Mercer County Central Labor Council

Recent News Stories

Every week, we'll be bringing you a roundup of the important news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here's this week's Working People Weekly List. Read more >>>

Each week, we take a look at the biggest friends and foes of labor. We celebrate the workers winning big and small battles, and we shame the companies or people trying to deny working people their rights. Read more >>>

AFL-CIO Now Blog -- Recent News Stories

Study: Popularity of Joining Unions Surges
Study: Popularity of Joining Unions Surges

After holding steady for decades, the percentage of American workers in all jobs who would say yes to join a union jumped sharply this past year, by 50%, says a new, independent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The evidence is clear: The popularity of the labor movement is surging as more people want to join unions than ever before. Every worker must have the freedom to negotiate in a union over pay, benefits and working conditions.

The national narrative that the economy is doing OK, while working people struggle and billionaires bask in their latest round of massive tax cuts, is all wrong.

The truth is more working people want collective power. From 1977 to 1995, the percentage of all workers who would say yes to a union drive stayed flat, at about 32% of nonunion workers. Today, that number is 48%, a remarkable 50% increase.

This independent study from MIT confirms a broad trend we’ve seen in recent months as teachers have marched and rallied en masse for better school funding and higher pay, as tens of thousands of workers have voted to join unions and as the concept of unionism has spread in countless other ways in America.

The rich and powerful still hold many of the levers of power in America, but working people are claiming our seat at the table. We demand that every worker have the freedom to form or join a union.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/22/2018 - 13:08

Freedom to Join: What Working People Are Doing This Week
Freedom to Join: What Working People Are Doing This Week

Freedom to join
AFL-CIO

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:

Air Line Pilots Association:

Alliance for Retired Americans:

Amalgamated Transit Union:

American Federation of Musicians:

American Postal Workers Union:

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance:

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA:

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 Labor Communications Association:

Ironworkers:

Jobs With Justice:

Labor Council for Latin American Advancement:

Laborers:

Machinists:

Metal Trades Department:

National Air Traffic Controllers Association:

National Association of Letter Carriers:

National Domestic Workers Alliance:

National Nurses United:

National Taxi Workers Alliance:

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:

Solidarity Center:

Theatrical Stage Employees:

Transportation Trades Department:

UAW:

Union Label and Service Trades:

Union Veterans Council:

UNITE HERE:

United Food and Commercial Workers:

United Steelworkers:

United Students Against Sweatshops:

Working America:

Writers Guild of America, East:

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/22/2018 - 12:44

Economists Have the Answer to Inequality: Working People Standing Together
Economists Have the Answer to Inequality: Working People Standing Together

At its core, income inequality is simply about a lack of power among the masses and an abundance of it for a few at the top. Its real-world effects are wage stagnation, less access to health care and secure retirements, and higher poverty. Throughout much of the 20th century, there was a powerful mechanism to keep inequality in check: unions.

When a large swath of the workforce had the ability to negotiate with employers over wages, benefits and working conditions, a balance of power existed. By standing together in a union, working people got a fair share of the economic gains they helped create. It extended beyond workplaces that were joined together in union by raising standards across the board, leading to an economic boost for all workers. But as unions declined, worker bargaining power dipped, ushering in the exploding inequality that we’re all feeling in one way or another today.

So, what do we do? A growing number of economists are looking to our past for the answer: strong unions.

Stony Brook University professor Noah Smith in Bloomberg:

Economists are again starting to suspect that unions were a better deal than the textbooks made them out to be. A recent paper by economists Henry Farber, Daniel Herbst, Ilyana Kuziemko and Suresh Naidu concludes that unions were an important force reducing inequality in the U.S.

Since past data tends to be patchy, Farber et al. combine a huge number of different data sources to get a detailed picture of unionization rates going all the way back to 1936, the year after Congress passed a law letting private-sector employees form unions. The authors find that as unionization rises, inequality tends to fall, and vice versa. Nor is this effect driven by greater skills and education on the part of union workers; during the era from 1940 through 1970, when unionization rose and inequality fell, union workers tended to be less educated than others. In other words, unions lifted the workers at the bottom of the distribution. Black workers, and other nonwhite workers, tended to benefit the most from the union boost.

But powerful political winds stand in the way of a union resurgence. Billionaire CEOs and corporate special interests are spending big to stop working people from having the freedom to join unions. "Right to work" laws have proliferated in the past decade. Flawed trade policy shipped what were once good union jobs overseas. Automation and contingent work exacerbate the problem. And now, the conservative justices on the Supreme Court threaten to deal another blow to working people in the Janus v. AFSCME case.

But even as the billionaires push to destroy unions, we’re gaining popularity. Union favorability among the public has spiked, especially among young people. A recent study by the Pew Research Center reveals that 68% of 18- to 29-year-olds view unions favorably. Workers are finding new and creative ways to organize, as the recent rash of digital media unionization campaigns shows. Collective action is on the rise, as the successful teachers’ strikes sweeping the country demonstrate.

The bottom line: The only way to rebalance our economy and restore some power to working people is by increasing opportunity for workers to stand together in a union.

As Hamilton Nolan writes in Splinter:

Without a union, the boss and the investors get the extra money that the workers would otherwise get. There is no rational argument against unionizing everybody in sight.

Advice we’d be wise to take.

This post originally appeared at the California Labor Federation.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 06/20/2018 - 11:25

Pride Month Profiles: Mara Keisling
Pride Month Profiles: Mara Keisling

Mara Keisling
Wikimedia Commons

Throughout Pride Month, the AFL-CIO will be taking a look at some of the pioneers whose work sits at the intersection of the labor movement and the movement for LGBTQ equality. Our next profile is Mara Keisling.

Mara Keisling is the founder and, since 2003, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, the nation’s leading social justice advocacy organization advocating for transgender people.

Keisling grew up in Harrisburg, Pa., as one of seven siblings whose father was chief of staff to the governor. After studying at Penn State and Harvard, Keisling began a career in social marketing and opinion research. Experiencing and witnessing discrimination turned Keisling into an activist, eventually leading to her becoming co-chair of the Pennsylvania Gender Rights Coalition and a steering committee member of the Statewide Pennsylvania Rights Coalition.

Recognizing the need for a more coordinated voice for transgender people in Washington, D.C., Keisling founded the NCTE in 2003 and focused on social justice through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment. Since then, her vision and strategy have led to a series of ground-breaking organizational and coalition victories that have helped move the U.S. closer to transgender equality. 

Under Keisling's leadership, the NCTE has had a long string of successes:

Keisling’s work with the Center has involved several prominent achievements, including the first-ever trans-inclusive federal legislation, modification of State Department rules for changing gender markers on passports and the first congressional hearing on transgender issues. She has also lobbied for a trans-inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that has languished in Congress for years.

Many other federal and state victories have resulted from the efforts of the NCTE and coalition partners. Most notably was the creation of the National Transgender Discrimination Study, launched in 2009, and the follow-up in 2015 with the U.S. Trans Survey. For the first time, the 2009 study documented the experiences of thousands of transgender Americans in the areas of employment, housing, health care and the criminal justice system.

The original study is a ground-breaking look into the lives and experiences of transgender Americans and the report released in 2011 was cited an estimated 15,000 or more times in the media. The survey was particularly important in providing an accurate portrayal of the rates of trans suicide attempts, homelessness, employment discrimination, health care discrimination and transition surgery experiences.

The 2015 follow up survey was much larger, with more than 27,000 participants, more than four times bigger than the previous study. Improved study methods also improved the quality of the study, which contains expanded insight into trans seniors, people of color, immigrants, sex workers and military service members and veterans, as well as allow for more state-specific analysis. The newer survey also sought to compensate for the exclusion of transgender people in other research. Because of the work of Keisling, the NCTE and the coalition they built, we know more about life as a transgender person and the obstacles they face in the U.S. than ever before.

Keisling is also a founding board member of the Stonewall Democracy Fund, and has served on the board of directors of Common Roads, an LGBTQ youth advocacy group.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 06/20/2018 - 08:41

What You Need to Know About Washington, D.C.'s Initiative 77 and the Minimum Wage
What You Need to Know About Washington, D.C.'s Initiative 77 and the Minimum Wage

One Fair Wage
ROC United

On Tuesday, Washington, D.C., voters will have an opportunity to vote on Initiative 77, a ballot measure supported by a wide array of progressive and labor organizations that would eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped workers and give many working families a much-needed raise.

Initiative 77 would increase the tipped minimum wage to match the full wage: If it passes, the initiative would phase out the tipped minimum wage, leaving a flat $15 per hour minimum wage for D.C. workers. This would be phased in between now and 2025, giving restaurant and bar owners more than enough time to adjust to the change.

Tipped workers aren't limited to restaurants and bars: Many other workers get tips, too, including manicurists/pedicurists, hairdressers, shampooers, valets, taxi and rideshare drivers, massage therapists, baggage porters and others. Very few of them get anywhere near the 20% standard you see in high-end restaurants and bars.

The current law is changing, but it will still leave tipped workers behind: The current minimum wage in D.C. is $12.50 an hour, with a minimum wage of $3.33 for tipped workers. If tipped workers don't earn enough from tips to get to $12.50, employers are supposed to pay the difference. After existing minimum wage increases are fully implemented, the full minimum wage for D.C. will be $15 an hour, while the tipped minimum will increase to $5. The cost of living in D.C. is higher than every state in the United States except Hawaii.

D.C. has a particular problem with the minimum wage: As one of the places in the United States with the highest costs of living, low-wage workers are hit harder by discriminatory laws. D.C. has the largest gap in the country between its tipped minimum wage and its prevailing minimum wage. Tipped workers in D.C. are twice as likely to live in poverty as the city's overall workforce. Tipped workers in D.C. are forced to use public assistance at a higher rate than the overall population, with 14% using food stamps and 23% using Medicaid.

Wherever tipped wage jobs exist, they are typically low-wage, low-quality jobs: Nationally, the median wage is $16.48 and tipped workers median wage is $10.22. Nationally, 46% of tipped workers receive public assistance, whereas non-tipped workers use public assistance at a rate of 35.5%. Workers at tipped jobs are less likely to have access to paid sick leave, paid holiday leave, paid vacations, health insurance and retirement benefits. Seven of the 10 lowest-paying job categories are in food services, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Tipped workers are more likely to end up in poverty: In states where the tipped minimum wage is at the federal standard of $2.13, the lowest in the country, the poverty rate for all workers is 14.5%, which breaks down to 18% for waitstaff and bartenders and 7% for non-tipped employees. What day of the week it is, bad weather, a sluggish economy, the changing of the seasons and any number of other factors completely outside of a server's control can influence tips and make a night, a week or a season less likely to generate needed income.

The predictions of doom and gloom about raising the minimum wage or the tipped minimum wage never come true: Eight states already have eliminated the tipped wage and the restaurants in those states have higher sales per capita, higher job growth, higher job growth for tipped workers and higher rates of tipping. In fact, states without a lower tipped minimum wage have actually seen sectors where tipping is common grow stronger than in states where there is a subminimum wage. This is consistent with the data from overseas where countries have eliminated tipping and subminimum tipped wages. In states without a subminimum tipped wage, tipped workers, across the board, earn 14% higher. Increased minimum wages lead to employers seeing a reduction in turnover and increases in productivity. And, while there are certainly some exceptions, tippers in states without subminimum wage don't tip less. 

Tipped workers are more likely to be women, making lives worse for them and their families: Of the 4.3 million tipped workers in the United States, 60% of them are waiters and bartenders. Of that 2.5 million,

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