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Workers Memorial Day Reminds Us Why We Need Unions and Worker Safety Laws

Workers Memorial Day Reminds Us Why We Need Unions and Worker Safety Laws
Mourn for the Dead, Fight for the Living

The voice of history, the subject I taught in a community college for two dozen years, could hardly be louder or clearer when it comes to unions and to worker safety and health laws.

We need them both.

In an ideal world, everybody would live by the Golden Rule, some form of which can be found in just about every religion. But we live in a real world where greed is the gospel of many employers.

If many bosses had their way, we wouldn’t have unions or worker safety and health laws. For a long time, we didn’t have either in the United States. Not until the 1930s did a Democratic-majority New Deal Congress pass legislation giving workers the right to bargain collectively and requiring their employers to recognize unions.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, signed the legislation into law.          

Not until 1970 did Congress create the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The landmark bill passed with bipartisan support. Even Republican President Richard Nixon, who was less than labor-friendly, hailed the bill.

Hogs will fly and kids will stop shooting hoops in my native Kentucky before the current Republican president and his GOP-majority Congress would approve anything close to the Occupational Safety and Health Act that created OSHA.

OSHA was needed because many, if not most, state and local worker safety and health laws were inadequate or were not rigorously enforced.

Before strong unions and meaningful protection for worker safety and health, most workers toiled long hours at low pay in jobs that threatened—and often claimed—life and limb.

This month marked the 100th anniversary of United States’ entry into World War I, the bloodiest conflict in history to that point. 

The war—called the Great War before World War II—started in 1914, when some 35,000 U.S. workers were killed in industrial accidents, according to historian Howard Zinn. That death toll equals two-thirds of all U.S. battle deaths in the war, which ended in November 1918.

A century ago, railroads, mines and factories were slaughterhouses. Many children were among the dead. Child labor was widespread in American industry. Adults were so poorly paid that boys and girls as young as 10 had to go to work to help their parents make ends meet.  

Industrialists praised child labor as a godsend. They claimed work taught children responsibility and kept them off the streets and out of trouble. Also, mine and factory owners saw a practical side to child labor. They could pay children less than grown-ups.

Many industrialists bragged about how often they went to church. Some said God gave them their money. Christian "Captains of Industry" hated Charles Darwin’s scientific theory of evolution. But they loved Social Darwinism, a philosophy which claimed that business works like nature.

It was "survival of the fittest" in both, Social Darwinists said. There was nothing anybody could do—or should do—about it, they added. Hence, Social Darwinists argued that unions and worker safety and health laws should be opposed because they interfered with the "natural operation" of the "free market." One Social Darwinist said such laws were a waste because they only protected "those of the lowest development."

With Social Darwinism, millionaires didn’t have to worry about workers losing a leg, an arm, an eye or their lives on the job. Social Darwinists said workers were inferior beings; otherwise they would be millionaires. Besides, worker safety and health laws would cost the millionaire industrialists a few bucks.

Social Darwinist millionaires had friends in high places. The plutocrats bankrolled politicians to bust unions and to keep worker safety and health laws off the books or to ensure such laws were toothless.

Sound familiar? How many union-despising politicians enjoy the largess of rich reactionaries today?

Here are a few, all of them well-heeled enough to afford store-bought: President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton, Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers and Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover.

Anyway, while employers and their puppet politicians are still fighting organized labor and government safety and health regulations, a lot of the media is still cheerleading for American business and industry.

Not so long ago, right-wing newspapers editorialists smeared unions as "un-American" and "communist." They slammed union leaders as "labor bosses" and rank-and-filers as "union thugs."

Since the demise of the "Evil Empire," uber-conservative editorial writers and TV and radio bloviators mostly stop as "socialist." But they still trot out "union bosses" and "union thugs."

History teaches that employers, helped by their bought-and-paid for politicians and a sympathetic media, ensured that a strong union movement and something like OSHA would be a longtime coming. But come they both did.

Since 1989, unions have been observing April 28 as Workers Memorial Day because OSHA was born on April 28. OSHA did much to improve worker safety and health for all workers, not just union members.

But if the Tea Party-tilting reactionaries who run the GOP these days had their way, unions and OSHA would disappear. When Republicans extol "free enterprise," they mean free of unions and free of laws that safeguard workers on the job.

When we pause this Workers Memorial Day to remember those who lost their lives on the job, let’s remember the words of one of the greatest union heroes from history—Mary Harris "Mother" Jones: "Mourn the dead; fight like hell for the living!"

This is a guest post from Berry Craig, who is a lifelong Kentuckian, webmaster-editor for the Kentucky State AFL-CIO and a member of the state AFL-CIO Executive Board. It originally appeared at the Kentucky State AFL-CIO.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 04/28/2017 - 10:55
Posted: April 28, 2017, 2:55 pm

AT&T Wireless Workers Fire Warning Shot, Give 72-Hour Notice to Terminate Contract

AT&T wireless workers announced they have issued the 72-hour notice to end their contract extension—making a strike more likely than ever before for 21,000 wireless workers across 36 states and DC. Starting May 1, CWA has the option to call a strike at any time.

Posted: April 28, 2017, 2:45 pm

Mourn for the Dead, Fight Like Hell for the Living

Mourn for the Dead, Fight Like Hell for the Living
150 Workers Die Each Day

Today, on Workers Memorial Day, people all over the world remember workers who were killed, injured or made sick by their jobs. It's also a day we commit to fighting for safer working conditions. Most importantly, it is the day we remind ourselves that safe jobs are every worker’s right.

In the United States, 150 workers die each day from job injuries and diseases and millions more suffer serious injuries because of their work. But no person should have to sacrifice his or her life and livelihood for a paycheck. This is why communities hold vigils, rallies, marches and other events to mourn the loss of loved ones and rally for stronger safety and health job protections.

Find a Workers Memorial Day event near you.

In 2015, 4,836 workers died from traumatic injuries such as those related to falls, machines and fires. At least another 50,000–60,000 workers died from occupational diseases that are caused by chemicals, dusts, fumes and other toxic agents. Commonsense safeguards would have prevented these deaths, but winning these protections for workers is incredibly challenging. Big Business continues to attack any gain for working people.

Read about the state of workplace safety and health in the 2017 edition of the AFL-CIO Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect report.

Working people and their unions have won stronger safety and health protections. Most recently, unions celebrated the release of the final OSHA silica standard, the final OSHA beryllium standard, new safeguards to protect construction workers in confined spaces and from cranes and derricks, stronger protections for workers who report injuries to OSHA, several new mine safety rules, and many more. Since January, the Trump administration already has begun rolling back these protections, and has threatened to remove many more and prevent new safeguards from ever being issued. Recently, Republican leaders in Congress have threatened to remove important protections for first responders.

Unions fought for laws that protect hardworking people in the United States over the corporations that profit from the labor. Under these laws:

  • Workers have the right to refuse unsafe work, without fear of retaliation.
  • Workers have the right to report unsafe working conditions, without fear of retaliation.
  • Workers have the right to report work-related injuries and illnesses, without fear of retaliation.
  • Employers are required to make sure workplaces are free from hazards. 

We will continue to fight for stronger safety and health protections, but this year we also are defending new attacks on workers’ rights. And we will keep pushing forward. There is much more work to be done to prevent people from becoming sick or injured or being killed on the job.

On Workers Memorial Day, we remember all working people who have lost their lives, have been maimed or are fighting chronic disease because of the work they do. We join together to mourn for the dead and fight for the living. "Working people should not have to risk their lives to make a living and support their families," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Safe jobs are every worker’s right.

Find more information on Workers Memorial Day and the digital toolkit with infographics from the report.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 04/28/2017 - 10:29
Posted: April 28, 2017, 2:29 pm

Get Ready for a Month of Labor Cultural Events at DC LaborFest

Get Ready for a Month of Labor Cultural Events at DC LaborFest

From its semi-humble beginnings 17 years ago as a weekend film festival focusing on labor-related movies, the DC LaborFest has grown, diversified and blossomed into a monthlong cultural event. The 2017 lineup, which kicks off Monday, includes 22 films, 17 labor tours, walks, bike rides, cultural tours and—new this year—a union beer and whiskey tasting, sponsored by Labor 411.

"It’s an interesting demographic," said Chris Garlock, the festival’s director and founder. "There are some folks who are really into music, some who are really into films and some folks who are really into soccer. I’m getting requests from people who want to do a union wine tasting, so I guess we’ll be talking about that for 2018. It’s kind of cool to find new and different audiences for different things."

With a few days to go before a month of events, kicked off with a May Day screening of the James Franco-directed film "In Dubious Battle," Labor 411 chatted with Garlock on all things DC LaborFest.

Q: Where did the idea for this film festival come from? How did it originate?

Chris Garlock: I’m from Rochester, New York, where my dad and I ran the Rochester Labor Film Series (which is now celebrating its 28th year). My dad brought [union leader] Tony Mazzocchi up to Rochester for a screening of "Silkwood," and Tony came back all excited. My dad told him, "Well, Chris works for the Metropolitan Washington [D.C.] Council. You should talk to him." Tony was a force of nature, so with his vision, organized by me and Katherine Isaac and the full support of Metropolitan Washington Council President Jos Williams, we were able to pull the first film fest together in just a few months.

Q: Can you talk about the growth of the festival over the 17 years of its existence?

CG: Oh my goodness, a couple of things. We have partnered up with American Film Institute from the beginning and it’s just grown and grown over the years. The main festival is at AFI, which has a beautiful three-screen theater in Silver Spring, and we’ve expanded, so we do a whole free film noon time series at the AFL-CIO on Fridays. At various times we’ve done screenings at different international unions. We co-hosted a Whistleblower Film Festival for a couple of years. There’s a DC Immigration Film Festival that we helped to start. It was a separate film festival for a few years, and we’re kind of absorbing it back in this year.

Q: One doesn’t typically find the breadth of offerings of DC LaborFest in a standard film festival. How did that variety develop for the DC LaborFest?

CG: About four years ago, we made the jump and we’ve never looked back. We went from having just a film festival to adding music events, theater, a labor soccer game, labor history walking tours, labor history biking tours, basically any sort of labor-ific cultural event that people could come up with and sounded like somebody might be interested in. We have had some great partners—including Labor 411, of course, and I have to mention American Income Life, which has been our prime sponsor from the beginning.

Q: What are some of the film highlights of this year’s lineup?

CG: The big one, of course, is the May 16 screening of "Matewan," and director John Sayles is going to be here. It’s the 30th anniversary of the film so we’re very excited about that, and he’s a personal hero of mine. We’re opening on May 1 with "In Dubious Battle," directed by James Franco, from a book by John Steinbeck, and that’s a book about California migrant workers that is very much in tune with all of the immigration demonstrations going on that day.

We have two films about [the anarchists] Sacco and Vanzetti and this is the 70th anniversary of their execution, so that’s very appropriate. This year, for the first time, we will be having labor tours of four different museums in town. It’s going to be a really great opportunity to see some really amazing art work or artifacts about work and workers. And then, of course, there’s our union beer and whiskey tasting with Labor 411. Those tickets are going like hot cakes.

Q: Now that the DC LaborFest is 17 years running, does the festival’s reputation open certain doors that might not have opened in early years?

CG: There are only a few dozen labor film festivals in the world, and we’re one of the largest and oldest. By virtue of our being in Washington, D.C., and our connection with the AFL-CIO and all the other unions, it definitely opens a lot of doors and I think people take it more seriously.

Q: How about your audience? Is it a mixture of union workers and film fans?

CG: Absolutely. I do mobilization and communication for the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO, and my whole argument for why we should do the film festival and then expand it to the LaborFest was because it mobilizes and communicates. We do lots of rallies and picket lines on a weekly, if not daily, basis in town, but those tend to be more for people who are in the movement or sometimes for people who are just in a particular local. At a screening at AFI, you’ll look out at the audience and more than half the audience will be people who are there because they want to see the film. Film is a very accessible medium, so it brings in the general public. It brings in union members who might not be so involved, and it’s a real opportunity for folks to get together and socialize in a way that’s not just on the picket line or at a rally or at a union meeting.

Q: Can you recount some great events from past festivals?

CG: The first year, we showed "Live Nude Girls Unite" which is a great film about dancers at the Lusty Lady organizing. Again, that was a chance to reach a different kind of audience. We have given out our Labor Arts Award both to Jane Fonda—who came here for "9 to 5"—and Barbara Kopple, who has done a number of great labor films. Ramin Bahrani, who has become a really big filmmaker…we’ve shown almost all of his films here, and I remember when he was a young, aspiring filmmaker. For him to screen at DC LaborFest was a big deal at the time.

There are a lot of great films out there about work and workers, and we don’t just show the usual documentaries that people expect us to show. We have shown romantic comedies that have a labor angle, science fiction films, children’s films. We really want to be able to have a whole variety of stuff.

Q: Any last words?

CG: The labor film poster collection is in the AFL-CIO lobby now. It’s gorgeous and it’s free, and people can drop by and enjoy it anytime they want. The big poster out front is "Matewan."

For more information, visit

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 04/27/2017 - 15:42
Posted: April 27, 2017, 7:42 pm

Bargaining Update

The latest bargaining updates from Piedmont, AT&T West, AT&T Mobility, and New Flyer.

Posted: April 27, 2017, 6:58 pm

Time to Stop Rewarding Contractors That Send Good Jobs Overseas

Good Jobs Nation and Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch released a report on the offshoring of good jobs by U.S. government contractors this week.

Posted: April 27, 2017, 6:49 pm

Latest Health Care Proposal Hurts Working Families, Exempts Congress

U.S. House leaders released the text of their latest attempt at repealing the Affordable Care Act, and it's full of bad news for working families.

Posted: April 27, 2017, 6:39 pm

Why We're Marching for Climate, Jobs, and Justice

More than 250 CWA activists are coming to Washington, D.C., for the national day of action on climate change and justice on April 29.

Posted: April 27, 2017, 6:37 pm

Workers’ Memorial Day is Friday, April 28

On Workers' Memorial Day and every day, CWA is on the front lines in the fight to protect safety and health standards.

Posted: April 27, 2017, 6:29 pm

T-Mobile Update

CWA President Chris Shelton held several meetings this week in Berlin with German elected government officials to talk about ongoing organizing by T-Mobile workers in the U.S.

Posted: April 27, 2017, 6:17 pm

Organizing Update

Workers at American Prospect have joined the Newsguild-CWA.

Posted: April 27, 2017, 6:13 pm

Labor Leaders Issue Call to Support May 1 "Day without Immigrants"

The leaders of four national unions, including CWA, are calling for broad labor support for "A Day without Immigrants."

Posted: April 27, 2017, 6:11 pm

IUPAT Members Take a Day to Give Back

IUPAT Members Take a Day to Give Back
IUPAT Community Day of Action

On April 22, more than 2,000 members of the Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) across the United States and Canada put their hearts and skills to work for their neighbors to honor the union’s second annual IUPAT Community Day of Action.

With materials donated by the IUPAT, union employers and industry partners, volunteers teamed with community groups to clean up, paint, and replace the windows of churches, schools and community centers across North America. IUPAT volunteers also worked with a number of organizations to collect food and to cook for and feed those in need.

The goal of the Community Day of Action is to show the world that the members of the IUPAT and the rest of the labor movement are more than advocates for fair wages, rights and benefits on the job. They are good neighbors who have a long tradition of building up their communities. The IUPAT Community Day of Action is yet one more example of how organized labor is a positive force for working families—both union and nonunion.

IUPAT General President Kenneth Rigmaiden said:

It is our hope that the work we have done today, coast to coast in the United States and Canada, will inspire others to do their part for our communities. I'm proud of our members who have dedicated their time, their skills and their hearts to such worthy causes, and I truly believe that we made a difference. It shows just how much a united group of volunteers can accomplish in one day. My thanks to our community partners for helping us make our second annual Community Day of Action a success.

It was a great day (that's not over yet) where one union made a difference across North America in just one day!

The Painters and Allied Trades represents men and women in the United States and Canada who work in the finishing trades—commercial and industrial painting, drywall finishing, glazing and glass work, sign and display, and floor covering installation, among other crafts. Learn more about the IUPAT at and follow us on Twitter @GoIUPAT.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 04/27/2017 - 13:55
Posted: April 27, 2017, 5:55 pm

Call Now to Oppose the Harmful New Republican Health Care Plan

Call Now to Oppose the Harmful New Republican Health Care Plan
Don't take away our health care

Public opposition to Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act has been overwhelming. Americans have flocked to town halls across the country to speak out against these plans. Poll after poll shows that Americans don't want their health care taken away by Republicans who know that their own legislation is so bad that they are trying to exempt themselves from it. They claim they have a new plan, but the new one is even worse than the old plan.

The latest version of the Republican health care repeal plan will:

  • Gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions by eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee of affordable coverage, allowing insurance companies to charge some people as much as they want.
  • Strip health care from about 24 million people and raise premiums for millions by 20%.
  • Eliminate the guarantee that insurance companies cover maternity care, cancer treatments and substance abuse care.
  • Give away nearly $600 billion in tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, including nearly $200,000 each in a single year for the wealthiest 0.1% of Americans.
  • Increase out-of-pocket premiums for older Americans by as much as $12,900 and allow health insurance companies to charge older Americans five times what they charge younger people—effectively establishing an "age tax."
  • Slash Medicaid by $839 billion and end the program as we know it, leading to the rationing of care for children, seniors and people with disabilities.
  • End Medicaid expansion, meaning 11 million working families, children, people with disabilities, hardworking families and seniors would have lost their insurance.
  • Subsidize tax cuts for the wealthy by maintaining a scheduled 40% tax on the health benefits of millions of working families.
  • Eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, putting care for 2.5 million patients nationwide at risk.
  • Disproportionately hurt Americans living in rural areas and in some cases it would have caused a consumer’s plan to exceed their annual income.

Call your representative today at 866-829-3298 and tell them to vote NO on this desperate attempt by the GOP to make health care worse for Americans while enriching the few.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 04/27/2017 - 13:20
Posted: April 27, 2017, 5:20 pm

Toilets Go Mobile at AT&T Mobility

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Ever wanted to graffiti your boss a message in the toilet stall? AT&T Mobility workers put their own twist on that idea. They’re bringing the bathroom to the boss—carrying toilet seats to retail stores and call centers to demand that the company stop flushing their sales commissions and incentive pay down the toilet.

The Union Goes Live:

Phone Workers Learn Their Rights

Posted: April 27, 2017, 2:52 pm

Top Findings from the 2017 Death on the Job Report

Top Findings from the 2017 Death on the Job Report
150 workers die every day on the job.

In 2015, 150 workers died each day from hazardous working conditions. This year is the 26th year the AFL-CIO has published a report on the state of safety and health in the workplace, Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, which compiled 2015 injury and fatality data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and FY 2016 enforcement data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Here are some of the findings from the report:

What industries are most dangerous?

Deaths on the job are increasing for people who work in construction, transportation, agriculture, forestry and fishing. People working in logging, fishing, roofing, truck-driving and landscaping occupations were particularly at high risk of dying on the job.

Who is at the highest risk of dying on the job?

In 2015, the number and rate of Latino worker deaths increased significantly, while other workers’ risks decreased. Almost the entire increase in Latino deaths was among immigrant workers, and workers in construction, transportation and agriculture. California accounted for half of the increase in Latino worker deaths. Latino workers have a fatality rate that is now 18% higher than the overall working population.

Older people are dying on the job at a higher rate than the overall workforce population. People ages 65 and older are nearly three times more likely to die from work-related causes.

What about serious injuries or getting sick from work?

Many working people have work-related injuries and illnesses that are severe and debilitating, and impact their livelihoods. It’s estimated that 6-9 million people become seriously injured at work, or become sick from toxic chemicals. We need to make sure workers can report injuries at work without fear of retaliation, and need a better system for counting occupational illnesses.

The number of workplace violence injuries is a growing problem, particularly in health care. In 2015, more than 26,000 workplace violence injuries were reported and the rate of injuries in state government health care facilities is staggering. These injuries can and should be prevented through commonsense prevention programs in a workplace violence standard.            

What are we doing to prevent workplace deaths?

OSHA—the agency in charge of protecting all working people in the United States—has consistently been underfunded, understaffed and penalties remain too low to be a deterrent for employers. The average federal OSHA penalty for a serious violation is only $2,402. Twenty-six years ago, federal OSHA had the capacity to inspect each workplace once every 84 years; now that capacity is once every 159 years.

Unions are fighting to keep the job protections that we have won, for stronger safeguards on the job, and for improved OSHA resources to keep workers safe.

Have workplaces gotten safer and what does the future hold?

Since the OSHA law was passed in 1970, workplaces have gotten safer and job fatalities and injuries have declined: More than 553,000 workers’ lives have been saved. Under the Obama administration, OSHA and MSHA strengthened enforcement, issued new safeguards on silica, coal dust and other hazards, and expanded workers' rights. But now, under the Trump administration, this progress is threatened. President Trump already has repealed two worker safety rules and delayed others. He has proposed to slash the budget for the Department of Labor and job safety research and to eliminate worker safety and health training programs and the Chemical Safety Board. Workers’ safety and health is in danger. 

What can be done to prevent workplace deaths?

We must defend the worker safety and health protections we have won, and we must move forward. We will continue working for safe jobs for our union brothers and sisters, as well as fighting for protections and representation for all working people.

The nation must renew its commitment to protect workers from injury, disease and death.

View the full report or check out our graphics, so you can share the facts about the report on social media.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 04/26/2017 - 15:55
Posted: April 26, 2017, 7:55 pm

In the Age of Trump, Can Labor Unite?

“In the Age of Trump, Can Labor Unite?” asks Labor Notes Editor Alexandra Bradbury in her May 2017 cover story for In These Times magazine. Here’s how it begins:

“You know you’re getting the short end of the stick as a worker, but you don’t really know why,” says Joe Tarulli, a Staten Island Verizon tech who’s put in 17 years with the company. “They make it seem like these rich people are just lucky they got the right chances, and these poor old working folks, nothing ever goes right for them. No! These corporations are doing it on purpose.”

Posted: April 26, 2017, 4:01 pm

Under Trump, coal communities are stuck between a rock and a hard place

Blair Zimmerman, Pennsylvania’s Greene County Commissioner, knows coal. As a mine worker for 40 years and then a politician in southwestern Pennsylvania, he knows how important coal is to both the identity and economic stability of his community. He’s even called the White House a few times since President Donald Trump took office, asking the […]
Posted: April 26, 2017, 3:55 pm

The Looming Writers Strike Is About Much More Than What’s On TV

People say we’re living in the golden age of television. Fans enjoy more high-quality choices than at any time in history. But this could all grind to a halt if the Writers Guild of America (WGA) follows through with authorizing a strike, which would start May 2 barring any last-minute deals with the major studios. […]
Posted: April 25, 2017, 3:47 pm

CWA: Time to Stop Rewarding Contractors That Send Good Jobs Overseas

Statement by the Communications Workers of America on the report released today on offshoring of good jobs by U.S. government contractors.

Posted: April 25, 2017, 3:14 pm

Trump’s Tax Plan Is a Massive Giveaway to the Wealthy Few

Trump’s Tax Plan Is a Massive Giveaway to the Wealthy Few
401(k) 2012

President Donald Trump is working on a new tax plan. Reports suggest that Trump wants to cut the corporate tax rate to 15%. That proposal could have serious long-term consequences for the United States—estimates show this will reduce revenue by $2.4 trillion in the first decade—and it amounts to little more than a massive giveaway to big corporations. Trump proposed the same tax cut for big corporations during the presidential campaign, as part of a larger tax plan that also included tax giveaways for the wealthy at a total cost of $7.2 trillion. We'll have to wait to see what the details of the plan are, but it's important that any tax plan help working people.

This is what a plan that actually works for working people would look like:

Big corporations and the wealthy must pay their fair share of taxes: Our rigged and broken tax system lets big corporations and the wealthy avoid paying their fair share of taxes, sticking the rest of us with the tab. Any tax reform proposal must not cut taxes for big corporations or the wealthy. On the contrary, tax reform should restore taxes on the wealthiest estates and tax the income of investors as much as the income of working people. It's imperative that tax reform make our tax system more progressive than it is now. Big corporations and the wealthy must pay more in taxes than they pay now, so we can build an economy that works for all of us.

Tax reform must raise significantly more revenue: Tax reform must raise enough additional revenue over the long term to create good jobs and make the public investment we need in education, infrastructure and meeting the needs of children, families, seniors and communities. Any tax reform that reduces revenues in the short term or the long term is unacceptable. Additionally, cost estimates must be honest and not rely on gimmicks that hide the true long-term cost of tax cuts.

Tax reform must eliminate the tax incentive for corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore: Taxing offshore profits less than domestic profits creates an incentive for corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore, while giving global corporations a competitive advantage over domestic corporations. Tax reform must eliminate the tax incentive for corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore, a move that would raise nearly $1 trillion over 10 years. Reform must not include a “territorial” system that further reduces taxes on offshore profits and would increase the tax incentive for global corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore. Tax reform also must encourage investment in domestic manufacturing, production and employment to ensure a robust manufacturing sector.

Global corporations must pay what they owe on past profits held offshore: Global corporations owe an estimated $700 billion in taxes on the $2.6 trillion in past profits they are holding offshore. Tax reform should use these one-time-only tax revenues to increase smart public investment in infrastructure rather than cut corporate tax rates permanently. The higher the tax rate on these accumulated offshore earnings, the more funding will be available for public investment in infrastructure.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/24/2017 - 16:10
Posted: April 24, 2017, 8:10 pm

Another Organizing Victory in the South: Georgia’s Nestlé Workers Vote to Join RWDSU

Another Organizing Victory in the South: Georgia’s Nestlé Workers Vote to Join RWDSU
Wikimedia Commons

Contrary to many claims by pundits, amateur or professional, working people are showing, more and more, that they do want to organize their workplaces in the South. The latest victory comes from McDonough, Georgia, where employees at Nestlé’s logistics and shipping center voted to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

The Nestlé employees are fighting for a voice on the job, fair treatment, job security and fair wages. More than 100 working people will be represented by RWDSU. The workers handle shipping and logistics for Nestlé’s food product packaging.

Stuart Appelbaum, RWDSUs president, said:

These workers have been through a lot in the past few months both personally and at work, and it is time that their voices are heard and that they are treated both respectfully and fairly by Nestlé. Nestlé’s workers deserve a strong union voice at the bargaining table, and we are proud to be representing the 102 workers in McDonough, Georgia, as we work to secure a fair contract.

Edgar Fields, president of RWDSUs Southeast Council, lauded the Nestlé employees:

The people of Georgia are fighters, and the workers at Nestlé here in McDonough are a force to be reckoned with—and I could not be prouder to represent them. Neither union-busting efforts nor flood and gale-force winds could deter these workers from defending their right to organize, and now it’s our turn to fight for them. We are ready.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/24/2017 - 15:28
Posted: April 24, 2017, 7:28 pm

Yes, the Republican Health Plan Is Still that Bad

Yes, the Republican Health Plan Is Still that Bad
Health care

Big health care cuts and huge tax cuts for the wealthy few are back on the front burner for Congress. President Donald Trump is now saying he expects to have a deal with congressional Republicans for a health plan this week or shortly thereafter.

Just a month ago, Trump said he was moving on to do tax cuts instead of health care after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) failed to get enough votes in the House of Representatives for their bill repealing the Affordable Care Act.

The deal Trump and congressional Republicans are trying to cut now is really just the old plan from March with a few changes in which they are trying to paper over differences among House Republican leaders.

The old plan clearly was bad for working people and retirees.Congress budget experts said it would take health benefits away from 24 million people, by cutting the number of people with Medicaid by 14 million and those with benefits at work by 7 million, and spike out-of-pocket premiums and other costs for millions more people. At the same time, the Republican plan also would be a massive wealth transfer to the wealthy few. It would give the average millionaire household a $50,000 per year tax cut and prescription drug and insurance companies hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks.

So, what is in the plan now? Pretty much all of the bad stuff from the old plan—that is, it is still a massive tax cut paid for by cutting health care for working families and retirees—plus more.

Based on news reports, the Republican plan still:

  • Jacks up individual premiums for older people, as well as those with lower incomes and living in areas with high medical costs.
  • Takes away help for people who struggle to pay high insurance deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance.
  • Guts Medicaid by phasing out the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility to more working-age adults and ending the federal funding guarantee in favor of a fixed-dollar contribution.
  • Cuts Medicare funding to give a huge tax break to the wealthy few and prescription drug companies.
  • Taxes the health benefits of millions of working people with high-cost health coverage.

What are the changes in their revised plan? To meet the demands of some House Republican leaders who want even bigger health care cuts, the new Republican plan also lets states decide whether to get rid of certain protections.

According to a leaked document, states will be given the option to get rid of the so-called essential health benefits rules, which require insurance to cover a minimum set of benefits, such as prescription drugs, emergency care and maternity coverage. The earlier plan would have eliminated this minimum benefit requirement outright. Now, a state will have to ask the federal government for a waiver. In exchange for a waiver, a state will simply have to say—but not prove—that the purpose of these changes is to reduce premiums, increase coverage or advance some other benefit to the state.

Under the new plan, a state also can get rid of the ACA protection against an insurance company charging higher premiums for someone with a pre-existing condition. Where this happens, someone with a pre-existing condition could end up paying a whole lot more just to get basic health insurance. According to a recent estimate by the Center for American Progress, insurance companies likely would charge a 40-year-old with diabetes an extra $5,510 per year and someone with certain cancers as much as $140,510 more.

In exchange for letting insurance companies do this, a state would need to have a so-called high-risk pool. These are arrangements set up by governments to offer coverage to people who cannot get or afford insurance anywhere else because they have costly conditions. These pools existed before the ACA and were notorious for not working very well. Premiums were still high, and the programs were so poorly funded that only a small fraction of the people who needed them could get in.

The new Republican plan also would create an “invisible” reinsurance program. Very little has been revealed about this, but the basic idea is each state would run a program that pays for some of insurance companies’ costs for people with expensive conditions. The federal funding for this would be so low, however, that the big cuts in the rest of the Republican plan swamp any impact from it. The Center for American Progress estimates the average enrollee would have to pay $3,000 more by 2020 under this plan.

What’s the bottom line for the revised Republican plan? The more things change, the worse they get.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/24/2017 - 13:39
Posted: April 24, 2017, 5:39 pm

Ramping Up for May Day around the Country

April 24, 2017 / Fernando Garcia and Sonia Singh
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We've written about May Day 2017 plans shaping up in L.A. and Seattle, in the Twin Cities, and nationally. Here's what's cooking in a few other places:

Posted: April 24, 2017, 5:28 pm

This week in the war on workers: Trump's top attacks on workers ... so far

  The Economic Policy Institute’s Perkins Project “tracks actions by the administration, Congress, and the courts that affect people’s wages and their rights at work,” and as we get to the end of Donald Trump’s first 100 days, they’ve provided a list of the top 10 things he and congressional Republicans have done to working […]
Posted: April 24, 2017, 3:49 pm

Tax Reform Should Increase Taxes for Wealthy: The Working People Weekly List

Tax Reform Should Increase Taxes for Wealthy: 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.

Retired Miners Lament Trump’s Silence on Imperiled Health Plan: "Donald J. Trump made coal miners a central metaphor of his presidential campaign, promising to 'put our miners back to work' and look after their interests in a way that the Obama administration did not. Now, three months into his presidency, comes a test of that promise. Unless Congress intervenes by late April, government-funded health benefits will abruptly lapse for more than 20,000 retired miners, concentrated in Trump states that include Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Many of the miners have serious health problems arising from their years in the mines."

Six Questions for Labor's Top Workplace Safety Expert: "Already we’ve seen the Trump administration repeal two important workplace safety rules. They’ve proposed the elimination of funding for worker safety and health training programs."

AFL-CIO: Tax Reform Should Increase Taxes for Wealthy: "The AFL-CIO on Monday pressed its tax reform priorities, pushing back against concepts likely to be included in a Republican bill. 'Big corporations and the wealthy must pay more in taxes than they pay now, so we can build an economy that works for all of us,' the group said."

The Human Cost Of Trump’s Rollback On Regulations: "After numerous efforts under other presidents failed, the Obama administration finally tightened the regulations covering silica last year, further restricting the amount of dust that employers can legally expose workers to. The tougher standards were 45 years in the making, the subject of in-depth scientific research and intense lobbying by business groups and safety experts. When the rules were finalized in March 2016, occupational health experts hailed them as a life-saving milestone. But now the enforcement of the rules has been delayed ― and the rules themselves could be in jeopardy."

Unionized Scientists March in Protest of Attacks on Science and Jobs: "Of all the attacks on our civil society, the attacks on evidence-based science pose perhaps the greatest existential threat. Decisions being made about climate science and environmental protection at this critical time will shape the future of our planet."

We Need Tax Reform That Works for Working People: "Tomorrow, Americans will fulfill our civic duty of paying taxes to a system that is far from perfect or fair. As Congress reportedly is working on a plan to reform it, the AFL-CIO has a simple framework for what a serious proposal should include and what should not be included. These are the standards we will judge it by..."

Joe Arpaio's Infamous Arizona Tent City Closing: "By the time former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio lost his re-election bid in 2016, he was widely thought of as one of the worst sheriffs in the country, if not the worst. He was known for harsh anti-immigrant policies, accusations of racial profiling, misuse of funds and any number of other complaints—and the perfect symbol of everything wrong with his way of approaching law enforcement was Tent City."

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 04/24/2017 - 10:53
Posted: April 24, 2017, 2:53 pm

More than Cash: What It Really Takes to Address Poverty

What will it take to address poverty? If you build a school for girls in northern Nigeria or give a girl in the Philippines $2000, it might seem like you’re providing her with the things she needs to improve her … Continue reading
Posted: April 24, 2017, 11:36 am

Unionized Scientists March in Protest of Attacks on Science and Jobs

Of all the attacks on our civil society, the attacks on evidence-based science pose perhaps the greatest existential threat. Decisions being made about climate science and environmental protection at this critical time will shape the future of our planet. Advances in research are produced by the twin pillars of dedicated scientists and an activated citizenry […]
Posted: April 21, 2017, 3:48 pm

Taking It to the Streets in the Twin Cities on May Day

April 20, 2017 / Steve Payne
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On May Day in the Twin Cities, janitors, bakers, university workers, teachers, and bank workers will team up with students, renters, and immigrant rights groups to confront the powerful corporations that control Minnesota’s economy.

Posted: April 20, 2017, 4:20 pm

Thousands of Piece Rate Workers in California’s Salon Industry Are Likely Owed Unpaid Wages

Salon owners in California who pay employees on commission are subject to liability for failing to pay all wages due.  Under California law, “commissions” are a form of wages applicable only to an employee who sells a product or service, not to an employee who makes a product or provides a service to the employer’s […]
Posted: April 20, 2017, 1:28 pm

Cartoon: May Day Strikes

Posted: April 20, 2017, 4:00 am

Leaked Trump administration plan to close Chicago EPA office puts 1,000 jobs at risk

President Donald Trump’s proposed cutbacks to the Environmental Protection Agency may include the closure of the agency’s regional office in Chicago, a move that could undermine the agency’s ability to monitor pollution in the Great Lakes and curtail its ability to implement enforcement actions against coal-fired power plant owners in the six-state region. The workforce […]
Posted: April 19, 2017, 11:06 am

The Plan Behind a Chicago Project to Lift Up Working People

Manufacturing jobs have been on a steady decline for several years because of trade deals, technological advancements and economic recessions. Despite this, manufacturing remains one of the most important sectors of the U.S. economy, employing more than 12 million workers, or about 9% of the total U.S. employment. American cities continue to spend billions each year to […]
Posted: April 18, 2017, 1:18 pm

Harvesting Union Rights in the Field

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Eli Porras Carmona had been coming to work planting and harvesting sweet potatoes in North Carolina for eight years when he got a call from Mexico. His wife needed emergency surgery and he had to return home.

Carmona works under the H-2A program, where thousands of guestworkers are granted temporary permits to work on farms in the U.S. for up to 10 months per year.

Many return year after year—and since guestworkers are tied to one employer, it’s risky to speak out on the job. The employer can easily send you home, or not call you back the next season.

Posted: April 17, 2017, 7:28 pm

Texas has a new plan to discriminate against LGBT people

Texas’ anti-transgender bill has seemingly stalled, but inspired by North Carolina, Republican state lawmakers have a new plan to expand discrimination against LGBT people. Last month, Texas seemed on track to follow in the footsteps of North Carolina’s HB2 and pass its own bill, SB6, mandating anti-transgender discrimination across the entire state. Lt. Gov. Dan […]
Posted: April 17, 2017, 12:58 pm

Universal Basic Income: A “Social Vaccine” for Technological Displacement?

John Kenneth Galbraith once said that the beginnings of wisdom were to never trust an economist. Those of us that spent most of our adult lives in deindustrialized communities understood his point. As the mills and factories closed in working-class … Continue reading
Posted: April 17, 2017, 11:36 am

Republicans launch their crusade for elder poverty with repeal of automatic retirement accounts

America is headed for a retirement crisis—too many people have no significant retirement savings and no pension and will have to rely almost entirely on Social Security benefits that Republicans are constantly trying to cut. You know that the Republican-controlled Congress isn’t going to do anything to fix it, so it’s fallen to cities, towns, […]
Posted: April 14, 2017, 7:04 pm

Health Care Workers Bring Sanctuary Movement into the Union

April 13, 2017 / Porfirio Quintano
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I had no money and spoke no English when I illegally crossed the border into California 23 years ago, but I worked hard and fought for the right to stay here.

Had I made that harrowing journey this year, I’m sure I’d be deported right back into the crosshairs of the Honduran government’s death squads that had targeted me and many other community organizers.

Instead I quickly won a grant of political asylum—and later received full American citizenship.

Posted: April 13, 2017, 10:53 pm

The Trump Economy Myth and Job-Killing Policies

Making America Great Again; every time a U.S. company hires a hundred people, or even a dozen, President Trump’s support network blasts out the message that this is what he’s doing. Now they’re crowing that unemployment fell to 4.5 percent in March, even though many say this number underrepresents how many people are actually out of work. Only […]
Posted: April 13, 2017, 2:51 pm

The Working Class at the Oscars

A scene in Denzel Washington’s movie of Fences is not in August Wilson’s original play, and it illustrates how a spate of Oscar-nominated films this year uncharacteristically reveal basic insights into working-class ways of living a life. Troy Maxson is … Continue reading
Posted: April 10, 2017, 11:19 am

El conflicto de los docentes argentinos (que decide la suerte del resto de los trabajadores)

Durante cinco semanas, los maestros de Argentina han estado en huelga casi continuamente, usando los días que en que concurren a las escuelas para explicar a los estudiantes y a los padres las razones de su conflicto con el gobierno nacional.Hoy se unen al resto de los trabajadores del país en la primera huelga general del presidente Mauricio Macri. Los huelguistas están protestando por la ola de reformas pro-corporativas incluyendo recortes de subsidios que han llevado a aumentos masivos en las facturas de servicios públicos, exacerbando la creciente tasa de pobreza del país.

Posted: April 6, 2017, 9:55 pm

Argentina's Teachers Strike, with Fate of Country's Workers in Balance

For five weeks teachers in Argentina have been on strike almost continuously, using the days they do go to school to explain to students and parents the reasons for their conflict with the national government. Today, they’re joined by the rest of the country’s workers, in the first general strike under President Mauricio Macri. Strikers are protesting a wave of pro-corporate reforms including subsidy cuts that have led to massive increases in utility bills, exacerbating the country’s growing poverty rate.

Posted: April 6, 2017, 4:48 pm

Building Trades Activists Stand Up to Trump

When they heard President Donald Trump would address the Building Trades national legislative conference, activists from Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 569 knew they had to do something.

“We couldn’t let him come and speak to us and just sit there,” said William Stedham, a “workaday Joe” and executive board member of the San Diego-based local. “If we hadn’t, everyone would think that the Building Trades was on board with him 100 percent, and we’re not.”

Posted: April 5, 2017, 6:33 pm

Classing the Resistance

One of the founding goals of new working-class studies was to counter the tendency for academic and political discussions to downplay class in favor of other aspects of identity and inequality. Most critical and public attention to cultural identity and … Continue reading
Posted: April 3, 2017, 12:01 pm

Class on the Small Screen

Every year when I teach the sociology of work, I’m filled with the same nagging doubt: are my cultural references out of date? Are they still relevant for my students of nineteen and twenty, who were only just born in … Continue reading
Posted: March 27, 2017, 11:05 am

Playing Chicken: Discovering a Diverse Working Class in Trump Country

Since the election of 2016, much has been written about rural working-class voters who helped elect Donald J. Trump to the presidency.  Most of those stories have assumed that the rural working class is overwhelmingly white.  But if we look … Continue reading
Posted: March 21, 2017, 9:36 am

Fractions within the Working Class

This has been a rough year.  After the election, I reposted a few articles on my Facebook wall, as did so many of my friends, about the “working-class vote.”  Did the white working-class just elect Trump?  I didn’t think so, … Continue reading
Posted: March 13, 2017, 11:44 am

Neil Gorsuch and Religious Liberty: Class Dismissed

President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch on January 31 to fill the vacant seat of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court may seem like the answer to a prayer for many in the … Continue reading
Posted: February 20, 2017, 12:09 pm

A Working-Class Appreciation for the National Health Service

I have spent a lot of time in a National Health Service (NHS) hospital in the southwest of England recently because my mother has been seriously ill. Without the treatment and care she received there, she would not have survived. … Continue reading
Posted: February 13, 2017, 10:35 am

Is the Worst Yet to Come for Unions?

With the decline of good paying jobs in the private sector, public employment has been particularly important for working-class people. These state and local workers also provide important public services ranging from street cleaning, to home health to emergency services. … Continue reading
Posted: February 6, 2017, 12:25 pm