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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

Victory at Los Angeles Times Continues Digital and Newsroom Organizing Momentum
Victory at Los Angeles Times Continues Digital and Newsroom Organizing Momentum

Los Angeles Times newsroom employees made history by voting 24844 to be represented by the NewsGuildthe first newsroom union in the paper's 136-year history.

The vote at the Times is part of a larger trend that has been going on in recent years where folks in newsrooms that are digital or have a strong digital presence have been exercising their freedom to come together in union.

Approximately 400 employees at Vox Media recently voted to be represented by Writers Guild of America, East, and the company voluntarily recognized the union. The union organizing committee at Vox said: "Through voluntary recognition, Vox Media has joined the growing ranks of digital media companies that understand the necessity of unions to secure basic protections for those of us who work in an always-evolving industry. A union will give us the means to maintain what we love about working for this company, and to have a collective voice when we address anything that may change."

The wave of digital media companies unionizing gained momentum in 2015, when the now-defunct Gawker Media joined numerous other digital companies that recognized unions and ratified contracts, including Vice Media, ThinkProgress and HuffPost. More recently, writers and editors at a number of other digital publications have affiliated with WGAE and currently are in contract negotiations, among them The Intercept, Salon, Thrillist and MTV News.

Some of the owners of these organizations have fought unionization at their company. Joe Rickets, owner of New York-based sites Gothamist and DNAinfo, shut both websites down rather than recognize employees' right to organize. But those exceptions to the trend haven't slowed down working people who recognize the importance of organizing.

Kim Kelly, an editor at Vice Media, explained it: "People were fed up and broke and anxious about the future, and the union gave them a way to take control and force things to change."

Daniel Marans, a reporter at HuffPost, said that digital media publications need to grow with a changing digital workplace: "That comes to things like transparency on pay, having a decent pay scale that allows a ladder of sustainability where you can support yourself on such an income, and having due process and a guarantee of severance in the case of layoffs."

As the most recent votes at the Los Angeles Times and Vox show us, the trend of organizing at digital publications will continue to grow.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 01/19/2018 - 14:25

In the Air: Renounce a Sexist Past
In the Air: Renounce a Sexist Past

Sara Nelson
AFA-CWA

Flight Attendants, about 80% women, are ongoing victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Not that long ago, the industry marketed the objectification of "stewardesses," a job only available to young, single, perfectly polished women who until 1993 were required to step on a weight scale. Our union was formed to give women a voice and to beat back discrimination and misogyny faced on the job.

We defined our careers at the bargaining table, in the courts and on Capitol Hill. We taught the country to leave the word "stewardess" in the history books. But the industry never disavowed the marketing schemes featuring short skirts, hot pants, and ads that had young women saying things like "I’m Cheryl, fly me."

Even today, we are called pet names, patted on the rear when a passenger wants our attention, cornered in the back galley and asked about our "hottest" layover, and subjected to incidents not fit for print. Like the rest of our society, flight attendants have never had reason to believe that reports of the sexual harassment we experience on the job would be taken seriously, rather than dismissed or retaliated against.

The most effective thing that could be done now is a series of public service announcements from airline chief executives. It would be powerful to hear these men clearly and forcefully denounce the past objectification of flight attendants, reinforce our safety role as aviation’s first responders and pledge zero tolerance of sexual harassment and sexual assault at the airlines. They need to back up their words with action: A survey of our members last year showed the majority of flight attendants have no knowledge of written guidance or training on this issue available through their airline. Increased staffing and clear policies are needed.

Credibility from the industry on this issue isn’t only about keeping only flight attendants safe. It is absurd to think that a group of people frequently harassed for decades can effectively become enforcers during emergencies without this level of clarity about the respect we deserve. Knowing that CEOs will back us up will also make it easier for flight attendants to intervene when passengers are sexually harassed or assaulted on planes. Flight attendants need to know the airlines will take this as seriously as any other safety duty we perform.

Sara Nelson is the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. This article originally appeared at the Washington Post.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 01/19/2018 - 11:01

Donald Trump: A Year of Making Workplaces More Dangerous
Donald Trump: A Year of Making Workplaces More Dangerous

Donald Trump
Wikimedia Commons

It has been a year since Donald Trump took office. Despite promising to be a friend of workers, Trump has spent much of his first year making our workplaces less safe. 

AFL-CIO Director of Safety and Health Peg Seminario described Trump's actions:

The Trump administration has teamed up with Republican leaders in Congress and corporate allies to launch a war on regulatory protections, putting workers and the public in danger. Workers’ safety and health, wages and financial security are threatened. These regulatory protections don’t kill jobs. But there is no doubt that rolling back these protections will hurt workers.

Here are some of the ways Trump's record on health and safety has failed working people in the United States:

  • Repealed an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule requiring employers to keep accurate injury records (PL-115-21).
  • Repealed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule to make sure federal contractors follow safety and labor laws (PL-115-11).
  • Repealed Department of Labor rules providing for state and local governments to establish voluntary retirement savings programs for private-sector workers. (PL-115-25, PL 115-35).
  • Executive Order 13771 required that for every new worker protection, two existing safeguards must be repealed.
  • Executive Order 13777 required agencies to identify regulations that are burdensome to industry that should be repealed or modified.
  • Withdrew an OSHA policy allowing workers to designate walkaround representatives to participate in OSHA inspections in nonunion workplaces.
  • Withdrew more than a dozen rules from the OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration regulatory agenda, including standards on combustible dust, styrene, 1-bromopropane, noise in construction, update of permissible exposure limits, and MSHA penalties and refuge alternatives in coal mines, which abandons protecting workers from major hazards.
  • Withdrew Wage and Hour Division guidance and interpretations on independent contractor and joint employer status, issued to ensure workers receive the benefits of labor protections and to prevent misclassification of workers.
  • Proposed a 2018 budget that would slash the Department of Labor's budget by 21%, eliminate worker safety and health training programs and the Chemical Safety Board, cut NIOSH’s job safety research by $100 million and cut NLRB funding by $17 million.
  • A U.S. District Court overturned DOL's 2016 rule to update and expand overtime protections for 4.2 million workers on Aug. 31, 2017. It is unclear whether DOL will appeal the ruling. Secretary Acosta has announced that he thinks the salary threshold in the rule is too high, and DOL is moving forward with rulemaking to consider lowering the salary threshold and other measures to weaken the Obama overtime pay protections.
  • In response to Executive Order 13772 directing review of financial regulations, the DOL delayed the compliance date for DOL's conflict of interest fiduciary rule for 60 days until June 9, 2017, and has proposed to delay certain provisions until July 1, 2019. DOL is currently reviewing the rule and has solicited comments on whether it should be revised.
  • A U.S. District Court issued an injunction against DOL's persuader rules. DOL proposed to repeal the rules and final repeal action is expected shortly. These rules were created to increase transparency in the union-busting industry.
  • Delayed OSHA’s new beryllium standard from March 10, 2017, until May 20, 2017. Industry groups have asked OSHA to stay the rule (general industry, construction and maritime) and reopen the record for consideration of the standard. He also proposed weakening the beryllium rule in construction and maritime by revoking the ancillary provisions on medical surveillance, exposure monitoring, housekeeping and other measures.
  • Delayed enforcement of the OSHA silica standard in construction for 90 days until Sept. 23, 2017, allowing continued high dust exposures that will result in the deaths of more than 160 workers. He later announced a further 30-day delay for full enforcement of the standard.
  • Delayed MSHA’s mine examination rule for metal and nonmetal mines from May 23, 2017, until Oct. 2, 2017, and further delayed it until March 2, 2018. He also proposed weakening changes to the rule, including delaying mine inspections until after work has begun, instead of before work commences, and eliminating recording of hazardous conditions that are immediately abated.
  • Delayed the compliance date for reporting summary injury data to OSHA under the injury tracking rule from July 1, 2017, until Dec. 1, 2017. OSHA also announced it intends to issue a separate proposal revising or revoking other provisions of the rule.
  • Delayed the effective date of EPA’s Risk Management Program rule to prevent chemical accidents from June 19, 2017, until Feb. 19, 2019, putting workers, the public and first responders in danger.
  • Removed from active development on the regulatory agenda critical OSHA standards on workplace violence, infectious diseases, process safety management and emergency preparedness, and MSHA standards on silica and proximity detection systems for mobile mining equipment.
  • Nominated Andrew Puzder, a fast food restaurant chain CEO, as secretary of labor. Puzder's nomination was withdrawn after allegations of labor violations and concerns about personal conduct.
  • Nominated David Zatezalo, a former coal mine CEO, as MSHA assistant secretary. Zatezalo's mining company had a history of serious mining violations.
  • Nominated Marvin Kaplan, a former Republican Hill staffer, and William Emanuel, a management side labor attorney who has a long record of opposing workers' right to organize, to the National Labor Relations Board. Both have been confirmed, giving Republicans a majority on the board.
Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 01/18/2018 - 13:49

Outgoing NLRB Chair Miscimarra Leads Attack on Working People's Rights
Outgoing NLRB Chair Miscimarra Leads Attack on Working People's Rights

On Dec. 16, 2017, National Labor Relations Board Chair Philip Miscimarra’s term came to an end. In the final days before the end of his term, a series of 3-2 decisions were handed down that were unprecedented in several respects, not the least among them was the extent that the decisions will harm working people.

What the board did during this time wasn’t normal. The decisions were all of great importance, they all reversed recent precedent, and they were issued without public notice or the ability for affected parties to weigh in with arguments or evidence. In several of the cases, the NLRB went far outside the facts of the case and  applied the law to other situations, including to both pending cases and other cases that may come before the board. In one case, the board addressed a question that neither party to the case raised. And, not least of all, two members of the NLRB, William Emanuel and Marvin Kaplan, only served on the board for a few months each before casting deciding votes in significant decisions without the benefit of briefing by all interested members of the labor-management community.

Here is a closer look at several of those key cases:

Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors (365 NLRB No. 156): Despite no one involved in the case asking for it, the board reversed the 2015 decision in the Browning-Ferris Industries case (362 NLRB No. 186). The decision provided that only direct control of employees determines who is the employer of those workers, rejecting indirect, reserved, or limited and routine control as potentially determining factors. In other words, an employer only counts as your employer if they have direct control over your terms of employment. Other legal entities involved in the work process are not responsible, even if they have a say in your employment situation—for example, controlling the speed of the line on which you work as in Browning-Ferris.

PCC Structurals Inc. (365 NLRB No. 160): This case rewrote the rules governing which employees are part of a unit and eligible to vote on whether to be represented by a union. Under the new standard, employers have more opportunity to add more employees to the requested unit in order to dilute the pro-union vote and also to delay a vote through litigation over the unit.

Raytheon Network Centric Systems (365 NLRB No. 161): When an existing collective bargaining agreement expires, the previous rule was that employers cannot make unilateral changes in terms and conditions of employment even if such changes had been allowed under the expired, unless the changes did not involve the exercise of discretion. Under the new ruling, the standard has changed, making it legal for a company to make changes as long as they are consistent with past activity. This means an employer could raise health care premiums for workers previously covered by a collective bargaining agreement after that agreement expires, for both bargaining unit employees and unrepresented employees, as long as the action was consistent with past practices under the expired management rights clause.

The Boeing Company (365 NLRB No. 154): The work rules, policies and handbook provisions that employers make have to be consistent with law and not suggest to employees that they might be discipline for exercising their right.  At least until this decision. In this case, the board changed the test used to determine whether work rules are legal, making it easier for employers to chill and even restrict activity that is protected under the National Labor Relations Act, as long as the impact on the protected rights is outweighed by the justifications for the rule that restricts the activity.

UPMC (365 NLRB No. 153): This one overruled a 2016 decision that determined that an administrative law judge may accept a settlement offer over the objections of the general counsel and charging party only if it constituted a full remedy for all violations alleged in a complaint. The new ruling says that a less-then-complete settlement can be accepted by the administrative law judge if it meets a reasonableness standard under a multifactor test. In other words, the judge can reject the position of both the expert general counsel and the aggrieved party and accept a weaker settlement offer.

Despite Miscimarra’s departure, these types of actions by the NLRB aren’t coming to an end any time soon. There is currently one vacancy on the NLRB, but President Donald Trump has just announced that he will nominate another management-side lawyer to take the seat—John Ring. But unions and working people are contesting several of these last-minute decisions, both in the courts and before the board.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 01/18/2018 - 11:54

When CEOs Say 'Do No Harm' in NAFTA, They Mean 'Don’t Harm Me'
When CEOs Say 'Do No Harm' in NAFTA, They Mean 'Don’t Harm Me'

Paywatch boss
AFL-CIO

We keep hearing CEOs of global companies and giant agribusiness conglomerates say “do no harm” in the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations, but from the perspective of working families who haven’t had a raise in the past 20 years, this advice doesn’t make any sense.

NAFTA continues to hurt families across the United States, Canada and Mexico, pushing down our wages, making it harder to join together in union, and making us constantly vulnerable to losing our jobs due to outsourcing. NAFTA threatens our health and undermines democracy. It forces our governments to pay off private companies like Exxon Mobil that object to laws and rules created in a democratic fashion. So how could any rational person say that fixing NAFTA would be "harmful"?

It’s true that the negotiations could make NAFTA more like the Trans-Pacific Partnership—and that would be extremely harmful. But big businesses liked TPP, so that’s not what they mean.

To understand what they mean, let’s use an analogy, comparing North America's economy to the human body. Like the human body, the North American economy is susceptible to various illnesses, and NAFTA is one such illness. In fact, we can compare NAFTA to a tumor. Like a tumor, it has led to rapid growth in profits and incomes for some, but at the expense of the economic health of the rest of us. In fact, bad U.S. trade policies cost most of America’s workers $2,000 a year in lost income.

To heal the North American economy, we need new rules for trade. New rules that level the playing field and prioritize ordinary families over corporate profits. But changing the rules means getting rid of the privileges that global corporations now enjoy. And just like tumors cling to life, these companies are fighting to keep their entitlements.

Those who have profited off NAFTA say "do no harm" because they can only see what benefits them. They don’t see that the unfair rules are actually bad for America as a whole. NAFTA’s unfair rules make it harder for most families to reach the American Dream because they divert the benefits of trade to those who already are economically powerful. That’s why we always feel like we are running in place and not getting ahead.

Changing the rules of trade means those who have benefited at the expense of others must get used to a level playing field. It means the president will have to say no to global corporations, despite their whining. The president promised to protect working families from bad trade, but it remains to be seen whether he will renegotiate NAFTA to protect working families or, as he did with the tax bill, protect the interests of his rich and powerful friends.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 01/18/2018 - 11:10

Let’s Rebuild the Middle Class by Rebuilding Our Infrastructure
Let’s Rebuild the Middle Class by Rebuilding Our Infrastructure

The Biden Forum
The Biden Forum

The middle class has been on a steady slide for decades. Signs of this slide are all around us: anemic wage growth, historic income inequality, chronic unemployment and underemployment and, not coincidentally, the steady erosion of workers’ freedom to join unions and bargain for fair wages and benefits. At the same time, American households are facing rising costs that far outpace their stagnant wages. The result is that tens of millions of Americans are stuck in middling jobs that cannot support a family, while a select few enjoy the benefits of rampant inequality.

As we live through this era of severely concentrated wealth at the top, coupled with a flood of low-wage jobs, our elected representatives have failed to come together to enact solutions to this imbalanced economy. In particular, they have not been able to advance one strategy that provides quality middle-class jobs while easing the burden on families: rebuilding American infrastructure.

Our infrastructure failings are epic. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave our infrastructure a D+ grade. A $1 trillion shortfall in drinking water system upgrades would be completed by around 2220 at the current spending rate. Amtrak, our nation’s landmark passenger railway system, is forced to beg for adequate resources while using Civil War–era tunnels. One-in-five miles of highway is in poor condition with a repair backlog well over $400 billion. People are starving for more and better public transit but instead we are watching our transit systems decay. We even trail 20 countries in internet download speed. These are all symbols of unfulfilled promises.

Inadequate and under-maintained infrastructure costs American households dearly. Americans spend 5.5 billion hours in traffic each year, costing families more than $120 billion in extra fuel and lost time. Seemingly insignificant problems such as potholes or deteriorating road surfaces chip away at families’ earnings by requiring more frequent vehicle maintenance. ASCE’s report found that without additional investment in infrastructure, the household budgets of working families would take a hit of $1,060 a year. Well-performing infrastructure lowers prices on household goods, prevents energy and shipment costs from soaring, and shortens commuting times for working families.

Infrastructure is also about jobs. Rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, especially if we commit to strict Buy America requirements, will produce millions of high-quality jobs along the entire supply chain?—?while also connecting more workers in disadvantaged communities to opportunity.

The link between infrastructure and quality jobs is simple: union members are mostly the ones who do the work needed to operate, build, and maintain our nation’s roads, rail, transit, aviation and maritime networks, drinking water systems, and schools. And union jobs are a direct pathway to the middle class.

The Economic Policy Institute’s data on the union difference tell a persuasive story. Unionized employees earn 13% more across all industries and a whopping 87% more in the expanding service sector. Non-union workers benefit as well when more people are unionized. For example, if today’s unionization rate were at 1979 levels, non-union worker pay would rise 5%, or over $2,700 a year. More than 9 in 10 workers in unions have health care, compared to only 67% among non-union workers. Across the board, on sick pay, vacation and other work-life balance issues, unionized workers drastically outperform non-union workers.

Funding a serious infrastructure package will drive growth and innovation, reboot American competitiveness and create the types of jobs that elude too many Americans. Of course, there is a catch. The cost of eliminating the backlog and actually modernizing our infrastructure is north of $4 trillion over the next 10 years.

Some say that rebuilding our infrastructure is too expensive, or that we simply need to pass the job to the private sector. But this is not about America being broke; we have the resources. The president and Congress just found trillions in offsets and new debt to fund a massive tax cut that fails to allocate a dime for infrastructure investment. And we must not only consider the costs of action, but the costs of inaction as well: remember, we still send our kids to far too many schools built before the Korean War, and have over 9 million people who still connect to the internet via dial-up service.

Part of the solution lies in repairing the federal gas tax, which funds Highway Trust Fund investments in transit, highways and bridges. This funding source has not been indexed to inflation, let alone increased, for more than two decades. In the 25 years under a frozen fuel tax, many things have conspired against us: the purchasing power of the tax has cratered, improved fuel efficiency of cars and trucks has reduced gas usage and tax receipts, and the cost of building and repairing our surface transportation infrastructure has gone up.

We must move beyond speeches about the need to rebuild the middle class and start advancing on-the-shelf solutions that have worked for decades: rebuilding the country and empowering all workers to bargain for fair wages. Only then we will be witness to an era of American renewal and economic expansion defined by an inclusive economy where wages rise for everyone, families and communities thrive, and opportunity knocks at everyone’s doorstep.

This post originally appeared at the Biden Forum.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 01/18/2018 - 10:34

Working People Are Watching, Mr. President
Working People Are Watching, Mr. President

To Washington, D.C. insiders, this month’s budget negotiations are just the latest partisan exercise in a series of manufactured crises that too often result in short-term solutions. But for those who live and work outside of the Beltway bubble, much more is at stake.

What happens in the coming days has the potential to fundamentally shift the balance of power in the workplace. Nothing less than the right to dream, live, work and retire in security is on the table as Congress faces key decisions and deadlines.

It is hard to be optimistic given the House and Senate’s last major action: a budget-busting, worker-bashing tax cut designed to further enrich big corporations, concentrate wealth in the hands of the few and ship jobs overseas.

The bill President Trump signed into law is a moral and economic abomination, which is why poll after poll show the vast majority of Americans oppose it. If there was ever a time to change course and start governing on behalf of working people, this is it.

Read the full post in The Hill.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 01/17/2018 - 15:18

NJ AFL-CIO Praises Gov. Murphy on Equal Pay Order
NJ AFL-CIO Praises Gov. Murphy on Equal Pay Order

Marking one of his first actions in office, Governor Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order, promoting equal pay for equal work for women. The New Jersey State AFL-CIO released the following statement following the announcement:

"Governor Murphy’s executive order to promote equal pay for equal work makes it clear that his administration will fight for all working families and do everything in its power to ensure justice and equality in the workplace," stated New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech. "On behalf of the state labor movement, we praise this long overdue action and look forward to a new era of progress for our state’s working families."

New Jersey State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan stated, "Our state is positioned to advance the fight for women’s equality and economic justice, and the steps taken today show that organized labor, along with our state leadership, are ready to lead the way."

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 01/17/2018 - 10:51

In Houston, Working Families Seek to Reclaim King's Dream
In Houston, Working Families Seek to Reclaim King's Dream

MLK Weekend
IAM

This past weekend in Houston, the AFL-CIO hosted its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference, with a theme of "Reclaiming Our Dream: Strategize, Organize, Mobilize." Hundreds of working family advocates came together to shift the rules and build power so that working communities can thrive and families can enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Here are some key tweets from the weekend:

 

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 01/17/2018 - 10:47

From Christmas Trees to Casinos: Worker Wins
From Christmas Trees to Casinos: Worker Wins

Workers at Green Valley Ranch Casino Resort Unionize
Culinary Workers Union Local 226

Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with a victory for Christmas tree workers in North Carolina and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life.

FLOC Helps Christmas Tree Workers in Wage Theft Victory: Working people at a Christmas tree farm in North Carolina got some cheerful news when the wage theft case they pursued with the help of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) led to a $350,000 settlement with the company.

Green Valley Ranch Continues Organizing Trend at Station Casinos: Green Valley Ranch became the fourth Station Casinos-operated property where workers voted to join together in union since 2015. More than 900 workers will be represented by the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165, Nevada affiliates of UNITE HERE.

D.C. Streetcar Workers Win First Contract: After nearly two years, D.C. Streetcar workers have voted for representation by Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689. The streetcar's private operators, The Midtown and RATP De

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