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.
Victory in Pennsylvania Shows Path to Power Is Through the Labor Movement: "Democrat Conor Lamb won a close special election for Congress in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, a massive turnaround in a district that then-presidential candidate Donald Trump won in 2016 by 20%. Rep.-elect Lamb embraced working people and stood up for the issues that are important to us, and we helped propel him to victory."
Local Union Leaders in the Midwest Strategize to Win in 2018 and Beyond: "'We are the only ones who can deliver the massive economic and social change working people are hungry for,' said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) to more than 300 union leaders gathered in Chicago this week. Local union leaders from state federations, labor councils and affiliate unions in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota joined together for the AFL-CIO Midwest District meeting to spend the day building a strategy to empower working people for victories in 2018 and beyond."
What Are Tariffs, Anyway?: "The word 'tariff' is popping up in the news a lot lately. Check out this short video that helps you understand what tariffs are and what impact they have on working people."
Inslee Signs Law ‘Banning the Box’ in Washington State: "Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee (D) on Tuesday signed into law the Fair Chance Act (H.B. 1298), sponsored by state Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self (D), extending 'ban the box' job-seeker protections to cover the state’s public and private employers."
Study Shows Quality New Member Orientation Programs Lead to Greater Commitment and Participation: "The strength of any union depends on the degree to which its members support the union and show that support by getting involved in union activities. Convincing members to support the union, and participate in its work, is one of the central challenges that every local union leader and activist faces. New research, released by the Labor School at Penn State University and Jobs With Justice Education Fund, provides strong evidence that leaders and activists can strengthen support for the union among new members and increase the degree to which they get involved in the union, through effective new member orientation (NMO) programs."
Make Your St. Patrick’s Day Union-Made in America: "Many people will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by going green and grabbing a frosty brew, and Labor 411 has more than a few great options. Its union-made beer list has topped 250 choices, and if you’re putting a meal together, it’s got some delicious savory accompaniments."
Legislation from DeLauro and Clark Would Strengthen Protections for Tipped Workers: "As we reported in January, President Donald Trump’s Department of Labor is proposing a rule change that would mean restaurant servers and bartenders could lose a large portion of their earnings. The rule would overturn one put in place by the Barack Obama administration, which prevents workers in tipped industries from having their tips taken by their employers. Under the new rule, business owners could pay their waitstaff and bartenders as little as $7.25 per hour and keep all tips above that amount without having to tell customers what happened."
Enforcing Trade Rules Is Not a 'Trade War': "The recent tariffs on steel and aluminum have been characterized as trade war. This is weird because countries often enforce trade rules with targeted tariffs and sanctions, and markets adjust. What’s the real issue?"
The fifth AFL-CIO District Meeting of the year kicked off in Las Vegas with a discussion about the potential for growing power for working people in the Southwest. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler gave the crowd of nearly 300 union leaders and activists one number to think about: 8.8 million.
That’s the number of immigrants eligible to get naturalized and on the path to citizenship.
Shuler explained: "That could mean 8.8 million workers empowered to exercise their rights on the job because they have the ultimate protection from deportation. 8.8 million new voters. And 8.8 million families that are more stable and secure."
The Southwest District states of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas are home to approximately 1.5 million working people who are eligible for citizenship today. The labor movement in the Southwest is actively organizing union members to pursue naturalization. This will strengthen worker power to gain concrete protections on the job, expand and diversify the electorate, and help win the sweeping changes that working people expect and deserve.
Panel participants from Culinary Union Local 226, Laborers (LIUNA) Locals 169 and 872, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 99, and the Texas AFL-CIO shared best practices around arranging citizenship clinics, partnering with community organizations to reach a wider range of potential citizens, and empowering new citizens to vote.
Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre closed the panel discussion by asking attendees to move forward similar programs through their unions. He said: "This is work for all of us. We want unions to become the center of all activity on immigration in their communities. We want workers to know that it was the union who helped them to become a citizen. It is up to us if we want 8.8 million workers to join our ranks."
A series of breakout sessions and a panel of state federation leaders from Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas focused on building upon the achievements and growth of the labor movement in the Southwest. Although labor leaders in the district have to fight against “right to work” laws and well-funded anti-worker groups, their recent victories include:
In a video message, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka encouraged attendees to keep up the momentum in 2018:
When more union members fill the halls of power, when wages go up and inequality shrinks, when we have more pro-labor Republicans and fewer corporate-beholden Democrats, when a growing number of young people see the value of democracy, when we stop defining victory as simply not losing, and most of all, when more workers realize their own value and power, that’s when you’ll know unions are on the rise.
"We are the only ones who can deliver the massive economic and social change working people are hungry for," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) to more than 300 union leaders gathered in Chicago this week. Local union leaders from state federations, labor councils and affiliate unions in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota joined together for the AFL-CIO Midwest District meeting to spend the day building a strategy to empower working people for victories in 2018 and beyond.
President Trumka reflected on the latest successes in the Midwest and the importance of building on that momentum. Recent victories include:
When anti-worker legislators passed "right to work" in Missouri, working people pounded the pavement, collecting more than three times the signatures necessary to put that law on the ballot this fall, when they plan to defeat it.
Hotel workers secured a major victory when the Chicago City Council passed the "Hands Off, Pants On" ordinance, thanks to a massive campaign by the Chicago Federation of Labor and UNITE HERE Local 1. The legislation mandates that housekeepers be given panic buttons so they can alert hotel security when they feel threatened and prohibits hotel employers from retaliating against a hotel worker for reporting sexual harassment or assault by a guest.
South Dakota is investing in young leaders, like the newly elected president of the Sioux Falls Central Labor Council, Kooper Caraway (AFSCME). At 27 years old, Caraway is the youngest elected AFL-CIO president in the history of South Dakota and one of the youngest labor council presidents in the country.
In Minnesota, labor led the charge to raise the wage in Minneapolis and secure paid sick leave in St. Paul.
When anti-labor politicians passed sweeping legislation requiring public-sector unions to hold recertification elections before negotiating new contracts, unions dug deep and focused on internal organizing, recertifying more than 93% of Iowa's public-sector bargaining units.
"The test of 2018 and beyond will be to build on these successes. Each election, each organizing drive, each legislative battle will showcase our growing clout," Trumka said. Two panels at the Midwest District meeting dove further into the achievements and challenges we face in the states and featured state federation presidents from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota. They discussed the importance of listening to union members and engaging them on issues and the value of solidarity across the labor movement. AFL-CIO Vice President Tefere Gebre (UFCW) echoed their sentiment when he said: "We’re here to say if you mess with one of us, you have to deal with all of us."
Breakout sessions gave participants the tools they need to build a stronger labor movement in the Midwest. Sessions focused on internal organizing, using issues to engage our members and allies, building a program to elect union members to political office, and using data and technology to break new ground in politics and organizing.
Participants left feeling energized and ready to increase worker power. Michael Matejka, director of government affairs for the Great Plains Laborers’ District Council, said: "Too often we can get stuck in our own world and our own issues. Meetings like this are critical to understanding the challenges and opportunities that we have as a labor movement."
This is the fourth district meeting that’s taken place in 2018, with two more meetings to be held in Las Vegas and New Orleans.
The word "tariff" is popping up in the news a lot lately. Check out this short video that helps you understand what tariffs are and what impact they have on working people.
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee (D) on Tuesday signed into law the Fair Chance Act (H.B. 1298), sponsored by state Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self (D), extending "ban the box" job-seeker protections to cover the state’s public and private employers.
Washington becomes the 11th state (and the first in 2018) to require both public- and private-sector employers to delay background checks and inquiries about job applicants’ conviction records until the individual has first had an opportunity to present his or her qualifications for the job.
More than one in five adults in Washington state—disproportionately people of color—have a conviction or arrest record that can show up on a routine criminal background check for employment. The Fair Chance Act will help ensure that these 1.2 million people are judged by their qualifications and work experience and not reflexively rejected by employers at the start of the hiring process.
Fair-chance reforms allow people with records to get their foot in the door and have been shown to increase the number of people with records interviewed and hired. H.B. 1298 delays the criminal background check until the applicant meets the basic criteria for the job and precludes employers from automatically or categorically excluding individuals with a criminal record from consideration prior to an initial determination that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position.
The Washington Fair Chance Act was backed by a broad coalition of business, labor and community groups, led by the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Washington Defender Association. The Washington Fair Chance Coalition has been working since 2015 to promote adoption of the law. The Washington State Labor Council also strongly backed the legislation.
"Years of policies have unfairly and disproportionately targeted communities of color—in sentencing, through the criminalization of public health epidemics, and the underfunding of public resources made available to them," said Eric González Alfaro, WSLC's legislative and policy director. "The Fair Chance Act is one of several criminal justice reform strategies we strongly supported this legislative session to help end mass incarceration in our state and instead put us on a pathway to mass employment."
Civil Survival, an advocacy organization in Washington led and staffed by directly impacted people, was actively involved in supporting the policy. According to Tarra Simmons, the organization’s executive director, who recently graduated from law school and was ruled eligible to take the bar examination by the Washington Supreme Court, "As a formerly incarcerated woman and mother who struggled with finding employment upon re-entry, I am proud to be a part of the coalition effort that led to this successful outcome. We still have a lot of work to do, but this is a first step for many of us to be judged on our current qualifications instead of banned outright because of our past mistakes."
"H.B. 1298 represents a major step forward for Washington state’s business community and economy, while providing hope and opportunity to all those qualified workers who have struggled to find work with a conviction record but who are ready to give back to their communities," said Maurice Emsellem, program director with the National Employment Law Project.
With the addition of Washington state, roughly one in three adults now live in a state or locality where private employers are governed by a "ban the box" law. Nationwide, 31 states and more than 150 cities and counties have adopted a ban-the-box law regulating either public or private employers.
A fair chance to work for people with records also means a better chance at success for the next generation of Washington residents, as nearly half of all U.S. children have at least one parent with a record. What’s more, research demonstrates that employment of people with conviction histories can improve the economy and benefit public safety through decreased recidivism.
This post originally appeared at The Stand.
The strength of any union depends on the degree to which its members support the union and show that support by getting involved in union activities. Convincing members to support the union, and participate in its work, is one of the central challenges that every local union leader and activist faces. New research, released by the Labor School at Penn State University and Jobs With Justice Education Fund, provides strong evidence that leaders and activists can strengthen support for the union among new members and increase the degree to which they get involved in the union, through effective new member orientation (NMO) programs.
In workplaces where a new hire is not required to join the union or pay fees, it is critically important that the union makes sure the new hire understands the significant role they play and how they and their family will benefit from membership. Providing a positive introduction to the union will greatly increase the chances that the new hire will join the union in the short run and get involved in the long run.
The survey Penn State conducted looked at the interaction that nearly 500 new members of a large national union from across the country had with their union during their first year on the job. The results indicated that members who participated in a NMO program that they found helpful had significantly higher commitment to the union than those who did not participate in a NMO. It also found that new members with higher levels of commitment were more likely to participate in the work of the union than members with lower levels of commitment.
The clear conclusion from this research is that high-quality NMO programs have a positive impact on members’ level of commitment to the union, and the more committed new members are to the union, the more likely they are to participate in union activities.
An important part of the findings is that for NMO programs to have a positive impact, the programs themselves have to be viewed as helpful by new members. NMOs that are sufficiently long to communicate the information new members need to know about the union and that provide high-quality informational material are viewed by new members as more helpful than shorter, less informative programs.
This new study confirms the principle that first impressions make a lasting difference. At a point in time when many union leaders and activists worry that the next generation of workers do not understand or value the important role unions have played, they can help make sure they do by putting every new hire through a high-quality NMO program. The result will be a higher level of commitment and participation among new members and a stronger union.
Learn more about the study and best practices in creating an effective NMO program.
Many people will celebrate St. Patrick's Day by going green and grabbing a frosty brew, and Labor 411 has more than a few great options. Its union-made beer list has topped 250 choices; and if you’re putting a meal together, it's got some delicious savory accompaniments.
This list of options for your St. Patrick's Day is courtesy of Labor 411.
Democrat Conor Lamb won a close special election for Congress in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, a massive turnaround in a district that then-presidential candidate Donald Trump won in 2016 by 20%. Rep.-elect Lamb embraced working people and stood up for the issues that are important to us, and we helped propel him to victory.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:
Conor won this race because he proudly stood with unions, shared our agenda and spoke out for our members. He didn’t just ask for our support—he earned it by opposing unnecessary “right to work” laws, backing protections for coal miners’ pensions and supporting commonsense trade enforcement.
His victory proves that the path to power runs through the labor movement.
Union members used our passion and resources to help elect Lamb. Now we are going to use that same energy to hold him accountable in office. Winning elections is only the first step. Winning pro-worker policies is the ultimate goal.
Tonight’s result is a wake-up call for every single politician. Earning the support of working people is a high bar that must be cleared with meaningful words and actions—not blind deference to party operatives or corporate interests.
Working people are ready to move heaven and earth to help a genuine ally. But we won’t waste a dime or a door knock on fair weather friends. If you want working people to rally around you, then you need to rally around us.
The Mine Workers noted the importance of Lamb's victory for pensions:
As political observers across the nation try to parse the results of last night’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District for clues to upcoming midterm contests, one issue that clearly stands out is solving the multi-employer pension crisis. PA-18 demonstrates that voters who fear for retirement security will blur partisan lines to support candidates they believe have their backs.
News accounts have documented a sharp division between the winner in the PA-18 contest, Conor Lamb, and his opponent, Rep. Rick Saccone, on addressing the pension crisis. Saccone ducked the issue when asked to address it by reporters, preferring to eat ice cream rather than answer whether he supported the American Miners’ Protection Act. Lamb and his surrogates, including United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts, by contrast, have made solving the pension crisis a central issue.
“You elect this man to Congress, and you won’t have to lobby him one minute,” said Roberts at a recent campaign rally for Lamb. “He’s for your pensions, he’s for your union, he’s for your health care. This is a ‘yes’ vote.”
In the wake of Lamb’s victory last night, Roberts noted that “a lot of our members who didn’t vote in the last election or voted for President Trump came out and voted for the one candidate who was clear about standing up for their pensions and their retirement security. They may still agree with the President about a lot of things, but they know that if they lose their pension they will be scrambling just to survive. All the other things any politician is doing or saying fall by the wayside when a person is in survival mode.”
The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO said:
“For weeks union members have held thousands of conversations across southwestern Pennsylvania on the issues that affect working families and their jobs. This election is proof that when working people come together in a united labor movement, we can achieve outstanding results. In living rooms, on telephones, and at work sites, our brothers and sisters mobilized to elect a candidate who stands up for working people and the issues that matter in their daily lives. Conor Lamb has demonstrated that honesty, integrity and support for a fair economy for all is the future of American democracy,” stated President Rick Bloomingdale.
“Election Day, even a special election, is only the first step in our determined effort to win economic justice for all. Our activism and mobilization will continue throughout 2018. Our work to lift-up candidates who will fight for working people, their rights to collectively bargain, and work to unrig the system, is far from finished. On March 13th we ran through the finish line in the race for the 18th district, but the marathon continues,” added Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder.
Allegheny County Union Veterans Council Chair Craig Romanovich said:
The Union Veterans Council is proud to have been part of Rep.-elect Conor Lamb’s victory. Because of the hard work put in by union veterans and the working people of the 18th Congressional District, we are sending our champion, our voice, to Washington, D.C.
As we reported in January, President Donald Trump's Department of Labor is proposing a rule change that would mean restaurant servers and bartenders could lose a large portion of their earnings. The rule would overturn one put in place by the Barack Obama administration, which prevents workers in tipped industries from having their tips taken by their employers. Under the new rule, business owners could pay their waitstaff and bartenders as little as $7.25 per hour and keep all tips above that amount without having to tell customers what happened.
An independent analysis estimates this rule would steal $5.8 billion from the pockets of workers each year. A whopping $4.6 billion of that would come out of the pockets of working women. This is bigger than simply the well-deserved tips of restaurant workers. This is another example of extreme legislators, greedy CEOs and corporate lobbyists uniting in opposition to working people. They want to further rig the economic playing field against workers, people of color and women.
Last week, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) offered up legislation that will strengthen protections for tipped workers and secure tips as the property of the workers who earn them. Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta indicated that he will support Congress’ legislative efforts to stop companies from claiming ownership over tips instead of the workers who earn them.
Hundreds of thousands of you already have spoken out, sending comments of opposition to the rule straight to the Labor Department. It’s time for us to take the next step together. We can hold Trump’s Department of Labor accountable and make sure that Congress hears our opposition to this ridiculous and unfair change. Take action, and tell Acosta to support amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act that will secure tips as the property of workers and oppose Trump’s rule legalizing wage theft.
The recent tariffs on steel and aluminum have been characterized as trade war. This is weird because countries often enforce trade rules with targeted tariffs and sanctions, and markets adjust. What’s the real issue?
In the orthodoxy of free trade, tariffs are heresy. Any tariff suggests that the neoliberal free trade approach has failed and government intervention is required. Also, if we protect steel, then the “protectionist barbarians” all rush in and want import restrictions, too.
This begs the question, “Why have rules for globalization at all, if we won’t enforce them?”
The context for the recent steel and aluminum tariffs should start with a central message from the 2016 presidential campaign. Millions of workers and communities around the country feel left behind by our approach to globalization. We can do something about that…or not.
President Donald Trump speaks in terms of win-lose or “everyone is out to get us.” But he is doing something. The advice from free-trade establishment experts seems to be:
This is a tough message in communities that have lost jobs in aluminum, logging and other industries that had sustained those communities for many years.
A better leadership message for tariffs would give more context for these tariffs.
First, China has built historic overcapacity in steel and aluminum. Chinese leaders recognize they should close some plants, particularly those that are most polluting. Multi-national talks have tried to address this for years. China has slow-walked that process. Their dumping has continued, holding the price of steel below the fair market level. This damages our steel and aluminum industries, which have closed facilities and laid off tens of thousands of workers.
It should not be our public policy to let China distort markets and take production from the United States to China. Our economy already has lost electronics, home appliances, textiles, solar panels and many other manufacturing industries. If China displaces our steel and aluminum, they could repeat that process with cars and airplanes.
Tariffs are rough tools, but legitimate and appropriate in cases where dumping has been identified. Economist Rob Scott proposed a refinement to Trump’s tariffs. Any country that also has a tariff on steel from China would be exempted from our tariff. This would reverse Trump’s fascination with trade war, by calling for a multilateral defense of appropriate rules for globalization.
Second, China, Japan, South Korea and other countries have well-designed industrial policies that serve their national interests and have raised their living standards. For decades, we have followed a particularly weak industrial strategy, which diverts gains to those at the top, while de-industrializing our economy, worsening inequality, and eroding confidence in social and political institutions.
Our approach works very well for investors and global companies but leaves most people behind. Our neoliberal free-trade approach to globalization is exhausted socially, politically and economically. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump all said we need a new approach to globalization. Well-targeted tariffs would be part of that. We also should stop China’s misalignment of currency, which encourages companies to move production from the U.S. to China. Renegotiating NAFTA gives us an opportunity to strengthen labor rights, help the environment and change other rules that have encouraged production to move offshore.
In general, we need more effective national strategies that recognize our national interests and make our economy fairer and stronger. We have done that in our past. Other countries do that for themselves now.
Side note #1: We should recognize social dumping as a legitimate trigger for “border adjustments,” which would have the same general effect as tariffs. From that perspective, the recently shelved Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP) should never have included five countries that fail to meet global standards in fighting human trafficking. Even worse was inclusion of Malaysia, a sixth TPP country that was ranked by our State Department as being among the worst in the world for human trafficking.
Side note #2: Nothing in economics or trade theory says we need maximum possible trade. There is an optimum level of trade, which may be less than what we have now.
Neoliberal free trade is the philosophical opposite of industrial strategy. Our free trade approach blurs national boundaries and national identities. It puts interests of global investors above public interests. It thwarts national policies.
Many of our major trading partners have effective industrial strategies. This is not about trade war. It’s game theory. Countries with effective strategies will prosper while those with ineffective strategies will fall behind.
This post originally appeared at The Stand.