Obama Acts to Deny Federal Contracts to Labor Law Violators

by Mike Hall

Obama signing contractorsPresident Barack Obama on Thursday signed an executive order that will make it harder for companies with a history of labor law violations such as wage and hour and workplace safety to win federal contracts. Said Obama:

We expect our tax dollars to be spent wisely on these contracts. Our tax dollars shouldn’t go to companies that violate workplace laws, they shouldn’t go to companies that violate workers’ rights.

From raising wages to workplace protections, said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, “President Obama is showing strong leadership where it’s needed most.”
Continue reading

New Bill Defines Labor Rights As Civil Rights

by Bruce Vail

Cong. Keith Ellison

Cong. Keith Ellison

On Wednesday, a handful of Democratic Party lawmakers introduced a bill to turn the slogan “Labor Rights are Civil Rights” into the law of the land. While admitting the proposed legislation has little chance of passage in the current anti-labor environment, supporters say they hope shifting political winds may favor the bill sometime in the future.

A civil right is any right enshrined in the Constitution or legislation, such as freedom of assembly or freedom of the press. The new measure would affirm that labor rights are equally fundamental.

Titled the “Employee Empowerment Act,” the bill is short and simple. It would add a single paragraph to the 1935 National Labor Relations Act giving workers the right to sue employers in federal court for labor law violations, in the same way that individuals are allowed to bring lawsuits under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under current law, workers must bring such complaints to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is often criticized for being very slow to act and offering wronged workers little in the way of compensation.
Continue reading

We Need to Fight for Equality–NAACP and Labor Together

by William Spriggs

naacpLast week, I had the great honor to receive the Benjamin L. Hooks “Keeper of the Flame” Award from the Labor Committee of the NAACP’s Board of Directors.  Both the new president, Cornell Brooks, and Lorraine Miller, who served as interim president before him, were present. I felt humbled by the honor.

This is the 105th anniversary of the NAACP. The conference was a constant reminder of the legacy of those who cut a long path in the fight for equality—not just racial equality—in America.  But last year, this year and next also mark important 50-year anniversaries of the civil rights movement. Last year was the March for Jobs and Justice, this year was the Civil Rights Act and next year is the Voting Rights Act. But we should not forget that we also are marking the anniversaries of human sacrifice to justice. Last year, it was the assassination of Medgar Evers and four young girls, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, who were murdered when the 16th Street Baptist church was bombed in Birmingham, Ala., during church services. This year, it was James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, murdered for registering African American voters in Philadelphia, Miss. Next year, it will be to remember the campaign to register voters in Alabama, the Bloody Sunday attack on marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge and Viola Liuzzo, who was murdered driving marchers for the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.

It is important to note these events occurred when the NAACP was already more than 40 years in the struggle for justice. A solid reminder that this is a long struggle, and it is marked with the blood and sacrifice of many.

The labor luncheon at the NAACP convention is to rededicate the cooperation of two movements with one goal. The labor movement has a long history of struggle as well, fighting for equality and human dignity. Dignity for many begins with dignity at work.

Continue reading

Why the Democrats Need to Take Sides in America’s Class–an excerpt

Harold Meyerson has an informative and insightful long-form essay up on The American Prospect.  It is, we think, an important analysis which should be widely read. The theme is “Straddling class divisions so last century. There’s a new base in town, and it includes a lot of people who used to be middle-class but aren’t anymore.” It is too long for a Talking Union post, so we present this excerpt.–Talking Union

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

This spring, a prominent Democratic pollster sent a memo to party leaders and Democratic elected officials advising them to speak and think differently. The nation’s economy had deteriorated so drastically, he cautioned, that they needed to abandon their references to the “middle class,” substituting for those hallowed words the phrase “working people.” “In today’s harsh economic reality,” he wrote, “many voters no longer identify as middle class.”

How many voters? In 2008, a Pew poll asked Americans to identify themselves by class. Fifty-three percent said they were middle-class; 25 percent said lower-class. When Pew asked the same question this January, it found that the number who’d called themselves middle-class had shrunk to 44 percent, while those who said they were of the lower class had grown from 25 percent to 40 percent.

Americans’ assessment of their place in the nation’s new economic order is depressingly accurate. Though most of the jobs lost in the 2007–2009 recession were in middle-income industries, the lion’s share of the jobs created in the half-decade since have been in such low-paying sectors as retail and restaurants. Median household income has declined in every year of the recovery. The share of the nation’s income going to wages and salaries, which for decades held steady at two-thirds, has in recent years descended to 58 percent—the lowest level since the government began its measurements. Continue reading

San Francisco Workers Aim High Nation’s Top Minimum Wage

by Carl Finamore

On the steps of City Hall (photo: Carl Finamore)

On the steps of City Hall (photo: Carl Finamore)

In a very unusual political combination seldom seen nowadays, San Francisco’s mayor, city officials, business, community and labor leaders have jointly agreed to place a proposition on the November ballot that will give a big raise to virtually all low-wage full time, part time, sub contract and temporary workers of big and small businesses alike.

San Francisco already has the country’s highest minimum wage which currently stands at $10.74.

But, if this proposal gets approved this Fall as expected, an estimated 100,000 workers will get an extra boost after six months to $12.25 an hour with additional annual increases until the minimum wage finally jumps to $15 an hour in July 2018.
Continue reading

Building A Labor Base For Third Party Campaigning

Union Member Recruitment by Vermont Progressives

by Steve EarlySocial Policy, Summer, 2014 

“We will stand by our friends and administer a stinging rebuke to men or parties who are either indifferent, negligent, or hostile, and, wherever opportunity affords, to secure the election of intelligent, honest, earnest trade unionists, with clear, unblemished, paid-up union cards in their possession.” —Samuel Gompers2

VPPLike much labor rhetoric, past and present, Samuel Gompers’s warning to the Democrats and Republicans contained more bark than bite. When progressive labor activists tried to break with the two-party system in the early 1900s, the American Federation of Labor president rarely backed them, no matter how “unblemished” their union record, if they campaigned under the banner of the Socialist Party. He preferred, instead, to stick with mainstream politicians, often in need of “a stinging rebuke,” but rarely receiving one because of labor’s still strong tendency to embrace the “lesser evil” on any ballot.

In 2012–14, deepening labor disillusionment with the performance of Democratic office holders led “intelligent, honest, earnest trade unionists” around the country to enter the political arena themselves, as candidates for municipal office.2 Rather than being ignored as the work of marginal “spoilers,” some of these insurgent campaigns by shop stewards, local union officers, and rank-and-file activists actually won substantial union backing, while generating valuable publicity for key labor causes.

As labor-backed independent electoral efforts proliferate, more activists in other states are looking to the example of the Vermont Progressive Party (VPP). More than any other third-party formation in the country, the VPP has campaigned successfully for state legislative seats and municipal office, “while building support for reform and nudging the Democrats left.” Continue reading

Virginia Is for Compliers: Easier to Fight Misclassification, Subcontracting Violators

 by Chaz Bolte

Chaz Bolte

Chaz Bolte

Virginia’s penalties for misclassifying workers in order to avoid paying insurance costs got a boost this month thanks to a new law.  The Virginia Workers Compensation Act made it easier for the state to take action against violators, according to Virginia Workplace Law:

The civil penalty is now up to $250 per day for each day of noncompliance, subject to a maximum penalty of $50,000, plus collection costs.”  The VWCA requires every business owner with more than two employees (a part-time worker is counted as one employee) to have coverage for such worker.

Continue reading

Real people pushed out of TPP talks

by Dave Anderson

Sen Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Jared Polis

Sen Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Jared Polis

Who are you going to believe — Senator Elizabeth Warren or Congressman Jared Polis?

At Public Citizen’s annual gala in May, Warren launched an attack on backroom trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently being negotiated: “From what I hear, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, telecom, big polluters and outsourcers are all salivating at the chance to rig the deal in the upcoming trade talks. So the question is, Why are the trade talks secret? You’ll love this answer. Boy, the things you learn on Capitol Hill,” Warren said. “I actually have had supporters of the deal say to me ‘They have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed.’ /

“Think about that. Real people, people whose jobs are at stake, small-business owners who don’t want to compete with overseas companies that dump their waste in rivers and hire workers for a dollar a day — those people, people without an army of lobbyists — they would be opposed. I believe if people across this country would be opposed to a particular trade agreement, then maybe that trade agreement should not happen.”

By contrast, Congressman Polis has straddled the fence on both fast track authority and the TPP. He is “troubled by the lack of transparency in the U.S. TPP negotiations” and says he won’t support a deal which undermines protections for the environment, consumers and workers.

Continue reading

The Louisville Labor Bait-and-Switch

by Wiiliam “Alec” Hudson

 

hudson_greg_fischer_2014

Union leaders claim that Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration has failed to meet the high expectations his campaign inspired. (Cameron Miquelon/ Flickr / Creative Commons)

Angelina Justice has been working as a youth services librarian assistant at the Free Public Library (LFPL) in Louisville, Kentucky since 2004. Though she says she loves helping the children who visit the library, she and other unionized city workers have faced a series of cutbacks and declining work conditions since Mayor Greg Fischer took office in 2011.

Like her co-workers at LFPL, Justice is a member of AFSCME Local 3425—and she says the Fischer administration’s current contract with the union makes it almost impossible for her and her family to survive.

“If my household didn’t have a second income, we wouldn’t make it as a family of five,” she tells In These Times.

When Mayor Fischer ran in 2010, he had the city’s many public-sector unions on his side. His first campaign promised a plan for an “open, honest and transparent metro government,” which called upon local businesses to ally with labor to create jobs for Louisville residents. Though Fischer’s pro-labor rhetoric was often vague, workers viewed his statements as a heartening sign for the largest city in Kentucky, one of the last states in the South with no notorious “right-to-work” laws.

“It was labor that got him elected,” says John Stovall, president of Teamsters Local 783, which represents around 1,000 public workers, including Emergency Medical Services responders, mechanics, carpenters and street cleaners. “It wasn’t the [mostly white and affluent] East End, it wasn’t the rich people; it was labor. All of labor came behind him, supported him and endorsed him.”

Continue reading

How the Working Families Party Could Disrupt Philly’s Political Machine

by Stuart Elliott

Jake Blumgart’s interesting article on the potential of the Working Families Party in Philadelphia appears even more relevant after the recent success of the WPF in Maryland. Blumagart writes

This time next year Philadelphia could be home to yet another political machine. That may sound like the last thing this city’s fractious electoral drama needs. But Pennsylvania Working Families could potentially give voice, and coherence, to some of those currently underrepresented in Philly’s politics, including the progressive wing of the labor movement and the liberal and left activists who find little to like in local clannish machine operations or the business-side reformers who typically challenge them.

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,217 other followers