UAW drops appeal over Republican intimidation in Volkswagen vote

by Laura Clawson

UAWThe UAW is giving up its appeal of February’s union representation election at a Chattanooga, Tennessee, Volkswagen plant. The union had subpoenaed Republican officials like Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Bob Corker, around whose threats of dire consequences if workers unionized the appeal to the National Labor Relations Board had centered, seeking information on those threats. But, unsurprisingly, the same people who threatened workers over a union vote weren’t interested in participating in a fair appeals process, a process that could drag on almost indefinitely: Continue reading

The Paycheck Fairness Act Would Have Helped All Workers, Not Just Women

by Moshe Marvit

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) calls on the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act at an April 1 press conference. If enacted, the law would have protected all workers from being fired for discussing wages with each other. (Senate Democrats / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) calls on the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act at an April 1 press conference. If enacted, the law would have protected all workers from being fired for discussing wages with each other. (Senate Democrats / Flickr / Creative Commons)

(April 10) Despite being a part of the U.S. workforce for decades, American women are still earning 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make. In an effort to close that persistent gap, Democrats in Congress have tried three times since 2009 to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. And all three times—most recently on Wednesday morning—Republicans in Congress have blocked the bill from proceeding to debate and a full vote.

Though the act was framed as a way to fight the enduring discrepancy in wages among genders, in reality, it would have helped work toward better conditions for all workers. On Tuesday, President Obama signed executive orders that acted as a parallel Paycheck Fairness Act for federal contractors and publicly urged Congress to pass the bill.

Predictably, Republicans responded by calling the act a job-killer and a non-starter in the current economy. If passed, the bill would have made several amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Specifically, it would have mandated that factors used to justify wage differences were not based on gender divisions and were consistent with business necessity; it would have required the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to collect data from employers regarding the sex, race, and national origin of employees, thus discouraging discriminatory compensation decisions; and it would have prohibited employer retaliation against employees who disclose their wages to each other.

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100 years ago: the Ludlow massacre

United Mine Workers

ludlowThe date April 20, 1914 will forever be a day of infamy for American workers. On that day, 19 innocent men, women and children were killed in the Ludlow Massacre. The coal miners in Colorado and other western states had been trying to join the UMWA for many years. They were bitterly opposed by the coal operators, led by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company.

Upon striking, the miners and their families had been evicted from their company-owned houses and had set up a tent colony on public property. The massacre occurred in a carefully planned attack on the tent colony by Colorado militiamen, coal company guards, and thugs hired as private detectives and strike breakers. They shot and burned to death 18 striking miners and their families and one company man.  Four women and 11 small children died holding each other under burning tents. Later investigations revealed that kerosine had intentionally been poured on the tents to set them ablaze. The miners had dug foxholes in the tents so the women and children could avoid the bullets that randomly were shot through the tent colony by company thugs. The women and children were found huddled together at the bottoms of their tents.

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Sherpa Union Leader Killed in Everest Avalanche

ITUC OnLine

Sherpa Dorje Khatri

Dorje Khatri, Sherpa union leader plants ICTU flag on Everest

(18 April 2014)  Nepalese Sherpa Dorje Khatri, leader of Nepal’s trade union of Sherpas and a committed defender of the environment, was reportedly amongst 12 people killed in one of the worst disasters on Mount Everest ever recorded.  In 2011 Khatri planted the ITUC flag atop the peak of Everest as part of global mobilisation by unions pushing for action on climate change leading up to the Durban Climate Summit, which he attended.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary said, “Dorje Khatri has left an indelible footprint as a man committed to the wellbeing of others, and an activist on the frontline of climate action.  We are devastated by the loss of this gentle but determined leader, one of the very elite of mountain climbers, and those who lost their lives with him.”

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Unions, the First and Last Hope for Egyptian Revolution

by Wade Rathke

Egyptian worker demonstration March 2011

Egyptian worker demonstration March 2011

New Orleans   When more than 20 organizers from labor unions and community organizations as part of the Organizers’ Forum delegation visited Egypt in 2011 after the revolution several years ago scores of meetings with political parties, activists, community and labor organizers, proved the one clear reality-tested conclusion that cut through all of the hype was that this was no Facebook revolution whatsoever. If there was one clear, unheralded hero in the drama whose relentless pressure broke the Mubarak government it was the labor movement. Their continuing strikes kept the pressure on the government no matter how much repression and press coverage occurred in the Square. The events leading to Tahir Square and the surge of hope for change in Egypt that many called the Arab Spring were the classic case of something that seemed like a victory having a thousand fathers while a defeat is a bastard child.

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Why Aren’t We Having a Public Debate on Investment Policies in the TTIP?

by Celeste Drake

tppIn early March, the AFL-CIO joined 42 other organizations representing labor, business, public health, environmental concerns, consumers, family farms and good governance as well as three legal scholars in sending a letter calling on the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to match the European Commission’s commitment to holding a public consultation on investment issues, particularly with respect to the pending U.S.-European Union trade negotiations (known as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP).

While the AFL-CIO has received no formal response, the USTR did post a blog explaining that it already has held extensive consultations regarding the TTIP, and with respect to investment issues in particular.

Unfortunately, the blog post failed to address the issues raised in the letter. It pointed in particular to the review process for the U.S. Model BIT. A “BIT” is a type of treaty that covers solely investment issues (rather than the full panoply of trade and economic governance issues) and the “Model BIT” serves as a guide to what the United States would like to see in every BIT and the investment chapters of pending trade agreements. The Model BIT consultation process—which consisted of a federal register notice that garnered 36 comments, a single public meeting and a report from an advisory committee—was held in 2009, several years before the TTIP negotiations were even announced. The Model BIT consultation process, like current trade negotiations, involved many stakeholders representing a wide array of views, but the final Model BIT reflected almost exclusively business input. A consultation process that concluded more than four years ago is hardly sufficient to address bilateral U.S.-European investment that already stands at $4.1 trillion, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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Jewish and Labor Leaders Flock To Defend Teachers at Perelman Jewish Day School

by Bruce Vail

As a Jew who grew up in the Conservative movement and a union leader, I'm appalled at what has transpired at the Perelman Jewish Day School,' said Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers union. (Photo by Bill Burke/Page One)

(April 14) As a Jew who grew up in the Conservative movement and a union leader, I’m appalled at what has transpired at the Perelman Jewish Day School,’ said Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers union. (Photo by Bill Burke/Page One)

(April 14) On the eve of the Jewish high holy days of Passover, union leaders and Jewish labor activists in Philadelphia and beyond are ramping up efforts to defeat a plan by one of the area’s small private religious schools to bust its teachers union. Both groups are outraged at the school’s implicit claim that there’s a conflict between Judaism and workers’ rights.

The issue erupted late last month when the board of the Perelman Jewish Day School notified the school’s roughly 60 teachers that it would no longer negotiate with their long-established labor union. Instead, the board proclaimed, each teacher must make individual arrangements with the school administrators for the conditions of future employment. The union busting was justified, the Perelman teachers were told, as a measure to advance the religious objectives of the K-5 school, and was legally supported by court rulings reaching all the way to the Supreme Court. The school was likely referring to the high court’s 1979 ruling in NLRB v Catholic Bishop of Chicago that religious schools were exempt from some labor law.

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