AFL-CIO Now Blog

05/14/2021 - 10:00am
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: BAC Joins Forces with Indian Union to Demand Justice for Construction Workers in New Jersey

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

The Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) and Indian labor union Pathar Gadhai Mazdoor Suraksha Sangh (PGMSS) are joining forces to raise the alarm about forced labor allegedly taking place at a construction site in Robbinsville, New Jersey. The unions are fighting for the more than 200 Indian immigrant workers there who are being exploited in the construction of a new Hindu temple. In their legal filing on Tuesday, the workers allege shocking levels of wage theft, coercion and fraud by an employer who lied to them and to the U.S. government, claiming that they were religious volunteers who did not seek or expect pay in return for their skilled labor.

“The shocking levels of exploitation alleged in this case are a stark reminder that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We applaud the BAC and PGMSS for their work to support these brave temple stone workers, and America’s unions will stand proudly with them in their fight,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA). “To fix the systems that have failed working families, we must be united across borders. Only then can we rewrite the rules of the economy and ensure that workers are no longer treated like disposable commodities in our global supply chains. The labor movement will remain steadfast in this struggle until all people, regardless of where we were born, are able to live and work safely and with dignity.”

Click here to read more.

Fri, 05/14/2021 - 08:30

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service, India

05/13/2021 - 9:30pm
15 Ways the American Families Plan Will Help Working People

President Biden recently announced the American Families Plan, legislation that is designed to invest in children, families and our economic future. Here are 15 provisions from the proposal that will help working people:

  1. Invests in education from early childhood to postsecondary so that young people can learn, grow and gain skills they need to succeed.
  2. Provides universal, high-quality preschool for all three- and four-year-olds, which not only helps prepare those children to be lifelong learners, it lessens the stress on working parents.
  3. Provides Americans two free years of community college, including to Dreamers.
  4. Investments in making college more affordable for low- and middle-income students, including providing assistance to colleges that serve communities that have been historically marginalized, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), institutions such as Hispanic-serving institutions, Asian American, Native American and Pacific Islander-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs).
  5. Invests in teacher training and support.
  6. Provides direct support to families to insure that we spend no more than 7% of our income on child care and to ensure that this child care is of high quality. 
  7. Creates a national paid family and medical leave program that will bring us in line with similar countries.
  8. Reduces childhood hunger by providing nutrition assistance to families in need.
  9. Extends key tax cuts that benefit lower- and middle-income working families, including the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.
  10. Extends expanded health insurance tax credits, which would help 9 million people maintain health insurance and allow 4 million more to gain it.
  11. Expansion of Pell Grants for students seeking a certificate, two- or four-year degree.
  12. Modernize the unemployment insurance system to make access more equitable while continuing to prevent fraud.
  13. Lowers prescription drug costs by letting Medicare negotiate prices. 
  14. Extends health care tax credits and invests in various health care programs so that millions of Americans will gain health insurance.
  15. Reforms the tax code, which will result in fewer loopholes for the wealthy and create more opportunity for working families.
Thu, 05/13/2021 - 11:56

05/13/2021 - 3:00pm
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Profiles: Sheila Ivy Traister Sheila Ivy Traister

For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this year, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights in the United States. Today's profile is Sheila Ivy Traister.

Sheila Ivy Traister has given 44 years of cumulative service to the labor movement. She has held elected positions in the Colorado AFL-CIO and she has served SAG-AFTRA since before the merger. She has served on dozens of local committees across the broad spectrum of activities SAG-AFTRA participates in. Traister particularly focuses on committees that help expand the inclusiveness of her industry and the labor movement, including committees for performers who are Asian American and Pacific Islander, performers with disabilities and expanding equal opportunity in the industry. She created the acting department at the Colorado Film Schools and she conducts workshops and lectures for film students, educating them about SAG-AFTRA and the benefits of union membership. Traister is an actor, director and writer who works in television, film and theater. She is also a highly sought-after coach and mentor.

Thu, 05/13/2021 - 09:30

05/13/2021 - 3:00pm
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: AFM Members Rally for a New Contract in Fort Wayne AFM in Indiana

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

With wages, benefits and working conditions on the line, members of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) were joined by the Hoosier Heartland Labor Council as they rallied in Fort Wayne, Indiana, over the weekend to draw attention to their fight for a new contract with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. AFM International President Ray Hair spoke at the rally in support of the orchestra musicians, who have been furloughed because of the pandemic since August 2020. “Why are these musicians out on the street? Why haven’t they had paychecks since last summer? It’s because the management doesn’t want them to,” Hair told WPTA. “They’re lining their own pockets. Nobody in management would have a job if it weren’t for us.”

Thu, 05/13/2021 - 08:30

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

05/12/2021 - 2:30pm
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Profiles: Sharon Soper Sharon Soper

For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this year, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights in the United States. Today's profile is Sharon Soper.

Hired by Hawaiian Airlines in 1965 as a flight attendant, Soper retired 55 years later in 2020. She served in the leadership of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) for more than 50 years, including time as president of her local. She helped negotiate nearly every AFA-CWA contract with Hawaiian Airlines to date. She has been a leader and voice for several generations of flight attendants and continues to be an inspiration for flight attendants today.

Wed, 05/12/2021 - 09:30

05/12/2021 - 2:30pm
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: IAM Raises About $100K for Southern Maryland Veterans Home

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

The Machinists’ (IAM’s) commitment to military veterans was on full display at the IAM 2021 International President’s Capital Classic Golf Tournament. More than 130 golfers and 50 sponsors joined together on Monday, May 3, at Breton Bay Golf and Country Club in Leonardtown, Maryland. The tournament raised about $100,000 for capital improvement projects for U.S. military veterans at Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in southern Maryland. “The Machinists union has a special bond with the military and the men and women who serve in our armed forces,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr., a U.S. Navy veteran. “Many of our members are veterans themselves and help support the mission of service men and women every day. This is just one more way we can give back to our community here in Maryland and to our nation’s heroes.”

Wed, 05/12/2021 - 09:02

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

05/11/2021 - 8:00pm
A Very Bad Joke: The Working People Weekly List Working People Weekly List

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s the latest edition of the Working People Weekly List.

Elon Musk Hosting SNL: A Very Bad Joke on Working People: "Before we even find out if Elon Musk can do comedy, we know this: Letting him host 'Saturday Night Live' is a joke. Musk has used his social-media megaphone to spread misinformation about COVID, endanger employees’ health and violate their organizing rights. He’s exactly the kind of union-busting CEO who proves why American workers need the PRO Act, a bill sitting in the Senate that will help us reclaim our power."

Nurses Are Striking Across the Country Over Patient Safety: "On May Day outside of St. Vincent Hospital here, there was a sing-along going on. It was the 55th day that the nurses, members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, had been on strike at the hospital, and the sunny weather and blooming flowers meant morale was high."

Sports Unions Come Together to Fight for the PRO Act: "The PRO Act is about as important a piece of labor legislation as we’ve seen in some time. It holds the potential to open the door for workers and organizers to step up and reverse 40 years of losses for organized labor. The law, whose initials stand for Protecting the Right to Organize, aims to do just that: protect workers from being harassed or fired if they try to organize a union or if they try to help their already existing union become more active in their workplace. This is seen as the number one legislative priority for organized labor. Its chances of passing are regarded as slim in the Senate, but that isn’t stopping the union movement from trying to get it passed. Now the PRO Act has very loud and proud support from another group of 'pros,' the major sports unions of the United States. The Major League Baseball Players Association, the NBA Players Association, the NFL Players Association, and the NHL Players Association."

Death on the Job Report: Years of Progress, Long Way to Go: "In the decades since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established, there’s been a lot of progress in cutting worker deaths and injuries on the job. However, there’s still a long way to go. That’s a big conclusion from the data in the AFL-CIO’s 30th annual Death on the Job report, released May 4, a week after OSHA’s 50th anniversary. The Occupational Safety and Health Act, strongly pushed by organized labor, has helped cut deaths on the job from nine per 100,000 workers 30 years ago to 3.5 per 100,000 in 2019. The report with the latest available data shows this. The death rate has stalled at that level ever since the anti-worker anti-safety GOP Trump regime took over in 2017. And the 3.5/100,000 rate still translates into having 275 workers die every day from hazardous working conditions, the report says. Those figures actually understate the case, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler told the Zoom press conference unveiling the report. 'About 95,000 workers a year die from occupational illnesses,' often contracted long before, she pointed out. And illness and death disproportionately hit workers of color, she added."

COVID-19’s Full Effect on Workers Will Likely Remain Unknown, AFL-CIO’s Death on the Job Report Claims: "The full extent of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the nation’s workforce will likely remain unclear because of the lack of a comprehensive national system to gather such information, according to the AFL-CIO’s annual report on the state of safety and health protections for U.S. workers. The 30th edition of Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect―released May 4―states that 'employer reporting of COVID-19 cases still is mandatory only in a few states with specific standards or orders.' During a May 4 press conference, AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Rebecca Reindel noted that the Bureau of Labor Statistics states on its website that it won’t produce COVID-19 estimates. 'The Survey of Occupational Illnesses and Injuries relies on OSHA recordkeeping requirements, which mandate employers record certain work-related injuries and illnesses on their OSHA 300 log,' BLS says on its website. 'While the SOII may capture some recordable COVID-19 cases reported by employers, the SOII will not produce estimates specifically covering COVID-19 illnesses.'"

AFL-CIO Demands OSHA Boost After Worker Deaths Report: "The AFL-CIO on Tuesday called on the Biden administration to take action to strengthen federal enforcement of workplace safety standards, on the heels of a report showing more than 5,300 workers died on the job in 2019. The report the labor organization released at a virtual press conference found that workplace deaths rose slightly in 2019, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though the rate of injuries per 100,000 workers remained steady. The report found the fatality rate for Latino workers hit its highest level since 2008 at 4.2 per 100,000. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's power eroded under the administration of President Donald Trump and she is hopeful President Joe Biden will help lead the agency to take a more forceful stance. 'Obviously, we'd like to rebuild the agency, and the commitment does come from the top,' Shuler said."

Unemployment Benefits Are Not Creating a Worker Shortage: "William Spriggs isn’t buying that. The chief economist at the AFL-CIO labor federation, Spriggs said it is 'self-evident' that millions of people are trying to find work. Just because an employer hasn’t found them yet―at the wages the employer is willing to pay―doesn’t mean the workers aren’t out there. Spriggs said the normal hiring networks that employers rely on were blown up by the pandemic. Some employers who received forgivable government loans were able to keep their workers on the payroll, but many firms simply let them go during lockdown. A year later many of those workers have taken other jobs, moved on or even died."

President Richard Trumka Joined Bloomberg TV to Discuss the PRO Act: "President Richard Trumka joined Bloomberg TV to discuss the PRO Act, worker safety and how President Joe Biden is delivering for working people."

Elon Musk Might Be Hosting SNL, but Tesla Workers Aren’t Laughing: "Saturday Night Live recently announced its upcoming lineup, and I was shocked to see that none other than Elon Musk—the brash CEO of Tesla, my former employer—would be hosting on May 8. There’s a lot to be impressed by when it comes to Tesla’s electric vehicles (EVs) and other cars of the future. But in my mind, there’s nothing funny about how Tesla has treated workers."

Tue, 05/11/2021 - 12:05

05/11/2021 - 8:00pm
Thank You, Mom: In the States Roundup In the States Roundup

It's time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states. Click on any of the links to follow the state federations on Twitter.

Alabama AFL-CIO:

Alaska AFL-CIO:

Arizona AFL-CIO:

California Labor Federation:

Colorado AFL-CIO:

Connecticut AFL-CIO:

Florida AFL-CIO:

Georgia AFL-CIO:

Indiana State AFL-CIO:

05/11/2021 - 1:46pm
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Profiles: Angela Chan

For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this year, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights in the United States. Today's profile is Angela Chan.

Angela ChanAngela Chan joined the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Local 369 in Las Vegas in 2002 when she joined a touring show of "South Pacific." After some time in Dallas, she moved back to Las Vegas and, in 2015, she won a seat on the local’s board of trustees. About her union membership, Chan said: “Unions exist so that you can have fair wages, and fair and safe working conditions. A lot of times, especially for musicians, we want to play so badly that we forget we should be treated as professionals.” Recently, Chan founded The Cre8sian Project, with the goal of increasing the number of Asian women in the arts world “by creating a cast of diverse superheroes for children.” She is a classically trained pianist and an active theater musician.

Tue, 05/11/2021 - 09:30

05/11/2021 - 1:46pm
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: AFL-CIO and Others Announce Filing of First USMCA ‘Rapid Response Mechanism’ Labor Case

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

The AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Sindicato Nacional Independiente de Trabajadores de Industrias y de Servicios Movimiento 20/32 (SNITIS) and Public Citizen announced Monday that they have filed the first complaint under the Rapid Response Mechanism of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) against Tridonex, an auto parts factory located in Matamoros in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico. The case will test whether Mexico’s labor reforms and USMCA’s Rapid Response Mechanism can deliver for Mexican workers denied their fundamental right to organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions.

“USMCA requires Mexico to end the reign of protection unions and their corrupt deals with employers,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA). “The ongoing harassment of Susana Prieto and SNITIS members is a textbook violation of the labor laws Mexico has pledged to uphold.” Read the full story here.

Tue, 05/11/2021 - 08:34

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

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