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NewsFeed - Labor
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Bargaining updates for Envoy Air, Frontier Communications, AT&T Midwest, AT&T Legacy T and AT&T Southeast.
Editorial staff of Quartz, a news outlet that covers technology, geopolitics, work, and culture, announced this week that an overwhelming majority of eligible staff have signed on to join the NewsGuild of New York/CWA Local 31003.
On Saturday, outsourced workers from across Ohio gathered in Akron to testify at a field hearing about corporate job outsourcing and union busting co-sponsored by Cleveland Jobs With Justice and the Ohio Poor People’s Campaign with support from CWA and other unions and community groups.
CWAers across the country are making progress on passing legislation to protect call center jobs from offshoring!
This week, CWAers, along with other unions and allies, successfully beat back an attempt by state legislators to split the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and diminish its authority.
CWAers, along with several other public interest groups, delivered a petition to the FCC on Tuesday with more than 60,000 signatures opposing the potential T-Mobile/Sprint merger, saying that the merger would lead to lost jobs, higher prices for consumers, and less competition.
This month, five CWA Next Generation Lead Activists led a Reversing Runaway Inequality training at the CWA national headquarters.
The NewsGuild-CWA and Teamsters represent thousands of employees at Gannett and DFM.
A flagging union has found new hope in a flurry of organizing victories. Now in the union’s presidential election, members are mulling what’s the best way to keep growing—stick with the incumbent, or replace him with a young leader from last year’s biggest organizing drive?
Jon Schleuss, 31-year-old challenger to head the 20,000-member NewsGuild, led the 2018 drive at the Los Angeles Times. The landslide there was a breakthrough for the union, kicking off a banner year of growth.
In the latest episode of "State of the Unions," podcast co-hosts Julie and Tim talk to Kristen Johnson, a deli manager and shop steward at the Stop & Shop in Somerville, Massachusetts. Kristen and more than 30,000 of her co-workers, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), are out on strike for fair pay, benefits and respect on the job.
"State of the Unions" is a tool to help us bring you the issues and stories that matter to working people. It captures the stories of workers across the country and is co-hosted by two young and diverse members of the AFL-CIO team: Mobilization Director Julie Greene and Executive Speechwriter Tim Schlittner. A new episode drops every other Wednesday featuring interesting interviews with workers and our allies across the country, as well as compelling insights from the podcast’s hosts.
Listen to our previous episodes:
- Talking about the #StampOutHunger food drive with Brian Renfroe, National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) executive vice president, and Christina Vela Davidson, NALC assistant to the president for community services.
- House Blue Collar Caucus co-chairs Brendan Boyle and Marc Veasey talk about how any plan to rebuild our economy must include working people.
- A conversation with Kim Kelly, a labor columnist for Teen Vogue.
- A special Black History Month discussion with IUPAT General President Kenneth Rigmaiden.
- Kooper Caraway, the 28-year old president of the Sioux Falls AFL-CIO, on how the labor movement can reach young people.
- Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy with former Mayor Andrew Gillum of Tallahassee, Florida.
- Special #StopTheShutdown episode with AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr.
The gloves are off in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Employees showing up to work this morning at the country's sole Volkswagen plant were read a letter from the company's top management expressing their opposition to unionization.
Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s the latest edition of the Working People Weekly List.
Support Stop & Shop Workers: "Some 31,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) are on strike at Stop & Shop supermarkets across New England, walking off the job to fight back against slashed health care benefits. Stand with our brothers and sisters today and sign UFCW’s petition demanding that executives agree to a fair contract that reflects the true value of their workers."
Protecting the Most Vulnerable: In the States Roundup: "It's time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states."
Meet the First Woman President of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO: "Elected the first woman president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, Stephanie Bloomingdale has more than two decades of experience in labor as an organizer, negotiator, trainer and activist. She served as secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO for eight years before her election as president in September 2018. Previously, she was director of public policy for the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, working on behalf of nurses and health care workers throughout the state. Bloomingdale has a statewide reputation as a tenacious fighter and tough negotiator, skills she says she had to develop to survive 20 years of arbitrations, grievance hearings and battles in the legislature."
Rutgers Faculty Picket Board of Governors Meeting at University’s Newark Campus: "'An injury to one is an injury to all!' 'Rutgers is for education! We are not a corporation!' The chants of frustrated faculty members disrupted an otherwise quiet campus in Newark on Tuesday, as hundreds gathered outside of the Rutgers University Paul Robeson Center to picket the board of governors meeting."
Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: American Postal Workers Union: "Next up in our series that will take a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the American Postal Workers Union (APWU)."
Collective Voices Lead to Victory: Worker Wins: "Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with grocery store workers using their collective voices and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life."
Economy Gains 196,000 Jobs in March; Unemployment Unchanged at 3.8%: "The U.S. economy gained 196,000 jobs in March, and the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.8%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Continued lower levels of job growth provide good reason for the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee to express caution in considering any interest rate hikes."
Education Minnesota Is Gaining Strength One Conversation at a Time: "Just over 18 months ago, the leaders of Education Minnesota (an affiliate of both the AFT and the National Education Association) decided that something had to change. With the Janus v. AFSCME decision looming, and the 2018 midterm elections set to follow, the 90,000-member union knew that membership engagement had to be its top priority."
‘Anthem’ Voice Actor on Unionization, Struggles of Creation: "The refutation came as there is a growing push for more workers rights and unionization from many members of the gaming community, including the grassroots organization Gamer Workers Unite. Even the AFL-CIO, America’s largest labor organization, recently asked games industry employees to fight for adequate pay and sensible work hours. 'This is a moment for change,' said AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Liz Shuler. 'It won’t come from CEOs. It won’t come from corporate boards. And, it won’t come from any one person. Change will happen when you gain leverage by joining together in a strong union. And, it will happen when you use your collective voice to bargain for a fair share of the wealth you create every day.'"
Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM).
Name of Union: Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM)
Mission: The primary goal of the BCTGM has not changed in more than 130 years—to bring economic justice in the workplace to all workers in our jurisdiction and social justice to workers throughout the United States and Canada.
Current Leadership of Union: David B. Durkee has served as BCTGM international president since September 2012. Prior to his election as international president, Durkee served as international secretary-treasurer, international executive vice president, international director of organization and international representative.
Durkee began his life as a BCTGM activist in 1973 when he joined Local 280 (Evansville, Indiana) as a baker at Lewis Brothers Bakery. He was re-elected as international president by delegates to the BCTGM international constitutional conventions in 2014 and 2018.
Members Work As: Manufacturing, production workers, maintenance and sanitation workers.
Industries Represented: BCTGM represents working men and women at some of the most widely recognized companies in the baking, candy, snack food, dairy, tobacco and grain milling industries in North America.
History: The Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union of America, one of the pioneers of the North American labor movement, was organized in 1886. In 1957, the American Bakery and Confectionery Workers' International Union was formed. In 1969, the two organizations united.
The Tobacco Workers International Union was founded in 1895 and was also in the forefront of the labor movement. As it and the Bakery and Confectionery Workers' International Union of America shared many common goals, both organizations came to realize those goals best could be achieved through a merger. That merger, creating the BC&T, took place in 1978.
The American Federation of Grain Millers (AFGM) had roots stemming back to the late 1800s. In 1936, the National Council of Grain Processors was formed when federal grain milling unions agreed to unite as a national union under the American Federation of Labor (AFL). In 1941, the council was renamed the American Federation of Grain Processors and in 1948 was granted an international charter as the AFGM.
Shared goals and industries caused the Jan. 1, 1999, merger between the BC&T and AFGM, resulting in the BCTGM.
Current Campaigns: BCTGM's Check the Label campaign urges consumers to boycott Nabisco-Mondelēz products made in Mexico. BCTGM also is leading the fight to find a legislative solution to America’s growing pension crisis.
Some 31,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) are on strike at Stop & Shop supermarkets across New England, walking off the job to fight back against slashed health care benefits. Stand with our brothers and sisters today and sign UFCW’s petition demanding that executives agree to a fair contract that reflects the true value of their workers.
Thanks to the tireless labor of tens of thousands of working people, Stop & Shop is thriving. Its parent company, Ahold Delhaize, recorded profits of more than $2 billion last year. Over the past three years, its shareholders have pocketed $4 billion in stock buybacks.
Yet, Stop & Shop executives want even more—and they’re targeting the same workers who built that immense wealth. Going nearly two months without a contract, UFCW members have faced threats to their wages, health care, retirement and overall livelihoods.
Walking out of more than 240 stores throughout New England, working people are standing up for their most fundamental rights and dignities in the country’s largest private-sector work stoppage in years.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sent a message to the Stop & Shop workers:
For the third time in five years, auto workers will vote on whether to form a union at the country’s sole Volkswagen plant, located in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
On Tuesday, the United Auto Workers (UAW) filed for an election to represent all 1,709 of the plant’s hourly employees, requesting that the election be held on April 29 and 30.
The union’s first attempt in 2014 failed after a slim majority of workers voted no, following a barrage of threats by politicians and business-backed anti-union groups.
It's time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states. Click on any of the links to follow the state federations on Twitter.
Proposal to lower minimum wage for young workers dead https://t.co/aGJRsWeL9N— Arizona AFL-CIO (@ArizonaAFLCIO) April 8, 2019
The official vote for HB1955.— Arkansas AFL-CIO (@ArkansasAFLCIO) April 5, 2019
Thank the 52 members who voted to keep in place the very limited protections for injured workers & surviving families. #arpx #arleg
California Labor Federation:
"Side hustles are not simply a new version of working as a “wage slave” so that we can do what we love...Instead, far more often, people take on 2nd or 3rd side hustles because of wage stagnation or low pay at their full-time jobs." #AB5 #DisruptInequality https://t.co/MnX5AqDUUa— California Labor Federation (@CaliforniaLabor) April 8, 2019
There’s only one way for these workers to push back against the way they’re exploited while franchises like Call of Duty churn out money for those at the very top: unionization. https://t.co/sX5DrSm9z2— Connecticut AFL-CIO (@ConnAFLCIO) April 9, 2019
Idaho State AFL-CIO:
Indiana State AFL-CIO:
Iowa Federation of Labor:
Submit 2019 Hall of Fame Nominations https://t.co/VTyaL6CbDC— Iowa AFL-CIO (@IowaAFLCIO) April 9, 2019
Kansas State AFL-CIO:
Working people everywhere thanks you Governor Kelly for the veto of— Kansas AFL-CIO (@KansasAFLCIO) March 25, 2019
SB 22. pic.twitter.com/ZEDqMXlbc6
Kentucky State AFL-CIO:
From Insider Louisville: “City worker unions reject mayor’s request for pay freeze”— Kentucky AFL-CIO (@aflcioky) April 8, 2019
“Ron Richmond of AFSCME Council 962 — representing city workers at the Louisville Free... https://t.co/CRhvRAFA1i
Sherry Nadeau delivering powerful testimony about how unfairly the workers comp system has treated her husband, who was disabled 13 years ago after his employer accidentally ran him over #mepolitics— Maine AFL-CIO (@MEAFLCIO) April 8, 2019
Metro Washington (D.C.) Council AFL-CIO:
Teachers circulate petition to fully fund DC schools https://t.co/de6xcOreP3— MetroDCLaborCouncil (@DCLabor) April 5, 2019
This is an important victory for working people who were denied the opportunity to seek justice after being wrongfully accused of committing fraud by the Snyder Administration— Michigan AFL-CIO (@MIAFLCIO) April 5, 2019
Nevada State AFL-CIO:
New Hampshire AFL-CIO:
Thanks to the Portsmouth Herald & Foster's Daily Democrat for running Pres. Glenn Brackett's op-ed: ""Now is the time to remember those who kept our towns safe, educated our children, and managed our roads and parks." https://t.co/5vToZ0Zjq6— NewHampshire AFL-CIO (@NHAFLCIO) March 27, 2019
New Mexico Federation of Labor:
New York State AFL-CIO:
North Carolina State AFL-CIO:
North Dakota AFL-CIO:
Here in North Dakota, women are paid on average $0.79 for every $1 paid to male counterparts. All women deserve to be paid equally & recognized for their contribution to the economy and our communities.— North Dakota AFL-CIO (@NDAFLCIO) April 2, 2019
https://t.co/Oqrju3Ff7s #EqualPayDay pic.twitter.com/CmnAtkCLDK
Usually we turn on the news and are divided. We need to hear and see more stories like this showing the goodness of people and celebrating our differences! pic.twitter.com/0ZLQCbwI9T— Ohio AFL-CIO (@ohioaflcio) April 7, 2019
Oklahoma State AFL-CIO:
Did you know that the average 1st year apprentice in OK makes $16.52 an hour?— Oklahoma AFL-CIO (@OK_AFL_CIO) April 8, 2019
Check out the 2019 OK Apprenticeship Book and Report which goes into detail on all the union construction apprenticeship programs in OK and how to apply.
Check it out here - https://t.co/0cRhuarw8r
ICYMI: PA Workers were winning all over the Commonwealth! https://t.co/akNQZI4tF2— PA AFL-CIO (@PaAFL_CIO) April 5, 2019
Rhode Island AFL-CIO:
South Carolina AFL-CIO:
Please keep our Brothers family and friends in your thoughts and prayers. https://t.co/xXbSSAEGeH— SC AFL-CIO (@SCAFLCIO) April 7, 2019
Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council:
This practice is disturbingly common in many states, including Tennessee.— Tennessee AFL-CIO (@tnaflcio) April 9, 2019
"In all, these copycat bills amount to the nation’s largest, unreported special-interest campaign, driving agendas in every statehouse and touching nearly every area of... https://t.co/QxtZryu4op
Texas AFL-CIO Launches Union Candidate Training https://t.co/RaXkXsXwxZ— Texas AFL-CIO (@TexasAFLCIO) April 8, 2019
The Gender Wage Gap Is Robbing Women Of Billions | WUNC https://t.co/YNf6T8iRUg— Virginia AFL-CIO (@Virginia_AFLCIO) April 4, 2019
Washington State Labor Council:
West Virginia AFL-CIO:
Working WVians, who struggle to have their voices heard above special interests, cannot compete w/political donations of wealthy residents & out-of-state corporations. WV needs more transparency of political spending, not more money flooding into our state’s elections! pic.twitter.com/G2oxgX2A28— West Virginia AFLCIO (@WestVirginiaAFL) March 21, 2019
Wisconsin State AFL-CIO:
Get the WI AFL-CIO Union Families Budget Breakdown:https://t.co/Jq5YuB86UT— WI AFL-CIO (@wisaflcio) April 6, 2019
The latest bargaining information for the University of California and Cornerstone Staffing Solutions, Inc. (RightStone).
Hundreds of Texas state workers, members of the Texas State Employees Union-CWA Local 6186, gathered in Austin on Wednesday for a huge lobby day to take a stand for economic and social justice for state workers.
Elected the first woman president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, Stephanie Bloomingdale has more than two decades of experience in labor as an organizer, negotiator, trainer and activist. She served as secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO for eight years before her election as president in September 2018. Previously, she was director of public policy for the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, working on behalf of nurses and health care workers throughout the state. Bloomingdale has a statewide reputation as a tenacious fighter and tough negotiator, skills she says she had to develop to survive 20 years of arbitrations, grievance hearings and battles in the legislature.
What is the state AFL-CIO? What is its role?
The Wisconsin AFL-CIO is a federation of many different labor unions from many different sectors, public and private, service workers, manufacturing, building trades, retail, health care, transportation...people doing all types of work come together in the AFL-CIO to maximize our collective power.
You have the honor of being the first woman elected president of the state AFL-CIO, so can you talk to us about that?
My hope is that we’ll soon reach a time when this is no longer notable, a time when it’s simply accepted that the president, man or woman, was elected based on the qualities and skills that he or she brings to the job. I do believe that my election is a step in that direction.
As I travel around the state, so many of the women union members I meet are very excited, not only for me but also for themselves and their daughters. They see that they also can raise their hands and say, “why not me?” as they move into leadership roles. That’s why I think this is significant for all of us in the state of Wisconsin. Some people have said, “Well, Stephanie, isn’t this a good ol’ boys club?” and I can honestly say that has not been my experience. The men and women I work with value effective leadership and dedication. I think what’s important to them is that they can trust my commitment to building our collective power through the union movement.
We understand that your family is also involved in the labor movement in Wisconsin. Can you talk about that, as well as what inspires you personally to do this work?
The reason I do this work is because I do believe that unions are the only way that working people can truly get ahead. Now, if you’re fortunate enough to be born to billionaire parents with connections that will never allow you to fail and will always provide you with a golden parachute, that’s great. But for everyone else that has to get up every day and go to work for someone else, there has to be a way to protect and expand the opportunity to do better. The best way to do that is to have strong unions.
As for my family, my husband, Doug Savage, is an AFT [American Federation of Teachers] member and he has been very supportive of my work in the union movement since day one.
Lots of women carry full loads. Our work, our families, taking care of the kids, being involved in the community, involved in the PTOs, and for me, I believe that I’ve been fortunate in that my kids really have grown up in the labor movement. They’ve been helping out with the union since they were very little. I think that not only helped them to solidify their beliefs and attitudes and opened up new opportunities for them, but it also helped me to be able to do my job, because it was a family affair. I’ll never have to tell my children to vote; they’ve been coming with me whenever I’ve gone to vote, and they’ve learned that it’s their responsibility in this country to be a part of the solution. If they see something that’s wrong, it’s up to them to make it right. That is something we believe very strongly in our family.
When the kids were very little, I would bring them to the union office (the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals), I would give them little jobs to do, like paying them five cents a table for each one they cleaned, and after a while, my oldest son, Nicholas, said, “This is not enough money. This five cents a table is not enough.” So he called my Aunt Audrey, and he had her help him negotiate a better rate. It cost me more than double to get the tables washed after that, but Nicholas learned how to get what he needed and he didn’t even have to go on strike!
Not only did they do that, but they grew up going door-to-door with me, candidate after candidate, learning about the issues and the tools we use to make politics work for working people. In the November 2018 election, my younger son Spencer and I were going door-to-door for Tony Evers and Mandela Barnes. Once we got out there, I realized that he knows how to do all this on his own. He wanted to knock on the doors and talk to the voters himself about why Evers and Barnes were the best candidates for working people. I was very proud of him.
Can you tell us about Scott Walker’s attempts to bust the power of labor unions in the state of Wisconsin through Act 10 and “Right to Work,” and how labor has responded?
Scott Walker made it his mission to try to destroy the middle class each and every way he could while he was in office. He started with Act 10, which sought to destroy the collective bargaining rights of teachers and public-sector workers. His plan was to divide and conquer; we know that for a fact because he was caught on tape talking to Diane Hendricks [the conservative billionaire owner of ABC Supply who contributed $500,000 to Walker’s 2012 campaign to defeat a recall effort] when she asked him what he was going to do about the unions, and he said he would start with the public-sector unions and then use divide and conquer and go after the private-sector unions.
One thing he didn’t count on was our solidarity as union men and women. I think we demonstrated very clearly that “an injury to one is an injury to all” is more than just a labor movement platitude. Public- and private-sector unions stuck together throughout these attacks, beginning with Act 10 and on through Right to Work, attacks on prevailing wage and all the other anti-worker policies. Speaking of that, “Right to Work” is really a misnomer. It may sound good to some, but it’s just another attack on labor unions that amounts to the right to work for less. We like to say it’s a so-called right to work, because what it actually is meant to do is weaken unions.
Truly, attacks on working people happened throughout Walker’s entire tenure as governor. By any standard, Wisconsin workers have suffered some of the nation’s most serious attacks on our ability to have a voice in our workplace through a strong union. Scott Walker prided himself on being the union-buster-in-chief. So, was it difficult? Yes. Did we suffer a lot of hard knocks over those eight years? Sure, but we’ve taken those punches and we’ve always come back swinging. We know no matter how long the odds, the only time we’re sure to lose is if we leave the ring. Even though we had a governor and state legislature stacked against us, we never gave up, we never stopped fighting, because we knew we were on the right side—and no governor, no politician anywhere has the right to take away the ability of workers to organize ourselves into unions.
And in retrospect, these attacks had a silver lining. More people today know about unions and their importance in the economy, and more people understand that you can’t have a fair society, democracy or economy if workers don’t have the ability to come together as a team to advocate for ourselves; the way they accomplish this is through a union. Speaking at the Italian equivalent of the AFL-CIO recently, Pope Francis actually said that without strong unions there can be no strong society.
Because of these fights, many people, union or non-union, became energized and activated around these issues for the first time in their lives. Our issues were elevated to the forefront more than they had been in many decades. We’ve seen the effects of this not only in Wisconsin but also nationwide; we see this reflected in polling, which shows that unions are more popular now than they have been in decades, and in particular with millenials. They see unions in a positive light, because they sense opportunity and a chance for a decent life slipping away from their generation. Unions represent an opportunity to get that back.
Speaking of millennials, can you talk about the current labor movement and the young people now joining the workforce?
Millennials rightly have a lot of angst about the future. There’s a lot to worry about, starting with the basic question of how to make ends meet. We know we have an economic situation where we have a great deal of wealth in this country, but it’s very sharply divided between a few at the very top and the rest of working people. We want millennials to know exactly what a union is and does and why they’re so important. Without strong unions, there is simply no possibility of having a healthy middle class, and a strong middle class has always been the foundation of our economy. A union enables workers to stand together to maximize our power, negotiate for better wages and better safety conditions. The financial security a union job provides allows workers to truly participate in their communities. It’s hard to coach Little League or organize a neighborhood food drive if you have to work three jobs. So unions not only benefit our members, but the community as a whole.
If we want to talk about how that happens, it’s part of the basic human condition of people wanting to support each other and deliver mutual aid to one another, and this is the way that families support one another, and workers support each other in the workplace.
There are some studies that predict millennials may not be as prosperous as their parents’ generation, despite their generally being better educated through college, training and so forth than any previous generation. How does the labor movement feel about this? Are there reasons for optimism?
I think we are at a real turning point. I think many people now are coming to understand that we can’t just rely on politicians to make sure that workplaces are safe, and workers are paid fair wages. More and more, working people are realizing that we have to take action ourselves to protect our rights to these things. Unions allow us to act together. So if there’s any group of workers that need help, we’re all going to be there for them.
The American myth about the rugged individual really falls apart in the modern workplace. Did you ever notice the people telling workers to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps are the same people making it hard for us to buy boots? I believe that people, especially millennials, are waking up to this and coming to understand that the only way to make sure to have a decent life— not living on a hamster wheel of long hours, low pay and no time for anything else—is to stand together and organize. Again, this is exactly where an organized labor union comes into the picture.
As for our nation’s millennials, more now than ever before, with our gig-economy, people will have to stick together and make sure they don’t get the short end of the stick when it comes to having a fair share of the economic pie and their employer’s profits.
How do you, as president of the state AFL-CIO, feel about things in Wisconsin now, after the election of Gov. Evers and Lt. Gov. Barnes?
The voters made it very clear they were sick of Walker and the direction in which he was taking our state as governor. We’re very excited about Tony Evers and Mandela Barnes; already, we’re seeing positive changes since they took office. The budget that Gov. Evers has proposed is very good for working people; it repeals the so-called Right to Work, and it reinstates prevailing wage for construction jobs and project-labor agreements. It doesn’t do everything that we want, but it absolutely is moving us in the right direction.
But we’re also not naïve. We can do the math in the state Legislature. Because of the gerrymandered electoral maps, anti-worker Republican politicians are still in control. But there’s enormous value in having a governor and lieutenant governor willing to serve as a check on the worst abuses of power and set a new agenda that invests in our roads and other infrastructure, gets rid of the lead in our water pipes and make sure all of our drinking water is safe, makes sure we take the Medicaid expansion and making sure we invest in our kids by putting much-needed dollars into education at all levels.
At the same time, the labor movement knows there is never a political ‘savior’, right?
Yes. We’re well aware that, ultimately, we can’t rely only on our elected officials to ensure workers’ rights. We need to rely on ourselves and on each other to remain very active in our communities and unions. From the earliest days of the union movement, we’ve always been our own best champions. We’ll continue to support our political allies, but we’re well aware that it’s ultimately up to all of us working together for the common good and exercising what really is democracy in the workplace. You soon learn in the labor movement that we’re in a race without a finish line. The secret to success is to stay united. Keep one eye on the horizon and keep putting one foot in front of the other. If we do that, unions will stay strong, our middle class will prosper, and the American Dream will be there for generations to come.
This post originally appeared in the Shepherd Express.
“An injury to one is an injury to all!”
“Rutgers is for education! We are not a corporation!”
The chants of frustrated faculty members disrupted an otherwise quiet campus in Newark on Tuesday, as hundreds gathered outside of the Rutgers University Paul Robeson Center to picket the board of governors meeting.
Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the school’s largest faculty and graduate employee union, organized Tuesday’s picket as a "final warning" to Rutgers University President Robert Barchi and his administration. After more than a year of negotiations, the Barchi administration refuses to meet the union’s demands for a fair contract.
AAUP-AFT’s demands include more full-time faculty, equal pay for female staff, increased staff diversity and a salary increase for graduate workers. The union is also pushing for the school to hire more librarians—a position that is currently in jeopardy due to proposed budget cuts to the library system.
While members protested outside the Paul Robeson Center, union officials and labor leaders brought the fight inside to the board of governors. Among the first to speak at the meeting was Laurel Brennan, secretary-treasurer of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO.
"The New Jersey State AFL-CIO is proud of the women and men of Rutgers represented by our unions—20,000 strong—and the great work that they do in front of classrooms, in research laboratories, advising government or in keeping the campuses safe and clean," Brennan said. "We demand that Rutgers University remain a source for fair, dignified union jobs and equal pay for workers from all backgrounds."
"Equity. Security. Dignity.," she added. "These aren’t outrageous demands. These are our basic rights as working people, and we demand that our concerns be acknowledged and addressed by this board at the bargaining table."
Rutgers AAUP-AFT’s lowest-paid members face poverty-level wages and little assurance of professional advancement. Recent studies show faculty on the school’s New Brunswick campus are paid at a significantly higher rate than their peers at Camden and Newark. Moreover, female faculty members on each campus are paid at a lower rate than their male peers with the same years of experience.
In March, an overwhelming majority of the faculty and graduate employee union voted to authorize the leadership to call a strike. If the union goes on strike, this would be the first strike of faculty and graduate workers in the 253-year history of Rutgers University. It would also be the first strike of tenured faculty at a Big 10 university.
The AAUP-AFT full-time and teaching and graduate assistant unit is only one of a coalition of labor unions currently bargaining with Rutgers. These locals represent over 19,000 workers at Rutgers, including HPAE, URA, AAUP—Medical, PTL, EOF, CIR and CWA.
Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s the latest edition of the Working People Weekly List.
‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: #StampOutHunger: "In the latest episode of 'State of the Unions,' podcast co-host Tim Schlittner talks to Brian Renfroe, National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) executive vice president, and Christina Vela Davidson, assistant to the president for community services, about #StampOutHunger, the annual one-day drive that has collected more than 1 billion pounds of food for the hungry."
The Center of Victory: "The labor movement helped elect a wave of union members and pro-worker allies across the country last night. We proved that if you support working people, we’ll have your back. And we sent a resounding message to every candidate and elected official that if you seek to divide and destroy us, we’ll fight back with everything we have."
It's Time for Equal Pay: "Equal Pay Day serves as a reminder of how far we still have to go to close the gender pay gap. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler (IBEW) has more on why unions are the best tool to achieve pay parity."
Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: AFT: "Next up in our series that will take a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the AFT. The series will run weekly until we've covered all 55 of our affiliates."
New North American Trade Deal Faces Hurdles in U.S. Congress: "'This agreement right now, for it to be voted on, would be premature,' Richard Trumka, president of America’s largest labor federation, the AFL-CIO, told Bloomberg TV. 'The Mexican government has to change their [labor] laws, then they have to start effectively enforcing them, and then they have to demonstrate that they have the resources necessary to enforce those laws, because if you can’t enforce a trade agreement, it’s useless.'"
At Our Current Pace It'll Take 80 Years to Repair All the Structurally Deficient Bridges in the U.S., A Report Finds: "Officials have dubbed Monday's bridge collapse in Tennessee a freak accident, but that might be turning a blind eye to a larger issue. Bridges across the United States are deteriorating, and a new report estimates it will take more than 80 years to fix all of them. More than 47,000 bridges in the United States are in crucial need of repairs, says the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, or ARTBA. The group, which advocates for investment in transportation infrastructure, analyzes data from the Federal Highway Administration and releases an annual Deficient Bridge report."
Trumka Warns Lawmakers: Don’t Vote for Quickie ‘New NAFTA’: "AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is warning lawmakers that voters will oppose any solon who votes for a 'quickie new NAFTA,' so to speak. That means workers would oppose lawmakers who favor a quick vote on legislation implementing the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement—before Mexico has both enacted stronger worker rights and put in place the systems and people to implement them. Even a stronger Mexican labor law, but without enforcement in place, won’t satisfy U.S. workers, or the U.S. labor movement, he adds. Trumka forecast such electoral retribution in an April 1 telephone press conference on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), also known as NAFTA 2.0 or the 'new NAFTA.' The GOP Trump administration negotiated it with—Canada would say strong-armed it on—the other two North American nations to replace the 25-year-old original NAFTA."
Women Can Close the Pay Gap by Forming Unions: "In 2018, women once again came home with over 16% less money in their paychecks. Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, which means women had to work until April 2—92 days longer—to be paid the same amount as a comparable man in 2018. For many women of color, this gap is much worse. For the past 15 years, the gender wage gap has barely budged and persists across all wage levels and among employees at every education level. More and more, women are turning to their unions to implement workplace tools to narrow the gender wage gap."
As the bumper sticker has it, unions are “the folks who brought you the weekend.” Unions fought for the 10-hour day, and then the eight-hour day… and then our fight stopped. We never got to a six-hour-day fight.
Instead we started to backslide. We not only lost the weekend; we lost control over our time. This slippage mirrors the decline in real wages over the last generation—both signs that organized labor has gotten weaker.
Name of Union: American Postal Workers Union
Mission: Through collective bargaining, legislative action and mobilization of its members and the public, APWU fights for dignity and respect on the job for postal workers throughout the postal industry—for decent pay and benefits and safe working places, for defense of the right of the people to public postal services and for solidarity with all workers, at home and abroad.
Current Leadership of Union: Mark Dimondstein was elected president of APWU in 2013 and won a second term in 2016. He began his postal career in 1983. In 1986, he was elected to the first of six consecutive terms as president of the Greater Greensboro (N.C.) Area Local. Beginning in 2000, he served as APWU's national lead field organizer. He won AFL-CIO's Southern Organizer of the Year Award in 2001.
Debby Szeredy serves as APWU’s executive vice president, Elizabeth Powell serves as secretary-treasurer and Vance Zimmerman is the industrial relations director. The national executive board also includes four craft division directors who oversee the clerk, maintenance, motor vehicle service and support service crafts at the United States Postal Service (USPS), as well as five regional coordinators.
Current Number of Members: 222,000.
Members Work As: Retail postal clerks, mail processors and sorters, building and equipment maintenance, custodial workers, truck drivers and mechanics, information technology workers, nurses and others.
Industries Represented: Members are active and retired workers for the USPS, as well as private-sector workers employed in the mailing industry.
History: The American Postal Workers Union was founded on July 1, 1971, when five postal unions merged after the Great Postal Strike in 1970. The two largest unions involved in the merger were the United Federation of Postal Clerks—which represented employees who "worked the windows" at post offices and workers who sorted and processed mail—and the National Postal Union—who represented postal workers in multiple crafts. The National Association of Post Office and General Service Maintenance Employees, the National Federation of Motor Vehicle Employees and the National Association of Special Delivery Messengers were the other three unions who merged to create the APWU.
Before the Great Postal Strike, early postal unions essentially had no collective bargaining rights, with wage increases dependent on the whims of Congress, i.e. "collective begging." As a result, postal workers were chronically underpaid, barely making enough to make ends meet.
Workers grew increasingly frustrated with Congress’ inaction, and on March 18, 1970, thousands of New York City postal workers walked off the job in protest, starting the Great Postal Strike. During the strike, mail service ground to a halt and the plight of postal workers was brought to the public’s attention. The strike was soon settled, with Congress approving a 6% wage increase and other gains for postal workers.
The strike motivated the enactment of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, which granted unions the right to negotiate with management over their wages, benefits and working conditions.
Since that first contract almost 50 years ago, the APWU has fought for dignity and respect on the job for the workers they represent, as well as decent pay and benefits and safe working conditions. As a result, the postal unions have achieved unprecedented job security provisions.
Current Campaigns: APWU is a partner in A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service that fights back against efforts to dismantle the USPS. APWU has many current campaigns to protect the workers and customers of the USPS, including fighting: against privatization, for a fair and decent contract protecting their entire bargaining unit, against post office closures and to promote safe postal jobs. With the solidarity of the labor movement and community allies, the APWU led the successful "Stop Staples" fight against the privatization of postal retail services.
APWU is also pushing for postal banking as a way to expand basic financial services to those whose needs are unmet by the corporate-dominated financial sector, and protect them from the predatory Payday Loan and check cashing industry.
Community Efforts: The American Postal Workers Accident Benefit Association provides insurance and pays benefits to postal workers and their families in the case of accidental death or disability. The E.C. Hallbeck scholarship provides educational benefits for children of APWU members while the vocational scholarship program helps the children of APWU members pursue trade, technical, vocational or industrial occupations. The Postal Employees Relief Fund helps postal workers and their families recover from natural disasters and house fires. The APWU promotes strong alliances and common bonds between the labor and civil rights communities.
Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with grocery store workers using their collective voices and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life.
UFCW Workers at King Soopers/City Market in Colorado Reach Tentative Agreement to End Prevent Strike: United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) members who work at King Soopers and City Market in Colorado have accepted a tentative agreement to prevent a strike and the new deal must be approved by the membership. The new contract addresses wage increases, health care costs, improved benefits and increased safety requirements. UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova said: "Today’s deal represents an important investment in King Soopers and City Market workers and strengthens our ability to continue providing shoppers with the high-quality customer service they deserve. The fact that this offer is significantly better than where we started in December is a tribute to the hard work of every member."
Two More Condé Nast Publications Join Organizing Wave: Pitchfork and Ars Technica, two publications owned by Condé Nast, have become the latest publications to join the wave of organizing that has been sweeping newsrooms and digital media in recent years. Employees at both publications have asked for voluntary recognition of their union representation. Ars Technica covers technology and science and Pitchfork publishes music criticism and news. Pitchfork's senior editor Stacey Anderson said: "The editors, writers, producers and strategists of Pitchfork are deeply proud of the work we do here. We believe that forming a union will keep this a sustainable place for all of us. We’re ready for management to address our concerns and work as hard for us as we do for them."
Boise Philharmonic Musicians Vote for Representation by American Federation of Musicians: With 96% of the vote, musicians at the Boise Philharmonic have voted to join the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). Kate Jarvis, a violinist and assistant concertmaster, said: "We're excited to join the community of working musicians, and we think this is an exciting time in the life of our orchestra. We have a vested interest in the organization, and we think it's important for the musicians to have a voice in the organization."
Staff at Podcast Startup Gimlet Media Join Writers Guild: More than 80 staff who work for Gimlet Media have asked management to voluntarily recognize their unionization with the Writers Guild of America, East. Gimlet produces popular podcasts such as Reply All and StartUp and the membership includes producers, engineers, reporters and hosts. Among the issues the new union will be negotiating with management are fair treatment for contractors, increased workplace diversity, protection of employee intellectual property, and transparency around pay, promotions and firings.
Flying Food Workers Avoid Strike and Ratify New Contract: Nearly 700 catering employees of Flying Food Group who work at Los Angeles International Airport averted an approved strike after 98% voted to ratify a new contract. The workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 11, will see wage increases and the end of costly monthly health care premiums. Flying Food Group worker Juan Varela applauded the agreement: "This new contract is going to change my life. I used to pay $332 a month for my health insurance and now I won’t have to pay any money out of my check for full coverage for me and my family."
Tufts Dining Workers Reach Tentative Agreement After Nearly a Year: Dining workers represented by UNITE HERE at Tufts University have reached a tentative contract after nearly a year of negotiations. The contract would be the first for dining workers at the university. The contract addresses wage increases, health care, the conversion of temporary employees to regular status, maintaining employees' existing time-off benefits and other issues.
Ohio Teachers End Strike After Ratifying New Contract: Teachers at Summit Academy Parma in Ohio ended a nine-day strike after the members of the Ohio Federation of Teachers overwhelmingly voted to ratify a new contract. OFT President Melissa Cropper said: "The teachers and intervention specialists at Summit Academy Parma organized their union to improve their students’ learning conditions. That’s what this contract does with language on staffing and class sizes, and by establishing a labor-management committee so that we can solve problems as they arise." The contract was secured after the teachers went on strike in order to improve teaching and learning conditions at the charter school, which serves special needs students.
New Jersey State Workers and Gov. Phil Murphy Agree to New Contract: After a long-fought battle with former Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey's new governor, Phil Murphy, is much more open to working with state workers. A breakthrough contract last year was followed by a tentative agreement on a four-year contract with the state and the Communications Workers of America New Jersey. The new contract was approved by the membership at the end of March.
BuzzFeed Workers Join NewsGuild: The overwhelming majority of U.S. journalists working for online news outlet BuzzFeed voting to be represented by The NewsGuild of New York, CWA Local 31003. Earlier this year, BuzzFeed moved to eliminated 15% of its workforce and the new unit is seeking better benefits and fair pay. The BuzzFeed workers said: "We want to remain spry and competitive, but we reject the argument that we must choose between freelancing in a hellscape gig economy for vampirical platforms or submitting to the whims of a corporation that botches basic HR tasks." The BuzzFeed workers have asked management to voluntarily recognize the union.
Boston's WBUR Staff Overwhelmingly Vote for Representation Through SAG-AFTRA: With 96% voting in favor, staff at radio station WBUR in Boston voted to recognize SAG-AFTRA as their union. They are in the beginning stages of negotiating their first contract. Ally Jarmanning, a digital producer at WBUR, said: "We are thrilled to officially be recognized as a union at WBUR. Organizing has brought our staff closer together and we can't wait to get to work negotiating a contract that will be fair for all. We know together we can make WBUR an even better place, both for workers and listeners."
Machinists at Boeing Win Mid-Contract Pay Raise: Thousands of Machinists who work for Boeing in Seattle have won a $4-per-hour increase of minimum pay rates. While their current contract sets pay rates through 2024, the Machinists fought for an increase after management responded to a labor shortage by offering new hires wages higher than the existing contract. The union successfully argued to management that the contract's minimum wage should be raised so that already hired workers would be making as much or more than new hires.
Gizmodo Editorial Staff Unanimously Ratifies New Contract: Nearly 170 members of the editorial staff at Gizmodo Media Group voted unanimously to ratify their second collective bargaining agreement. The staff is represented by the Writers Guild of America, East, and about the contract the bargaining committee said: "We’re incredibly proud of the contract we won. With a strong union, and the support of our colleagues at other unionized shops across digital media, we were able to build on our first contract and help elevate industry standards to better protect workers and the independence of our newsrooms. But building labor power in digital media is bigger than just a contract, so the struggle for a more democratic, transparent industry continues. There’s power in standing together, and when we fight we win."
Nurses Vote to Join Minnesota Nurses Association: An overwhelming majority of nurses at CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck, North Dakota, voted to be represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association. The nurses sought union representation after operational changes and layoffs had a negative impact on patient care. Nurse Leslie Wenger said: "We’re all extremely excited. We just really wanted to come together and have a voice to get heard and to get a seat at the decision-making table."
Journalists at The Morning Call Join NewsGuild: By a vote of 31-12, reporters, photographers and other staff at The Morning Call, located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, voted to be represented by The NewsGuild-CWA. Peter Hall, a senior reporter, said: "For a lot of people, this is about improving our sense of certainty about the future. Everyone involved in this has really worked hard."
San Francisco Bikeshare Workers Vote for TWU Representation: Workers at Ford GoBike in the San Francisco Bay area have voted to join the Transport Workers (TWU). The maintenance workers are employed by Motivate LLC and are seeking wage increases, better scheduling practices and other quality of life factors. TWU already represents Motivate workers in New York City, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Jersey City.
On Saturday, March 30, 100 union members, labor activists, and allies met in Detroit for a Troublemakers School: a day of skill-sharing and strategizing about workplace organizing.
Though it was gray and drizzling outside, the energy at the Troublemakers School was strong all day, closing out with a call from Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to keep up the fight. Tlaib is pushing for a Green New Deal that would create millions of jobs by converting our economy to sustainable energy and transportation.
What’s the role of a shop steward? Traditionally we think of someone who’s knowledgeable about the contract, the law, and how things function in our workplace and union.
But one role often gets neglected: the peacemaker.
I don’t mean someone who makes peace between workers and the boss. A steward has to be a fighter. But I do mean that the steward should foster a culture of solidarity, establish healthy debate, and facilitate collective decisions.
Since 1979, Labor Notes has been home to the troublemaking wing of the labor movement. The pages of our magazine are filled with the stories of workers who are working to transform their unions, to take on the boss, to fight for racial justice.
We believe that working people's best bet is on ourselves. That's why our trainings, and national conference, focus on connecting workers to one another across unions and industries and provide rank-and-file organizers with the tools they need to get the job done themselves.
When department-store workers fight, we do it fashionably. Have you ever seen a union contract campaign that featured makeovers and feather boas? Read on.
We had worked hard for Macy’s, and frankly we were fed up. Like a lot of working people out there, we work for a company that’s doing fine, yet they want to cut staff and expect us to pick up the slack.
The slack, if there ever was any, was picked up a long time ago. If you’re like us—and like most people in America—you’re struggling to make ends meet even though you have a job.
After yet another speed-up in a workplace notorious for its lightning pace of work, workers at a Minnesota Amazon warehouse walked off the night shift for three hours.
The March 7 walkout at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minnesota, was these workers’ second job action in three months.
The strikers work in the stow department, shelving items after they have been unloaded from inbound trucks and processed. Once shelved, the merchandise is then compiled into customer orders by pickers.
On the heels of Los Angeles teachers’ winning strike in January, teachers in Oakland 340 miles north joined the strike wave. Three thousand teachers, alongside parents and students, led picket lines February 21-March 1 at the city’s 86 schools.
These strikes, plus rumblings from other California teacher unions, are ramping up the pressure on school boards and legislators to invest in public schools and stop privatization statewide.