Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s this week’s Working People Weekly List.
NYC Unions Rally Against Cable Giant Charter/Spectrum: "Trumka, in a rousing speech, told workers, 'Your hard work made Charter Cable one of the most profitable companies in the United States, $3.5 billion they made last year. You did that! Local 3 members did that! So where is the company? Get to the table today and negotiate a contract.'"
Vice Video Staffers Unionize with WGA East and Motion Picture Editors Guild: "Vice Media employees who create video content across the company’s media outlets have unionized. The Writers Guild of America, East, said today that it will represent the workers along with the AFL-CIO and the Motion Picture Editors Guild, IATSE Local 700."
A Radical Republican Proposal to Roll Back Worker Protections: "Last week, the Republican-led House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on H.R. 3441, the so-called Save Local Business Act—a bill that has almost nothing to do with saving small and local businesses. According to its sponsors, the legislation was introduced to overturn the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB’s) 2015 decision in Browning Ferris Industries."
Cuomo, de Blasio Join Cable Workers in Rally to Seek New Contract with Spectrum: "AFL-CIO national president Richard Trumka came to town to support the striking cable workers. 'We will not retreat in the face of corporate greed,' he said. 'We’re going to get a fair deal here.'"
The Everyday Heroes of the Hurricanes: "Alseen Bell’s cell phone rang as she stood in the living room of her flood-ravaged home, surveying the devastation left behind by Hurricane Harvey. The call was from her local union, the Houston Federation of Teachers, asking how she had come through the storm and if she needed help. 'It was like an answer to my prayers,' Alseen says. Within hours, three of our members were alongside her, pulling up carpet, cleaning and offering encouragement."
Dozens of Unions to Join IBEW Local 3 in Major NYC Rally Against Charter Communications Amid Six-Month Strike: "AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is among the many labor leaders to respond. Trumka is coming to the city to headline a major rally and march starting at 3 p.m. on Monday in Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza."
McMillan Elected New President of North Carolina AFL-CIO: "The president of the North Carolina AFL-CIO for the past 20 years is retiring, and the longtime second-in-command of the state umbrella organization for unions is succeeding him. Delegates to the state AFL-CIO convention elected MaryBe McMillan unanimously Friday as president. James Andrews chose not to seek re-election after more than 40 years in the labor movement. McMillan has been secretary-treasurer since 2005."
Workers for Vice Media voted this week to come together in union, with content creators joining the Writers Guild of America, East, (WGAE) and post-production employees becoming members of the Motion Picture Editors Guild (MPEG), an affiliate of the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). Vice said it will recognize the unions after a third-party card-check confirmed that the majority of the employees in each unit voted to unionize.
Some 430 staff and freelance employees working on video content for VICE.com, the Viceland cable channel and Vice programming on HBO will now have a stronger voice in the workplace.
WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson said:
VICE is at the forward edge of the media industry's transformation. The WGAE knows it is essential for people who create content in this dynamic environment to have a seat at the table as the way the work is done—the way the content is made and distributed—continues to change. We have built a constructive relationship with VICE management and applaud the company for continuing to respect the right of its employees to engage in collective bargaining
MPEG President Alan Heim said:
We’re proud to welcome aboard the post-production professionals whose talents and hard work helped build VICE into the news and entertainment juggernaut it has become. These craftspeople on the cutting edge of our industry have made clear that the future of work in this business is one in which traditional union values of mutual aid and solidarity remain vital. We salute VICE for offering a model of how responsible employers respect their employees’ desire for a voice on the job, instead of trying to squash workers’ organizing efforts. And we’re both proud and grateful to have arrived at today’s victory in partnership with our sister unions, The Writers Guild of America, East, and SAG-AFTRA. This achievement shows what working people can accomplish together through alliances across craft and jurisdictional lines.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka congratulated the Vice workers:
Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with stories of teachers and nurses joining together to help patients and students and includes numerous examples of workers organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life.
D.C. Teachers Overwhelmingly Approve New Contract: Educators in Washington, D.C., voted 97% to 3% to ratify a new three-year contract. The new contract will improve student learning, increase salaries, address issues related to extended school years and launch a new era of collaboration between the teachers and the school district.
Shasta Regional Medical Center RNs Join California Nurses Association: With 90% of the vote in favor of joining together, the 350 registered nurses at Shasta Regional Medical Center in Redding, California, are now members of the California Nurses Association, an affiliate of National Nurses United. "We joined CNA because we want only the best care for our community's patients. In order to have the protection to advocate for them, we need to unionize with CNA," said Dani Gunderson, an emergency room RN at Shasta Regional.
Adjunct Faculty at Temple Win First Contract: The 1,400 adjunct faculty at Temple University in Philadelphia fought for and gained recognition in the school's new contract with the Temple Association of University Professionals, an affiliate of the AFT. The contract includes a significant wage increase and job protections and gives adjunct faculty a pathway to the respect they deserve. The contract, which also includes full-time faculty and librarians, was a hard-fought victory that was bargained over 15 months.
StoryCorps Staff Vote to Join Communications Workers of America (CWA): Despite an anti-union campaign from management, staff members at StoryCorps, a nonprofit based in Brooklyn, New York, that curates and shares stories of everyday Americans, voted to join CWA with 83% of the vote. The workers joined together to negotiate over wages, benefits, unexpected layoffs, working conditions, severance packages and pay transparency.
Airport Fuelers at Anchorage Airport Win 'Best Contract' They've Seen in Years: The intense negotiations led to a battle in federal court, but airport fuelers at the airport in Anchorage, Alaska, won a new three-year agreement that increases wages, maintains health care coverage and sick leave, improves bereavement leave, and increases the flexibility of vacation time.
Machinists at Mahle Engine Components End Strike and Protect Against Layoffs Without Adequate Notifications: Among other key components, Machinists (IAM) Local 1471 members at Mahle Engine Components in McConnelsville, Ohio, voted to accept a contract that rejected language that would've allowed shutdowns and layoffs without notification for periods of less than a week. The workers rejected that language and fought for a better contract.
Third Group of Employees at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center Vote to Join Together in a Union: After an inspiring nine-month contract campaign, 900 employees at PeaceHealth overwhelmingly voted (90% in favor) to ratify their first contract, joining two earlier campaigns that mean that collectively more than 2,500 working people at the center are now standing together in a union. The new service unit members fought for the power of a collective voice, due process on the job, a wage increase and to bring to a halt PeaceHealth's practice of sending collection agencies after its own employees when they couldn't pay high medical bills.
Hundreds of Kroger Workers Win More Than $300,000 in Back Pay: When Kroger employees, members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400, discovered that full-time associates had been cheated out of holiday pay in violation of the contract, they came together and took the case to arbitration. After numerous delays, persistence paid off and the employees were awarded back pay and interest.
Workers at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, Join the Culinary and Bartenders Union: In August, a majority of workers at the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, chose to unionize with Culinary Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165. Once negotiations are complete, 325 new members will be able to exercise their freedom to negotiate for fair wages, job security, health benefits and dignity on the job.
This week, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka joined union and community leaders marching across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York to show solidarity for Charter/Spectrum workers who are on strike. To those who marched, Trumka spoke about how the hard work of Charter/Spectrum employees have made it one of the most profitable cable companies in the United States. He also spoke to the reasons workers are on strike:
Working people want a fair return on their work. They want good wages and a decent retirement. They want to provide for their families and enjoy the good things in their lives. They want CEO Tom Rutledge to get to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair deal today.
Here are some key tweets from the march and rally:
Local 3 member Marvin Phillips on Charter CEO Tom Rutledge: "When I was little, my Mom told me to stand up to bullies." #spectrumstrike— IBEW (@IBEW) September 18, 2017
Do you remember "Repeal and Replace," "Repeal and Run" and "Skinny Repeal"? Those were all plans pushed by the Senate Republican leaders at the end of July in a frantic, failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and make massive cuts in our health care. Millions of working people stood up and spoke out to stop those cuts. Now, however, Republican leaders are back, just as desperate but hopeful they can sneak something through.
The media are calling the new Senate Republican proposal the Graham-Cassidy plan because two of its lead authors are Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.). A more accurate way to think of it is as "Repeal, Replace and Run."
This plan wipes out major parts of the ACA. There are no more federal tax credits to help the middle class pay health insurance premiums. No more Medicaid expansion for low-income working people. No airtight ban on discriminatory premiums for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Insurance companies can impose an age tax by charging older Americans up to five times what they charge young adults. Employers are let off the hook completely: No employer would be required to contribute toward any worker’s health care; but the 40% tax on middle-class worker health benefits would be made permanent.
In place of much of this, the federal government would give out time-limited block grants to states to do with what they please. This money would run out in 10 years, unless Congress votes to extend it. Graham and Cassidy designed these block grants to shift costs to states, providing much less money, on average, than people in a state would get under the ACA. On top of that, they end the federal funding guarantee for Medicaid, the program that covers the more than 70 million people who are struggling the most to make ends meet. They convert federal support for Medicaid to capped amounts per person, which they designed to shrink over time compared to the cost of the medical care that it needed.
Republican leaders are pushing hard to pass something before the end of September. That is when time officially expires on their attempt to repeal the ACA and cut health care using a special rule. This allows them to pass a highly partisan bill with just 50 votes.
Republican leaders are in such a rush that they plan to vote on the bill before they even know fully what the bill will do. Congress' independent budget experts say they will not be ready with an analysis of what the bill does to the federal budget or health care coverage until sometime in October. Congressional Republicans are prepared to do this despite warnings from other experts that this bill could take health care away from as many as 32 million people. This is like buying a used car before you get the Carfax report you ordered. When that report finally comes pointing out all the defects, however, there is no "lemon law" to let the American people return this clunker of a bill.
If you've had enough, call your senators at 888-865-8089 and tell them not to take health care away from millions of Americans.
Finally, after nearly a quarter of a century, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is being renegotiated. This is a good thing. NAFTA is called a "trade deal," but it’s mostly a collection of rules that give corporations more power over the three economies of North America. It gives companies tools to undermine laws and rules that protect America’s working families. It increased threats by U.S. employers to close workplaces and move to Mexico. And once the companies got there, NAFTA provided strict rules for them, but only vague guidelines to protect working people’s rights and freedoms.
NAFTA negotiations have not progressed very far, and it is too early to say whether the effort will bring a New Economic Deal to working people or simply more crony capitalism. But there was some fantastic, surprising, excellent news recently.
The Canadian negotiating team did something big: They told the U.S. negotiators that U.S. laws that interfere with people’s freedom to negotiate on the job are dragging down standards for Canada and need to be abolished. Guess what? Canada is right.
These laws, known as "right to work," are another example of the wealthiest 1% rigging the rules to weaken the freedom of people joining together in union and negotiating with employers for better pay, benefits and conditions at work. Not surprisingly, states with these freedom-crushing laws are less safe and have lower wages, dragging down workplace standards for those in other states, and apparently in Canada, too.
Canada gets the obvious: These laws take away working people’s freedom to join together and raise their wages. Canada is pushing the United States to be fairer to working people, just as the U.S. is pushing Mexico to be fairer to its working people. Will the U.S. negotiators see the light and agree to this proposal in NAFTA? We certainly hope so. It will tell us a lot about who the president stands with: Corporate CEOs or working families?
Learn more about laws that take away working people’s freedom.
MaryBe McMillan becomes the first woman to lead the North Carolina labor movement after being unanimously elected president of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO during the 60th annual convention that wrapped up today.
McMillan has served as secretary-treasurer of the state federation since 2005. She has spearheaded the cause of getting national and international unions to invest in and organize the South. Before beginning her career in the labor movement, she worked with housekeepers trying to organize at North Carolina State University and, after receiving her Ph.D in sociology, did public policy research for several progressive nonprofits. In 2004, she took a job at the AFL-CIO's Union Community Fund, where she met North Carolina State AFL-CIO President James Andrews—beginning a 12-year partnership fighting for working families in North Carolina.
"James has mentored and inspired countless labor leaders and activists in North Carolina and beyond," said McMillan. "For over 40 years, he has fought tirelessly to make our state a better place for working people. Our labor movement is much stronger because of James’ leadership, and so many of us are better leaders because of his example. I know that I am."
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper awarded Andrews the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest honor, for his more than four decades of service to the labor movement.
McMillan knows challenges lie ahead, but she is ready to lead with the support of the most diverse board in history that includes two members from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) and the first LGBTQ member.
"I look forward to working with our affiliates to build the movement we all want—one that is constantly growing, that is both big enough and bold enough to set the agenda and drive our politics, that is unafraid to hold our politicians and our own leaders accountable—a movement with the power to change this state and this nation."
The 60th annual convention featured workshops on storytelling, internal and community organizing, and strategic planning for the future of North Carolina’s labor movement. It also highlighted the debut of a North Carolina labor history exhibit from the Knights of Labor in the 19th century to the Duke Faculty union in 2016.
"I am proud to call the new president of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO my friend," said AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre. "MaryBe is a champion of working people in North Carolina, and we will stand with her in the fight to ensure we all have the freedom to join together and negotiate. We will march with her to end discrimination at the polls in North Carolina and across America. And we will organize and mobilize across the state and the South."
For highlights from the convention, including photos and video, check out the hashtag #ncafl60.
Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s this week’s Working People Weekly List.
Support for Labor Unions Is at Decade High, Poll Finds: "Union approval is at its highest level among Americans in a decade—but still not as high as it once was. A Gallup Poll released for Labor Day found 61% of adults in the U.S. approve of labor unions—the highest percentage since 2003, when approval was at 65%. The 2017 approval rate is up 5 percentage points from last year and 13 points above the all-time low of 48% in 2009."
Canada Is Using NAFTA to Demand Protection for U.S. Unions: "As unions and Big Business prepare to square off in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, there will be heated debate over the continental trade pact’s impact."
President Trump Has Reached a Compromise with Top Democrats on DACA: "The top House and Senate Democrats said Wednesday they had reached agreement with President Donald Trump to protect thousands of younger immigrants from deportation and fund some border security enhancements—not including Trump’s long-sought border wall."
Poll: Majority Wants Congress to Establish Path to Citizenship for DACA Recipients: "A majority of voters want Congress to pass legislation that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to become citizens if they meet certain requirements, according to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted following the Trump administration’s decision to wind down the program protecting these so-called Dreamers from deportation."
Labor Unions Are Stepping Up to Fight Deportations: "Yahaira Burgos was fearing the worst when her husband, Juan Vivares, reported to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in lower Manhattan in March. Vivares, who fled Colombia and entered the U.S. illegally in 2011, had recently been given a deportation order. Rather than hide, he showed up at the ICE office with Burgos and his lawyer to continue to press his case for asylum."
Unions Aren't Obsolete, They're Being Crushed by Right-Wing Politics: "Growing up in heavily Republican Missouri years ago, Dawn Burnfin was sure that workers in the modern world didn't need the labor movement. 'I was taught that unions were just a bad deal all the way around,' she said. 'I don't know if anybody specifically took me aside and said, "Hey, unions are bad." It was just the implied attitude of everyone there.'"
OSHA's Claims About Hiding Information on Worker Deaths Fall Flat: "Since January, government agencies under the Donald Trump administration have taken steps to hide information from the public—information that was previously posted and information that the public has a right to know."
AFT Survey Shows Strong Parental Support for Public Schools: "Too often, the voices of the parents of public school children are left out of our national discussions about education. The AFT sought to change this and commissioned a survey that interviewed 1,200 public school parents to learn how they feel about the issues that directly affect their children."
Responding to Harvey and Irma: 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."
Working Families Remember 9/11: "On the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, America's working people commemorate those who lost their lives and those who worked tirelessly to help us recover and rebuild. Here are their words...."
RN Response Network to Deploy Additional Nurse Volunteers to Houston Post-Hurricane Harvey: "National Nurses United’s (NNU’s) Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN), a national network of volunteer nurses, will deploy its second delegation of RN volunteers to Houston, beginning Monday, Sept. 11, to provide medical assistance in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, NNU announced today."
Freelancing Ain't Free: "When is the moment in time for a freelance writer that a late payment becomes wage theft, and what do you do about it?"
Attention, Kentucky: Closing a Pension Is Never a Good Idea: "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it—and it’s prime time for Kentucky lawmakers to learn a history lesson."
Since January, government agencies under the Donald Trump administration have taken steps to hide information from the public--information that was previously posted and information that the public has a right to know.
But a recent move is especially personal. Two weeks ago, the agency responsible for enforcing workplace safety and health—the Occupational Safety and Health Administration—removed the names of fallen workers from its home page and has stopped posting information about their deaths on its data page. In an attempt to justify this, the agency made two major claims discussed below. Like many efforts to decrease transparency by this administration, these claims are unfounded, and the agency whose mission is to protect workers from health and safety hazards is clearly in denial that it has a job to do. Here's how:
OSHA claim #1: Not all worker deaths listed on the agency website were work-related because OSHA hasn't issued or yet issued a citation for their deaths.
Fact: It is public knowledge that 1) OSHA doesn't have the jurisdiction to investigate about two-thirds of work-related deaths but does issue guidance on a wide variety of hazards to workers that extend beyond their enforcement reach, and 2) OSHA citations are not always issued for work-related deaths because of a variety of reasons, including limitations of existing OSHA standards and a settlement process that allows employers to remedy certain hazards in lieu of citation. (The laborious process for OSHA to develop standards deserves a completely separate post.) But neither of those points mean the agency cannot recognize where and when workers are dying on the job, and remember and honor those who sought a paycheck but, instead, did not return home to their families.
In fact, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, also housed in the Department of Labor, counts and reports the number of work-related deaths each year. The agency reported that in 2015, 4,836 working people died of work-related traumatic injury—"the highest annual figure since 2008." So, another agency already has taken care of that for OSHA (whew!). But this is just a statistic. Luckily for OSHA, employers are required to report every fatality on the job to OSHA within eight hours, so the agency has more specific information that can be used for prevention, including the names of the workers and companies involved, similar to the information the public has about deaths that occur in any other setting (outside of work).
OSHA claim #2: Deceased workers' families do not want the names and circumstances surrounding their loved ones' death shared.
Fact: Removing the names of fallen workers on the job is an incredible insult to working families. The shock of hearing that your family member won't be coming home from work that day is devastating enough, but then to hear that their death was preventable, and often the hazards were simply ignored by their employer, is pure torture. The organization made up of family members who had a loved one die on the job has stated repeatedly that it wants the names of their loved ones and information surrounding their deaths shared. It does not want other families to suffer because of something that could have been prevented. The organization has made it very clear that it opposes OSHA's new "out of sight, out of mind" approach.
So why shield this information from the public? We know the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have long opposed publication of this information. The Trump administration seems to live by very old—and very bad—advice from powerful, big business groups whose agenda it's pushing: If we don't count the impact of the problem or admit there is a problem, it must not exist.
Too often, the voices of the parents of public school children are left out of our national discussions about education. The AFT sought to change this and commissioned a survey that interviewed 1,200 public school parents to learn how they feel about the issues that directly affect their children.
AFT President Randi Weingarten spoke about the survey:
These results match what I hear from parents and communities across the country. There is zero ambiguity when it comes to what parents want for their children’s education: safe and welcoming, well-funded neighborhood public schools that help children develop their knowledge and skills and ensure equal opportunity for all kids. Parents deeply support the public schools their children attend and are happy with the job public schools are doing. And while we will never be satisfied until every public school is a place parents want to send their children, educators want to work, and kids are engaged and happy, these results confirm the sentiment we’ve seen in other recent polls that show support for public education continuing to rise.
It’s striking that the agenda being pushed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to defund public education and divert resources to vouchers and other privatization schemes—even when they are cloaked as ‘choice’—is completely at odds with parents’ educational priorities. This is true across every race, political persuasion and area of the country. These results should serve as a clarion call to policymakers to stop defunding our schools and instead deliver on the priorities parents want, to reclaim the promise of public education for all children.
The survey found that public school parents:
Read more about the findings.