Supreme Court to Take Up Anti Union Case

English: The current United States Supreme Cou...

English: The current United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the United States, in 2006. Photo-Wikipedia.

by Laura Clawson. Labor at Daily Kos

The Supreme Court partially pulled its last punch against public employees and their unions, but it’s coming back for another shot. In 2014, the court limited its anti-union decision in Harris v. Quinn to only affect home care workers (some of the most vulnerable, exploited workers out there) rather than all public sector workers. That decision allowed anti-union home care workers to get the benefits of union membership without paying their fair share, thereby forcing their union-member co-workers to pay to represent them.
Now the court has said it will hear a similar case involving teachers, with anti-union teachers suing to get out of paying their share of union activities that directly benefit them.

Major labor leaders expressed dismay over the court’s decision to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which challenges a 1977 ruling that had said such fees were constitutional as long as they’re used for “collective-bargaining, contract administration, and grievance-adjustment purposes.” Continue reading

House Passes Trade Assistance Act

by Meteor Blades at Daily Kos

TPPWith only six Democrats opposed, the House of Representatives favored the trade adjustment assistance (TAA) program Thursday in a 286-138 vote. There were 175 Democrats and 111 Republicans in favor. The Senate passed TAA Wednesday.
The program provides modest financial and job-training help to workers displaced by trade agreements. It was passed as an amendment to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which extends trade preferences until 2025 for a number of African countries. If the legislation had not passed, the TAA program would have expired at the end of the fiscal year, September 30. Continue reading

Corporations Win on Fast Track

United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., east ...

United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., east front elevation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fast track passes. Our Congress – the supposed representatives of We the People – voted to cut themselves and us out of the process of deciding what “the rules” for doing business “in the 21st Century” will be.

How do the plutocrats and oligarchs and their giant multinational corporations get what they want when a pesky democracy is in their way? They push that pesky democracy out of their way.

Because of fast track, when the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and any other secretly negotiated “trade” agreements are completed Congress must vote in a hurry with only limited debate, cannot make any amendments no matter what is in the agreement, and they can’t be filibustered. Nothing else coming before our Congress gets that kind of skid-greasing, only corporate-written “trade” agreements – and it doesn’t matter how far the contents go beyond actual “trade.” Continue reading

South Carolina AFL-CIO Executive Board Supports Sanders Candidacy

by Paul Garver

bernie-150526-launch-shake

On June 13th the Executive Board of the South Carolina AFL-CIO adopted the following resolution urging support for Bernie Sanders in 2016.  Thus South Carolina joins Vermont in urging the National AFL-CIO to support the Sanders campaign.

Given that Sanders wholeheartedly supported the tentatively victorious struggle by American unions to block the antidemocratic and anti-worker corporate power grab of Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority, while Hillary Clinton maintained a resolute silence on the issue until as late in the day as possible, some other state and local AFL-CIO bodies might follow the lead of their colleagues in Vermont and South Carolina by endorsing Sanders..

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Resolution Urging Support for Bernie 2016
On June 13, 2015, the Executive Board of the South Carolina AFL-CIO met and voted to adopt the following resolution:

Whereas: The SC AFL-CIO Executive Board is committed to building a broad, effective movement for democratic change, and
Whereas: Our goal is a government that carries out the will of the people, not prop up the profits of the 1% at the expense of the rest of us, and
Whereas: We firmly believe that Senator Bernie Sanders is the strongest candidate articulating our issues. His commitment to union principles and labor’s values is longstanding and heartfelt, and
Whereas: As a truly progressive candidate for the Democratic Party nomination, Bernie has the chance to inspire millions of Americans with policy proposals that put the interests of the labor movement, front and center. His campaign will draw attention to what unions and collective bargaining have accomplished for workers and energize our movement, and
Whereas: Labor must step up to fundamentally change the direction of American politics, by refocusing on the issues of our time: growing inequality and pervasive racism, the power of concentrated wealth and its corruption of our democracy, an escalating pension and retirement security crisis, runaway military spending and a militarized foreign policy, Medicare for All, and the need for new, bold solutions to our shared problems.

Therefore be it resolved that: We call on the AFL-CIO, union members and working people everywhere to unite behind Bernie Sanders and elect the President America’s workers desperately need, and
Be it further resolved that: The South Carolina AFL-CIO Executive Board strongly urges the AFL-CIO to support Bernie Sanders 2016 and his campaign to become the nominee of the Democratic Party for president.

Adopted on June 13, 2015 and respectfully submitted for consideration to the AFL-CIO by the SC AFL-CIO Executive Board.

UE General Executive Board Statement on Bernie Sanders Presidential Campaign

UE General Executive Board
May 29, 2015
United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America
Sanders has been a strong voice encouraging workers to build unions, opposing excessive corporate power and economic inequality; and for measures to curb climate change, notes the UE General Executive Board in a statement urging its members and locals to consider participating in his campaign. The statement also urged Sanders his to offers a stronger critique of US interventionist foreign policy.

At its meeting May 28-29 in Pittsburgh, UE’s General Executive Board adopted the following statement on the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders.

The UE General Executive Board welcomes the entrance of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont into the presidential race. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, will compete in the Democratic primaries for the Democratic nomination. In his 35-year career in elected office, including 25 years in Congress, Bernie Sanders has been a strong friend and ally to UE members and to workers generally. He has urged workers to organize – as he did when workers at the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) in St. Albans organized UE Local 208 in 2008. When Vermont workers have organized, struck, or been engaged in other actions to defend their rights against employer greed or mismanagement, Sanders has spoken publicly in their behalf and assisted them in many other ways.

Recently the Vermont State AFL-CIO Labor Council urged the national AFL-CIO to support Sanders, calling him “the strongest candidate articulating our issues”. With the present stable of corporate-sponsored candidates in the presidential race we could not agree more.

Sanders has been a strong voice in American politics encouraging workers to build unions, against excessive corporate power and economic inequality; against the corrosive influence of big money in politics; for the environment and measures to curb climate change. He’s introduced legislation to not only protect Social Security but to increase the benefits, and supports a single-payer system of national health insurance, raising the minimum wage to $15, changing federal law to make it easier to organize, and has pledged to dismantle the Citizens United decision which enables corporations and wealthy donors to give unlimited dollars to political campaigns.

At his official campaign kickoff rally on May 25 in Burlington, VT, Sanders threw down the gauntlet to the corporate elite. “This campaign is going to send a message to the billionaire class. And that is: You can’t have it all. You can’t get huge tax breaks while children in this country go hungry. You can’t continue sending our jobs to China while millions are looking for work. You can’t hide your profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens, while there are massive unmet needs on every corner of this nation. Your greed has got to end. You cannot take advantage of all the benefits of America, if you refuse to accept your responsibilities.”

We are pleased with the way Senator Sanders frames these issues and the worker-based set of policies he is offering, in contrast to the pro-corporate policies of the other Democratic and Republican candidates. We encourage his campaign to offers a stronger critique of the interventionist foreign policy that is offered both by Hillary Clinton and the Republicans. We need our government to stop getting us into wars, stop trying to dominate and interfere in other countries’ affairs, and cut back the billions we spend on war and weapons and use those resources peacefully and productively to address our people’s needs at home.

We encourage UE members and locals to take a serious look at Bernie Sanders’s campaign and to consider their active participation in it.

Our TPP Negotiators are Determined to Win the Race to the Bottom

by Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

Trade deals write the rules for globalization. That is, they determine who will be winners, and who won’t.
Under NAFTA-style trade deals, the winners have been pharmaceutical companies, big polluters, banks and companies like Nike who scour the earth for the lowest wages and weakest regulations.

One ray of redemption is the promise of high-standard 21st Century labor and environmental provisions. With good international standards, civil society can balance the power of global corporations and share gains.
Stop laughing. We need to get this piece right.

Bill Clinton promised us enforceable labor and environmental standards in NAFTA. He never enforced those standards. George Bush promised us enforceable standards in the “May 10th Agreements” which would fix NAFTA. He never enforced them.

Now, President Obama promises us high-standards labor and environmental protections with meaningful enforcement in his Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Our lived experience is decades of failure to enforce labor standards.

President Obama’s promise is eloquent and inspiring. It would be more convincing if he had pursued even a single meaningful enforcement action after hundreds of killed labor activists in Guatemala, Colombia and Honduras, and over 1,300 reported death threats. Our inaction has been a bitter disappointment to workers in Central America, Mexico and the U.S. We have never applied our leverage by suspending trade preferences in a trade agreement.

By chance, TPP has given us a clear opportunity to demonstrate commitment to high-standard labor protections.
The Senate recently approved Fast Track — procedural legislation that Congress will use for TPP. The Senate version of Fast Track appropriately excludes countries with the worst records for human trafficking, forced labor and child labor. The U.S. State Department ranks countries each year, and Malaysia, one of the 12 TPP countries, falls into that worst category called “Tier 3.”

The Malaysian electronics industry uses forced labor for 28 percent of its workforce to make products for well-known U.S. companies. Forced labor and child labor drive its garment and palm oil industries.
Malaysia relies on its very weak human trafficking practices to give it a competitive advantage in global markets.

Recent press reports from Malaysia document unimaginably poor conditions for refugees, who are held for ransom, traded from one kidnapper to another, tortured and murdered. This is 21st century slavery.
The Senate version of Fast Track does exactly what President Obama promised — if you meet international standards, you can have favorable access to our markets. If you fail to meet those standards you lose favorable access. When you improve, you regain favorable access. The Senate’s version of Fast Track can improve the lives of thousands of workers in industries that anchor Malaysia’s economy.

Incomprehensibly, the Obama administration is asking House members to weaken the Senate’s language to let Malaysia into TPP without any actual improvement in workers’ conditions. It would let Malaysia maintain human trafficking exactly the way it is now.

Malaysia has successfully ignored the State Department’s engagement on human trafficking for at least a decade. The President engaged Malaysia in 2012 and 2013 with waivers, suspending a drop to Tier 3 status. Malaysia’s enforcement against human trafficking actually declined in 2014.

Malaysia knows exactly what risk it runs with the labor provisions in TPP, because they helped negotiate TPP’s labor chapter, with the help of US industry advisors. Malaysia can confidently ignore the labor standards in TPP, in light of our decades of ineffective enforcement in Honduras, Guatemala and Colombia under previous trade deals.

If the administration is able to weaken the Senate’s human rights language, we will be sending a message to the world that the President will sacrifice labor and environmental standards at the first opportunity. Once again, the interests of Intel, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, AMD, Texas Instruments and Dell would mean more to our trade negotiators than the suffering of refugees, exploitation of a quarter of the workers in the Malaysian electronics and garment industries and the children working in the palm oil industry. Corporate interests would mean more than the grief of families of men women and children showing signs of torture recently found in 139 graves.

If the administration and House members shrug off Malaysia’s poor human rights record, they are sending a message to the rest of the Malaysian economy and any other country that competes against Malaysia in the global economy: The U.S. will not enforce global rules on human trafficking.

It is worth noting that five other TPP countries — Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, Mexico and Brunei — are on the Tier 2 list — bad, but not the worst.

Over 150 House members signed a letter questioning Vietnam’s labor record and TPP. Over 100 House members also opposed trade concessions for Brunei, which criminalizes gay lifestyles under Sharia law. Mexico has successfully resisted improving its labor laws for the 20 years since NAFTA.

If Congress accepts the administration’s weaker condition, the message to Tier 2 countries is that exploiting workers carries no meaningful consequences. That message will certainly carry through into human trafficking in our own communities.

Our negotiators seem determined to win the race to the bottom.

On the other hand, if Congress excludes Malaysia from TPP, the five Tier 2 countries could take a lesson to improve. We will finally use the leverage we’ve always had to make other countries live up to written commitments.

TPP proponents talk about “setting the rules” so that China won’t. Our engagement on human trafficking is a clear test of which rules we value, and the kind of leadership we will express through our trade policy.
It’s clear that the Obama administration has had no interest in enforcing labor or environmental laws. Our negotiators have been criticized repeatedly for ignoring their labor advisory committee.

Fast Track gives Congress a fine opportunity to express our values as a country, and show that workers can be winners, even over objections from the Obama administration. The House should approve the Senate language and make Malaysia improve its human rights record.

Stan Sorscher is Labor Representative at Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), a union representing over 20,000 scientists, engineers, technical and professional employees in the aerospace industry. Follow Stan Sorscher on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/sorscher
Reprinted from HuffPost with permission of the author.

Join Labor Campaign for Bernie 2016

by Rand Wilson

Since Bernie Sanders officially launched his presidential campaign, over 200 union members have already signed the Labor for Bernie 2016 letter on line, including more than 30 trade unionists from Massachusetts.

We need 1,000 signatures to make this labor letter credible. Please consider signing on to the letter and helping to recruit more members to the Labor for Bernie 2016 campaign by sharing this link.  Do it now! 

As we build the list of labor supporters for Bernie, we can share it by union and plan activities in Massachusetts [and other states] so folks can organize within their union and their community.

Some good news: the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and the Green Mountain Labor Council, AFL-CIO both adopted our State Fed/CLC/union “Resolution Urging Support for Bernie 2016

These resolutions make a good template for what we hope many other labor organizations in Massachusetts will do. The sample CLC resolution is online here and a sample union resolution is online here.

The Labor for Bernie 2016 sign on letter is online here.

Use this link to visit our new Labor Campaign for Bernie Sanders Facebook page.  Please “like” the page.

Another Labor for Bernie page is here.

The campaign gmail account is: LaborforBernie2016@gmail.com

Rand Wilson is a long-term organizer living in Somerville, MA. He currently works for SEIU Local 888 based in Charlestown, MA. He has been executive director of Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, and frequently contributes to various labor publications, including Talking Union.

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