AFL-CIO Now Blog

04/28/2021 - 1:46pm
On Workers' Memorial Day, Ask Your Senator to Vote 'Yes' on the PRO Act Support Our Heroes

On Workers Memorial Day, we remember those who have suffered and died on the job. We have lost and continue to lose too many working people to COVID-19 and other workplace hazards. No one should die simply because we go to work.

Under the law, every employer is responsible for providing a safe workplace. But each year, thousands of people are killed and millions more get sick or are injured from preventable workplace hazards. And after this past year, it’s painfully clear that too many corporate interests just don’t care about worker safety, even during a global pandemic.

Throughout this crisis, unions and our allies stepped into action. We held state and local leaders accountable to enforce the law. We won protections for members, including personal protective equipment, ventilation and training.

Unions are, and will always be, working people coming together to demand safer working conditions. To honor those we’ve lost, we’ll keep fighting on their behalf. That’s why we built our PRO Act National Week of Action around Workers Memorial Day.

We need to ensure that future generations will always have a strong voice in the workplace. That every worker has the tools to demand safer working conditions. Worker safety and worker voice go hand in hand. And that’s why on this Workers Memorial Day, we are asking our senators to vote YES on the PRO Act.

Today, we remember. Today, we act.

Wed, 04/28/2021 - 10:15

Tags: PRO Act

04/28/2021 - 1:46pm
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: 700-Plus Events During Nationwide PRO Act Week of Action PRO Act

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.

This week, the AFL-CIO is leading the PRO Act Week of Action, part of the labor movement’s national campaign urging senators to pass this transformative legislation. The groundswell of support for the bill has been building since it passed the House in early March, with 572 events already occurring. Throughout this week, more than 700 events and actions in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico are scheduled.

Events range from socially distanced mobilizations and teach-ins to worksite leafleting, Senate call-in days and actions highlighting the critical role unions play in workplace safety on Workers Memorial Day, April 28. On Monday in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, officers from the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and the Harrisburg Region Central Labor Council gathered for a workers’ memorial event. State federation President Richard Bloomingdale (AFSCME) helped lead participants in calling for passage of the PRO Act and tossing a wreath into the Susquehanna River in memory of workers who have died on the job this past year.

Wed, 04/28/2021 - 09:33

Tags: Community Service, COVID-19, PRO Act

04/28/2021 - 1:46pm
The PRO Act: Worker Safety and Worker Voice Support Our Heroes

Fifty years ago today, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) went into effect, promising every worker the right to a safe job. The law was won in 1970 because of the tireless efforts of the labor movement and allies, who drew major attention to work-related deaths, disease and injuries, organized for safer working conditions and demanded action from their government. Since then, unions and our allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality—winning protections that have made jobs safer and saved lives. But there is much to be done before the promise to keep all workers safe on the job, during the pandemic and beyond, can be fulfilled.

Worker safety and worker voice go hand in hand. And as we grow our movement, we must use those voices to advocate for a strong workplace safety agenda. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the weaknesses in the OSH Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Association’s capabilities to ensure workers are protected on the job and in structural failures that have prevented workers’ from organizing in our workplaces to demand safer working conditions.

The pandemic also highlighted the inextricable link between workplace safety and health and the safety and health of the community. Public health cannot begin to be addressed without attending to the needs and safety of workers on the job. The disproportionate impacts on people of color, widely represented in the essential workforce—health care, food supply, transit, grocery, corrections—has been devastating. Since the beginning of the pandemic, unions have won protections in states and held state and local leaders accountable. We demanded access to the ventilation, personal protective equipment and other measures to protect workers from inhaling the virus at work.

Today, the unions of the AFL-CIO observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job, and to renew the fight for safe jobs. We come together this year to call for action to protect workers from COVID-19 at work and stronger job safety and health protections and enforcement. We will organize to pass the PRO Act, so workers have a right to form a union and have a voice on the job. We will fight for the right of every worker to a safe job until that promise is fulfilled.

As we grieve those we have lost from COVID-19 and other workplace hazards, we must fight and continue to push forward. We must:

  • Pass the PRO Act to ensure workers have safe jobs and the right to freely form a union without employer interference or intimidation.
  • Pass the Protecting America’s Workers Act to provide OSHA protection to the millions of workers without it, stronger criminal and civil penalties for companies that seriously violate job safety laws and improved anti-retaliation protections.
  • Ensure that all workers have the necessary protections from COVID-19 at work.
  • Win new protections on workplace violence, silica exposure in mining, heat illness, exposure to asbestos and other toxic chemicals, and other hazards.
  • Defend hard-won safety and health protections and workers’ rights from attacks.
  • Increase the job safety budgets and improve job safety enforcement.
  • Increase efforts to protect the safety and health of Black, Latino and immigrant workers who are disproportionately affected and especially targeted for speaking up against unsafe working conditions.

Call your senators today at 866-832-1560 and urge them to pass the PRO Act.

Wed, 04/28/2021 - 10:00

Tags: PRO Act

04/27/2021 - 6:46pm
#PassTheProAct: 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.

Alaska AFL-CIO:

Arizona AFL-CIO:

California Labor Federation:

Connecticut AFL-CIO:

Florida AFL-CIO:

Georgia AFL-CIO:

Indiana State AFL-CIO:

Iowa Federation of Labor:

Kentucky State AFL-CIO:

Maine AFL-CIO:

Michigan AFL-CIO:

04/27/2021 - 6:46pm
Just the Facts: Freelance Journalists, Creative Professionals and the PRO Act PRO Act

President Joe Biden is ready to sign the PRO Act into law if it gets through the Senate to his desk. Our labor laws are outdated and no longer protect our right to form and join unions. The PRO Act is the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression. Stronger unions mean higher wages, safer working conditions and dignity for all people who work. Passing the PRO Act will be our first step in getting there. 

The PRO Act will help all workers, including freelancers. Here are some common questions about how the PRO Act will affect freelancers and our answers.

I hear that the PRO Act would cause freelance journalists and creative professionals to lose work. Is this true?

No. Corporate interests are waging a misinformation campaign against the PRO Act. The only way the PRO Act could possibly affect freelance journalists or creative professionals is that it might allow them to join a union and engage in collective bargaining, but only if they choose to. Those not wanting to organize a union or engage in collective action would be unaffected. The PRO Act would not stop freelance journalists or creative professionals from continuing to do freelance work.

So what does the PRO Act’s ABC test do then?

The “ABC test” in the PRO Act is used to determine who qualifies for protection under federal law if and when they choose to engage in collective action, organize a union or bargain collectively.

So is the PRO Act the same as A.B. 5 in California?

No. A.B. 5 in California redefines who is an “employee” under a broad range of state employment laws. The PRO Act does not touch any of those laws. The PRO Act only affects the federal law that governs private sector unions.

Would the PRO Act force the company for which I do freelancing work to hire me as a W-2 employee?

No. The PRO Act does not affect any of the laws that typically determine whether someone is hired as a W-2 employee, most notably tax law, but also minimum wage, overtime, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, etc.

Would the PRO Act outlaw independent contracting or gig work, or make freelancing work contracts illegal?

Absolutely not. Nothing in the PRO Act outlaws any kind of work arrangement.

Shouldn’t we just drop the ABC test from the PRO Act to avoid potential problems?

No. The ABC test is an absolutely essential part of the PRO Act. It is critical because employers often try to stop their workers from organizing a union by falsely claiming that the workers are independent contractors. The ABC test protects the rights of those workers to engage in collective action and organize a union.

Call your senators today at 866-832-1560 and urge them to pass the PRO Act.

Tue, 04/27/2021 - 09:02

Tags: PRO Act

04/27/2021 - 6:46pm
Stop Workplace Violence: 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.

Bill to Protect Health Care Workers Against Violent Workplace Attacks Passes the House: "'The pandemic of workplace violence has actually been going on for decades, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exasperated it,' said Bonnie Castillo, a registered nurse and executive director of National Nurses United."

AFL-CIO President Discusses the Energy Outlook Under the Biden Administration: "Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President, joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss the 'Green Economy' under President Biden."

Why The PRO-Act Is Key To Racial Justice And Economic Democracy: "The initial results for RWDSU’s high profile organizing drive at an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama demonstrate the extent that labor laws favor employers during unionization efforts.  The historic campaign also illustrates the struggles that working class people of color face in achieving economic justice in the fast growing fulfilment and logistics sector. And more presciently, the campaign highlights the need for better legal protections for such workers seeking to unionize, namely passage of The PRO-Act. In a video press conference on April 9, RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum recognized the efforts of the Bessemer workers while pointing out, 'The results demonstrate the powerful impact of employer intimidation and interference. Amazon misled and tried to manipulate workers. They took full advantage of terrible labor laws.'"

Union Appeals Amazon Election in Alabama, Says Company Violated Laws: "In objections filed with the National Labor Relations Board, attorneys representing Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union allege that Amazon intimidated and threatened employees into voting against unionizing. The union cited meetings that the company held with workers and a mailbox installed outside of the warehouse. More than 70% of workers who cast ballots in the election voted against joining the RWDSU. 'Amazon knew full well that unless they did everything they possibly could, even illegal activity, their workers would have continued supporting the union,' RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum has said. 'We demand a comprehensive investigation over Amazon’s behavior in corrupting this election.'"

King Backs PRO Act After Campaign by Labor, Advocacy Groups: "After a campaign by organized labor and advocacy groups, Sen. Angus King is supporting legislation that would expand the ability of workers to organize a union and pursue collective bargaining.  King’s communications director Matthew Felling confirmed in an email that the Maine independent, who caucuses with the Democrats, is co-sponsoring the Protecting the Right to Organize Act—also known as the PRO Act. The legislation passed the House in March with support from Maine U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden. Andy O’Brien, communications director of the Maine AFL-CIO, said the bill would essentially address policies, such as the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, that over the years have whittled away at workers’ ability to form a union and negotiate a first contract. 'It’s a really exciting time right now because you’ve got so many workers who are organizing and trying to form unions, but unfortunately laws allow for rampant union-busting, so this bill would be really the strongest pro-labor legislation since the New Deal if it passes' he said."

Manchin Throws Support Behind Union-Backed PRO Act: "Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Monday threw his support behind the PRO Act, union-backed legislation to promote labor organizing. The PRO Act would block 'right to work' laws, which allow people who benefit from union representation to opt out of membership and paying dues, and impose tougher restrictions on companies seeking to prevent unionization efforts. It passed in the House last month in a narrow, party-line vote of 225-206, with just five GOP members supporting it and one Democrat voting against."

SEC Chief Gary Gensler Picks Top Labor Union Official for Policy Role: "Gary Gensler, the new chief of the Securities and Exchange Commission, on Monday tapped a labor-union investment official as his policy director, raising expectations that the agency will embrace progressive policy goals. Gensler, who was sworn in on Saturday, picked Heather Slavkin Corzo for the top policy role in his office. The hire suggests Gensler will tackle issues such as stricter corporate disclosures related to climate-change risks and companies’ spending to influence politics. Corzo has worked as director of capital markets policy at the AFL-CIO and as head of U.S. policy at the Principles for Responsible Investment, a group of asset owners that incorporates environmental, social and governance considerations into their holdings."

The Technology 202: The Tech Industry is Fighting a Bill Making it Easier for Its Workers to Organize: "Liz Shuler, the AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer, said in an interview she has 'no doubt' the union push would have been successful if the Pro Act were in place because it might have deterred Amazon from allegedly intimidating workers. 'Right now if Amazon breaks the law, it's like a slap on the wrist,' Shuler said. 'There's really no downside to breaking the law time and time again to intimidate people.… The Pro Act would reverse course on that.'"

Unionization After Amazon: "Amazon workers in the company’s Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse last week voted overwhelmingly not to join a union. This happened despite tales from inside Amazon warehouses across the country of grueling work conditions and little time for bathroom breaks. Labor and management nationwide have been watching this situation closely for what it might mean for the union effort in other states. One of those watchers is Connecticut AFL-CIO president Sal Luciano. He joined Connecticut Public Radio’s All Things Considered to share his thoughts on why this unionization effort failed and what that means for the future of unions."

Freight Trains in the U.S. Are a Disaster Waiting to Happen: "Freight trains in the U.S. are crashing more often, and people in the industry are worried about what comes next. VICE News' Motherboard looks into how the industry got here."

Mon, 04/26/2021 - 09:47

04/27/2021 - 12:30pm
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Alexandria Passes First Collective Bargaining Ordinance in Virginia AFSCME

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 city of Alexandria on Saturday, April 17, became the first jurisdiction in the commonwealth of Virginia to pass a collective bargaining ordinance. The Alexandria City Council unanimously passed a collective bargaining ordinance expanding the rights of city workers. The ordinance gives city employees the right to bargain about most workplace issues, including pay, benefits, grievances and other disputes.

“[This is] a big win for labor,” AFSCME District Council 20 Executive Director Robert Hollingsworth told “Union City Radio,” the Metropolitan Washington (D.C.) Council’s radio show. “On behalf of the thousands of AFSCME Council 20 public employees, we commend the mayor and city council for hearing our concerns. And we look forward to working with them on an ordinance that serves as the leading example for cities and counties across the commonwealth.”

Tue, 04/27/2021 - 09:35

Tags: Community Service, COVID-19

04/26/2021 - 11:30am
13 Ways the PRO Act Helps Working People PRO Act

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act is a generational opportunity and the cornerstone of the AFL-CIO’s Workers First Agenda. It motivated working people this past election cycle to mobilize for a pro-worker trifecta in the U.S. House, Senate and White House. And working people won a mandate. The PRO Act was introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) and Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (Va.), and it is landmark worker empowerment, civil rights and economic stimulus legislation, and an essential part of any plan to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.

Here are 13 ways that the PRO Act helps working people:

1. Strengthens employees' bargaining rights: The PRO Act adopts new procedures to make sure unions can reach a first contract. To achieve this, it requires: collective bargaining to begin within 10 days of a certified union’s request to do so; mediation if no contract is reached within 90 days; and mandatory arbitration of a two-year contract if no contract is reached through mediation.

2. Holds corporations accountable: By strengthening the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and allowing it to penalize employers who retaliate against working people in support of the union or collective bargaining. The problem is that our basic labor law, which is supposed to protect the rights of workers to form a union and bargain collectively, is broken. In recent decades, employers have been able to violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) with impunity. An entire union-busting industry now works nonstop to block working people from exercising our rights. Today, in more than 40% of all union organizing elections, employers are charged with breaking the law. They lie. They threaten and coerce. They routinely fire union supporters. Workers are forced to attend mandatory meetings with one item on the agenda: union-bashing. These messages of fear and intimidation come from the very people who control our paychecks, how much time we can spend with our families and whether we will have a job tomorrow. And the penalties for employers that engage in this illegal behavior are inconsequential. The PRO Act is the answer because it would fix many of these problems.

3. Increases wages: When union membership is greater, our wages are better. Between 1948 and 1973, when New Deal era laws expanded and enforced collective bargaining, hourly wages rose by more than 90%. But over the next 40 years—from 1973 to 2013—hourly wages rose by just over 9% while productivity increased 74%. As it is, workers are not getting paid a fair share of what we produce. Another expansion of collective bargaining would lead to a similar increase in wages.

4. Increases workplace safety: The COVID-19 pandemic has shown once again that belonging to a union can literally be the difference between life and death on the job, especially for workers of color and women who are disproportionately essential workers and have been more likely to lose life, health and employment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Increasing the power of working people to collectively bargain increases wages and would help close wage gaps that have persisted for decades.

5. Addresses inequality: The latest research shows that the rapid growth of unions in the 20th century dramatically reduced inequality by extending the union advantage to more workers, particularly lower-income workers and Black workers, while at the same time raising standards for nonunion workers across entire industries. Growing today’s labor movement is the only policy that has the scale necessary to take us off our current trajectory of ever-growing inequality. Without it, broadly shared prosperity that extends to most working people has virtually no chance.

6. Expands civil rights: The PRO Act is more than labor law reform, it’s civil rights legislation. A union contract is the single best tool we have to close racial and gender wage gaps, and to ensure dignity and due process for workers, regardless of where we were born, who we are or what industry we work in. Removing barriers to organizing and bargaining is important for all workers, especially those who have been marginalized. Expanding collective bargaining will increase protections for women, people of color, immigrants and the LGBTQ community in areas where our laws are still falling short. We need the PRO Act to promote racial justice and eradicate all kinds of discrimination. More than 65% of union members are either women or people of color, and Black workers are the most likely of any demographic group to be union members (13.5%). The decline of unionization has played a significant role in the expansion of the racial wage gap over the past four decades, and an increase in unionization would help reverse this trend.

7. Protects collective action and removes barriers to worker voice: The PRO Act ensures that employers cannot: fire and permanently replace workers who are on strike; lock out, suspend or withhold work from employees to stop them from striking; tell employees that they are independent contractors when they are actually employees; force employees to attend anti-union messaging meetings; change work conditions, pay or benefits while negotiating a union contract; force employees to waive their right to collective and class legal action; or prohibit employees from using work computers for collective action. It also empowers employees to stand in solidarity with other workers through efforts like picketing, striking or boycotting; protects strikes of any duration, scope or frequency; requires employers to notify each new employee of their rights under the NLRA and to post those rights in the workplace; and allows unions to collect fees to cover the expenses of collective bargaining, regardless of state “right to work” laws.

8. Modernizes the union election and enforcement processes: The PRO Act requires employers to provide contact information for all relevant employees before the union elections take place and allows union elections to take place by mail, electronically, or at a convenient location; keeps employers from intervening in administrative hearings on union representation; ensures workers can form commonsense bargaining units; requires the NLRB to order the employer to bargain if the union wins the election, or if the employer interferes with the election and a majority of employees have already designated the union as their desired bargaining representative; pauses union elections when unfair labor practice charges are filed; requires the NLRB to seek a U.S. District Court injunction when employers may have unlawfully fired workers or otherwise interfered with their rights under the NLRA; and makes NLRB orders self-enforcing and appealable within 30 days. It also ensures new elections do not take place if: the union and employer are still bargaining; the employer voluntarily recognized the union; the union and successor employer are just starting to bargain; the time window for filing a petition has closed.

9. Ensures most workers are included under NLRA protections: The PRO Act amends the definition of employer so that entities that control material aspects of employees’ work are actually at the bargaining table. It also adopts a clear test to determine employee status so that workers are not misclassified as independent contractors and therefore unable to organize. It narrows the definition of supervisor so that employees who make routine, commonsense workplace decisions are not excluded from their unions. And it guarantees that workers are eligible for recovery regardless of immigration status.

10. Repeals "right to work" laws: The PRO Act would repeal right to work laws, which are divisive and racist laws created during the Jim Crow era that lead to lower wages, fewer benefits and more dangerous workplaces.

11. Helps fix the economy: The result of growing inequality and a shrinking middle class is an economy that does not work because the vast majority of people lack the incomes or the economic security to consume or invest. Economists are increasingly recognizing that inequality stunts economic growth. We need to grow the labor movement to rebalance the economy, which will be good for growth.

12. Helps fix our democracy: Another consequence of declining worker power and economic failure is that more and more people lose confidence in the system as a whole. To restore that confidence and strengthen our democracy, we need to make the economy work for working people.

13. Gives working people a real say in our future: The PRO Act would reduce inequality, ensuring that workers share in the benefits of future economic growth and the rising productivity that will be fueled by technology, and give workers a say in how technology is deployed in the workplace. The PRO Act also includes specific provisions to correct trends that may be troubling in the future such as employers washing their hands of responsibility toward the workers who make them profitable.

Call your senators today at 866-832-1560 and urge them to pass the PRO Act.

Mon, 04/26/2021 - 10:00

Tags: PRO Act

04/26/2021 - 11:30am
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Labor, Environmental Advocates Call for High-Paying Electric Vehicle Jobs

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.

Yesterday, ahead of the Leaders Summit on Climate, the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council and BlueGreen Alliance, along with the UAW and United Steelworkers (USW), released a report highlighting the need to preserve high-paying union jobs in the U.S. auto industry as part of any equitable clean energy transition. The report reviews the economic impacts of the transition to electric vehicles as well as policy options for creating and preserving good union jobs.

“As the auto industry continues transitioning to electric vehicles, policymakers have a responsibility to ensure working families aren’t left behind,” said Brad Markell (UAW), executive director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council. “If we continue on the current path, the heart of American manufacturing will be left at risk. But if we take urgent action, we can combat the climate crisis, build a clean energy economy and ensure that America’s workers have access to good-paying union jobs for generations to come.”

Mon, 04/26/2021 - 09:31

Tags: Community Service, COVID-19

04/23/2021 - 3:30pm
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Labor Reacts to the Chauvin Verdict Black Lives Matter

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.

On Tuesday, a jury found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd. While many in the labor movement were quick to commend the verdict, we also know that the work of racial justice must continue.

“Derek Chauvin has been held accountable for murdering George Floyd. While we celebrate today’s verdict, we have so much work ahead of us in order to build a more just state and nation for everyone,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy (UNITE HERE). “Black Minnesotans continue to face police violence. George Floyd and Daunte Wright should still be alive today.”

AFL-CIO’s director of civil, human and women’s rights, Clayola Brown, said, “Neither a judge nor a jury can restore the lives of so many people of color who have been taken from us. What a jury can and must do is provide justice to all. That verdict was monumental for our country. We pray that George Floyd’s family finds some peace in this decision. The verdict confirms that if we fight, we can win. There is an appreciation that it’s not just us. The killing must stop, the violence must stop and justice must start.”

In the wake of Tuesday’s guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, AFGE is reaffirming its commitment to creating safer and more effective policing policies across the country. “It’s gratifying to see today that a central principle of American justice has been upheld. No one is above the law,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said on Tuesday. “It is my fervent hope that today’s verdict can be a catalyst for positive change, uniting us all in the pursuit of real, systemic criminal justice and policing reforms with broad support that can help us build a future where these killings stop happening.”

While no verdict can bring back George Floyd, the jury’s finding in this case is a demonstration of accountability. Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) General President Kenneth Rigmaiden issued a statement on Tuesday: “We know there is so much more work to be done to end systemic racism in this country and the workplace. There can be no justice with rampant economic inequality, a more imprisoned, policed and militarized population than any major country, and one which since its inception has been built on the continued exploitation of Black and Brown workers. Our union stands in solidarity with those who’ve been in the streets demanding true justice and will continue to do so until it’s gotten.”

Fri, 04/23/2021 - 09:45

Tags: Community Service, COVID-19

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