety, health and well-being is beneficial to Labor’s safety, health and well-being. Safety is a real concern of unions.
As union membership has declined over the past thirty-years, it has been increasingly more difficult to make substantial gains in wage and benefits, but health and safety measures have been a genuine area of offset. And the facts are undeniable. Labor’s increased vigilance and attentiveness to worker safety have resulted in a much higher incidence of positive collaboration with employers that have reduces worker injuries, lowering costs for the employers and positively impacting profit through gains in productivity.
When there is an open dialogue, and close cooperation between a company and its’ workers, who can argue that it’s anything but a good thing for everyone. Worker satisfaction is improved, workplace injuries are decreased along with expensive down-time, productivity is increased, and profitability is positively impacted. That money goes directly to the bottom line. Can you say Win, Win?
Thanks to the diligence and activism of Labor, it is now not at all unusual to see job site managers and owners ramping up safety standards to well beyond those required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Labor and Management has even created a new paradigm in which Unions and Management collaborate to be more competitive and win contracts with their track-record of good safety practices being the differentiator.
It’s no secret that we making a significant investment in significant health, safety and environmental protections, because the challenges on many of today’s highly advanced and very technical work sites pose significant challenges and risk to the worker. This noteworthy investment is to make sure that (1) workers’ safety, health and well-being remains priority one and (2) workers’ safety is a winning position for Labor as they fight the organizing battle along new fronts.
The hope for improving safety on jobs is that management and the workers are aware of the importance their roles in this new paradigm where labor-management cooperation benefits everyone. Employers obtain better workers by providing a safer, more attractive work environment… Workers are more satisfied and more productive due to the satisfaction a safe and healthy work-place brings… Labor is empowered by the cooperation between management and worker… and Productivity and profitability are positively impacted by reduced downtime.
Whenever the workforce, the business owners and Labor are pulling together on issues such as worker safety, there are going to get better outcomes. Thanks in no small part to Labor putting its money where its mouth is and investing heavily in education, training and awareness programs, Safety is now a principal tenet of any good organizing effort. Owners of large construction projects are increasingly inclined to use contractors with a strong safety record and history of injury losses below the national average. They are also increasingly inclined to require contractors to show they have a favorable insurance rating.
Increasingly, owners, foreman and project managers believe that a safe working environment is important. It is only by the diligence and steadfast advocacy of the BAC and other Labor Organizations that these trends are forming. However, this fight is far from over. Worker Safety remains a paramount issue to us and is but one area we can use when looking at a holistic organizing strategy. If Labor is not first and foremost the principal advocate for workers’ safety, health and well-being, then what are we?
As a union member, I am asking you, what is the message that you are sharing? Below is a response to a Facebook post about Kentucky Senator Rand Paul introducing a National Right to Work Bill. Mitch Kittinger a Local 55 Apprentice expressed his thoughts so well that I thought I should share them with you.
“ As a union apprentice… I’m more than happy to be where I am at. Due to my skill level I have been fortunate to travel and see parts of the world I otherwise may not have been able to. I have worked non-stop since I started in 2015 with no debt and regardless of where I go I will be paid a livable wage with benefits. If my company runs out of work, I have the option of working for another contractor instead of sitting on the couch. If I’m not happy with what is going on… my dues pays to make sure there is somebody with some pull to handle it. My dues keep me working. My dues pay to make sure we maintain jobs in our workforce. Even if some aspects of our situations don’t meet expectations those dues ensure that I can and will always be able to find a way to not only survive, but to thrive as long as people don’t selfishly find a way to abolish it. Unions pave the way for higher wages and safety expectations. If that is what paying my dues enables me to have, I will be more than happy to pay them! “
Some 31,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) are on strike at Stop & Shop supermarkets across New England, walking off the job to fight back against slashed health care benefits. Stand with our brothers and sisters today and sign UFCW’s petition demanding that executives agree to a fair contract that reflects the true value of their workers.
Message of the Day—Support Stop & Shop Workers
Thanks to the tireless labor of tens of thousands of working people, Stop & Shop is thriving. Its parent company, Ahold Delhaize, recorded profits of more than $2 billion last year. Over the past three years, its shareholders have pocketed $4 billion in stock buybacks.
Yet, Stop & Shop executives want even more—and they’re targeting the same workers who built that immense wealth. Going nearly two months without a contract, UFCW members have faced threats to their wages, health care, retirement and overall livelihoods.
Walking out of more than 240 stores throughout New England, working people are standing up for their most fundamental rights and dignities in the country’s largest private-sector work stoppage in years.