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

How the Canadians Are Trying to Use NAFTA to Raise Your Wage
How the Canadians Are Trying to Use NAFTA to Raise Your Wage

Right to work
AFL-CIO

Finally, after nearly a quarter of a century, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is being renegotiated. This is a good thing. NAFTA is called a "trade deal," but it’s mostly a collection of rules that give corporations more power over the three economies of North America. It gives companies tools to undermine laws and rules that protect America’s working families. It increased threats by U.S. employers to close workplaces and move to Mexico. And once the companies got there, NAFTA provided strict rules for them, but only vague guidelines to protect working people’s rights and freedoms.

NAFTA negotiations have not progressed very far, and it is too early to say whether the effort will bring a New Economic Deal to working people or simply more crony capitalism. But there was some fantastic, surprising, excellent news recently.

The Canadian negotiating team did something big: They told the U.S. negotiators that U.S. laws that interfere with people’s freedom to negotiate on the job are dragging down standards for Canada and need to be abolished. Guess what? Canada is right.

These laws, known as "right to work," are another example of the wealthiest 1% rigging the rules to weaken the freedom of people joining together in union and negotiating with employers for better pay, benefits and conditions at work. Not surprisingly, states with these freedom-crushing laws are less safe and have lower wages, dragging down workplace standards for those in other states, and apparently in Canada, too.

Canada gets the obvious: These laws take away working people’s freedom to join together and raise their wages. Canada is pushing the United States to be fairer to working people, just as the U.S. is pushing Mexico to be fairer to its working people. Will the U.S. negotiators see the light and agree to this proposal in NAFTA? We certainly hope so. It will tell us a lot about who the president stands with: Corporate CEOs or working families?

Learn more about laws that take away working people’s freedom.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 09/19/2017 - 11:59

North Carolina’s Labor Federation Elects First Woman President
North Carolina’s Labor Federation Elects First Woman President

MaryBe McMillan becomes the first woman to lead the North Carolina labor movement after being unanimously elected president of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO during the 60th annual convention that wrapped up today.

McMillan has served as secretary-treasurer of the state federation since 2005. She has spearheaded the cause of getting national and international unions to invest in and organize the South. Before beginning her career in the labor movement, she worked with housekeepers trying to organize at North Carolina State University and, after receiving her Ph.D in sociology, did public policy research for several progressive nonprofits. In 2004, she took a job at the AFL-CIO's Union Community Fund, where she met North Carolina State AFL-CIO President James Andrews—beginning a 12-year partnership fighting for working families in North Carolina.

"James has mentored and inspired countless labor leaders and activists in North Carolina and beyond," said McMillan. "For over 40 years, he has fought tirelessly to make our state a better place for working people. Our labor movement is much stronger because of James’ leadership, and so many of us are better leaders because of his example. I know that I am."

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper awarded Andrews the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest honor, for his more than four decades of service to the labor movement.

McMillan knows challenges lie ahead, but she is ready to lead with the support of the most diverse board in history that includes two members from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) and the first LGBTQ member.

"I look forward to working with our affiliates to build the movement we all want—one that is constantly growing, that is both big enough and bold enough to set the agenda and drive our politics, that is unafraid to hold our politicians and our own leaders accountable—a movement with the power to change this state and this nation."

The 60th annual convention featured workshops on storytelling, internal and community organizing, and strategic planning for the future of North Carolina’s labor movement. It also highlighted the debut of a North Carolina labor history exhibit from the Knights of Labor in the 19th century to the Duke Faculty union in 2016.

"I am proud to call the new president of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO my friend," said AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre. "MaryBe is a champion of working people in North Carolina, and we will stand with her in the fight to ensure we all have the freedom to join together and negotiate. We will march with her to end discrimination at the polls in North Carolina and across America. And we will organize and mobilize across the state and the South."

For highlights from the convention, including photos and video, check out the hashtag #ncafl60.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/15/2017 - 13:27

Popular Support for Working People at Highest Level in a Decade: The Working People Weekly List
Popular Support for Working People at Highest Level in a Decade: 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.

Support for Labor Unions Is at Decade High, Poll Finds: "Union approval is at its highest level among Americans in a decade—but still not as high as it once was. A Gallup Poll released for Labor Day found 61% of adults in the U.S. approve of labor unions—the highest percentage since 2003, when approval was at 65%. The 2017 approval rate is up 5 percentage points from last year and 13 points above the all-time low of 48% in 2009."

Canada Is Using NAFTA to Demand Protection for U.S. Unions: "As unions and Big Business prepare to square off in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, there will be heated debate over the continental trade pact’s impact."

President Trump Has Reached a Compromise with Top Democrats on DACA: "The top House and Senate Democrats said Wednesday they had reached agreement with President Donald Trump to protect thousands of younger immigrants from deportation and fund some border security enhancements—not including Trump’s long-sought border wall."

Poll: Majority Wants Congress to Establish Path to Citizenship for DACA Recipients: "A majority of voters want Congress to pass legislation that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to become citizens if they meet certain requirements, according to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted following the Trump administration’s decision to wind down the program protecting these so-called Dreamers from deportation."

Labor Unions Are Stepping Up to Fight Deportations: "Yahaira Burgos was fearing the worst when her husband, Juan Vivares, reported to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in lower Manhattan in March. Vivares, who fled Colombia and entered the U.S. illegally in 2011, had recently been given a deportation order. Rather than hide, he showed up at the ICE office with Burgos and his lawyer to continue to press his case for asylum."

Unions Aren't Obsolete, They're Being Crushed by Right-Wing Politics: "Growing up in heavily Republican Missouri years ago, Dawn Burnfin was sure that workers in the modern world didn't need the labor movement. 'I was taught that unions were just a bad deal all the way around,' she said. 'I don't know if anybody specifically took me aside and said, "Hey, unions are bad." It was just the implied attitude of everyone there.'"

OSHA's Claims About Hiding Information on Worker Deaths Fall Flat: "Since January, government agencies under the Donald Trump administration have taken steps to hide information from the public—information that was previously posted and information that the public has a right to know."

AFT Survey Shows Strong Parental Support for Public Schools: "Too often, the voices of the parents of public school children are left out of our national discussions about education. The AFT sought to change this and commissioned a survey that interviewed 1,200 public school parents to learn how they feel about the issues that directly affect their children."

Responding to Harvey and Irma: What Working People Are Doing This Week: "Welcome to our regular feature, a look at what the various AFL-CIO unions and other working family organizations are doing across the country and beyond. The labor movement is big and active—here's a look at the broad range of activities we're engaged in this week."

Working Families Remember 9/11: "On the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, America's working people commemorate those who lost their lives and those who worked tirelessly to help us recover and rebuild. Here are their words...."

RN Response Network to Deploy Additional Nurse Volunteers to Houston Post-Hurricane Harvey: "National Nurses United’s (NNU’s) Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN), a national network of volunteer nurses, will deploy its second delegation of RN volunteers to Houston, beginning Monday, Sept. 11, to provide medical assistance in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, NNU announced today."

Freelancing Ain't Free: "When is the moment in time for a freelance writer that a late payment becomes wage theft, and what do you do about it?"

Attention, Kentucky: Closing a Pension Is Never a Good Idea: "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it—and it’s prime time for Kentucky lawmakers to learn a history lesson."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/15/2017 - 11:57

OSHA's Claims About Hiding Information on Worker Deaths Fall Flat
OSHA's Claims About Hiding Information on Worker Deaths Fall Flat

Since January, government agencies under the Donald Trump administration have taken steps to hide information from the public--information that was previously posted and information that the public has a right to know. 

But a recent move is especially personal. Two weeks ago, the agency responsible for enforcing workplace safety and health—the Occupational Safety and Health Administration—removed the names of fallen workers from its home page and has stopped posting information about their deaths on its data page. In an attempt to justify this, the agency made two major claims discussed below. Like many efforts to decrease transparency by this administration, these claims are unfounded, and the agency whose mission is to protect workers from health and safety hazards is clearly in denial that it has a job to do. Here's how:

OSHA claim #1: Not all worker deaths listed on the agency website were work-related because OSHA hasn't issued or yet issued a citation for their deaths.

Fact: It is public knowledge that 1) OSHA doesn't have the jurisdiction to investigate about two-thirds of work-related deaths but does issue guidance on a wide variety of hazards to workers that extend beyond their enforcement reach, and 2) OSHA citations are not always issued for work-related deaths because of a variety of reasons, including limitations of existing OSHA standards and a settlement process that allows employers to remedy certain hazards in lieu of citation. (The laborious process for OSHA to develop standards deserves a completely separate post.) But neither of those points mean the agency cannot recognize where and when workers are dying on the job, and remember and honor those who sought a paycheck but, instead, did not return home to their families.

In fact, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, also housed in the Department of Labor, counts and reports the number of work-related deaths each year. The agency reported that in 2015, 4,836 working people died of work-related traumatic injury—"the highest annual figure since 2008." So, another agency already has taken care of that for OSHA (whew!). But this is just a statistic. Luckily for OSHA, employers are required to report every fatality on the job to OSHA within eight hours, so the agency has more specific information that can be used for prevention, including the names of the workers and companies involved, similar to the information the public has about deaths that occur in any other setting (outside of work).

OSHA claim #2: Deceased workers' families do not want the names and circumstances surrounding their loved ones' death shared.

Fact: Removing the names of fallen workers on the job is an incredible insult to working families. The shock of hearing that your family member won't be coming home from work that day is devastating enough, but then to hear that their death was preventable, and often the hazards were simply ignored by their employer, is pure torture. The organization made up of family members who had a loved one die on the job has stated repeatedly that it wants the names of their loved ones and information surrounding their deaths shared. It does not want other families to suffer because of something that could have been prevented. The organization has made it very clear that it opposes OSHA's new "out of sight, out of mind" approach.

So why shield this information from the public? We know the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have long opposed publication of this information. The Trump administration seems to live by very old—and very bad—advice from powerful, big business groups whose agenda it's pushing: If we don't count the impact of the problem or admit there is a problem, it must not exist.

Find out more.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 09/15/2017 - 08:41

AFT Survey Shows Strong Parental Support for Public Schools
AFT Survey Shows Strong Parental Support for Public Schools

Too often, the voices of the parents of public school children are left out of our national discussions about education. The AFT sought to change this and commissioned a survey that interviewed 1,200 public school parents to learn how they feel about the issues that directly affect their children.

AFT President Randi Weingarten spoke about the survey:

These results match what I hear from parents and communities across the country. There is zero ambiguity when it comes to what parents want for their children’s education: safe and welcoming, well-funded neighborhood public schools that help children develop their knowledge and skills and ensure equal opportunity for all kids. Parents deeply support the public schools their children attend and are happy with the job public schools are doing. And while we will never be satisfied until every public school is a place parents want to send their children, educators want to work, and kids are engaged and happy, these results confirm the sentiment we’ve seen in other recent polls that show support for public education continuing to rise.

It’s striking that the agenda being pushed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to defund public education and divert resources to vouchers and other privatization schemes—even when they are cloaked as ‘choice’—is completely at odds with parents’ educational priorities. This is true across every race, political persuasion and area of the country. These results should serve as a clarion call to policymakers to stop defunding our schools and instead deliver on the priorities parents want, to reclaim the promise of public education for all children.

The survey found that public school parents:

  • Say that the public schools their children attend provide them with an excellent or good quality education.
  • Are satisfied with their children's public schools when it comes to helping their child or children achieve their full potential.
  • Favor good quality neighborhood public schools over school choice.
  • Say their top priorities are: providing a safe and secure environment for children, making sure students graduate with the knowledge and academic skills to succeed in college, ensuring that all children have the opportunity to succeed, and developing students' critical-thinking and reasoning abilities.
  • But they also have concerns about education issues such as: education budget cuts at both the local and federal levels, shifts in funding away from traditional public schools to vouchers and charter schools, increased class sizes, layoffs of teachers and staff, high teacher turnover rates, and cutbacks in art, music, libraries and physical education to focus more on reading and math.
  • Say the central challenges facing public schools today are inadequate funding, too much standardized testing, large class sizes and lack of support for teachers.
  • Overwhelmingly disapprove of the job Betsy DeVos is doing as education secretary.
  • Express the greatest confidence in educators—both teachers and principals—and parent organizations to have the best ideas for public schools.
  • When it comes to investments to strengthen public schools, they favor expanding access to career and technical education and other vocational programs that prepare students for jobs, reducing class sizes, providing extra resources and support to turn around struggling neighborhood schools, making sure school curriculums include art and music, providing health and nutrition services to low-income children through their public school, improving mentoring for new or struggling teachers, increasing the number of community schools, and providing high-quality preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds.

Read more about the findings.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 09/14/2017 - 11:31

Responding to Harvey and Irma: What Working People Are Doing This Week
Responding to Harvey and Irma: What Working People Are Doing This Week

Hurricane Irma
AFSCME

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:

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance:

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA:

Aviation Safety Specialists:

Bricklayers:

North America's Building Trades Unions:

California School Employees Association:

Communications Workers of America:

CWA Printing Sector:

Department for Professional Employees:

Electrical Workers:

Farm Labor Organizing Committee:

Fire Fighters:

Ironworkers:

Jobs with Justice:

Laborers:

LCLAA:

Machinists:

Metal Trades Department:

Musical Artists:

National Air Traffic Controllers Association:

National Association of Letter Carriers:

National Domestic Workers Alliance:

National Guestworker Alliance:

National Nurses United:

National Taxi Workers Alliance:

The NewsGuild-CWA:

NFL Players Association:

Painters and Allied Trades:

RWDSU:

SAG-AFTRA:

School Administrators:

Seafarers:

Solidarity Center:

Theatrical Stage Employees:

Transport Workers:

Transportation Trades Department:

UAW:

United Food and Commercial Workers:

Union Label and Service Trades Department:

Union Sportsmen's Alliance:

Union Veterans Council:

UNITE HERE:

United Steelworkers:

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