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The need to fundamentally improve the labor provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement took on a new urgency over the weekend, as a group of armed civilians, calling themselves the “Tonalapa Community Police,” (Policía Comunitaria de Tonalapa) attacked striking workers, killing two, at the Media Luna mine in Guerrero, Mexico. The murders occurred just five hours south of Mexico City, where representatives from the United States, Canada and Mexico are in the midst of their fifth round of talks about rewriting NAFTA.
The aggressors, meanwhile, were released after being briefly detained by an army squadron.
The striking workers, who want to be represented by the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Related Workers of the Mexican Republic (Los Mineros) and are demanding the removal of the employer-dominated "labor" federation CTM (Confederación de Trabajadores de México), identified local CTM leaders as among those responsible for the attack. The practice of false unions siding with the employer over workers is a common feature of Mexico’s failed labor relations model. Employer-dominated "labor" federations are antithetical to the idea of democratic worker-led unions whose goal is to help workers build better lives.
The strike, which has been joined by residents of nearby communities of Cocula, Eduardo Neri and Tepecoacuilco, began in response to longstanding demands over pay, safety equipment and decent food. The workers and local residents maintain that the mine has broken a string of promises to its employees and the communities. The Mexican mining company, Media Luna, is owned by a Canadian global corporation, Torex Gold Resources.
Workers—no matter what country they live in—must have the freedom to join and act together to improve their wages and conditions of work. Armed attacks intimidate workers, keeping families in fear as they keep wages down and workplaces less safe.
Such attacks, which are common in Guatemala, Colombia and other U.S. trading partners, are one hallmark of a repressive labor system. These attacks should not be tolerated by responsible employers, the Mexican government or the U.S. government. This deplorable use of violence against a community standing up for itself is inconsistent with any notion of a "level playing field" or "free" or "fair" trade. How can trade be free if people aren’t?
This incident is a prime example of why working people across North America are united in demanding new, effective labor rules in NAFTA that will ensure that all three governments effectively uphold high labor standards and show zero tolerance for violence and intimidation.
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.
Senate Tax Bill Cuts Taxes of Wealthy and Hikes Taxes on Families Earning Under $75,000 Over a Decade: "The tax bill Senate Republicans are championing would give large tax cuts to millionaires while raising taxes on American families earning $10,000 to $75,000 over the next decade, according to a report released Thursday by the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress' official nonpartisan analysts."
Nike Shareholders to Propose Tax Principles After Paradise Papers Leak: "In the wake of the Paradise Papers revelations about tax avoidance, the AFL-CIO and Domini Impact Investments LLC, a provider of socially responsible mutual funds, is asking Nike Inc. to adopt formal tax practice principles."
Trump Tax Plan Gives Jobs Away to Robots and Will Increase Unemployment: "'We’ve already seen that this bill is a job killer in terms of outsourcing and these issues of timing around tax deductions for human capital versus physical capital seem likely to make it even more of a job killer,' AFL-CIO policy director Damon Silvers told Newsweek."
Cookie Crumbles for Laid Off Vets: "Will Attig, head of the Union Veterans Council, AFL-CIO, said the rally was calling out corporations for sending veterans’ jobs overseas. 'It’s shameful and unpatriotic that veterans come home and have their job ripped from them by a greedy corporation.'"
GOP Tax Plans Could Fuel the Suburban Revolt Against Trump: "After a suburban firestorm in last week's elections, House Speaker Paul Ryan is now asking his Republican members from suburbia to put out the fire with gasoline. In the House of Representatives, Republicans representing white-collar districts were understandably unnerved by a roaring backlash against President Donald Trump in last week's elections, which carried Democrats to sweeping victories from northern Virginia to leafy communities outside New York, Philadelphia and Seattle. Just days later, the House leadership is now pressing those same suburban representatives to back a tax reform bill that independent analysts say will raise taxes on many of their constituents, particularly in Democratic-leaning states and around the major metropolitan areas with the highest real estate values."
Puerto Rico’s Second-Class Treatment on Food Aid: "Of all Puerto Rico’s continuing miseries seven weeks after Hurricane Maria’s devastation, the most blatantly unjust is that islanders have been denied the more generous and swifter food relief distributed to storm victims this year in Texas and Florida under the emergency food stamp program."
House Republicans Throw Trillions of Dollars at Millionaires and Corporations, Hope Nobody Will Notice: "Congressional Republicans, knowing how much their new tax bill stinks, seem determined to ram it through Congress before the rest of the country figures out how truly awful it is."
Working People Are Tackling High Drug Costs Through State-Level Reforms: "Despite all of the talk in Washington, D.C., about health care, Congress and Donald Trump have done nothing to deal with the No. 1 health care problem facing working people. Surging health care prices—especially prescription drug prices—are putting ever-increasing pressure on family budgets, workers' health plans and public health programs."
Labor Puts Working People in Charge: "The three union member candidates who addressed the 2017 AFL-CIO Convention won their elections! This came shortly after the adoption of Resolution 10, 'Encouraging Union Members to Run for Public Office,' that pledges to adopt labor candidate programs in every state and local labor body in the country."
Be Thankful for These Companies on Thanksgiving: "Thanksgiving is a time to be spent with family and friends, and NOT a day to boost retail sales. This year, our friends over at Labor 411 wanted to thank the companies that have made the pro-working families decision to stay closed on Thanksgiving Day."
A Not-So-Modest Proposal to Reform NAFTA: "The next NAFTA negotiation round officially begins Nov. 17, and the news isn't all bad. It may sound crazy, but the same administration that put a Goldman Sachs and OneWest operative in charge of the Treasury Department and an anti-public school advocate in charge of the Department of Education recently made a NAFTA proposal that would nearly eliminate the private corporate justice system known as ISDS (investor-to-state dispute settlement)."
2017 Election Update: New Jersey Labor Candidate Victories Rise to 964: "Labor won big this year, and the news just got better. After a tight race for Florence Township Council, our brother from LIUNA Local 172, Frank Baldorossi Jr., prevailed. The final vote tally was 645–624, a difference of only 21 votes. We also congratulate IBEW Local 351 Brother Steve Light, who was elected to serve as a member of the Absecon City Council, and our brother from IBEW Local 3, Michael Soriano, who secured a major victory in his race for Parsippany mayor."
'Wall of Fame–Wall of Shame' Might Be Coming to a Union Hall Near You: "Unique United Steelworkers of America-made 'Wall of Fame–Wall of Shame' banners are hitting the road in the Bluegrass State."
Workforce Intermediaries Advance Equity and Diversity Through Apprenticeship: "As we kick off National Apprenticeship Week, it is more important than ever to shine a light on the ways government agencies, employers and joint labor-management programs can focus their resources on fostering greater equity, diversity and inclusion in the American workforce. Registered apprenticeship programs are a big part of the answer. Workforce intermediary partnerships that promote and operate apprenticeship programs are powerful vehicles for delivering career opportunities."
Republicans Defeat the ‘Stop Outsourcing of American Jobs’ Amendment: "When the House Ways and Means Committee debated the GOP tax bill yesterday, Republicans voted down the 'Stop Outsourcing of American Jobs' amendment offered by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas)."
Yesterday, at more than 100 big-box stores across the United States, working families and activists leafleted with Nabisco workers to urge consumers to boycott Nabisco snacks like Oreo, Ritz Crackers and Chips Ahoy that are made in Mexico! Nabisco and parent corporation Mondelēz International continue to outsource hundreds of good, middle-class jobs and exploit working families across borders and oceans for reportedly around $1 per hour with little to no benefits.
Working people like Anthony Jackson illustrate the human impact of the decisions made by Nabisco and Mondelēz:
“This was going to be my career,” said 41-year-old Anthony Jackson. In 2011 Jackson, a Navy veteran, was hired to operate the machine that blends sugar and oil to make the sticky sweet white Oreo icing that Americans of all ages love.
On Veterans Day this year, Jackson demanded that Nabisco/Mondelez “do the right thing” and restore the hundreds of jobs his fellow workers lost when the company made the decision to outsource production. Jackson said that among the hundreds who lost their jobs, many are veterans like him.
Here are some key tweets from actions around the country yesterday, which used the hashtag #CheckTheLabel:
NATIONWIDE from Texas, North Carolina, Maine, to Oregon and even Hawaii, yesterday’s #solidarity with @Nabisco Workers was amazing! THANK YOU to all who came out to educate! #ChecktheLabel #1u pic.twitter.com/X5VMaXTq8X— Nabisco 600 Workers (@BCTGM_Nabisco) November 17, 2017
In Portland, Ore., solidarity prevailed as L.114 members, led by L.114 Secy.-Tres. Terry Lansing and amazing trade union activists of @OregonAFLCIO spent the day educating the community on how to #CheckTheLabel #1u pic.twitter.com/WjSOvL2oPR— BCTGM International (@BCTGM) November 17, 2017
Proud BCTGM Local 10G members Mark Randall, Andrew Kuennen and Mike Stunes spread the news of the boycott of @nabisco snacks and @MDLZ outsourcing American #jobs in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. #CheckTheLabel pic.twitter.com/DlxPCEnIo7— BCTGM International (@BCTGM) November 17, 2017
In West Palm Beach, Fla., BCTGM L. 103 Bus. Agt. Donald Lewis and VP Hewlyn Outten urge shoppers to boycott @nabisco snacks made in Mexico and support American jobs! #ChecktheLabel @BCTGM_Nabisco pic.twitter.com/xfeHXDfeB7— BCTGM International (@BCTGM) November 17, 2017
Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with a growing wave of nurses organizing in California and includes numerous examples of workers organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life.
Vote at Barton Memorial Continues String of Organizing Success for California Nurses: RNs at Barton Memorial and Lake Tahoe Surgery Center in South Lake Tahoe, California, voted to join the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU). More than 87% of eligible nurses voted to join CNA. The 200 RNs at Barton are part of 3,000 caregivers who have joined CNA this year in 10 union elections.
Flight Attendants at ATI Ratify First Contract: Flight attendants at Air Transport International approved their first contract with 65% of the vote. The flight attendants, who are represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), will see immediate pay raises and defined schedule and work rules.
First Contract Secured for IBEW Members at NAES: For the first time in 26 years, the NAES Co-Generation plant in Linden, New Jersey, has secured a contract with the Electrical Workers (IBEW). After a hard-fought campaign, 90% of the employees voted to ratify the new contract.
Video Game Performers Reach New Deal: SAG-AFTRA members who work in the video game industry approved a new agreement with industry management. The new agreement provides for additional payments for more session work, improves transparency in the industry and provides for better working conditions.
Baltimore Horeshoe Casino Workers Ratify First Union Contract: After three years of organizing and negotiating, workers at the Horeshoe Baltimore casino, working with the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the UAW, UNITE HERE, the Operating Engineers (IUOE) and the Teamsters, negotiated the contract.
Chocolate from Cargill Plant in Pennsylvania Now Union Made: When the employees at the Cargill plant in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, wanted to improve workplace safety and address unfair workplace rules, they reached out to the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) for help. Now, chocolates made by the majority Latino workforce will be union made.
Electrolux Workers in Memphis Notch Another Victory in Organizing the South: After years of contentious organizing and opposition from management, Electrolux workers at the plant in Memphis, Tennessee, have overwhelmingly approved their first contract. The victory comes less than a year after the workers joined the IBEW after a hard-fought organizing campaign.
Oregon Precision Castparts Welders Vote to Join IAM: Nearly 100 workers at Precision Castparts in Portland, Oregon, voted to join the Machinists (IAM). The company makes heavy-duty metal components for airplanes and various industrial products.
Chicago Graduate Workers Win Union Vote: In a vote that could boost organizing campaigns across the country, University of Chicago graduate employees have voted for a union by more than a 2-1 majority.
UAW Members at Bath Marine Avoid Strike and Reach Agreement: The Bath Marine Draftsmen Association ratified a collective bargaining agreement, with 78% of the vote, averting a strike. The four-and-a-half-year contract contains a strong economic package while preserving and strengthening the workplace flexibility language that was at issue.
Crew of Feature Film "Mustang" Strike for Better Working Conditions: A successful strike means that the film "Mustang," being shot in Carson City, Nevada, will be a union production, with IATSE members leading the way.
House Republicans Throw Trillions of Dollars at Millionaires and Corporations, Hope Nobody Will Notice
Congressional Republicans, knowing how much their new tax bill stinks, seem determined to ram it through Congress before the rest of the country figures out how truly awful it is.
How shockingly awful is the "Trickle Down Tax Giveaway Act of 2017" (H.R. 1)? You may want to ask your children to leave the room because the following information could be upsetting.
- 47% of the tax breaks would ultimately go to the richest 1% of taxpayers, who would receive an average annual tax cut of $62,300;
- $1.5 trillion of the tax giveaways in this bill would not be paid for, and it just so happens that the Republican budget would cut $1.5 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid;
- At the same time, 24% of households would pay higher taxes under this bill—on average $2,000 more;
- The Republican bill would give huge tax breaks to companies that outsource jobs, eliminating U.S. taxes on profits earned from sending jobs overseas; and
- The bill would pay for a portion of these tax giveaways by ending the tax deduction for student loan interest; punishing states that make the kind of investments that create good jobs; making it harder to raise financing for infrastructure projects; increasing the health care tax burden for people with high medical bills; ending the tax deduction for union dues; and ending the tax deduction for educators who buy essential supplies for their students.
In short, working people would pay the price for trillions of dollars in tax giveaways to people who do not need them.
Every Democrat in the House of Representatives voted against this monstrosity of a tax bill, while 13 Republicans had the common decency to vote against it.
So what is next? The Senate will vote on its version of the "Trickle Down Tax Giveaway Act of 2017" shortly after Thanksgiving, and Republicans say they plan to pass this bill into law before Christmas.
Take action now by letting your member of Congress know that you oppose making working people pay for tax giveaways to millionaires and big corporations that outsource jobs.
Make a call now to your senator and oppose the GOP #TaxReform plan at 844-899-9913.
Workers at DIRECTV and Visionworks have voted for CWA representation.
The latest bargaining information for Silver Airlines and Air Transport International.
CWA President Chris Shelton's statement on the Republican tax plan passed today by the House of Representatives.
The Federal Communications Commission's Republican majority took three giant steps backwards and adopted policies that will lead to the loss of good jobs, widen the digital divide, and reduce the quality of local news across the nation.
A district court judge issued a permanent injunction to provide NM state employees two hours of paid time off to vote in municipal elections.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and others discuss how to get involved during the NAFTA renegotiation process.
CWA is calling for approval of AT&T's proposed acquisition of Time-Warner.
The latest on CWA's fight for local news coverage and the continued downgrading of rural America's networks.
The president of CWA Local 1400 authored this letter to the editor published in the New Hampshire Union Leader.
The CWA Joe Beirne Foundation will award 16 partial college scholarships of $4,000 each for two years for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Never let a good crisis go to waste. Iowa’s Republican legislative majorities assumed that an aggressive anti-union law would persuade public employees to abandon their unions. Instead they created a backlash, sparking unions to reconnect with members and their communities.
So far 29,552 people have voted to stay union, and just 651 have voted against.
Despite all of the talk in Washington, D.C., about health care, Congress and Donald Trump have done nothing to deal with the No. 1 health care problem facing working people. Surging health care prices—especially prescription drug prices—are putting ever-increasing pressure on family budgets, workers' health plans and public health programs.
Consider this: the average annual cost of a brand-name drug grew to $5,807 in 2015, more than three times what it was in 2006 ($1,788), according to AARP’s most recent analysis of widely used brand-name prescription drugs. There also have been instances of immense overnight increases in the price of some generic drugs. For example, drug manufacturer Rodelis raised the price of Seromycin, its off-patent tuberculosis drug, from $500 to $10,800 for a 30-day supply.
While federal policy makers ignore the problem with drug prices, working people are calling on their elected state representatives to take action. In two states—Nevada and California—working people have won important breakthroughs this year, establishing new rules requiring prescription drug corporations to be more transparent about their prices and the reasons for them, especially when drug prices go up by large amounts.
In Nevada, a coalition of unions spearheaded by the Culinary Workers Union and including the Nevada State AFL-CIO led the fight to win enactment of diabetes medication price transparency rules. Under this first-in-the-nation law, corporations that manufacture essential diabetes drugs must explain any price increases that are larger than the price increases for medical care overall. Between 2002–2013, the price of insulin jumped by nearly 200%. With 12.4% of adult Nevadans having diabetes, and 38.5% with pre-diabetes, such a large price increase hurt working people and their health plans and raised serious concerns about whether these increases were justified. The new law also requires prescription drug manufacturers to provide the state with a list of all of their sales representatives operating in Nevada, and those sales representatives must submit annual reports disclosing their activities. Further, a nonprofit group in Nevada that advocates for patients or funds medical research has to disclose any payments, donations or anything else of value it receives from a prescription drug manufacturer or certain other drug-related corporations or lobbying groups. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Yvanna D. Cancela, who represents Nevada’s District 10 and is a member of Culinary Workers Union Local 226.
In California, a two-year fight led by the California Labor Federation resulted in enactment of a law that requires prescription drug manufacturers to provide health plans, public purchasers such as the state’s large public employee health plan (CalPERS) and pharmacy benefit managers 60-day advance notice of price increases greater than 16% over a two-year period. The manufacturers also are required to explain to state regulators the factors behind the price increase. Pharmacy benefit managers are required to notify workers' health plans of these large price increases so steps can be taken to deal with these increases, including negotiating better deals when possible. Drug manufacturers also are required to notify the state when they start selling new expensive drugs (costing $670 or more per month). The legislation was authored by Sen. Ed Hernandez, who represents California’s 22nd Senate District and is a doctor of optometry.
The United States is the only major economy without any government oversight or regulation of prescription drug prices. Federal law gives drug corporations unchecked monopoly rights for brand-name drugs over long periods, and there is little, if any, competition in the sale of some generic drugs. Companies are not even required to explain or justify their pricing decisions. While patients and their private health plans are "free" to negotiate with drug companies, in reality they face a take-it-or-leave-it proposition: pay the company’s price or go without a needed drug.
With the new Nevada and California state drug price transparency laws, working people are sending a powerful signal that they want and need real action on health care prices. Requiring prescription drug corporations to justify big price increases is an important reform that could cause drug manufacturers to reconsider excessive price hikes, give workers' health plans better tools to negotiate fairer prices, and lead to improved prescription drug policies from federal and state lawmakers. Hopefully, Congress and President Trump are paying attention and will start making even bigger changes to bring down prices, like authorizing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices for seniors and people with disabilities, and stopping corporate abuses of federal patent laws.
The three union member candidates who addressed the 2017 AFL-CIO Convention won their elections! This came shortly after the adoption of Resolution 10, "Encouraging Union Members to Run for Public Office," that pledges to adopt labor candidate programs in every state and local labor body in the country.
Teresa Mosqueda (OPEIU) will join the soon-to-be majority-woman Seattle City Council; Braxton Winston (IATSE) will be the first union member to serve on the Charlotte, North Carolina, City Council; and Keith Kazmark (AFT) was re-elected as mayor of Woodland Park, New Jersey. Their communities will benefit from the kind of legislation that improves the lives of working people.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has been a strong advocate for electing our members to public office:
The only way we can change the economic rules is by committing ourselves to independence in politics. The rules are written by the people we elect, and for nearly four decades, they have been written to ensure working people are the losers. Electing people like Teresa, Braxton and Keith ensures that we have a seat at the table. We will continue to work to elect candidates who share our vision to build strong unions, raise wages, and support quality public education, health care for all, modern infrastructure, American-made energy, voting rights, civil rights and worker rights.
You can watch and share their speeches from the Convention on Facebook.
President Charlie Wowkanech of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO has helped 900 union members win election since he began the program two decades ago:
We started this work 20 years ago because we knew that no one represents working families and their unions better than working people themselves. Who better to fight for high-quality public education than teachers and paraprofessionals who dedicate their lives to teaching our children? Who better to fight for quality, affordable health care than our nurses and health care professionals who dedicate their lives to healing others? And, who better to fight for important public services than the people who every day put on a uniform to serve their communities? If you really want to see government that serves working people, put working people in charge.
President MaryBe McMillan of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO was rightfully proud of the caliber of the union member recruited to run for Charlotte City Council:
We are excited and proud to have one of our own on the Charlotte City Council. As both a community activist and a union activist, Braxton built connections across the Charlotte community. Braxton is smart, energetic and committed to justice for all working people. With his vision and leadership, I’m confident that he will make Charlotte a better place to live and work.
And President Jeff Johnson of the Washington State Labor Council highlighted another important aspect of this work in building our movement:
To say we won a seat on the city council just scratches the surface of what Teresa’s victory means for us. Yes, we have a champion for working people at the table, and I couldn’t be more proud of her, but we also have a movement of workers who are more energized, more engaged and more active because they fought to elect one of their own. Today, the long arm of worker power stretches from the shop floor to City Hall.
AFSCME President Lee Saunders, chair of the Executive Council Political Committee, put these victories in a broader context:
It’s not just about electing people, but about the achievements working people make when working people lead. When working people have political power, great things happen in America: the middle class grows, wages rise, social justice is served, communities thrive. After passing Resolution 10, "Encouraging Union Members to Run for Public Office," and Resolution 2, "An Independent Political Voice," it is thrilling to see these three union members win their elections to advance the freedom of working people.
This message was re-emphasized by AFT President Randi Weingarten, who saw a number of AFT members win elections last week:
AFT member Keith Kazmark was one of countless union members, including AFT members in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, elected or re-elected on an Election Day on which Americans delivered two messages. They won’t support fear-mongering and race-baiting, and they will elect candidates who truly care for and fight for people and for the values that are important to working folks—public education, affordable health care and good jobs. Union members connected with voters on these values because these are the values we fight for every day on the job and through our unions. Congratulations to Keith and all of the union members who won on Election Day. We need more union members like Keith in our mayor’s offices and our statehouses and on our school boards.
If you had the chance to hear them speak at convention, then undoubtedly Keith, Braxton and Teresa made an impression on you. Each of them give great hope for the future of our movement.
Nearly 200 union members or union household members won election last Tuesday—see the still-growing list. A bigger picture of the Election Day victories is featured on our blog, Labor-Backed Candidates Win Big in Tuesday’s Elections. If you have a story to share, please contact us to get it included.
Thank you for everything you do to support working people having an An Independent Political Voice.
Thanksgiving is a time to be spent with family and friends, and NOT a day to boost retail sales. This year, our friends over at Labor 411 wanted to thank the companies that have made the pro-working families decision to stay closed on Thanksgiving Day.
Here are the companies that are doing the right thing this holiday season:
- A.C. Moore
- Abt Electronics
- Academy Sports + Outdoors
- Ace Hardware
- At Home
- BJ’s Wholesale Club
- Blain’s Farm and Fleet
- Cost Plus World Market
- Craft Warehouse
- Crate and Barrel
- DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse
- Ethan Allen
- Gardner-White Furniture
- Guitar Center
- Half Price Books
- Harbor Freight
- Home Depot
- JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores
- Jos. A. Bank
- Mattress Firm
- Micro Center
- Mills Fleet Farm
- Music & Arts
- Neiman Marcus
- Nordstrom Rack
- Office Depot and OfficeMax
- Outdoor Research
- P.C. Richard & Son
- Party City
- Pier 1 Imports
- Raymour & Flanigan Furniture
- Sam’s Club
- Sears Hometown Stores
- Shoe Carnival
- Sierra Trading Post
- Sportsman’s Warehouse
- Stein Mart
- Sur La Table
- The Container Store
- The Original Mattress Factory
- TJ Maxx
- Tractor Supply
- Von Maur
- West Marine
When our hospital bargaining team learned that our co-worker Maria Mendoza Sanchez and her family were to be deported in less than a week, we were shocked. Though we knew it might be too late to act, we decided we had to do something.
The next NAFTA negotiation round officially begins Nov. 17, and the news isn't all bad. It may sound crazy, but the same administration that put a Goldman Sachs and OneWest operative in charge of the Treasury Department and an anti-public school advocate in charge of the Department of Education recently made a NAFTA proposal that would nearly eliminate the private corporate justice system known as ISDS (investor-to-state dispute settlement).
This proposal alone is not enough to fix NAFTA's many shortcomings, but it is a step in the right direction. As trade activists know, ISDS is nothing more than a crony capitalist giveaway that reduces our power as citizens to impact our government. It gives foreign companies the right to use private tribunals to attack local, state and national decisions they deem not "fair and equitable." This private justice system has been used to attack worker training programs, local building permit decisions and even criminal indictments of corporate CEOs.
For the United States, NAFTA’s ISDS means our democratic choices are threatened and foreign companies have as much sovereignty as the U.S. government. It acts like a free insurance policy that rewards outsourcing. It provides an edge for foreign companies over small, local businesses. For our trading partners, the corporate power of ISDS is even more insidious, because their governments are not as powerful as our own. In other words, it is a win-win for global companies (no matter what country they like to call "home") and a lose-lose for workers that makes it even harder to join together to negotiate for better wages—no matter where we live or work.
The U.S. proposal, designed by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, would allow each NAFTA party to opt out of being sued by foreign investors. More importantly, for those who opt in, it would eliminate claims based on the vague and easily abused "fair and equitable treatment" standard. It reportedly even would close a loophole that would allow U.S. companies to "pretend" to be foreign companies so they can seek U.S. taxpayer funds in these private kangaroo courts.
As you might imagine, corporate CEOs and their powerful lobbies are freaking out about this proposal. They are panicked that they might lose this special privilege and have to play on a more level playing field.
We don’t know whether this proposal will make it into any final renegotiated NAFTA, and even if it does, there are lots of other things that need to be improved, including labor protections, currency rules and the right to label meat by country of origin. But this is one bright proposal in times of extreme challenge for North American working families.
To get involved this week, the most important thing you can right now do is ask your member of Congress to speak up for higher wages and labor standards in NAFTA. We need to keep pushing for trade rules that work for all working people.
*Note: Given the secrecy of the NAFTA proposals, we know a lot about the details about the ISDS proposal because they have been extensively reported in the media.
Labor won big this year, and the news just got better. After a tight race for Florence Township Council, our brother from LIUNA Local 172, Frank Baldorossi Jr., prevailed. The final vote tally was 645–624, a difference of only 21 votes. We also congratulate IBEW Local 351 Brother Steve Light, who was elected to serve as a member of the Absecon City Council, and our brother from IBEW Local 3, Michael Soriano, who secured a major victory in his race for Parsippany mayor.
We are also looking forward to adding another victory for IUOE Local 68 Sister Dahlia Vertreese, who secured enough votes to trigger a runoff election on Dec. 5, 2017 to determine who will be mayor of Hillside. With the continued unified support of our central labor councils and building trades councils, this is exactly what we will do.
These results bring the all-time total number of labor candidate victories to 964. There is no question that the support and solidarity of union members across the state made the difference in these races. Through the Labor 2017 program in New Jersey, we knocked on 450,000 doors, made 300,000 phone calls and distributed 425,000 pieces of local union mail.
There is no other movement that is able to mobilize like organized labor, and we are already shifting our momentum to achieving bold policies that will uplift workers and build a long-term sustainable economy that works for all. After eight years of the destructive Chris Christie agenda, we are ready to get to work. With labor elected officials serving at all levels of New Jersey government, we are positioned to shape the future of our state to reflect our union voice and middle-class values.
Once again, none of this would have been possible if not for the tireless work of thousands of union volunteers, national, state and local affiliates, central labor councils and building trades councils representing every sector of our proud movement. This is what unionism is all about: building a collective voice in the workplace and in the community to speak out for justice for all.
This post originally appeared at New Jersey State AFL-CIO.
An electrical workers local in San Francisco found itself in a mortifying situation: one of its members was outed as an active white supremacist. Wireman John Ramondetta had traveled to Charlottesville this August to march alongside Nazis and the KKK.
“For the membership as a whole there is disappointment, embarrassment, and disgust,” said Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 6 Business Manager John Doherty. “The overriding theme is 'We're being tied to this guy!' He doesn't reflect our values.”
Bosses are in love with zero tolerance policies. One arbitrator calls them “the last refuge of weak managers.”
Zero tolerance policies authorize employers to discharge workers who commit specified infractions without consideration of the surrounding circumstances, length of service, or the employee’s lack of prior discipline.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, as Puerto Rico faces government neglect, unions’ relief efforts have been critical.
Teachers and students across the island have cleared debris off the roads and delivered medical supplies. On the outskirts of San Juan, communications and transport workers cooked and distributed hot meals. Union volunteers on Isla Verde drove door to door with water and supplies. And these are just a handful of stories among hundreds.
California Just Passed Landmark Law to Stop Bosses From Discriminating Against People with Convictions
Ants among Elephants is an absorbing and moving history of modern India from the perspective of a family of Christian “untouchables.”
Author Sujatha Gidla, now a New York City subway conductor and member of Transport Workers Local 100, traces three generations of her family to describe life at the bottom rungs of caste society, the changes that came about—or didn’t—following Indian independence from Great Britain, and the country’s development in the second half of the 20th century.
After Harvey, Irma, and Maria, many thousands of homes have been lost and lives wrecked. People in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico need decent paying jobs while they try to put their lives back together, and the one industry that will be booming is construction.
The question is whether these will be good jobs for local residents. They can be good jobs only if prevailing wage laws are upheld—and local hire agreements are put in place.
As renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) chugs along rapidly behind closed doors, President Donald Trump will soon be forced to decide whether to keep or abandon his campaign pledge to make the pact “much better” for working people.
NAFTA’s renegotiation should be an opportunity to end its quarter-century legacy of job loss and wage suppression. Longtime fair trade advocates warn, however, that without increased public pressure, Trump could end up making NAFTA even worse for working people.
The whole public sector will likely become “right to work” next year, barring another miracle at the Supreme Court.
Once the conservative majority rules in Janus v. AFSCME, likely before June, life will change for unions in the 23 states that till now have rejected right-to-work laws. Public sector unions in those states will no longer be able to collect “agency fees” from workers whom they represent but who choose not to join their locals.
The most important actions by union members this fall are happening on, of all places, the football field.
If other unions are smart, they'll take advantage of this moment. They'll use the fact that every single member knows about NFL players' protests for racial justice, and start conversations in their own locals.
Some might be tempted to shy away from this discussion, worrying it’ll divide us even further along racial or political lines, or that they’ll lose their seat in the next election.