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15 Things You Need to Know from the 2018 Death on the Job Report

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 15:03:19 +0000

15 Things You Need to Know from the 2018 Death on the Job Report

Death on the job

For the 27th year in a row, the AFL-CIO has produced Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect. The report gathers evidence on the state of safety and health protections for America’s workers. 

Passed in 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act has saved the lives of more than 559,000 working people. President Barack Obama had a strong record of improving working conditions by strengthening enforcement, issuing key safety and health standards, and improving anti-retaliation and other protections for workers. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has moved aggressively on his deregulatory agenda, repealing and delaying job safety and other rules, and proposing deep cuts to the budget and the elimination of worker safety and health training programs. 

These are challenging times for working people and their unions, and the prospects for worker safety and health protections are uncertain. What is clear, however, is that the toll of workplace injury, illness and death remains too high, and too many workers remain at serious risk. There is much more work to be done. Here are 15 key things you need to know from this year’s report, which primarily covers data from 2016.

  1. 150 workers died each day from hazardous working conditions.

  2. 5,190 workers were killed on the job in the United States—an increase from 4,836 deaths the previous year.

  3. An additional 50,000 to 60,000 workers died from occupational diseases.

  4. The job fatality rate increased to 3.6 per 100,000 workers from 3.4 per 100,000 workers. 

  5. Service-providing industries saw the largest increase in the job fatality rate. The rate declined in manufacturing and mining and was unchanged in construction—all industries that receive the greatest oversight from OSHA or the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

  6. Employers reported nearly 3.7 million work-related injuries and illnesses.

  7. Underreporting is widespread—the true toll of work-related injuries and illnesses is 7.4 million to 11.1 million each year. 

  8. The states with the highest job fatality rates were Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota.

  9. Workplace violence deaths increased significantly. The 866 worker deaths caused by violence in 2016 made it the second-leading cause of workplace death. Violence also was responsible for more than 27,000 lost-time injuries.

  10. Women are at greater risk than men; they suffered two-thirds of the lost-time injuries related to workplace violence.

  11. There is no federal OSHA standard to protect workers from workplace violence; the Trump administration has sidelined an OSHA workplace violence standard. 

  12. Latino and immigrant workers’ safety and health has improved, but the risk to these workers still is greater than other workers.

  13. Older workers are at high risk, with 36% of all worker fatalities occurring among those ages 55 or older.

  14. The industries with the most deaths were construction, transportation, agriculture, and mining and extraction.

  15. The cost of job injuries and illnesses is enormous—estimated at $250 billion to $360 billion a year. 

The Trump administration and the Republican majority in Congress have launched a major assault on regulatory protections and are moving aggressively to roll back regulations, block new protections, and put agency budgets and programs on the chopping block. The data in this year’s Death on the Job report shows that now is a time when workers need more job safety and health protection, not less.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 04/26/2018 - 11:03

‘They Have Forgotten the Lessons of Rana Plaza’

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 20:57:22 +0000

‘They Have Forgotten the Lessons of Rana Plaza’

Rana Plaza
Solidarity Center

Following the Rana Plaza collapse in which 1,134 garment workers were killed and thousands more injured in Bangladesh, the horror of the incident spurred international action and resulted in significant safety improvements in many of the country’s 3,000 garment factories.

But five years after the April 24, 2013, disaster, Bangladesh garment worker-organizers say employers often are not following through to ensure worksites remain safe, and the government is doing little to ensure garment workers have the freedom to form unions to achieve safe working conditions. Since the Tazreen Factory fire that killed 112 garment workers in 2012, some 1,303 garment workers have been killed and 3,875 injured in fire-related incidents, according to Solidarity Center data.

“Pressure from the buyers and international organizations forced many changes," said Tomiza Sultana, a garment worker-organizer with the Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union Federation (BIGUF), among them less interference by police and factory management.

“We organized trade unions, recorded complaints and trained many workers. But five years after the tragedy, the police and local leaders are supporting the factory owners and harassing us and anyone who wishes to come to us. They have forgotten the lessons of the disaster,” she said.

A Disaster that ‘Cannot Be Described in Words’

“I can vividly recall that day. I can still see the faces of families who were looking for the bodies of their loved ones by only holding their photo ID,” said BIGUF President Nomita Nath. “This disaster cannot be described in words.” The multistory Rana Plaza building, which housed five garment factories outside Dhaka, pancaked from structural defects that had been identified the day before, prompting building engineers to urge the building be closed. Garment workers who survived the collapse say factory managers threatened their jobs if they did not return to work.

Ziasmin Sultana, a garment worker who survived the collapse, recalls managers telling workers on the morning of April 24 the building was safe, even though “the previous day we had seen cracks [in the building] form right in front of our eyes.” Shortly after starting work, the electricity went out and the building began to violently shake.

After packing into a crowded stairwell to escape, Ziasmin said she found herself falling: “Everything happened in an instant, and it was dark everywhere. When I came to my senses, I realized that three of us have survived and everyone else around us was dead.”

“The world saw how much our lives meant to the owners of these factories,” Nath said. “They did not care about our lives. They only cared about meeting production targets.”

In the wake of Rana Plaza, which occurred months after a deadly factory fire at Tazreen Fashions killed 112 mostly female garment workers, global outrage spurred several international efforts to prevent deaths and injuries due to fire or structural failures. Safety measures were instituted at more than 1,600 factories.

Hundreds of brands and companies signed the five-year, binding Bangladesh Accord on Building and Fire Safety, which mandated that brands and the companies they source from fix building and fire hazards and include workers in the process. Many of the signatories recently have signed on to the renewed three-year agreement that takes effect in May. Extending the accord guarantees that hundreds of additional factories will be inspected and renovated.

Workers Still Struggle to Achieve Safe Workplaces

In a recent series of Solidarity Center interviews, garment worker-organizers from several national unions applaud the significant safety improvements but warn that employers are backsliding. And workers seeking to improve safety in their factories often face employer intimidation, threats, physical violence, loss of jobs and government-imposed barriers to union registration.

“The accord contributed to ensuring the safety of the factories, but there is a lot of other work that needs to be done,” said Khadiza Akhter, vice president of the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation (SGSF). She and others interviewed said factories are not regularly inspected, employers do not ensure fire extinguishers and other safety equipment are properly maintained, and safety committees sometimes only exist on paper.

“We are now working in this area for maintaining the standard of fire safety. This is a big task in the coming future,” Akhter said.

The Solidarity Center, which, over the past two decades in Bangladesh, jump-started the process to end child labor in garment factories and served as a catalyst in the resurgence of workers forming unions, in recent years has trained more than 6,000 union leaders and workers in fire safety. Factory-floor–level workers learn to monitor for hazardous working conditions and are empowered to demand that safety violations be corrected. Many workers, in turn, share their knowledge with their co-workers.

Bangladesh at a Crossroads

Accounting for 81% of the country’s total export earnings, Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry is the country’s biggest export earner. Yet wages are the lowest among major garment-manufacturing nations, while the cost of living in Dhaka is equivalent to that of Luxembourg and Montreal.

“The workers can barely survive with such low wages, as their house rents and even food prices have risen,” said Momotaz Begum, who has worked as a garment worker organizer with the Awaj Foundation since 2008.

Without a union, garment workers often are harassed or fired when they ask their employer to fix workplace hazards or seek living wages. Worker advocates say Bangladesh is at a crossroads—and they hope the government and employers choose a future in which Bangladesh workers are partners in the country’s economic success and treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

But even in the face of severe employer harassment and government indifference, worker-organizers like Tomiza, Nath, Akhter and Begum, all of whom began working in garment factories as children or young teens, are helping workers join together and insist on their rights at work. Today, 445 factories with more than 216,000 workers have unions to represent their interests and protect their rights.

“I believe that the workers must be aware of their rights and they must be united to achieve them,” said Shamima Akhter, an organizer with the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers’ Federation. “We train them to let them know what they deserve, and we empower them so that they can claim their rights from the factory owners.”

In Bangladesh, the Solidarity Center implements the Workers Empowerment Program—Components 1 and 2—which provides training and rights education to garment workers and organizers with the support of USAID.

Iztiak, an intern in the Solidarity Center Bangladesh office, conducted the interviews in Dhaka. This post originally appeared at the Solidarity Center.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 04/24/2018 - 16:57

Left with the Bill

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 19:56:50 +0000

Left with the Bill

While President Donald Trump continues to tout his massive tax giveaway to corporations, working people aren’t buying it. Gallup found that a majority of Americans disapprove of the law, and it’s easy to understand why: We know we’re being left with a bill for $1.5 trillion.

The Gallup poll is the most recent in a string of surveys finding that Americans are rejecting the new tax law. Even the law’s own backers are starting to run away from their handiwork.

While corporations are pocketing billions in tax cuts, most working people aren’t seeing a cent. In fact, 82% of Americans say they haven’t seen any difference in their taxes—or that they’ve even gone up.

A report this week from the Joint Committee on Taxation found that one provision alone funnels $17.4 billion to people making at least $1 million per year.

What’s more, despite promises that corporate tax cuts would lead to higher wages and more bonuses, working people are being left empty-handed.

In fact, less than 0.0015% of U.S. businesses have followed through and shared anything with their employees.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 04/24/2018 - 15:56

New Jersey: Labor Makes History with Signing of Equal Pay Bill

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 16:27:10 +0000

New Jersey: Labor Makes History with Signing of Equal Pay Bill

New Jersey equal pay bill signing
New Jersey AFL-CIO

Today, a historic milestone was reached in the fight for women’s equality and universal workplace justice as Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) signed the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act into law. This legislative effort, which was spearheaded by organized labor in New Jersey, represents years of hard work, testimony, meetings, campaigning, outreach and coordination with stakeholders all around the state.

The New Jersey State AFL-CIO was proud to work hand in hand with the prime sponsors of this bill, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D) and Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D), and recognizes their tireless work that enabled this historic victory. We further thank state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D) for making this issue a top priority and ensuring a prompt vote on this pressing matter that has been allowed to persist for far too long.

“No organization has been on the frontlines longer or done more to address the gender wage gap than organized labor,” said New Jersey State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan. “A union contract has long guaranteed equal pay for equal work to women and all demographic groups. It is thanks to this model, along with labor’s commitment to pay equity as a universal right, that we celebrate this historic moment for all New Jersey working families today.”

“With the strongest equal pay law in the nation, our labor movement and our state can stand proud in recognition of the progress we have achieved,” said New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech. “This is a fight for which organized labor will continue to bear the torch until all working people around the country are ensured equal pay for equal work.”

Once again, the New Jersey State AFL-CIO recognizes the enormous efforts of our affiliates, community allies and elected officials, along with Gov. Murphy and his administration, for the extraordinary teamwork that made this victory possible. We know that the benefits of this law to women, families, businesses and working people across all demographic groups signal a new direction for our state and a future that represents our shared values of progress, economic fairness and workplace justice.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 04/24/2018 - 12:27

DC LaborFest: We're in the Same Boat

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 16:22:12 +0000

DC LaborFest: We're in the Same Boat

DC LaborFest

The fifth annual DC LaborFest—anchored by the 18th DC Labor FilmFest runs May 1-31 in Washington, D.C. Check out the complete festival schedule, including event descriptions, film trailers and links to RSVP or buy tickets. The essay below, by Working America’s Karen Nussbaum, is featured in the LaborFest’s 2018 program guide. 

My favorite moment this awards season was when Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton came out on stage together at the Emmys. The stars of “9 to 5” conversationally used the most famous words in the 1980 smash hit—“sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot”—and got a prolonged standing ovation. “How cool,” I thought, “to be associated with an iconic movie.”

The movie about turning the tables on a boorish boss was inspired by 9to5, the national organization of women office workers I helped organize in 1973. And it was a hit because it reflected the hidden truths of an invisible workforce, 20 million women office workers. Fonda and the writers spent hours talking with our members. The movie changed the national debate about women and work because there was an organized national movement ready to turn the popular farce into action.

“9 to 5” may not be “Battleship Potemkin” or another of Sergei Eisenstein’s great works, “Strike,” which is one of the many exciting films featured in this year’s DC Labor FilmFest. The festival also celebrates the 200th birthday of Karl Marx, swinging from “Swing Shift,” another film about working women with a great cast to “The Young Karl Marx,” which may have you tearing up at the dramatic reading of "The Communist Manifesto" at the end. (OK, I did.) You’ll have the opportunity to see a score of movies that touch on many facets of working people’s fights over the past century.

But “9 to 5” (shown at the DC Labor FilmFest in 2005, when Jane Fonda was presented with the festival’s Labor Arts Award) has particular resonance, and it’s not just #MeToo.  

9to5, the organization, captured a moment when working-class and middle-class women found themselves co-workers in offices across the nation, and their common cause across class and race was explosive. The surge of women into the workforce in the 1970s hit the wall of few job opportunities for women. Nearly 25% of women worked as clericals. The next biggest occupation, nurses, trailed at 9%, followed by teachers and cashiers at only 5% each.

And that’s how it felt. If you were a college graduate, you might become a nurse or a teacher, but you were more likely to get an office job alongside of high school graduates. As organizers at 9to5, we knew how important this was. So we fostered common cause among the lifelong insurance workers who trained men to be their own supervisors and the publishing house employees who weren’t allowed anywhere near a book.

By the mid-1980s, employers caved. In the face of organizing, lawsuits and popular opinion (thanks, at least in part, to the “9 to 5” movie) they opened professional and managerial jobs to college-educated women—women like their daughters. The women’s workforce settled into a class structure that looked like that of men. Inequities still abound—women still earn only 80% of what men earn, and the pay gap is nearly twice as great for Latina and African American women. And as we know from #MeToo, sexual harassment is still pervasive.

Changes in jobs and working conditions are creating common cause across class and race again today. Since the 1970s, employers have put a lid on wages and cut way back on benefits. When I started working I earned minimum wage, but I had five days of vacation and five paid sick days—and that was common. Today, only about half of private-sector employees have paid sick or leave time. Employers have abandoned this responsibility to such a degree that voters are turning to city and state legislation to require paid leave. More than 60% of workers had pensions in the 1970s—today only 23% have a pension and the benefits are only half as valuable. And we know health care remains unaffordable for too many.

Working America sees it when we talk to people at the doors. "I used to think of myself as middle class, but I guess you'd have to say I'm working class," is a common comment. "I have a middle-class job, but I can't afford a middle-class house or car," one man told me. "I'll never be able to afford to retire," older members worry. I may be drawing more from E.P. Thompson than the young Karl Marx, but it looks to me like economic conditions are changing class consciousness.

So, as Dolly sings in the song, “You're in the same boat with a lotta your friends,” and the next big blockbuster will reflect a resurgent workers’ movement that builds common cause across class and race on economic issues. In the meantime, have fun at the movies!

Karen Nussbaum is a co-founder of 9to5, and a board member of Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 04/24/2018 - 12:22

Big Week for Workers as More Than 10,000 Working People Join Together in Union in One Week

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 13:55:23 +0000

Big Week for Workers as More Than 10,000 Working People Join Together in Union in One Week

Foxwoods Victory

This past week alone, more than 10,000 working people chose to join together in union for the freedom to negotiate a fair return on their hard work. From flight attendants to graduate students, each day more working people are gaining the power to change an economy rigged against us.

In response to the wave of victories, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

We’re living in a profound moment of change. By joining together in a union, working people are joining, fighting and winning together for the dignity that we’ve earned. Despite rigged rules and aggressive corporate attacks, 260,000 new union members joined our ranks last year, and three-quarters of new union members are under the age of 34. As we gain density, we gain power. As we grow in numbers, we grow in influence. That’s how we start to build the America working people need.

Nearly 5,000 JetBlue in-flight crew members will have the freedom to negotiate with the airline’s management after they overwhelmingly voted in favor of joining the Transport Workers (TWU) on Tuesday. Larry Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department, said:

At a time when our economy favors the rich and powerful, today’s victory by JetBlue’s inflight crewmembers to join the Transport Workers Union demonstrates the power working people have when they come together.

JetBlue’s 5,000 inflight crewmembers want nothing more than a share in the profits they make possible, a say in workplace policies and procedures, and a seat at the table. Having a powerful union voice evens the playing field and ensures these hardworking, dedicated employees receive the dignity and respect they deserve.

In a historical victory for graduate teaching and research assistants at universities who have been fighting for a fair return on their work, more than 5,000 Harvard University teaching and research assistants decided Thursday to join UAW. Julie Kushner, director of UAW Region 9A, said:

I want to congratulate Harvard’s student workers on their incredibly hard work and welcome them to the UAW. They overcame obstacle after obstacle to win a union for themselves and their peers. We look forward to supporting them as they move into bargaining a contract. We have a history of successfully bargaining with NYU, UConn, UMass and, most recently, The New School and are looking forward to engaging in a constructive dialogue with Harvard. Today’s victory is a crucial moment in the growing student worker movement—it signals that the appointment of an anti-union NLRB will not stop the thousands who are fighting for their unions. We stand with them.

The labor movement is growing in Southern states, as evidenced Thursday when 700 working people at Atlanta Gas Light, in Atlanta, voted to join the Electrical Workers (IBEW). Lonnie Stephenson, international president of IBEW, thanked the new members:

On Thursday, 2,000 personal support workers and 400 registered nurses at Spectrum Health Care in the greater Toronto area joined the Machinists (IAM). International President Robert Martinez of IAM said:

This victory for Spectrum workers is the best example yet that the IAM’s new strategic growth plan is working. Across our union, we are thinking of new ways to bring dignity and justice on the job to working families who deserve representation at work. Our power at the negotiating table is growing by the day—and that’s good news for IAM members of today and tomorrow.

In Pleasanton, California, 400 registered nurses from Stanford Health Care’s ValleyCare Medical Center will join National Nurses United (NNU) after a majority of them voted to join the union. NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN, said:

Congratulations to the ValleyCare RNs. Your vote to join with your CNA colleagues across the Bay Area and throughout California will have an enormous impact on your patients, your neighbors and your colleagues. We are proud of your decision.

In Marlborough, Massachusetts, 220 working people from nurses to clerical staff at UMass Memorial-Marlborough Hospital decided to join the State Healthcare and Research Employees Union, an affiliate of AFSCME.

The wave of working people in newsrooms who join together in labor unions continues to grow. Last week, an overwhelming majority of editorial employees of the New Republic have signed on to a union organizing effort and have asked management to recognize The NewsGuild of New York/TNG-CWA Local 31003 as their local union. Grant Glickson, president of Local 31003, said:

At a time when our industry needs unions, we are excited to see the staff of this 100-year-old publication demand a seat at the table and a say in the future of the publication. We look forward to working with management in these shared goals.

On Friday, hundreds of working people at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut, voted to be represented by the New England Joint Board of UNITE HERE. Warren Pepicelli, manager of the New England Joint Board, said:

[These] workers sent a strong message of unity by voting yes today. We’re hopeful that Foxwoods will respect the workers’ decision and schedule negotiations as soon as possible. We look forward to negotiating in good faith with Foxwoods to address the many concerns that workers have.

At a time when powerful corporations and special interests continue to use a rigged system to their benefit, this kind of momentum proves that working people are standing up to defend the freedom to join together in union.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 04/24/2018 - 09:55

Celebrate Working People This Earth Day

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 15:12:22 +0000

Celebrate Working People This Earth Day

Earth Day is an annual event that celebrates our planet’s natural beauty and calls for the protection of our natural treasures and mitigation of the damage human activity can inflict on our planet. Across the country, working people are a key part of those efforts. Here are some key examples of how working people are making our world a cleaner, safer place every day.

  • AFGE represents workers at the Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service and the Department of the Interior.
  • Transport Workers (TWU) represents members at various observatories and zoos.

  • At NASA, Machinists (IAM) members build and launch the satellites and rockets that explore Earth from above. The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) represents the scientists and engineers at NASA.

  • A large percentage of U.S. Forest Service workers are represented by IAM-NFFE.

  • AFSCME represents water quality workers, solid waste and sewage treatment plant processors who keep the Earth clean. Also represented by AFSCME are parks and recreation employees throughout the country, as well as city/county/state parks workers, including those who monitor fishing and game licenses, animal control, watershed rangers, vehicle emissions testers, public transportation and port workers.

  • Communications Workers of America (CWA) represents working people at state and municipal parks who maintain our natural treasures and make sure they are accessible to the public.

  • Transit and other workers who are part of the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) provide cheaper and more planet-friendly travel options to millions of Americans.

  • Members of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) are farm workers throughout the country who harvest our food and get it to our tables.

  • Among the working people represented by the Utility Workers (UWUA) are those who clean the water in St. Louis for Mid-American Water, city recycling workers, arborists who save trees and parks employees.

  • International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) members not only produce the energy-efficient air and heating systems that keep homes and business healthy and comfortable, they manufacture electric buses and team up with various groups to make buildings more environmentally friendly.

  • Electrical Workers (IBEW) are at the forefront of the clean energy revolution, particularly in the growth of wind and solar energy and managing the electrical grid to accommodate more clean energy production.

  • UAW members produce electric cars, lithium battery packs, fuel cells and autonomous vehicles. Members also work at places such as Sierra Club headquarters and Lansing, Michigan’s Forestry Division and Potter Park Zoo.

  • Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) union members install wind turbines and solar panels, and operate the best training programs for renewables installation.

  • Heat and Frost Insulators improve energy efficiency in thousands of buildings large and small.

  • Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA) members install high efficiency HVAC systems that reduce emissions, and assembled 400 volunteers to change water lines and faucets in Flint, Michigan.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to working people working at jobs that are friendly to our planet. Did we miss something? Email us at website@aflcio.org and we’ll add to this list!

Kenneth Quinnell Sat, 04/21/2018 - 11:12

From a Whisper to a Roar: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 17:08:36 +0000

From a Whisper to a Roar: The Working People Weekly List

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.


Andrew Pallotta: A National Lesson in Unionism: “You can hear it building: A movement growing from a quiet whisper to a full roar. In West Virginia and Oklahoma—and in Kentucky and Arizona—teachers are finding their voices. They are standing with their unions to use that collective voice to improve their lives and their communities.”

Arizona Teachers Vote to Strike, Sparking First-Ever Statewide Walkout: “Teachers in Arizona held a strike vote on Thursday that launched a first-ever statewide walkout and turned down a proposed pay raise—instead demanding increased school funding. The Arizona Education Association and the grassroots group the Arizona Educators United announced that teachers will walk off the job April 26.”

Trump’s SEC Proposes Obama-Era Broker Conflict Rules Rewrite: “And on Twitter, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka panned the SEC’s action, calling it ‘insufficient to hold Wall Street accountable.’ ‘We won’t stop fighting,’ Trumka wrote.”

I’m an Undocumented Immigrant. I Pay My Taxes Every Year: “As a young boy, I remember accompanying my parents to visit their accountant and seeing them turn over large folders, neatly organized, with all of their tax forms and corresponding documents. My mother would tell me her priority was to show the government our family was contributing, so that when it came time to become legal permanent residents, and later U.S. citizens, there would be no questions about our contributions to the country.”

Senate Bill to Curtail Labor Rights on Tribal Land Falls Short: “The AFL-CIO said passage of the measure, the subject of several years of tribal lobbying, would have amounted to the most aggressive erosion of labor protections since 1940s. A package of bills containing the measure fell five votes short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster.”

Paid Summer Breaks and Other Common Myths About Teachers: “As teachers in several states across the United States protest for higher pay and more funding for public education, lawmakers and onlookers are debating whether teachers deserve more money. But many of the arguments against teachers’ demands are based on misconceptions about the teaching profession and how they’re compensated.”

Increase Wages, But Also Restore Rights: “As the United States, Mexico and Canada renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, there is a lot of room for improvement. No improvement is more needed, however, than a new labor system in Mexico that secures for all workers the freedom to form and join free and independent unions, so that working people can act democratically and responsibly together to improve their wages and working conditions.”

New Rule on Investment Advice Leaves Working People Vulnerable: “Workers depend on investments in the financial markets to finance our retirements and grow our other long-term savings. That means we need sound investment advice, provided by experts who are looking out for our best interests. While it seems obvious that the people whom we rely on to provide this advice should be required to act in our best interest and not line their own pockets, that is not always the case under current rules. Research shows that, as a result, many working people lose more than one-fourth of their potential retirement paychecks to corrupt financial advice.”

Ten Years Later: Worker Wins: “Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with a victory 10 years in the making and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life.”

JetBlue In-Flight Crew Members Overwhelmingly Vote to Join TWU: “In-flight crew members at JetBlue overwhelmingly voted to join the Transport Workers (TWU). With more than 86% of eligible employees participating in the vote, more than two-thirds voted in favor of joining TWU.”

12 Things We’ve Learned About the GOP Tax Bill: “President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans rushed to pass the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017, leaving very little time for public scrutiny or debate. Here are a few things we have learned since the GOP tax bill passed.”

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 04/20/2018 - 13:08

Increase Wages, But Also Restore Rights

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 17:01:37 +0000

Increase Wages, But Also Restore Rights

As the United States, Mexico and Canada renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, there is a lot of room for improvement. No improvement is more needed, however, than a new labor system in Mexico that secures for all workers the freedom to form and join free and independent unions, so that working people can act democratically and responsibly together to improve their wages and working conditions.

If Mexico’s corrupt labor system does not change, the rest of the NAFTA renegotiation won’t be worth much. Mexico will continue to be a haven for worker exploitation and abuse, and a popular outsourcing destination for greedy CEOs who seek to increase their bottom lines while their employees live in dire conditions. In this, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, president of Mexico’s Mineworkers Union, compellingly argues that North America’s working families have a shared interest in Mexico’s labor rights regime (translated from Spanish):

There has been a lot of talk about the possibility of using the NAFTA renegotiation as an impulse to increase wages in Mexico, since the increase in Mexican workers’ income would eliminate the pretext mentioned by Donald Trump to complicate the treaty, arguing that low wages favor Mexican companies to the detriment of those of the United States and Canada....

But the increases are not so valuable when they are granted without accompanying democratic rights with which workers can defend their gains. In recent years, the Mineworkers Union has achieved an average increase in salaries and benefits above 12%, that is, two or three times higher than those obtained by employer-dominated unions. This success is mainly due to the willingness and ability of our members to mobilize together with their communities, to democratically and responsibly exercise the right to strike to make the union grow with new investment projects, and to organize new members.

It would be a mistake to think that the increases by themselves could solve the deficit of democratic rights that persists in the Mexican labor world. As many experts have observed, Mexican wages in large industries are lower compared with those in other countries, not because of lack of productivity, but because of a diabolical pact between politicians, businessmen and employer-dominated unions to use the legal structure to systematically rob the workers, dividing the booty among themselves.

The most recent example of this alliance is the legislation to implement constitutional reforms in labor matters, which is to be debated in the Senate this week. As many lawyers, academics and trade union leaders have warned, the bill aims to consolidate control of the institutions of labor justice by corrupt unions, complicit officials and companies associated with them, closing off all spaces for workers to attempt to organize in democratic unions and thus negotiate collective agreements that guarantee good salaries, workplace health and safety, the profit sharing to which they are legally and fairly entitled, and the possibility of a dignified retirement....

The only effective strategy to revert the control of large companies and their corrupt union lackeys is to defeat this false bill and approve one that faithfully implements constitutional norms and international agreements signed by Mexico that protect the rights of workers.

This has been the main demand of the international trade unions of Canada, Europe and the United States in their letters addressed to the senators of Mexico. It is another cruel irony that they worry more about the rights of Mexican workers than our own government and, of course, the corrupt trade unionists.

Read the full text of the op-ed (in Spanish).

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 04/20/2018 - 13:01

Your Union-Made Snack Guide!

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:49:29 +0000

Your Union-Made Snack Guide!

Union-Made Snacks

You like snacks, right? Everybody does! Did you know that your snack choices can reflect your values and show support for working people? That's right, when you choose these snacks made by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), you not only have fun, you use the power of your wallet to make the world a better place. Here's a handy guide to let you know which snacks are union-made!

Chips and Pretzels: You have lots of options here (all made by BCTGM), including: Rold Gold pretzels made in Canton, Ohio (Local 19); UTZ pretzels made in Reading, Pennsylvania (Local 6); Frito-Lay products made in Topeka, Kansas (Local 218) and Vancouver, Washington (Local 364); Pirate's Booty and Keystone Foods products made in Easton, Pennsylvania (Local 6); Mikesell’s potato chips made in Dayton, Ohio (Local 57); Happy’s potato chips made in St. Paul, Minnesota (Local 22); and Bugles made in West Chicago, Illinois (Local 316G).

Ice Cream Toppings: If you love ice cream and want some special toppings, get those made by BCTGM at the Masterson Company of Milwaukee (Local 244).

Sweet Goods: Prefer your desserts baked? Try out Safeway's bakery goods made by BCTGM Local 114 (Portland, Oregon), Local 118 (Washington, D.C.), Local 68 (Baltimore) or Hostess Brands, including Ding Dongs, Twinkies, SnoBalls, made from either the Indianapolis (Local 1) or Columbus, Georgia (Local 42) bakeries. 

Bread and Rolls: The following products are made by various BCTGM locals: Bimbo, SB Thomas, Sara Lee, Nature’s Harvest, Earthgrains, Freihofer, Colonial, Metz, Arnold, Brownberry, Oroweat, Entenmann’s, Ball Park, Marinela, Maier’s, Beefsteak, D’Italiano, J.J. Nissen, Boboli, Mrs. Baird’s, Heiner’s, Tia Rosa tortillas and Stroehmann.

Candy: If you want candy, your options are mind-expandingly plentiful. Here are some of the companies where BCTGM members make the candy you need:

  • Annabelle Candy Company: Rocky Road, Abba-Zaba, Look, Big Hunk and U-No made by Local 125 in Oakland, California.
  • Boyer Candy: Mallo Cups, Peanut Butter Cups, Smoothie Cups, Triple Twist Pretzels and Dark Chocolate Mallo Cups made by Local 19 in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Brown & Haley: Almond Roca, Cashew Roca and Mocha Roca made by Local 9 in Seattle.
  • Concord Confections/Tootsie Roll Industries: All Tootise Roll brand products (made by BCTGM Local 1 in Chicago) and Double Bubble Bubble Gum (made by Local 264 in Toronto).
  • Frankford Candy & Chocolate: Gums, jellies, hard candy, molded filled, hollow and solid chocolate (made by Local 6 in Philadelphia).
  • Ghirardelli Chocolate: Pumpkin Spice Caramel Squares, Solid Milk, Milk & Caramel, Solid 60% Cacao Dark and Dark & Sea Salt Caramel and all varieties of chocolates (made by Local 125 in Oakland, California).
  • Hershey: Hershey Milk Chocolate Bars, Hershey Milk Chocolate with Almond Bars, Cookies 'N’ Creme Bars (snack, extra-large and giant sizes only), Hershey Kisses (Milk Chocolate, Milk Chocolate with Almonds, Special Dark, Cookies 'N’ Creme), Rolo and Hershey Nuggets (made by Local 464 in Hershey, Pennsylvania). 
  • Jelly Belly: Candy Corn, Jelly Belly Disney Villains bags, Harry Potter Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, Harry Potter Jelly Slugs, Jelly Belly BeanBoozled, Gummi Rats, Gummi Tarantulas and other jelly beans (made by Local 125 in Oakland, California).
  • Nestlé Chocolate: Laffy Taffy, Rope Taffy, Tangy Taffy, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, BB's, Pearson's Nips, Nestlé, Peanut Butter Cups and Minis, Nestlé Crunch Bars, Skinny Cow Candy and Sno Caps (made by Local 342 in Bloomington, Illinois, and Local 1 in Chicago).
  • New England Confectionery Company (NECCO): Mary Jane Peanut Butter Kisses, Mary Jane Original, Clark Jr., Skybar Zombie Food, Bat Wings, Mummy Hearts, NECCO Jr. Wafers (made by Local 348 in Framingham, Massachusetts).
  • Pearson’s Candy Company: Tins, bagged and chocolate mints, including The Nut Goodie Bar, Salted Nut Roll and Pearson's Mint Patties (made by Local 22 in Twin Cities, Minnesota).
  • Sconza Candy Company: Chocolate Jordanetts, Boston Baked Beans, Yogurt Raisins, Lemoncello Almonds, Chocolate/Yogurt Fruit & Raisins and other products (made by Local 125 in San Leandro, California).
  • See's Candies: Chocolates, nuts and chews, truffles, lollipops, brittles and toffees (made by Local 125 in San Leandro).
Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 04/20/2018 - 12:49


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