TPP is Bad for Unions

TPPUrge Congress to Oppose the Just-Signed TPP

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman is in New Zealand right now joining other trade ministers from throughout the Pacific Rim in signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Signing is not the same as ratifying. What the signing means is that the negotiations are concluded; the text is done; and that the TPP can now be submitted for a Fast Tracked vote in Congress at almost any time.

It’s critical that Congress is hearing strong constituent opposition to the TPP right now. Please write your Members of Congress and urge them to come out publicly against the TPP.

For the better part of a decade, we have told our representatives we want a “Fair Deal or No Deal” on Trans-Pacific trade. Now that the text is finalized and changes are all-but-impossible, it’s clear that — while a handful of well-connected corporations got a more-than-fair deal for themselves — for everyone else, the TPP would be a disaster for the economy, the environment and public health.

The TPP Is Bad for Jobs & Wages
As you would expect from a deal negotiated with hundreds of corporate advisors, while the public and the press were shut out, if enacted, the TPP would offshore good-paying American jobs, lower wages and increase inequality by forcing Americans into competition with highly-exploited workers abroad paid less than 65 cents an hour. Continue reading

The Appeal of Trump’s Right-Wing Message–and How to Respond

MT. PLEASANT, SC - DECEMBER 7:  The South Carolina Republican primary is scheduled for February 20, 2016. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

MT. PLEASANT, SC – DECEMBER 7:

Unique Working America report finds issues, information and a trusted messenger help counter right-wing rhetoric among white working class voters – many of whom are still up for grabs in 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new Working America report finds that key white-working class voters have not made up their minds yet in the 2016 presidential race, but of those who have, Donald Trump is the strongest choice. The unique “Front Porch Focus Group” report used qualitative and quantitative data from 1,689 face-to-face conversations held over five weeks in Ohio and Pennsylvania to paint a picture of voters’ mood and appetite for engagement.

The report found that Trump drew more supporters than all other GOP candidates combined, and was also the choice of 25% of Democrats with a candidate preference. When asked why they like him, nearly half of voters said it was his personality – not his policies – that factored into their decision.

“The growing appeal of a hard-right agenda in communities where we’ve worked for a decade meant we needed to drive straight into the storm to connect with our membership and hear their perspectives,” said Executive Director Karen Nussbaum (@knussbaum). “We reached out through our strongest tool: face-to-face conversations on people’s doorsteps.”

On the issues, the report found that good jobs (29%) was still the top concern for the Working America “focus group” – a trend consistently seen over 13 years of engagement at the doors. Only 5% cited immigration as their top priority, but 48% of those people supported Trump. Continue reading

Unions, Friedrichs, and Free Speech

cuny12316
Shaun Richman
Working in These Times
As the spring semester starts up at the City University of New York, union activists continue the painstaking work of preparing for a strike authorization vote. Faculty and staff at CUNY have been working without a contract for over five years. While Governor Cuomo disinvests in the primary college system for working class New Yorkers, management proposes salary increases that amount to decreases after inflation.
The parallels between the struggle to save CUNY and the struggle over the future of Chicago Public Schools are obvious, with one major exception: it is totally illegal for teachers to strike in New York. The last major union to violate the draconian Taylor Law, TWU Local 100, was fined $2.5 million for waging a 60-hour strike that shut down the city’s subway and bus system in 2005. On top of that, the union’s ability to collect dues money was suspended for a year, its president jailed for 10 days and each individual striker was fined two days pay for each one day on strike.
But in an interesting twist, the anti-union Friedrichs v. CTA case currently under consideration by the Supreme Court could actually lay the ground work for making public employee strikes in New York and elsewhere constitutionally protected free speech.
A long history of carving unions out of the 1st Amendment Continue reading

Teachers/Public Sector Unions Under Assault

By Joshua Pechthalt

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that asks whether all workers in public sector unions, be they members or not, have an obligation to contribute to the union’s costs to represent them in grievances and at the bargaining table.
The court has already ruled that unions have an obligation to represent non-members and that is not likely to change. It also ruled that non-members have an obligation to contribute to the costs of representation and bargaining. If the court now rules in favor of the plaintiffs in Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, the justices would be overturning a nearly 40-year precedent.

PechthaltThis may seem like a technical issue with little impact beyond public employee unions. But the implications of this decision could be far-reaching. If the court ends “fair share” union dues, it would hurt our unions’ ability to represent our members and weaken our ability to improve wages, benefits and working conditions.
For those of us in education, it could also undercut our ability to improve learning and teaching conditions by advocating for smaller class sizes, restoring art and music programs and improving teacher training and evaluation. While non-members do not contribute to the political program of their unions, the erosion of union funds will have an impact on our ability to organize in all aspects of union work.

The most obvious example is how the labor movement supported Proposition 30 in 2012. Union support for that historic measure, which raised income taxes on California’s wealthiest individuals, has generated more than $6 billion a year for education and ended years of devastating cuts and layoffs. Millions of students have benefited. Continue reading

Trump’s Hotel Refuses to Recognize Workers’ Union

MT. PLEASANT, SC - DECEMBER 7: (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission with alternate crop.)  Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the crowd at a Pearl Harbor Day Rally at the U.S.S. Yorktown December 7, 2015 in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. The South Carolina Republican primary is scheduled for February 20, 2016. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

MT. PLEASANT, SC – DECEMBER 7: (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission with alternate crop.) Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the crowd at a Pearl Harbor Day Rally at the U.S.S. Yorktown December 7, 2015 in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. The South Carolina Republican primary is scheduled for February 20, 2016. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS, NV — Just 24 hours before billionaire frontrunner Donald Trump took the stage for the fifth GOP debate, the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas launched a legal challenge to its 500-odd workers’ effort to form a union.
After a year of organizing, much of it in secret, a narrow majority of the workers voted earlier this month to join the Culinary Workers Union and Bartenders Union, which are part of the national hospitality workers union Unite Here. The text of the company’s complaint — filed with the National Labor Relations Board in D.C. — is not yet public, and multiple calls to the hotel’s management were not returned by the time of publication. But Trump hotel workers told ThinkProgress that their company is “objecting to the outcome of the vote and want it thrown out.”
“Mr. Trump has said repeatedly that he expects and insists on being treated fairly as he campaigns to be the next president of the United States of America,” said Jeffrey Wise, a food server at the hotel. “I also want to be treated fairly. My coworkers and I participated in a democratic election process, just like the one Mr. Trump is preparing for right now.” Continue reading

Striking Port Truck Drivers Against Wage Theft

Dan Braun , Capital and Main

As Capital & Main reported recently [1], drivers with one of the larger

English: Kenworth near Sears Boyle Heights , L...

English: Kenworth near Sears Boyle Heights , Los Angeles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

trucking companies serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach went on strike just before dawn October 26th.  They struck XPO Logistics, a major international freight transportation company, while at the same time other drivers picketed Pacific 9 Transportation as they entered the 15th week of a strike against that company.

These drivers are on the front lines of a critical fight impacting the future of work in the United States. “Misclassification,” a condition in which companies wrongly treat their workers as “independent contractors” rather than as employees, is a growing problem that is receiving increasing attention. By misclassifying their workers, companies are able to claw back pay, duck standards like the minimum wage and overtime restrictions, and shift risk onto employees. This is wage theft, according to both labor advocates and the striking port truck drivers, as well as a growing list of rulings [2] from courts and regulatory agencies. Continue reading

Sanders Introduces Major Labor Law Reform

Progressive legislators introduced a law on Tuesday Oct. 6  that would speed up the process for forming labor unions and penalize companies that delay negotiating with newly formed unions — as labor allies in Congress try to preserve some of the gains they have made during President Barack Obama’s second term.

The Workplace Democracy Act, sponsored by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, and Rep. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat, would eliminate the two-stage balloting process for union election, a move that labor advocates say will make it easier for workers to form unions.

Under current law, employees in a given workplace can trigger an election if at least 30 percent of them sign union authorization cards. After those cards are signed, workers must obtain a majority vote in favor of the union in a second process to get the union certified. The Sanders proposal would eliminate the ballot and lead to union certification if a majority of workers sign cards.

“If we are serious about reducing income and wealth inequality and rebuilding the middle class, we have got to substantially increase the number of union jobs in this country,” Sanders said.

Labor union leaders say that the steady decline of union membership rates over the past four decades is, in part, a product of the cumbersome administrative process for forming a union. They also say they believe the recent strikes by workers who are not part of a union — such as the recent wave of day-long nationwide strikes initiated by fast food workers and other service employees — are a sign that workers are finding it easier to strike than to try to form a union.  Continue reading

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