AFL-CIO Blog

AFL-CIO Now Blog

05/25/2018 10:15 AM
Memorial Day Is About Respect and Remembrance
Memorial Day Is About Respect and Remembrance
Memorial Day
AFL-CIO

The working men and women of the AFL-CIO join the Union Veterans Council to wish all a safe Memorial Day weekend. This is a time to respect and remember those who gave their lives for the bedrock freedoms of our nation.

Let’s resolve to honor their sacrifice by redoubling our efforts to secure and make real those freedoms for every worker in America, so working people can win new economic rules built on broadly shared prosperity.

As we start our Memorial Day weekend, it always seems I get a few questions about the holiday, what it means and how Americans can be respectful on this day. The answer is not that easy. Decoration day has morphed into just one more corporate holiday where you can get great deals on furniture, cars and those American flag swimming trunks. But for veterans, especially combat veterans, the weekend has another meaning.

When I signed up to serve in the U.S. Army Infantry, I did so knowing I was going to face the possibility of not coming home. That is what millions of Americans who signed up have done throughout our history. Nothing prepares us for the harsh reality of war. I was deployed multiple times to some of the worst locations in the global war on terror. I have seen great personal loss of friends and people who are closer to me that most of my own family. This is the reality for so many veterans and their families. Memorial Day is a sacred day whose full meaning I will never be able to put into words.

Union members have a historic bond with veterans. Many of our modern trade unions were founded by war veterans who returned home and then banded together for the collective power to win good lives. Over the generations, each wave of veterans has renewed that bond, and the same is true today.

The chances are good that each one of us knows, works with or otherwise has a connection to at least one person who has lost a friend or family member to war.

Case in point, if you are a member of a local, state or national union, chances are you know a post-9/11 veteran. Some one in four post-9/11 veterans work as public servants. One-third of all federal employees are veterans. It is likely that you work with someone who has either lost a friend or family member to war.

I recommend you do a few thing this weekend. First, be respectful. You may not know it, but someone you know may be going through a tough time. Second, reach out. If you know a veteran who served in combat or family member who lost someone, talk to them and let them know they have your support. And finally, celebrate the lives of our lost service members. If you are having a cookout or family reunion, take a minute to recognize why we memorialize this weekend. 

We also can honor our veterans by fighting for full funding for the U.S. Veterans Affairs and supporting efforts to train and employ our veterans for good union jobs. Each day 20 veterans commit suicide. One of the leading causes is financial instability. Unions can help. On average, a veteran who is member of a union makes $12,000 more annually, giving them the financial freedom to transition back to their civilian life, providing hope of a bright future for those who have sacrificed for us.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/25/2018 - 12:15

05/25/2018 09:30 AM
Ending Gender-Based Violence and Harassment in the World of Work
Ending Gender-Based Violence and Harassment in the World of Work

No one should have to risk their safety or dignity to put food on the table. Yet every day, workers around the world are subjected to sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence. On Monday, May 28, workers, employers and governments will come together at the International Labor Organization to discuss a new global standard on violence and harassment in the world of work. This is the culmination of more than a decade of advocacy by the global labor movement. It’s an exciting opportunity to create a binding international agreement to end gender-based violence and harassment in the workplace.

The AFL-CIO, together with partners from around the world, will be on the ground pushing for a binding convention that empowers workers to take collective action to build safe, respectful workplaces. You can follow the action on our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and check out our partners at the Solidarity Center (@SolidarityCntr) and the International Trade Union Confederation (@ITUC).

Watch a short video here made by our sister organization, the Solidarity Center, here:

Why use the term gender-based violence and harassment?

In the United States, the law protects against sex-based discrimination, including sexual harassment, and public conversations generally use these terms as well. Often, sex and gender are used interchangeably. However, there is an important distinction between the two: a person’s sex is tied to their inherent biological characteristics. Gender, on the other hand, is a social construct built around norms, expectations and stereotypes about what it means to be a man or a woman.

In the U.S., and indeed throughout much of the world, there is an entrenched, gendered power hierarchy that values men and a rigid definition of masculinity. The term gender-based violence and harassment reflects this inherent power imbalance. It recognizes the link between the gendered violence that occurs in society at large and the devaluation of women in the workplace. Both are tied to the way people are socialized, and particularly how men are socialized to feel entitled to women’s bodies and to expect deference and compliance. Every social actor has a role to play in breaking down these harmful stereotypes and creating equitable, respectful communities—and when it comes to addressing how this issue plays out in the workplace, unions have an unique and powerful role to play.

How do unions help stop gender-based violence and harassment?

Unions have a critical role to play in ending gender-based violence and harassment. At base, gender-based violence in the world of work—including unwanted touching, sexual comments, requests for sexual favors and even sexual assault—is not about sex, but about power. Unions are dedicated to shifting power relationships and creating more equitable and fair workplaces. Workers, particularly those who have been subjected to mistreatment, must be empowered to take collective action to enact solutions and demand justice.

Economic insecurity, particularly precarious and low-wage employment, makes workers more vulnerable to harassment. Women comprise the majority of part-time and temporary workers in the United States and most of the world, as well as the majority of low-paid workers and those making minimum wage. Many of these workers live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford even a brief break in employment, making them less likely to report abuse. Precarious work arrangements, like subcontracting or other contingent arrangements, decrease oversight and accountability. Confronting violence and harassment at work requires addressing the underlying conditions that drive abuse—including worker organizing to win living wages, job security and protection from retaliation. 

Learn more about some of the work of the AFL-CIO, our affiliates and other working people on this issue:

Learn more about what the issue looks like around the world and what unions are doing to fight back! Our sister organization the Solidarity Center works with unions and labor right activists around the world. Dr. Jane Pillinger prepared a report for the ILO that includes examples of union actions on gender-based violence around the world.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/25/2018 - 11:30

05/25/2018 09:00 AM
Fighting for Better Pay and Workplace Safety: What Working People Are Doing This Week
Fighting for Better Pay and Workplace Safety: 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.

Actors' Equity:

AFGE:

AFSCME:

AFT:

Alliance for Retired Americans:

Amalgamated Transit Union:

American Federation of Musicians:

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA:

Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers:

Boilermakers:

Bricklayers:

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists:

Communications Workers of America:

Department for Professional Employees:

Electrical Workers:

Farm Labor Organizing Committee:

Fire Fighters:

Heat and Frost Insulators:

International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers:

International Labor Communications Association:

Ironworkers:

Jobs With Justice:

Labor Council for Latin American Advancement:

Laborers:

Machinists:

Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association:

Maritime Trades Department:

Metal Trades Department:

Mine Workers:

Musical Artists:

National Air Traffic Controllers Association:

National Day Laborer Organizing Network:

National Domestic Workers Alliance:

National Nurses United:

National Taxi Workers Alliance:

The NewsGuild-CWA:

NFL Players Association:

North America's Building Trades Unions:

Painters and Allied Trades:

Plasterers and Cement Masons:

Pride At Work:

Printing, Publishing and Media Workers:

Professional Aviation Safety Specialists:

Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers:

SAG-AFTRA:

School Administrators:

Seafarers:

Solidarity Center:

Theatrical Stage Employees:

Transport Workers:

Transportation Trades Department:

UAW:

Union Label and Service Trades Department:

Union Veterans Council:

UNITE HERE:

United Food and Commercial Workers:

United Steelworkers:

United Students Against Sweatshops:

Utility Workers:

Working America:

Writers Guild of America, East:

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/25/2018 - 11:00

05/24/2018 09:44 AM
We Must Stop the Worldwide Problem of Gender-Based Violence in the Workplace
We Must Stop the Worldwide Problem of Gender-Based Violence in the Workplace

Sexual harassment and gender-based violence are not just problems we see in the United States. In fact, gender-based violence is one of the most common human rights violations in the world. While it can affect any worker, women are most likely the targets because of systemic, unequal power relations.

A new video from the Solidarity Center takes a look at the worldwide problem and offers solutions. Watch the video and learn more at the Solidarity Center's Gender-Based Violence webpage.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/24/2018 - 11:44

05/23/2018 09:06 AM
Wrongfully Detained Korean Union Leader Han Sang-gyun Wins Release
Wrongfully Detained Korean Union Leader Han Sang-gyun Wins Release
Han Sang-gyun
KCTU

In December 2015, President Han Sang-gyun of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions was imprisoned for defending trade union rights and fighting back against corporate corruption and the repressive government of former President Park Geun-hye of South Korea. This week, Han finally won his freedom.

Of Han's release, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) said:

We are all relieved that KCTU President Han Sang-gyun has been released from his wrongful detainment that was a political act of retribution expressly aimed at punishing his role in organizing union protests. President Han represents the best of the labor movement—an advocate armed with unwavering dedication to the fight for economic justice, even in the face of personal persecution.

Across the globe, working people salute his sacrifice and welcome him home with open arms. Still, the struggle for justice will continue until we secure the release of KCTU General Secretary Lee Young-joo, who was arrested for the same organizing efforts. Her continued detainment highlights the enormous fights that lie ahead for working people, and the release of Han reflects our capacity to ultimately win.

In 2017, AFL-CIO awarded Han with the George Meany–Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award for his activism on behalf of working people. Han's career is noted for perseverance in the face of anti-democratic repression and militant action against long odds.

Starting as a student activist, Han later helped organize a union at the auto manufacturing plant where he worked. In 2008, he was elected chair of his union. His efforts to fight layoffs at his company led to a 77-day occupation of the plant for which Han was sent to prison for three years. After his release, he continued to fight for working people with a 171-day sit-in near the plant. After the conclusion of the sit-in, hundreds of jobs were saved.

In 2014, KCTU held it's first direct vote to choose their president and Han won. During his tenure in office:

Union activists have been at the forefront of the fight for social justice in South Korea. Workers have mobilized against anti-worker labor legislation and government corruption in a series of massive peaceful demonstrations. President Park frequently responded to dissent with police brutality, mass arrests and harsh jail sentences targeted at leaders, including President Han, who bravely continued to organize. The Korean labor movement and civil society eventually forced the ouster of President Park, who later was charged with bribery, abuse of power and other crimes....

After the impeachment and trial of President Park Geun-hye, the Korean labor movement helped usher in a new, more worker-friendly administration under President Moon Jae-in. However, its fight for justice is ongoing. Many activists still are imprisoned and Korean workers continue to struggle in the face of regressive labor laws and a lack of accountability from Korea’s major corporations.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/23/2018 - 11:06

05/22/2018 09:23 AM
We All Do Better with an Immigration System that Works for All Working People
We All Do Better with an Immigration System that Works for All Working People
We all do better
AFL-CIO

Yesterday, the AFL-CIO hosted the "We All Do Better" conference, which focused on an important discussion on advancing an immigration agenda for all working people. Attacks against working people come in many forms, but we must stand against the idea that some of us are more worthy of freedom and worker protections than others.

At the opening of the conference, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) said:

We need workers to understand America’s broken immigration system puts downward pressure on pay and benefits for all of us. Our answer is to stand united, as a politically independent movement of working people, for an immigration agenda that lifts us up. That starts with a path to citizenship for the millions and millions of people who live and work here and are American in every way but on paper.

But it doesn’t stop there. It’s time to reform captive work visa programs so they are based on actual industry needs and include full labor rights and fair wages for every single worker. We must end the enforcement overreach and provide explicit protections to workers who want to organize a union or have the courage to speak up about unsafe conditions. We must keep families together, offer safe harbor to refugees and open our doors to working people from all over the world who want nothing more than a better life, just like my family did.

If we do it right, immigration reform will make jobs better for everyone, improve the health of our democracy and empower us to organize millions of workers into unions.

Here are some of the key tweets sent from the event:

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 05/22/2018 - 11:23

05/22/2018 08:05 AM
Executive Paywatch 2018: The Gap Between CEO and Worker Compensation Continues to Grow
Executive Paywatch 2018: The Gap Between CEO and Worker Compensation Continues to Grow
Paywatch 2018
AFL-CIO

CEO pay for major companies in the United States rose nearly 6% in the past year, as income inequality and the outsourcing of good-paying American jobs have increased. According to the new AFL-CIO Executive Paywatch, the average CEO of an S&P 500 Index company made $13.94 million in 2017—361 times more money than the average U.S. rank-and-file worker. The Executive Paywatch website, the most comprehensive searchable online database tracking CEO pay, showed that in 2017, the average production and nonsupervisory worker earned about $38,613 per year. When adjusted for inflation, the average wage has remained stagnant for more than 50 years.

"This year’s report provides further proof that the greed of corporate CEOs is driving America’s income inequality crisis," said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. "Too many working people are struggling to get by, to afford the basics, to save for college, to retire with dignity while CEOs are paying themselves more and more. Our economy works best when consumers have money to spend. That means raising wages for workers and reining in out of control executive pay."

Here are eight key facts you need to know about from this year's Executive Paywatch report:

  1. America is the richest country in the world at its richest point in history. And once again, CEOs got richer this year. CEO pay for major U.S. companies was up more than 6% in 2017 as income inequality and outsourcing of good-paying American jobs increases.

  2. Total compensation for CEOs of S&P 500 Index companies increased in 2017 to $13.94 million from $13.1 million in 2016.

  3. The CEO-to-worker pay ratio grew from 347 to 1 in 2016 to 361 to 1 in 2017.

  4. For the first time this year, companies must disclose the ratio of their own CEO’s pay to the pay of the company’s median employee. This change was fought for by the AFL-CIO and its allies to ensure investors have the transparency they deserve.

  5. In 2017, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 361. In 2016, the ratio was 347. In 1990, it was 107. And in 1980, it was 42. This pay gap reflects widening income inequality in the country.

  6. Mondelēz is one of the most egregious examples of companies that are contributing to inequality. The company, which makes Nabisco products including Oreos, Chips Ahoy and Ritz Crackers, is leading the race to the bottom by offshoring jobs. New CEO Dirk Van de Put made more than $42.4 million in total compensation in 2017—more than 989 times the company’s median employee pay. Mondelēz’s former CEO Irene Rosenfeld also received $17.3 million in 2017, 403 times its median employee's pay.

  7. So far for 2017, the highest-paid CEO in the AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch database is E. Hunter Harrison, CEO of CSX Corporation. He received more than $151 million in total compensation. In contrast, the lowest-paid S&P 500 company CEO was Warren Buffett who received $100,000 in total pay in 2017.

  8. The toy-maker Mattel had the highest pay ratio of any S&P 500 company. Mattel’s median employee is a manufacturing worker in Malaysia who made $6,271, resulting in a CEO-to-employee pay ratio of 4,987 to 1. Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway Inc. had the lowest pay ratio of all S&P 500 companies, just 2 to 1.

Our economy works best when consumers have money to spend. That means raising wages for workers and reining in out of control executive pay. Executive Paywatch is a tool that helps the U.S. pursue those goals.

Learn more at Executive Paywatch.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 05/22/2018 - 10:05

05/21/2018 10:28 AM
Apprenticeship Accelerator Forum Highlights Programs to Attract and Train Needed Manufacturing Workforce
Apprenticeship Accelerator Forum Highlights Programs to Attract and Train Needed Manufacturing Workforce
Apprenticeship Meeting
AFL-CIO

The 2018 Manufacturing Apprenticeship Accelerator Forum took place in Cleveland on Thursday. The forum included presentations from a number of participating organizations, including the U.S. Department of Labor, the Ohio AFL-CIO, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, Chicago Women in Trades and the National Urban League, along with a number of private employers and workforce training providers.

The purpose of the program was to highlight the development of advanced manufacturing apprenticeships to address needed skills training and workforce development in advanced and specialized manufacturing. Representatives from labor unions, private employers, state and federal government, and manufacturing training providers offered an overview of their respective roles in expanding apprenticeship programs to match private-sector workforce needs.

"We're very pleased that so many affiliates came together with the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Department of Labor to share information about how to promote apprenticeships in manufacturing," said Brad Markell, executive director of the AFL-CIO Working for America Institute, which sponsored the event. "We put a special emphasis on how to increase diversity in manufacturing, and that will be a continuing effort for us."

The forum was organized by the Keystone Development Program (KDP), which was founded by the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO in 2005 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. KDP assists unions and their employers to form and sustain labor-management training programs and registered apprenticeships. The KDP promotes labor management cooperation and supports workforce development programs to better serve the community. KDP aligns resources for career pathways to family-sustaining jobs.

"Through our close relationship with Keystone Development Partnership, our Commonwealth has benefited from an innovative approach to apprenticeship and workforce development," said Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale (AFSCME). "Pennsylvania has been successful in bringing multiple stakeholders together to address the future of work, ensuring that good, family-sustaining jobs are at the heart of the technological and advanced manufacturing workforce."

"It’s true that apprenticeship programs are one of the best kept secrets in the labor movement," said Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga (USW). "These programs are an important linkage in our economy here in Ohio and across the country as they put thousands of Americans on a true pathway to the middle class."

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/21/2018 - 12:28

05/18/2018 09:05 AM
The Future of Work: The Working People Weekly List
The Future of Work: The Working People Weekly List
Infrastructure Week
Infrastructure Week

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.

Young Workers on the Future of Work: Charleeka Thompson: "Earlier this month, the AFL-CIO conducted a discussion on the future of work. Among the panelists that day were a group of young workers. Let's have a bit more of an in-depth discussion in the coming weeks with those young workers. First up is United Steelworkers (USW) member Charleeka Thompson."

The Freedom to Join: "The U.S. Supreme Court will make a decision in the coming weeks whether or not to undermine the freedom of millions of teachers, nurses and other public workers to have strong unions. Today, the AFL-CIO has launched a new website, FreedomToJoin.org, that provides critical information about the Janus v. AFSCME case, counters misinformation, explains the value of union membership and draws attention to the wave of collective action in America."

Time to Build: In the States Roundup: "It's time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states. Click on any of the links to follow the state federations and central labor councils on Twitter."

Infrastructure Week Highlights the Need to Invest in the U.S.: "This week is Infrastructure Week, an annual event where an increasingly powerful coalition led by local, state and federal leaders, as well as both businesses and labor unions, demand massive and necessary investments to build America. This year’s Infrastructure Week comes at a time when 80% of voters say investing in America’s infrastructure is a top priority. America’s labor movement says the time to build is now."

The New Tax Law Will Make Outsourcing Worse: "We have already documented the many ways the Republican tax bill is bad for working people. In short, it's a massive giveaway to big corporations and the wealthy that throws away trillions of dollars we need to invest in America and create good jobs for working people. This week, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) organized an event to take a deeper look at how the new law will preserve and create incentives for corporations to move U.S. jobs overseas and shift corporate profits to tax havens abroad."

New Survey Shows Sexual Harassment a Pervasive Problem for Flight Attendants: "A new survey from the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) reveals that more than two-thirds of flight attendants in the United States have experienced sexual harassment on the job."

Union Asks to Investigate Relationship Between the Government and Bondholders: "The U.S. labor union center AFL-CIO today asked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate whether there was any privileged information exchange between the office of Governor Ricardo Rosselló and bondholders, prior to the presentation of the governor's fiscal plan, the past 12 of February."

AFL-CIO Launches ‘Take Back Ohio’ Campaign: "Union members, leaders and activists held a rally at the Local 1112 UAW union hall last night to kick-off organized labor’s efforts to elect 'worker-friendly candidates' in the 2018 elections. 'This rally represents the start of something big here in the Mahoning Valley,' said Mahoning-Trumbull AFL-CIO President Bill Padisak. 'Our membership is energized and ready to engage in the campaign to re-elect Sherrod Brown, make Richard Cordray our next governor, and elect candidates up and down the ticket that support working people.'"

What Makes Retail Workers Uniquely Vulnerable to Sexual Harassment: "Retail has a sexual harassment problem, according to a recent analysis by the Center for American Progress. While media attention has largely focused on the prevalence of harassment in politics and media, the study demonstrates its pervasiveness across all industries, but particularly in ones with a high number of service-sector workers, says the authors of the analysis. From this data, it’s clear that sexual harassment is not just a problem in for politicians and actors."

Study: Despite Modest Income, Teachers Pay for Class Needs: "Every year Anna Graven dips into her modest teacher salary and spends her own money to buy bulletin boards, pencils, paper, highlighters and tissues for her high school students in Oklahoma City. So do almost all of her colleagues across the nation. Nearly all public school teachers report digging into their pockets to pay for school supplies, spending nearly $480 a year, far more than the federal $250 tax deduction available to teachers, according to a study by the National Center of Education Statistics released Tuesday."

CEO Pay and Performance Often Don’t Match Up: "The best-paid CEOs don’t necessarily run the best-performing companies. Corporate boards have tried for years to tie chief executive compensation to the results they deliver. The better the company and its shareholders do, the more the top boss should be paid, or so the pay-for-performance mantra goes. In reality, CEO pay and performance often don’t match up, and 2017 was no exception."

Rebuilding Schools, Bridges—and Lives: "When you see that the ASCE’s infrastructure report card gives the nation overall a D+, don’t hang your head. The U.S. can get that grade up. But it won’t happen with a plan like President Trump’s, which would cut Washington’s contribution to infrastructure projects from 80% to 20%, quadrupling the burden on cash-strapped cities and states. The true way forward is to do the opposite: Put the federal government back in the business of building America’s future."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/18/2018 - 11:05

05/16/2018 02:37 PM
Young Workers on the Future of Work: Charleeka Thompson
Young Workers on the Future of Work: Charleeka Thompson
Charleeka L. Thompson
Charleeka L. Thompson

Earlier this month, the AFL-CIO conducted a discussion on the future of work. Among the panelists that day were a group of young workers. Let's have a bit more of an in-depth discussion in the coming weeks with those young workers. First up is United Steelworkers (USW) member Charleeka Thompson.

AFL-CIO: What barriers do you think stand in the way of young people becoming fully participating members of the workforce?

Charleeka: Some barriers include self-doubt, regarding others having more experience. The lack of interest in becoming fully involved. The work-life balance is off. Many feel they are sacrificing life because the majority of their time is at work. 

AFL-CIO: What issues and challenges do young workers face that the rest of us might not recognize?

Charleeka: Many have questions about seniority and how the current benefits package will benefit them. Also making enough to pay off student loans. 

AFL-CIO: What inspired you to organize/form/join a union?

Charleeka: I was looking for a place to utilize my education. When I first was hired at my facility, I had all aspirations to grow within the company. I went to company management informing them about what area my degree was focused on. An impression was made that I would be contacted from time to time to help with some public affairs that the company participated in. I was then approached by a local union member. I did not know much about USW at the time. I signed a card, went to a meeting and was hooked. I have been active ever since. I can utilize my formal degree with the committees I'm involved with within the union. It's great!

AFL-CIO: What can the labor movement do to rally more workers to join unions?

Charleeka: Workers like to feel they are apart of something...a movement. Something that they can share with their families. The labor movement has to make it feel personal to a worker. The labor movement has to identify the issues workers are passionate about and rally for those issues.

AFL-CIO: What can young workers do to better prepare themselves for success in a changing economy?

Charleeka: Learn to save money before you play. Learn a trade. There has always been a push for young people to go to college. Well a lot do, but [they] still end up with an industrial factory job. Which is great. But if they had a trade, they may be able to start with higher wages and still work for a union facility. Learning a trade is many times cheaper than going to college and one will not have the dreaded student loans hanging over their head.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/16/2018 - 16:37