How Higher Education Is Eating Its Young

Part I in a series
By: John Zurick
Founder/President, Zurick Artificial Intelligence, LLC


It was my privilege recently to attend a lecture/demonstration in Florida by naturalist, Otter John. Included in the menagerie of his wild companions was a three-year-old alligator, who leveled icy eyes at his captive audience as Otter John paraded him around the meeting room, offering each of us a close-up stare-down. “There are over one-and-a-quarter-million alligators living in Florida,” Otter John reported as he held the three-foot gator out as if it were a cuddly toddler. “There would be considerably more of these cute little gators,” he continued, “except that more are eaten before reaching full size than survive…by bigger gators.” Alligators eat their young! Who knew?!

I lay awake that night thinking how much alligators eating their young is like higher education in America. In fact, in some ways, it might be better to be a young alligator victim than a higher education victim. A young alligator’s end comes quickly. The capture and drowning are sudden. The bigger gator makes a mighty chomp, wrestles the youngster to the bottom of a body of water in the famous gator “death roll,” chomps mightily on the little one a couple more times and it’s over for the precious devils.

Higher education, on the other hand, drowns its victims slowly, in debt and despair, over lifetimes. The trap is set long before college with the false promise, often referred to as, The American Dream, i.e. America is the land of opportunity. And college is your ticket to financial and social upward mobility. Implicit in this promise is the notion that anyone who goes to college can realize their dreams of a sustainable, purposeful, fulfilling life. In the post-World War II GI Bill era, this promise actually delivered. Higher education was accessible and affordable, with exponential returns on a student’s investments of time and money. Not so now.

Finish high school with moderate-to-high academic achievement and you can find multiple colleges that will take you. Or finish high school with low passing grades, or get your GED, and there’s still a school for you. If you can’t find a bona fide college, community college or university that accepts you, no worries. A glut of for-profit schools will take just about anybody. Can’t afford to pay for college? (Few people can these days.) Not a problem. Fill out a couple forms. And with your acceptance, your school will send you a financial aid plan showing you how to cover the costs, including how to cover some, most, or all of the costs with loans. It’s a bait and switch for all but the most privileged and savvy applicants. For most borrowers, and at far too many schools, student loan debt is their ticket on a train running backwards to financial and social subordination.

Today three out of four students borrow to meet their higher education costs. Those who rack up the most debt, are often the best off, relatively. Their debt is higher because they are in 2 the overall 50% of two-year and four-year students who stay in school and finish their degrees on time. The other 50% of today’s college students leave school before their two years or four years are up. The students who drop out find themselves with debt and in a workforce that offers no advantage for people whose resumes read, “some college.”

The borrowers with degrees have a reasonable chance of finding salaried jobs that pay a living wage. Yet over 70% of borrowers with degrees and fulltime jobs are burdened by their debt.

Numerous studies confirm that tens-of-millions of borrowers with degrees are having trouble making ends meet. They are having trouble affording a car. They are delaying buying a house. They are even having difficulties meeting the daily necessities of food, clothing and shelter. They are delaying saving money, getting married and starting a family. They are unable to afford to work within their intended career paths. They are unable to afford to work in the public sector.

Graduate degrees are unaffordable. And they are not able to start new businesses. These are the borrowers with the jobs made possible by finishing their degrees. The borrowers who drop out before finishing their degrees have less debt. But with no degree beyond a high school diploma, their employment opportunities are severely limited, and the burden of their debt is onerous. Multiple hourly wage jobs are required to make their loan payments, If they have children or other dependents, their student loan debt can be crushing.

The facts are stunning.

  • Tuition has been rising at twice the rate of inflation for over twenty years.
  • Total student loan debt is $1.5 trillion: an increase of more than 150% over that past ten years; totaling 60% more than all credit card debt in America; second only to home mortgage debt.
  • Number of student loan borrowers with outstanding loans: 44,500,000…one in every four American adults, two-thirds of all Millennials.
  • Average debt upon graduation: $37,000.
  • Number of non-borrowers who are helping a family member or friend make payments: 8,360,000.
  • Amount of student loans in default: $268 billion…more than the $208 billion in sub-prime mortgage defaults in 2007 at the collapse of the housing market.
  • Average new student loan defaults per day: 3,000; one-third of borrowers in default owed less than $10,000.
  • Borrowers with loans in deferment: 16,700,000.
  • More people per capita over the age of 25 are living at home with their parents than at any time over the past 135 years.

The truth is personal and painful. The pursuit of higher education has become a scourge on millions of Americans. Lifelong consequences are triggered by decisions too often made blithely. Hopeful young people take on debt, not knowing the cost, believing higher education is a surefire path to easy repayment and a life of prosperity.

When payments come due and reality sets in, most borrowers turn first to their loan servicers, the companies that send out the bills, collect the payments, and address borrowers’ questions/concerns/cries for help. With over 44 million borrowers, 75 million loans, 3,000 loan defaults per day, and an opaque web of loan structures, repayment plans, deferral and forbearance options, as well as variable penalties for delinquencies and defaults, at any given time thousands of borrowers are looking for help. The demand on the servicers and collection agencies for repayment strategies and problem-solving is beyond their capacity to meet effectively.

Borrower options for self-guided, internet-based problem solving are limited, often user unfriendly, and frequently predatory. The backstop to the demand for borrower support is a loan servicer or collection agency telephone call center. Wait times prevail. Telephone agent knowledge is limited, and in many cases, biased to favor the financial interests of the servicers and collection agencies the agents represent. Borrowers can be led into “solutions” that generate higher fee payments to the servicers or debt collectors, but send the borrowers into a vortex of initial low payments and higher interest rates that multiply rather than pay down the debt.

How painful is the truth? Working two minimum wage jobs with two kids at home, no degree, defaulted student loans, no credit, garnished wages, tax refunds withheld by the IRS, no idea what to do next… Living at home with your parents because you can’t afford your own housing… Waiting tables on weekends because your salaried day job doesn’t pay enough to make ends meet… Married, over 30, and unable to afford starting a family… Owing student debt twice the amount of your annual salary… Believing that going to college was the biggest mistake you will ever make. The truth is your spirit drowning in debt.

Higher education in America is in an existential crisis.

Overall, higher education costs more and more and is worth less and less. Required humanities curricula no longer qualify graduates for jobs they can happily live on. Tuition increases are out of control. Federal and state governments regularly cut education funding, as if it’s a discretionary use of taxpayer dollars. Alumni donors are funding basketball arenas, and fitness centers with climbing walls and hot tubs, rather than scientific research and academic enrichment. Fortunes are being made by shareholders in for-profit colleges that overpromise, overcharge, and under deliver; they produce the lowest graduation rates and highest default rates in continuing education; and, they derive most of their revenues from federally funded student loans.

This is the truth we all need to acknowledge. Once the world’s model of progressive learning, free thinking and democratic access, higher education in America has become a dysfunctional $1.5 billion industrial complex funded primarily by student debt. The weight of it all is biting the hands that feed it. It’s eating its young.

Coming next: Part II, Saving Continuing Education

John Zurick is a social enterprise builder. Zurick Artificial Intelligence, LLC is the developer of PrestoSolvo® Student Loan Solutions  

“Labor has fueled the fire in me…” – The Movement Through the Eyes of a Student Intern

As a new communications intern with the Cincinnati Labor Council and Interfaith Worker Center, I have been thrown right into deciphering and understanding the labor movement. Not only have I gained some knowledge and started to understand labor’s background, but I’ve realized I have so much more to learn about the history, politics, and social aspects that have shaped the AFL-CIO.

I am a Communications and Public Relations student at Xavier University with minors in Gender and Diversity Studies and Peace and Justice Studies. My intent is to use my communications education to work for and with those that have traditionally been marginalized in society, which is why I have chosen my specific minors. As I enter my last year of undergrad I have started to reflect on my time in college, where I want to go next, and how I have been shaped by my upbringing and work experiences.

I was not raised with any awareness as to what unions were and what they provided for the U.S. As a result, I have come into the AFL-CIO with a blank slate, an open mind, and a heart that holds a passion for social justice. My interest in justice was sparked when I came to Xavier and saw the difference I had the potential to make in the community around me. My interest is now being stretched and challenged by this internship in a way that I am very grateful of.

I have done a fair amount of research on unions and put pieces of the puzzle together as I witness the movement first hand. Despite the hours of research I have sifted through, I have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the complexity of unions, labor, and the politics that surround them. Intrigued by the complexity, I decided that there was far too much to delve into with just one or two posts.

Politics, human rights, immigration, gender and diversity, and history all play major roles in the way we understand the workforce in America today. I am going to dive deeper into each of these topics, which will include segments written about Martin Luther King Jr., Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Vietnam War, legislation that has shaped the modern day workforce, and the polarized divide that political parties are facing right now.

While doing this, I am going to provide my perspective as a young woman readying herself to enter the workforce. Though I am still unsure of what path I want to carve for myself, I do know that working at the Labor Council and Worker Center has fueled the fire burning in me to help, speak, and stand for and with others. I want to focus on the future, not only my future, but the shared tomorrow that is at stake if we do not critically look back on the past to learn from the successes and mistakes on all sides. I hope to provide a fresh perspective to past and present issues as well as an outlook for the future of unions.

“A Better Tomorrow… Changing the World and Brightening the Future”

You can learn anything from any opportunity that comes your way in life. Everyday that I come to the Cincinnati Labor Council and Interfaith Workers Center that’s exactly what I do, learn. As a new communications intern alongside Kate George, I’ve been able to step out of my comfort zone and engulf myself into the world of Labor and begin to understand the history of it, why it matters, and what it is going to take to keep laborers and unions strong and going on for years to come. I couldn’t name a better place to start than where I am right now.

I am a Communications major at Xavier University with a focus in Broadcast Journalism. My goal with my studies is to bring certain topics and stories from behind the shadows and into the light and labor would surely be something to do that with. Although this internship is my first real leap into the world of unions, and labors I am no stranger to the topic at all.

My mother works at a manufacturing company where she is an active member of the Local 390 union. I’ve heard countless stories first hand from her about how important it is that employees know their rights when it comes to their work, and how the union plays a big part in that. Now more than ever I understand exactly what she means by this and my interest has been sparked. As I’ve been doing research about the history of labor and unions and where we are now in the present, more than ever do people need to be educated on the importance of not only joining the unions, but being aware of what the union is doing for working people such as us millennials, everyday. I’ve recently finished up my first year of Undergrad and as I prepare to move forward in my education and in my life I want to incorporate everything I’ve been learning here into all of my future endeavors and strive to make a difference that will have a lasting impact.

One thing that I am a huge advocate for is the use of social media. Maybe it’s because of how simple it is to use, or maybe it is because it’s been around me for most of my life. Either way it its a great tool to spread the word about anything you are passionate about and want others to know about as well. Here at the CLC and CIWC we’ve been encouraged to dive into projects head first and use the tools around us, such as social media, to help bring awareness about issues we care about and connect others and that is what I love the most.

Coming into the AFL-CIO I didn’t know what to expect, but I am very grateful for how open they’ve allowed us to be with the labor movement. They’ve allowed us to formulate our own ideas and talk about what really matters and stands out to us and its just been a great environment to learn and grow in. In a few years I’ll be graduating from college and preparing to officially enter the workforce and I hope that it is a fair and equal opportunity environment. The workforce is changing everyday and we have the power to make sure that it is changing for the better for future generations to come.

 Although I am not completely sure about everything I want to do in life, I know that working here has opened my eyes and has truly made me want to stand together in solidarity with everyone. I can really say that this internship has made me whole-heartedly want to continue to strive to have the best interest for everyone at heart. I especially want to focus on making a better tomorrow for the many young African American citizens who want to take a shot at changing the world and brightening the future for themselves and for our neighbors. We must work together to move forward and right the wrongs of the past and continue to educate everyone on these social justice topics because separate we cant accomplish much but together we can conquer all.

* Markeshia Jackson, Xavier Communications Intern.

Join us for our 48th Annual COPE Dinner

Out of the Shadows and Into the Light… A Celebration of Inclusion and Empowerment!

Our 48th Annual COPE Dinner will be held on June 8th, 2018 at the Westin Cincinnati, 21 E 5th St, Cincinnati, OH 45202, USA, from 6:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m. If you’re hesitant about clearing your schedule for the evening to join us, know it is for a great cause.

The 2018 Cincinnati AFL-CIO COPE Dinner is sizing up to be a momentous event with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the eldest child of the late U.S. Senator and Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy as special guest and Keynote Speaker. Another featured guest will be Betty Sutton, former U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 13th congressional district and Richard Cordray’s running mate in the 2018 Ohio Governor’s race. We will also be sharing a video message prepared especially for us from U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. And finally, lending her immense vocal talents to our evening is twice EMMY nominated, award winning Jazz vocalist Kathy Wade. The 2018 event, “Out of the Shadows and Into the Light…A Celebration of Inclusion and Empowerment!” is an acknowledgment and recognition for the many courageous champions answering the call to fight for and defend hard-working families in 2018. It will be epic!

What is COPE?
The Cincinnati AFL- CIO Labor Council Annual COPE Dinner is the preeminent Political Affair in Southwest Ohio and an important fundraiser for the Committee on Political Education. COPE is an acronym for the Committee on Political Education. The COPE Dinner is the only fundraiser for the Committee on Political Education. COPE also sponsors voter registration, voter education, candidate screenings, and endorsements, Meet-the-Candidates Night, sample ballots, Get-Out-the-Vote activities, and more. The theme for the 2018 Event is “Out of the Shadows and Into the Light… A Celebration of Inclusion and Empowerment!

Who will be at COPE?
We’ve always had such wonderful keynote speakers in the past but this year will be one you do not want to miss. Our 48th Annual Dinner is sizing up to be a momentous event with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the eldest child of the late U.S. Senator and Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy as special guest and Keynote Speaker. “We’re very excited to have Kathleen Kennedy Townsend as our Keynote Speaker for our evening of celebration,” said Pete McLinden, Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council Executive Secretary- Treasurer. “Ms.Kennedy-Townsend has a long history of accomplishment in the public arena. As the State of Maryland’s first woman Lt. Governor, she had oversight of major cabinet departments and she is an excellent choice for our COPE Dinner Keynote Speaker in this, the year of the woman,” said McLinden.

How can I attend COPE?
Registrations can be made by downloading and completing the REGISTRATION FORM, calling (513)-421-1846 ext.5 or by contacting the Cincinnati Labor Council at Please make checks payable to Cincinnati AFL-CIO COPE and send along with your registration to Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council, 1385 Tennessee Avenue- 2nd Floor, Cincinnati, OH 45229. Contributions to the Cincinnati AFL-CIO COPE are not deductible for income tax purposes. Tickets may be purchased individually, out of general funds or out of political action accounts. For more information contact Brian Griffin, Director of Communication at 513-421-1846 ext 5 or drop us info at

Trumka Looks to the Future

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka delivered the following remarks at the Northern Kentucky University 36th Annual Labor-Management Conference

Good morning, everybody. It’s a pleasure to be here. And it’s great to see my friend Tom Buffenbarger again. Tom, your lifetime of commitment to America’s working families can be felt in every corner of this country. You are a constant force for unity and solidarity, and I can’t think of anyone better to help us chart a path forward.

The topic of today’s conversation, America’s future workforce, is absolutely critical. And I very much look forward to hearing Nick’s (Pinchuk) insight and perspective.

On Thursday, the AFL-CIO launched our Commission on the Future of Work and Unions. The commission was formed by a unanimous vote of our convention last fall, and we are charged with determining how best to build bargaining power and provide economic security for millions of Americans amidst massive changes in the workplace.

At our kickoff event, we heard from labor leaders, academics, policy professionals, organizers and frontline workers, who are each shaping the future of work in their own unique way.

And we asked ourselves two important questions:

  1. What happens to a system that becomes incapable of supplying a rising standard
    of living to its people?
  2. How will the products and benefits of technology be divided…and who will make that decision?

We’re facing a moment of unprecedented change—both in its scale and its accelerating pace. It’s one of the defining challenges of our time. But more importantly, it’s one of the greatest opportunities we’ve ever been presented.

We can grow our economy and strengthen our nation, boost productivity and create greater prosperity, raise wages and secure better, longer, healthier lives for everyone. But only if we make some key decisions, together, about what we want our future economy to look like.

As labor and management, we should be heading into this crossroads together.

Just as managers are invested in their success, workers have a stake in what we produce. We take pride in the products we build and the services we provide. Our labor is sacred, and it drives us every day.

Business and labor may play different roles, but we share common goals.

Each of us wants American companies to succeed. Each of us wants workers to be safe, satisfied and productive. Each of us want a future where everyone can enjoy the fulfillment that comes with a good job.

Yet we simply cannot ignore what has happened over the past 40 years. When unions are pushed aside—when decisions about our future are kept behind closed doors—the system begins to crack. And the bonds that hold all of us together start to weaken. We’re seeing the consequences of that erosion today.

The latest wave of technological disruption has coincided with a generation of bad policy choices. These policies have held down wages, skyrocketed inequality and made it harder to form a union. Temporary jobs, scheduling abuse, subcontracting and misclassified workers have become all too common. As a result, more and more young people have lowered their expectations of ever paying off student loans, buying a home or even landing a good job.

Listen to this: A 2016 study from Harvard University showed that only 30 percent of millenials believe it’s essential to live in a democratic nation. It’s a startling statistic. I believe it reflects the simple truth that young people are becoming more disillusioned as they bear the brunt of our broken economy.

Earlier I asked what happens to a system that becomes incapable of supplying a rising standard of living to its people. The Harvard study provides us a glimpse of the answer. A system unable to provide for its citizens will not endure.

So we cannot have a complete discussion about the future of work without talking about the future of workers. And that means acknowledging what tomorrow’s working class will look like. By 2032, a majority of workers between the ages of 18 and 64 with less than a college degree will be people of color. They need to play a part in shaping what comes next.

These decisions can’t and won’t be made in the board room or corner office alone. We know from firsthand experience that the single most effective tool for building an economy of shared prosperity is collective bargaining. Strong unions—our collective voices—must be a part of this conversation.

When workers sit down across the table from our employers and bargain, we bring home higher wages, have greater access to health care and a pension and are more likely to be safe on the job. Most importantly, workers who bargain collectively have a voice, a say in the terms and conditions of work. As a result, we’re more invested in our work. As we put our blood, sweat and time into our jobs—we also share in the fruits of that labor. And that leads to more driven, satisfied and productive workers who are committed to helping businesses thrive. It’s a win-win.

When we raise the bar for ourselves, non-union employers also raise pay and improve benefits to attract and keep the best people. We can use this upward pressure to demand a world where the gains from technology translate into better pay and working conditions for everyone, where being more productive means we can work less and live more, where artificial intelligence allows us to have better, safer and more interesting jobs.

As a labor movement, we are focused on using our collective voice to bargain nothing less than a fair piece of the gains from innovation. If the benefits of technology are divided fairly, we can create a new era of broadly shared prosperity, one where working people get a chance to share in the enormous wealth we help create.

Today we are in the midst of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. Automation. AI. Digitization. You name it.

Let me be clear. The labor movement isn’t shying away from this change. We’re leading the way.

From assembly lines to construction sites to Silicon Valley, we have always adapted to new workplace realities with pride, flexibility and unwavering commitment.

Before the punch clock and the factory floor, there was the hand tool and the workshop. Before the hardhat, there was the artisan’s apron. Before diesel and electricity, there was steam.

Times changed. Our jobs changed. And unions changed with them, building a more prosperous nation and a stronger labor movement in the process.

We aren’t done yet. With each step forward, we’re leading the way to an even healthier, safer and more prosperous society. Auto workers are designing and building nextgen automobiles that will save countless lives on the road. Digital journalists are transforming the newsroom by providing breaking coverage on cutting-edge platforms. Steelworkers are advocating for exoskeleton technology—to help workers avoid injuries on the job. Electrical workers are using virtual reality to train a new wave of apprentices, handing them tools that I couldn’t have dreamed of when I first stepped foot in a union hall.

We’re providing today’s workers with the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow. We partner with employers, government agencies and local communities to provide training for new and returning workers. Between 60 and 70 percent of registered apprentices are in labor-affiliated programs, contributing more than $1.5 billion a year to the economy.

Our presence is having its biggest impact in the building trades, where we take part in more than 1,600 joint labor-management apprenticeship training committees. But apprenticeship programs are helping transform sectors from manufacturing to hotels and restaurants. In all, we operate the largest training network outside the U.S. military.

So we aren’t just embracing the future of work. We’re living it and pioneering it every single day.

But our experience has also taught us that there is a right way and a wrong way to unleash new tools. Will we let the drivers of inequality pervert technology to foster greater economic injustice and social unrest? Or will we demand that technology improves lives and raises standards and wages across the board?

Labor and management have an opportunity to come together to ensure technology is used for good, not greed. In many ways, we are like a railroad. Labor is one track. Management is the other. But we are both heading in the same direction. And if one track isn’t on firm footing, we’ve all got a big problem.

Now listen, there are some in management who think negotiating with employees is beneath them. They bring a dismissive and often hostile attitude to the bargaining table. There are some on the union side who think it’s not the job of workers to make their employers profitable and that anything gained without a fight doesn’t constitute a win. They’re both wrong.

I tell my union friends all the time—an unprofitable company does us no good. So we have an interest in helping our employers succeed. But we also must have the freedom to bargain for a share of that success. All we’re asking for is an equitable piece of the profits we help create.

More and more, workers are putting aspiration above fear. We see it in the historic teacher strikes sweeping the country, including right here in Kentucky. We see it in the more than 14,000 workers who formed and joined unions in just a single week last month.

Americans are overwhelmingly rejecting the idea that good jobs are impossible—now or in the future. They refuse to accept an economy where Amazon pockets massive tax breaks while its employees live off food stamps…or where Walmart’s CEO earns nearly 1,200 times more than the company’s median worker.

Working together, labor and management have created the most prosperous nation in human history. We’ve lit our cities and mechanized our farms. We’ve piloted flights across oceans. We’ve built a transcontinental railroad and an interstate highway system. We’ve played in unforgettable Super Bowls and delivered Academy Award winning performances. And we’ve connected the world with a device you can fit in the palm of your hand.

Technology is more ingrained into our work than ever before, whether it’s something as common as email or as complex as artificial intelligence. We embrace advances in technology and systems that allow us to do our jobs faster, better and safer. But we will not allow 21st century breakthroughs to be used as an excuse for 19th century labor practices.

The future of work provides an unmatched opportunity for cooperation and collaboration, communication and compromise. We can harness technology to raise pay, make jobs safer and achieve real work-life balance. We can usher in a workforce of unprecedented skill and professionalism. We can use this moment in history to redefine the relationship between labor and management, joining in partnership to build an economy that works for all of us and saving our democracy in the process.

Let that be our legacy. Thank you very much.

NALC Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive – May 12, 2018 

I encourage your participation in this year’s National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Stamp Out Hunger food drive, which will occur on Saturday, May 12. Last spring, NALC members and other union volunteers collected over 75 million pounds of food during their 25th anniversary Stamp Out Hunger food drive. Since the inception of this annual endeavor, NALC has collected over 1.6billion pounds of food to replenish community food shelves in thousands of communities throughout the country. This remarkable feat proves what we can accomplish together with commitment, determination and hard work.

While the total pounds of food collected is hard to visualize, the faces of thosewho are helped by this effort are all too familiar – children, seniors and workingfamilies struggling to make ends meet. Working in partnership with AFL-CIOstate and local bodies and the Labor Liaison Network, United Way Worldwide,our nation’s food security advocates and a host of other partners, the NALC getsfood into the cupboards of those in need.

All people need to do is place a bag of unopened, non-perishable food next totheir mailbox before their letter carrier delivers their mail on Saturday, May 12,and the carrier will do the rest. Once collected, the food is taken back to thepostal stations, sorted, and delivered by union volunteers to area food banks andpantries.

I am proud of our long-standing partnership with NALC in this important effort.Please publicize and promote the May 12 NALC Stamp Out Hunger food driveamong your members. With the support of unions and America’s workingfamilies, the NALC can collect more food and by doing so, help families in needof this critical assistance.

If you have any questions or would like to get more involved with the NALC Stamp Out Hunger Food drive, please contact Yael Foa, National Community Engagement United Way Program Coordinator at (215) 439-0676 or

Thank you for supporting the NALC Stamp Out Hunger food drive.

Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President 

Senator Warren Stands With Graduate Workers

In case you missed it: U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren stands with graduate workers organizing across Boston: “These student workers in Boston are standing up for what they believe in, and I’m right there with them.” With David Gootenberg at Harvard Virology, Marena Lin at Harvard Earth and Planetary Sciences, Victoria Gabriele at Boston College Physics, Alex Ahmed at Northeastern Computer Science, and Gana Ndiaye at Boston University Anthropology. #UnionYes.


Senator Warren Stands With Graduate Workers

In case you missed it: U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren stands with graduate workers organizing across Boston: “These student workers in Boston are standing up for what they believe in, and I’m right there with them.” With David Gootenberg at Harvard Virology, Marena Lin at Harvard Earth and Planetary Sciences, Victoria Gabriele at Boston College Physics, Alex Ahmed at Northeastern Computer Science, and Gana Ndiaye at Boston University Anthropology. #UnionYes

Posted by Harvard Graduate Students Union – UAW on Thursday, April 19, 2018

April 28 Is Workers Memorial Day

On April 28, the 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. This year we will come together to defend hard-won victories by working people from attacks by right-wing Republicans and business groups. We will commit to fighting until all workers have safe jobs and the freedom to form unions to seek a better future.

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.

But our work is not done. Each year, thousands of workers are killed and millions more suffer injury or illness because of their jobs. Workplace fatalities are on the rise again.

After years of struggle we won new rules to protect workers from deadly silica dust and beryllium, a stronger coal dust standard for miners and stronger anti-retaliation protections for workers who report job injuries.

All of these hard-won gains are now threatened. The Trump administration has launched an all-out assault on regulations. The president has ordered that for every new protection, two existing safeguards must be removed. President Trump and Republicans in Congress have overturned worker safety rules issued by the Obama administration. Protections against beryllium and coal dust have been targeted for weakening. Agency budgets and enforcement programs are on the chopping block. The safety and health of workers and the public are in danger.

We must fight back. We cannot and will not let them turn back the clock and destroy the progress we have made to make jobs safer and save lives.

Download our Flyer here: 2018 Workers Memorial Day Flyer – Cincinnati

Workers Call For Justice at 3rd Largest Federal Contractor!

Workers Call For Justice at 3rd Largest Federal Contractor!

We The Forgotten Episode 6: More GDIT Workers Call For Justice

WATCH: Workers are filing new wage theft complaints against a huge federal contractor. This is what they have to say.

Posted by Good Jobs Nation on Monday, April 23, 2018

More GDIT Workers Call For Justice! Wage theft at the 3rd largest federal contractor. We have been working with CWA on filing wage theft complaint on behalf of workers who are getting shared on wages by General Dynamics – Yes, that General Dynamics.  These workers field ACA and Medicaid calls.  Even though they work full time, some of them have to rely on those same programs to take care of their families – and it turns out their employer is stealing their wages. An assault on any of us is an assault on all of us!

Richard Cordray for Ohio’s Working Families

Richard Cordray for Ohio’s Working Families

Too many Ohioans are being ignored and left behind. That must change, and we need to work together to do it. Richard Cordray and Betty Sutton spent their careers in public service focusing on the kitchen table issues that keep families up at night. Each brings unparalleled experience working at the local, state and federal levels, taking on powerful special interests and institutions on behalf of Ohioans — and delivering results. Together, we will change the system so that it starts working for Ohioans and their families, rather than the powerful interests. And it starts by electing Richard Cordray as our next governor. Join our campaign today.

“Right to Work” is Making “Bricks Without Straw”

“Right to Work” is Making “Bricks Without Straw”

From a presentation before the West Chester Township Trustees…

I am writing this to say to you that I believe what is being proposed regarding so called right to work is morally wrong. It is wrong for West Chester Township. Wrong for Ohio. Wrong for all of us.  

The federal Taft- Hartley Act among other things forbids that any worker be forced to join a union, requires unions to represent all workers regardless of whether they join or not, and allows unions to collect a nominal service fee from non-members as just compensation for the expenses incurred in representing them in negotiations with management. This so called right to work proposal would prohibit the union from asking non-union members for compensation for their services although the unions are required by federal law to provide them. This is called free riding.

Allow me to state an alternate type of the Golden Rule which is “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done to you.”   Let’s say the state of Ohio had the authority to tell all local rule political subdivisions like this Township they no longer had authority to require their citizens to pay taxes to run their jurisdictions. I speculate this Board of Trustees would respond with these questions: How do we protect our people from crime and injustice and keep them safe from injury or worse? How do we make sure our people have opportunity for a good standard of living and quality of life for themselves and their families if we don’t have the revenue to provide the services we are obligated to provide?

I dare say this Board would feel like the people of Israel did in the Book of Exodus when, to punish them and to make them weaker and more submissive, Pharaoh told the Israelites to make bricks without straw.  Well, that is exactly what this so called right to work legislation is intended to do to the unions.

I know there are powerful ideological monied interests hostile to unions driving this so called right to work legislation, but that does not change the values that are found in Scripture and that I believe should be driving us and this Board of Trustees, 18 For the Scripture says, You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:18)   

Don’t require the unions to make bricks without straw and work for no compensation for their services.  As you have no doubt already heard and will hear from others tonight, it hurts members and non-members, their families, as well as their communities. Therefore, I ask this Board to do right and not wrong.

Thank You.

Dominick Lijoi

Dominick Lijoi is a resident of West Chester, Ohio.  He is an active attender and volunteer at Vineyard Cincinnati church. Dominick describes himself as a follower of Jesus Christ living in America. He retired from the U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers after a 35-year career, and is currently the Southeast Regional Chair of the Butler County Democratic Party.

Done Playing Defense!

In the last few weeks my brothers and sisters and I have withstood a barrage of misguided and too often hateful attacks. I for one am tired of playing defense. So, where to begin… Let’s start with the racially charged, not to mention very angry, editorial by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). ABC should have no voice on the issue of apprenticeship. Period. He claimed that 86% of all construction is done by firms whose workers do not belong to a union. If that is so, why is it that as of June 6, 2017, they had only 618 apprentices registered in the entire state of Ohio?

By way of comparison, on that same date, with ABC reporting a mere 618 registered apprentices in its program, there were 9,044 in the Organized Labor, Union Joint Programs.  It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to know that the number of trained and workforce-ready resources we turn out dwarfs those of ABC. ABC has one priority…one goal – to lobby against and silence the voices of the dedicated, hard-working men and women of our building trades unions.

Here is another “inconvenient truth” for our friends at ABC… We have 82% of all apprentices registered with the State, and Joint Programs have 87.6% of minorities and 93% of women apprentices registered with the State. Those are genuine, hard-working, well trained men and women with kids and families. Men and women of all colors, faith, races, and sexual orientations….Your neighbors… People looking for a fair day’s wage for an honest day’s work. These are people who know that with a Joint Programs certification they are able to go anywhere in this nation, show their certificate and be instantly considered a valuable resource on any project. That is “Workforce Readiness!”

So enough! It’s time to stop casually tossing around old, tired, unsupported, unsubstantiated, worn-out misconceptions of how Unions are prejudice and don’t represent underserved populations. The facts are on our side. And with that, allow me to turn my attention to Cincinnati City Council. I attended both the Economic Growth Committee meeting, Tuesday March 6th and the City Council meeting the next afternoon. It was everything I could do to sit there quietly and politely as my good, honest, hard-working brothers and sisters were repeatedly attacked as racists… Shame on you!

Perhaps accusing us of institutional racism, plays well to your base… it must play well to someone’s base, because the term was allowed to be used throughout the meeting by a person who in no small part owes that chair to the very people that we being derided. To have allowed these false and defamatory allegations against a substantial number of your fellow citizens and constituents – the very people who fought for you and won with you – was shameful.

Do you really believe it is possible that that same merry band of brothers and sisters who stood with you last year in the week before the election could, in a mere four months, become the bigoted mob, bent on the decimation of the minority business community, you now seem to think we are? Such broad-brush accusations serve only to divide, foment anger and play on the uglier aspects of our nature.  Shame!

One Councilman even made reference to “the labor unions of the 1960s.” Talk about diversion, distraction, and desperation. Good sir, if you despise unions just come out and say it. Don’t lay some 58-year-old history on me… It serves only to demonstrate your ignorance of and inexperience with the proud men and women of today’s labor movement.

In summary, all I can be held accountable for is my attitude and my actions since the young man I was first embarked on my apprenticeship with the IBEW Local 212 in June of 1979. And if you take nothing else away from this missive, I want you to remember this — My wife, my three adult-children, and I owe everything we have to the IBEW. I could not be more proud to be a member of Local 212, the building trades as a whole and the broader Labor Community. No matter how aggressively or ignorantly we are attacked — even if by those we supported — we will continue to do the right thing. We will continue to provide a pathway to success…a way that change lives one good, honest, hard-working soul at a time. And that is through a career path in one of our trades.

Before I close, I want to thank all of our signatory partners in the construction industry. I did not want to send the message; organized labor takes all the credit. We have very dedicated contractors who do not consider it a burden to train and graduate apprentices because, like us, they also believe it is the right thing to do. Signatory contractors work diligently to secure employment for our members while paying our tradesmen and women a fair and living wage.  To my knowledge, they were not asked for input on subjects such as Responsible Bidder. Read into that whatever you may, but I see it as an insult. It would seem that there is little care for what effect any of this may have on our contractors. But we know — we are indeed, “Stronger together!”

Council, how about an even playing field and hold everyone to the same standards our friends abide by every day.

Frederick E. Lampe

Frederick E. Lampe is a 38 year member of the IBEW Local 212, the current Executive Secretary of Cincinnati Building Trades and a member of the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council Executive Committee.

A Rising River…

Diversity has been an issue for the labor movement since its earliest days. Yes, perhaps in our history, Labor may have reflected certain unfortunate trends that were pervasive in the society as a whole, but more recently the labor movement is a unifying voice for equality, social justice and bringing diverse people together in common cause. Unions provide a forum for people of all communities to have a stronger, more unified voice — to help bring about positive change.

The American workforce overall is becoming increasingly diverse, and here in Greater Cincinnati, we’re no different. We recognize that it is more important than ever that labor not just be more inclusive, but be leaders in diversity and inclusion — for our good and the good of all working families. A diverse and inclusive labor movement is essential to connecting with and representing the workforce of the future, where women workers, workers of color, LGBT workers are not only our future but soon to be the majority.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020, the traditional white worker force will make up a decreasing percentage of the overall workforce while African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans are an increasing share. In addition, Women, who made up 48% of the workforce in 2012, will have a greater rate of growth than their male colleagues.

Thanks to research from the Pew Research Center, we know that this growing diversity in the overall workforce equates to positives gains for Labor in groups that are (1) more likely to hold a positive view of organized labor and are (2) more likely to become union members based on

  • African Americans, currently 11.7% of the workforce, constitute 14% of union membership nationally, and 69% of African Americans overall hold a very positive view toward unions compared with 51% for the population as a whole, making them nearly 20% more likely to join unions.
  • As with African Americans, Latinos hold a very positive view of unions, with 58% of Latinos expressing a positive view and they represent 14% of union members, up from 6% in 1983.
  • Due to a steady and significant growth in women membership in unions, 45% of union members are women, compared with 33% just 30 years ago. The Pew research found that women, too, hold positive views of unions (55% positive), making for even greater growth in that segment of the labor movement.
  • Finally, while still the lowest overall at 4.2%, over 60% of people under 30 years of age have very positive views of unions.

Current and ongoing efforts by unions to address issues of diversity, both in their roles as workplace representatives as well as within the structure and culture of their own organizations, reflect the best traditions of the past, illustrate an exciting and exhilarating willingness by many today to value, and respect the diversity of their memberships. It is Labor’s strength through numbers that leads the way with its position that fair  wages, seniority, due process and other negotiated provisions of employment apply equally to all represented members, and not just a small but powerful few. Labor is leading the way in the active pursuit of building stronger community ties across historical divides. Labor Unions are value-based organizations that believe deeply in worker dignity, safety, respect, fairness and ensuring that worker’ voices are at the table and part of decision-making. As we say, “Stronger Together!” Now we are walking the talk, and we are indeed stronger together.

Yours in Solidarity!

Bill Froehle, President

Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council

National Moment of Silence Held in Remembrance of Memphis Sanitation Workers Killed In 1968, Sparking Pivotal Strike

National Moment of Silence Held in Remembrance of Memphis Sanitation Workers Killed In 1968, Sparking Pivotal Strike

Memorial Activity is one of many “I AM 2018” Campaign Events Observing the 50th Anniversary of Strike and Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Cincinnati will be one of many municipalities across the country observing a nationwide Moment of Silence on February 1, 2018 in honor of Echol Cole and Robert Walker, two Memphis, TN sanitation workers who were crushed to death 50 years ago in the compactor of their garbage truck.

To commemorate their lives and to honor the 50th anniversary of the tragic events that sparked the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike, AFSCME members across the country are joining in a nationwide Moment of Silence on February 1, 2018.

In Cincinnati, a brief but solemn event will be observed at The Cincinnati Sanitation Division, 3320 Millcreek Road, Cincinnati, OH 45223, 6:30 AM.

If you cannot attend that event, please organize at your workplace and/or take a moment during the day to pay respect and remember the lives so needlessly lost and the seminal moment this event became.

BACKGROUND:  On February 1, 1968, a storm forced Memphis sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker to seek shelter in the back of their truck. The workers’ repeated warnings to management about faulty equipment proved tragically prophetic that day when the truck’s compactor kicked on, crushing the two men to death.

Their co-workers decided they had had enough. They had worked for far too long for poverty wages, without any benefits, in dangerous conditions, and with no respect. They voted to strike, and despite facing intense animosity, they bravely continued their strike for more than two months.

They were joined in their struggle by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who traveled to Memphis to march in solidarity. King was assassinated after making a powerful and historic speech in support of the workers’ struggle for dignity and justice.

Approaching Retirement? Here’s A Medicare Checklist

Approaching Retirement? Here’s A Medicare Checklist

Whether you’re currently working or already retired, as you approach Medicare eligibility there is a lot to plan for. To help reduce the confusion and provide a clear path to a smooth transition, we’ve compiled a step-by-step checklist to walk you through the process.

12 Months Before Turning 65 and/or Medicare Eligibility

  • Learn the basics of Medicare. Part A, Part B, Part C, Part D, eligibility, enrollment and much more – there is a lot to know about Medicare. Understanding what all these things include and how they will work for your situation is a great place to start your Medicare journey.
  • Sign up for the RetireMEDiQ Program emails. Medicare’s details can trip the best of us up, often causing retirees to incur late enrollment penalties that stay with them for life and add unnecessary expense. Our personalized email newsletters ensure you never miss a deadline and are always informed and in control of your Medicare situation.
  • Attend a RetireMEDiQ educational meeting. Between Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Supplements and Part D Prescription Drug plans, many retirees are initially delighted to find out that they have so many plans to choose from. However, this can quickly become overwhelming once you begin digging deeper into the details. At a RetireMED®iQ educational meeting, led by one of our experts, you can learn about how these plans work as well as get answers to your questions.

6 Months Before Turning 65 and/or Medicare Eligibility

  • Schedule a pre-retirement counseling meeting with a RetireMED®iQ advisor. Because each individual’s Medicare situation is extremely unique, we recommend meeting with one of our licensed Benefit Advisors (in person or over the phone) six months before your transition to Medicare. This allows you to tell your advisor all about your situation (Social Security, which options may be right for you, your spouse’s situation, etc.) and begin outlining a game plan for you.

3 Months Before Turning 65 and/or Medicare Eligibility

  • Enroll in Medicare Part A and/or Part B. Depending on your situation, you may either be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B three months before turning 65, or you may have to manually enroll. The good news is that, thanks to your six-month counseling meeting with a RetireMEDiQ Benefit Advisor, you will already know what you need to do.
  • Receive a personal plan recommendation from your RetireMEDiQ Benefit Advisor. After months of preparation and research, you’re finally ready to make the move to the Medicare plan that is right for you. Lucky for you, your Benefit Advisor does all the research and analysis for you and presents a plan recommendation tailored specifically to your needs, budget and lifestyle. All you have to do is choose.
  • Sign up for the Medicare plan of your choice. Not only does your Benefit Advisor provide a tailored plan recommendation just for you, your advisor also walks you through the entire enrollment process, helping you fill out your paperwork and filing it with your insurance company on your behalf.

Sit Back, Relax and Enjoy Retirement

As you wait for your Medicare coverage to begin, you can sit back, relax and enjoy the transition, knowing you have all the details taken care of. What’s more, you can call RetireMEDiQ anytime you have questions about your plan or encounter issues.


What to read next:

Provided to Cincinnati AFL-CIO by
Alisha Barger and our Friends at Retire MEDiQ
(Alisha Barger, is a Account Manager with RetireMEDiQ and works with many local employer groups to ensure their employees can retire confidently, knowing their Medicare plan is right for them. Alisha specializes in working with Union groups and has helped hundreds of local, retiring individuals with their Medicare insurance. She has her accident and health license in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Her goal is to keep you informed and to provide you with the knowledge and confidence you need to make the most important decisions affecting your health plan coverage. If you have questions about retirement or finding the right Medicare plan for your specific needs—and budget, contact Alisha at )
Congress Urged to Remember Mine Workers who Risked Their Lives as New Budget Deadline Looms  

Congress Urged to Remember Mine Workers who Risked Their Lives as New Budget Deadline Looms  

For Immediate Release
January 24, 2018

Contact: David Blank 202-637-5275 or

Statement of Robert Roach, Jr., President of the Alliance for Retired Americans, on the critical need to address the pensions of the United Mine Workers of America as plans are made to fund the government before the next deadline of February 8:

“As Congress works to develop legislation to fully fund the government, it is critical that the pension rights of thousands of retired United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) covered by the 1974 Pension Plan are addressed.

“Since 1946, the United States government has lived up to the promise it made to retired miners: ‘If you will bring out the coal that provides the foundation for the American economy, then the government will make sure you have a secure retirement.’

“Legislation is the only option that will prevent insolvency and preserve benefits for these retired mine workers. They earned their pensions by risking their lives in a dangerous line of work to meet the country’s energy requirements. Their average pension is just $586 per month. Many pension recipients are widows who depend on that pension to meet their most basic needs.

“It is not the workers’ fault that their pension plan is in trouble. In fact, just ten years ago the plan was 93% funded, and on a path to 100% funding. However, the 2008-09 recession and a series of bankruptcies in the coal industry over the last six years have decimated the fund. Several coal companies were relieved of further pension obligations by bankruptcy courts and contributions were wiped out.

“Our government must meet that commitment that was made generations ago. Preserve these pensions, so that thousands of our seniors can live in dignity.”