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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Contracting Out Public Services Worsens Inequality and Lowers Wages

by Gregory N. Heires

Decision_contract_outContracting out public services—which aims to help the federal, state and local governments save tax dollars—often has a harmful effect on the community, including worsening inequality and lowering wages.

A recent study, “The Decision to Contract Out: Understanding the Full Economic and Social Impacts,” finds that the savings of outsourcing varies widely and often diminish over time. The study, by Daphne T. Greenwood of the Colorado Center for Policy Studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, concludes that contracting out undermines our democratic principals by leading to corruption and less control over public funds.

“While reducing costs is most often the motive for outsourcing, a growing body of research documents that savings are minimal, on average,” the report says. “It is also not unusual for total costs to be greater when performed by private contracting firms than they were in-house.”

Studies show that contracting out typically leads to short-term savings of 5 to 10 percent. Over time, the savings often diminish because of a lack of competition and other factors.  Continue reading

Community Groups to host “Solidarity Fundraiser for Injured Volkswagen Workers”

chatforworkersChattanooga, Tennessee — A coalition of community groups announced today that they are hosting a “Solidarity Fundraiser for Injured Volkswagen Workers” this coming Friday, April 18th from 6:00 to 9:00 PM at St. Mark’s Methodist Church in Chattanooga’s historic North Shore community. This event is being organized to raise money for Lon Gravett and Ed Hunter, two former Volkswagen employees who were badly injured while working on the assembly line at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen factory. The fundraiser is being hosted by Chattanooga for Workers, a local grassroots community group, and Mercy Junction, a Christian ministry group.

According to one local worker on the assembly line floor at the Chattanooga Volkswagen factory, “everyone who works here is injured.” Workers leave the factory everyday in pain, with soreness, numbness, and sometimes even more serious injuries. Health and safety issues related to production are a top concern for many workers involved in the union organizing drive, but they remained publicly silent on the subject due to the previous neutrality agreement between the United Auto Workers and Volkswagen.

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How 250 UPS Workers Fired for a Wildcat Strike Won Back Their Jobs

by Sarah Jaffe


After UPS fired 250 workers for a spontaneous protest, organizers harnessed the power of loyal customers who wanted their drivers back on the job.

After UPS fired 250 workers for a spontaneous protest, organizers harnessed the power of loyal customers who wanted their drivers back on the job.

Two hundred and fifty UPS drivers, clad in their brown uniforms, rallying in a Queens parking lot, must have been quite a sight. Not very many people got to see it, however. The 90-minute work stoppage outside the Maspeth, Queens, UPS facility on February 26 was a spontaneous protest against the firing, allegedly without due process, of one of their colleagues, Jairo Reyes.

On March 26, UPS retaliated by beginning to give all 250 notices that they’d be terminated—but the company did not fire the workers all at once. According to the Teamsters, UPS fired 20 drivers on March 31 and kept the rest waiting for the axe to fall while their replacements were trained.

Nearly two months later, all 250, including Reyes, will be headed back to work, their terminations reduced to ten-day suspensions. Driver Steven Curcio, who says he was one of the first to be fired, credits the support of the community, elected officials and particularly his own customers.

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Climate report shows job growth linkage with climate action


International Trade Union Confederation

International Trade Union Confederation

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued yesterday in Berlin, gives renewed confidence that the world can still avoid catastrophic climate change with rapid and sustained cuts to carbon emissions.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “The world’s leading climate experts told us a week ago that climate is already changing in every part of the world, and that the costs of inaction would be catastrophic.  Yesterday’s report shows that the world has the capacity to meet the challenge.  Governments need to cease their prevarication and rise to that challenge now.”

The IPCC brought together hundreds of reports which show that investments in zero and low-carbon energy sources will need to at least triple by 2050.

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