How Brother Bernie is Making Labor’s Day

by Steve Early

Bernie-NNU-endorsement-600px-150814If it wasn’t for the Democratic presidential primary race now underway, Labor Day 2015 might be just another annual occasion for union mourning rather than celebration.

American workers have lost far more battles than they’ve than won recently. Further legal or political setbacks could be on the way, thanks to the Obama Administration and U.S. Supreme Court.

This spring, President Obama, big business, and their Republican allies in Congress won approval for a “fast-track” vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), when that controversial free trade deal is ready for ratification. Labor critics predict the TPP will undermine workers’ rights, environmental standards, and efforts to regulate multinational corporate activity. Continue reading

European Journalists Support Organizing American Media Workers

by Paul Garver

MikeElk-800x400

[ed. note] Mike Elk is leaving Politico, where he was part of a team hired to write for Morning Shift. Mike will focus on organizing media workers.

Mike is pictured here with his father Gene Elk, director of organization for the United Electric Workers (UE)

Mike Elk is a first rate labor reporter with a strong union background and a fierce commitment to the workers’ movement. He is one of the few U.S. labor journalists to understand the importance of global worker solidarity. Too bad that Politico did not publish more of the articles I know he was working on. I wish him the best in continuing to organize media workers.

In a statement yesterday, Politico pledged to remain neutral on its workers organizing a union.

Following is an article on Mike Elk by the European Federation of Journalists, together with its protest letter to Politico, which has being trying to establish a European bureau.

Update (20.08.2015) The European Federation of Journalists sent today a letter to Politico CEO Jim VandeHei expressing its concern about news reports suggesting that Mike Elk, Labor reporter at Politico and co-author of the Louisville Statement, has been fired. Politico confirmed, on Thursday, Mike Elk’s departure, saying it has “nothing to do with his union activities”. (…)

Over 12,000 jobs have disappeared from the US media industry, over the last decade. But according to Pew Research Center’s count, 5,000 full-time edit jobs have been created in 2014 across US digital publishing companies. As a consequence, unions are cropping up in digital newsrooms. And a new group, Media Workers Unite, calls for rights for US online journalists.

Earlier this year, the employees of Gawker Media, Vice and Salon voted to unionize: they want to share in the growing prosperity of digital media industry and be able to establish decent working conditions for online journalists.

Pay in digital publishing companies is consistently lower than traditional media, where union collective bargaining has led to better agreements on salary, retirement security and working conditions. Following the most recent US survey, the median annual salary for Journalism and Mass Communication B.A. graduates was $40,500 for union members and $32,000 for non-union members.

Underpaid and exploited, US online journalists are now seeking to unionize. Some of them founded a new group, Media Workers Unite, announcing the release of the “Louisville Statement of Media Workers’ Rights”, on October 8th, at The Carl Braden Memorial Center in Louisville. Among the 12 rights they call for: overtime protections (hours worked above the limit of 40 hours a week must be paid), less restrictive social media policies when journalists are off the clock, protections against age discrimination, freelancers rights, racial and ethnic diversity…

“When you are in the labor movement, no matter how scary this world can get, you never walk alone,” says Politico reporter Mike Elk, co-author of the Louisville Statement with several journalists and trade unionists, including members of the Newspaper Guild, an US affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). “As a workplace safety reporter, I see overtime as hazard that science tells us leads to mental health collapses like that I experienced that has been widely ridiculed by many. Despite the naysayers, we must put a stop to forced overtime in the media industry as it is literally killing media workers (…) and causing serious mental health issues for so many others. (…) The days of McCarthyism are over in the newsroom – everyone deserves a voice!”

The authors of the Statement call on media workers to join them this October 8th – 11th in Louisville in developing a Nationwide Center for Media Workers.

efj on elk

National Nurses Union Endorses Sanders

As the Executive Director of National Nurses United, the largest nurses union in our nation, I was there when we proudly endorsed Bernie Sanders for President.

In the moments leading up to our endorsement, I watched our nurses’ outpouring of love and respect for Bernie.

Bernie-NNU-endorsement-600px-150814

Bernie and NNU members

It was a magical moment of genuine hope for nurses who see people when they are at their most vulnerable and suffering, and who care for every person’s life in our country.

Nurses see the terrible social health consequences from:

Choosing between putting food on the table and getting the medications and treatment you need
Job loss
Severe depression from debt, especially student loan debt
Pollution, toxic spills, and climate change
Malnutrition and income inequality
With Bernie Sanders, we can turn our country around, and restore genuine hope for our families. Continue reading

Sanders: The Economy is Rigged by Corporate America

Sanders Urges Unions to Hold Their Own Debates

Democratic presidential hopeful and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders advocated Sunday for more Democratic primary debates, including some run by labor unions.

 

“I’d like to see the DNC have more debates,” Bernie Sanders told Face the Nation host John Dickerson. “I would like to see labor union groups. I would like to see environmental groups, women’s groups, gay groups … different constituencies, host events and have us debate. So I believe the more debates, the better.” Continue reading

Over Five Thousand Union Activists Support Sanders Candidacy

Labor for Bernie

For immediate release: July 27, 2015

Labor for bernie

 

AFL-CIO delay on endorsement provides more time to build broader union support

The national AFL-CIO’s decision on July 24 to delay an early endorsement is a reflection of the growing union support for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bid for President. The delay gives the Sanders campaign more time to firm up labor support which is continuing to surge at the grassroots.

Labor for Bernie 2016 was kicked off in late June with 1,000 supporters and has quickly grown to a national network with more than 5,000 union supporters who have signed an on-line statement embracing Sanders as the only declared candidate, in either major party, “who challenges the billionaires who are trying to steal our pensions, our jobs, our homes, and what’s left of our democracy.”

Larry Cohen, past president of the Communications Workers of America and now a volunteer working on the Sanders’ campaign said, “Our strong and growing grassroots movement shows that Bernie shares our values and beliefs.  Workers are fed up with business as usual. This campaign is about putting a stop to the corporate assault on our kids, our country and working families!”

Sanders’ union supporters are taking an active role in thousands of grassroots organizing parties taking place on July 29. Labor for Bernie 2016 has produced a new leaflet highlighting Sanders long track record of support for workers’ rights. It has also upgraded its website to provide better networking tools for supporters to build member-to-member relationships within their unions and in their communities.

A recent Utility Workers Union of America poll of 400 elected delegates to their national convention in Hollywood FL supported Bernie Sanders with 65 percent of the vote, Clinton had just 23 percent, with Martin O’Malley taking only 7 percent and the combined Republican field winning 5 percent

Since early June, Sanders has received support from the Vermont AFL-CIO, South Carolina AFL-CIO, Teamsters (Lithographers) Local 1 in New York City, IBEW Local 2222 in Boston and IBEW Local 159 in Madison, WI.

On July 11, the American Federation of Teachers national executive board voted to endorse Clinton with little membership input. The endorsement caused an uproar on social media and led to a major spike in sign-ups by teachers on the Labor for Bernie website. Today, nearly 700 members of the AFT or the larger NEA have joined the network.

Members of other unions are also showing strong support for Sanders. More than 575 IBEW members who have signed up make it the largest supporter, followed by AFT (374 members) and NEA (312 members), then CWA (308 members) Teamsters (301 members), and the UAW (266 members). Nearly 18 percent of the Labor for Sanders 2016 initiative are from Building Trades unions with IBEW and the Carpenters (203) members showing the strongest support.

With more endorsers signing up every day, the Labor for Bernie network is urging the AFL-CIO, its affiliated national unions, and major unaffiliated labor organizations (NEA, SEIU, and IBT) to sponsor candidate forums and debates, at the grassroots level, before making any presidential endorsement decision of their own.

Labor for Bernie 2016 is a volunteer effort neither funded nor directed by the Sanders for President campaign. To join this grassroots mobilization, download useful organizing materials, or learn more about Bernie’s past and present support for workers and their unions, go to: www.laborforbernie.org

For more information, contact: laborforbernie@gmail.com or call Larry Cohen 202-215-1118; Steve Early 617-930-7327; or Stewart Acuff; 202-701-0180

Friedrichs v CTA – A Potential Union Killer

Supremecourt

by Harold Meyerson

About a month ago, the Supreme Court closed out its term in a blaze of nonpartisan glory. Or nonpartisan obloquy, depending on one’s reaction to the court’s legalization of same-sex marriage and its upholding of Obamacare — but nonpartisan either way. A court with a Republican-appointed majority upheld a Democratic president’s health insurance program and a marital policy that most Republican officeholders felt obliged to oppose (even if most Republican political consultants felt relieved to see gay marriage rendered a fait accompli).

But that was then. In the term that will begin this fall, the court has a splendid opportunity to deliver the most partisan decision it has rendered since Bush v. Gore. When the court rules in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association , which will be argued in the coming months, the Republican-appointed justices will be able, if they so choose, to create a long-term advantage for their party over the Democrats.

Friedrichs is a case brought by a California teacher who objects to paying dues to the union that has bargained the contract that secures her pay and benefits. The union does not collect any money from her to support its political activities, but, by virtue of the court’s 1977 Abood decision, and hundreds of later decisions based on Abood, she is obliged to pay that portion of her dues that goes to bargaining and administering her contract. That obligation, the court ruled in Abood, is essential if public employees are to have an effective right to collective bargaining. If employees can benefit from union representation without funding the union, the court reasoned, the union could be weakened to the point that it couldn’t represent those employees adequately, if, indeed, at all. Continue reading

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