Trade Deal is an Attack on Our Unions

tppprotesters_062315frBy Richard Trumka –
As a dozen nations gather in New Zealand this week to officially sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), working families in the United States are sounding the alarm on a deal that would lower wages and ship even more jobs overseas.

The final text of the agreement, released in November, is even worse than we imagined, with loopholes in labor enforcement and rewards for outsourcing. Like its predecessor agreements NAFTA and CAFTA, the TPP is a giveaway to big corporations, special interests and all those who want economic rules that benefit the wealthy few. It is no wonder the presidential front-runners from both political parties oppose it.

It didn’t have to be this way. The labor movement supports trade. We know that opening up new markets to American products the right way can create jobs and lift up working people. But trade must be done under a fair set of rules that puts people ahead of profits. The TPP fails that test miserably.
From the outset, the AFL-CIO provided detailed and substantive suggestions for improving this agreement and evidence to support our positions. On everything from labor enforcement to investment rules, we offered a path forward. Unfortunately, our policy recommendations were ignored, as were those from the environmental, consumer, public health, global development and manufacturing sectors. That’s what you get from secret
negotiations driven by corporate and investor interests. Continue reading

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

Facts on Friedrichs V CTA

The Supreme Court could deal a blow to working people

On Monday the Supreme Court heard arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which concerns whether public-sector employees who receive the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement should be required to pay their fair share of the cost of negotiating and protecting those benefits, regardless of whether they belong to a union. The case has potentially far-reaching consequences for workers. EPI research has illustrated how the case threatens the rights of working people to collectively negotiate with their employers, and this week EPI released a fact sheet explaining how collective bargaining raises wages and improves the standard of living for all workers. below.

Also: There are important tributes to the contributions of Martin Luther King jr. on our Democratic Left blog, http://www.dsausa.org

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

Minimum Wage Battle Goes to the Ballot in Sacramento

By Seth Sandronsky
Sacto-Card2

On December 21, 2015, Organize Sacramento and Raise the Wage Sacramento filed documents with the city clerk to gather 21,503 valid voter signatures necessary to place a minimum-wage measure on this year’s November ballot. The measure would boost the city’s minimum wage to $15 by 2020, peg it to the Consumer Price Index and let workers earn paid sick leave. [Ed: the California Minimum Wage is $10 per hour].

Two months earlier the city council, on a 6-3 vote, had approved a minimum-wage ordinance bump to $12.50 by 2020. For Organize Sacramento and Raise the Wage Sacramento, though, that was too low and slow, spurring the current ballot drive for a $15 minimum wage. The Democratic Party of Sacramento County, Restaurant Opportunities Center United, Capital Region Organizing Project and Center for Workers’ Rights also back the measure. Continue reading

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