AFL-CIO Now Blog

04/06/2021 - 11:00am
'We Have to Move Now': 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.

‘We Have to Move Now’: Biden Details His $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan: “Mr. Biden was introduced by a union worker who deals with the electrical grid. Mike Fiore, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 29 and an employee of Duquesne Light, said the plan would mean a lot to workers who are ready to retool plants and revitalize the middle class. ‘The [plan] is directed at communities like mine. It is about opening up opportunities, revitalizing local businesses and saving jobs,’ Mr. Fiore said. ‘For decades, Pennsylvania was a global leader in manufacturing and good union jobs. It can be that way again.’”

ATI Workers Go on Strike After Negotiations Break Down: “Roughly 1,300 workers at Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) represented by the United Steelworkers (USW) union went on strike at 7 a.m. Tuesday after negotiators failed to reach a contract settlement. USW International Vice President David McCall, who chairs the talks, accused the metals giant of unfair labor practices and trying to force workers into accepting unnecessary concessions. ‘After years of loyalty, hard work and sacrifice, workers deserve more respect and consideration than ATI has shown at the table,’ Mr. McCall said in a statement Friday. ‘We will continue to bargain in good faith, and we strongly urge ATI to start doing the same.’”

Why Big Tech Shouldn’t Be Scared of Unions: “At a time when so many divisions rip Americans apart, from income inequality and wealth disparities to opportunity gaps and ethnic, religious and cultural differences, increased union membership would help to heal America by raising incomes, uniting workers and building trust just as it did in the decades following World War II, when the U.S. boasted the biggest per-capita middle class in the world. What better place to start than in the heart of America’s tech industry? It would help workers, industry and American society itself.”

I Was Fired for Trying to Unionize My Workplace. I Want Congress to Pass the PRO Act So That Never Happens Again: “For around two years, my colleagues and I had been advocating together for better benefits—like health care and child care—and reasonable sales goals. We weren’t asking for the moon—we were asking for basic respect and fair treatment as we supported the military members and veterans who bank with PenFed. We felt that unless we did this organizing, there would be no reason for PenFed CEO James Schenck to improve working conditions and make real changes to how he ran his business.”

EXPLAINER: What to Know About the Amazon Union Vote: “Nearly 6,000 Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, are deciding whether they want to form a union, the biggest labor push in the online shopping giant’s history. The stakes are high for Amazon. The organizing in Bessemer could set off a chain reaction across its operations nationwide, with more workers rising up and demanding better working conditions. Meanwhile, labor advocates hope what’s happening in Bessemer could inspire workers beyond Amazon to form a union. But organizers face an uphill battle. Amazon, the second-largest private employer in the country, has a history of crushing unionizing efforts at its warehouses and its Whole Foods grocery stores.”

Walsh Heads Already Active Labor Department: “‘Millions of workers still do not have the strong COVID-19 protections they need to be safe at work,’ declared Rebecca Reindel, AFL-CIO safety and health director. ‘Marty Walsh’s strong leadership will be needed to urgently issue a strong, comprehensive OSHA COVID-19 emergency temporary standard to set workplace safety rules, accompanied by strong enforcement to ensure workers are protected.’”

‘It Rescued Our Entire Plan Overnight.’ How Joe Biden Will Help Rockers Retire: “President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan will benefit, among other things, state and local governments, small businesses, people living in poverty and, it turns out, professional musicians hoping to retire at some point in their lives. Since musicians often work for many bosses, they fall under the purview of multi-employer pension plans—a pet cause of Ohio senator Sherrod Brown, who has been pushing to fix those types of pension plans for years. After years of introducing what was first called the Butch Lewis Act (named after an Ohio teamster), Brown worked to get his pension-salvaging plan into the American Rescue Plan.”

What the ‘Invisible’ People Cleaning the Subway Want Riders to Know: “Cleaning the New York City subway has always been a dirty job. But when the pandemic hit last spring, it became even more challenging. When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered that trains be shut down overnight for cleaning, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) turned to contractors to help undertake the monumental task of scouring the trains in the nation’s largest transit system. The thousands of workers the contractors hired—largely low-income immigrants from Latin America—were envisioned as a stopgap measure, as MTA workers were falling ill and dying of the virus. At the same time, ridership and revenue had plummeted, and the agency found itself in an intense budget crunch.”

Facing Backlash from Orlando Workers, HMSHost Is Rehiring Employees Laid Off During Pandemic: “After nine months waging an emotional campaign to get their jobs back, displaced restaurant workers from the Orlando International Airport celebrated a triumph: They’re being rehired. HMSHost, one of the country’s largest airport concessionaires, emailed former employees on Friday inviting them back, according to copies reviewed by the Orlando Sentinel. In the email, the company’s human resources department also announced a $2-per-hour wage increase and free monthly Lynx bus passes for returning employees.”

Tue, 04/06/2021 - 10:40

04/06/2021 - 11:00am
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Orange County Labor Federation Holds Expungement Clinic

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 Orange County Labor Federation (OCLF), AFL-CIO partnered with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 324 and hosted an expungement clinic March 18 and March 20 in Buena Park, California. This partnership allowed our labor movement to help members remove nonviolent crimes from their records. About 65 members were assisted over the two days. The OCLF is planning to make this an ongoing program to continue assisting our members in removing barriers to employment and housing, giving them a better chance at stability and dignity. AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre (UFCW) visited and assisted at the clinic.

Tue, 04/06/2021 - 09:58

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

04/05/2021 - 4:46pm
Economy Gains 916,000 Jobs in March; Unemployment Down to 6.0% Bureau of Labor Statistics

The U.S. economy gained 916,000 jobs in March, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.0%, according to figures released Friday morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In response to the March job numbers, AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs tweeted:

Last month’s biggest job gains were in leisure and hospitality (+280,000), education (+190,000), construction (+110,000), professional and business services (+66,000), manufacturing (+53,000), transportation and warehousing (+48,000), other services industry (+42,000), social assistance (+25,000), wholesale trade (+24,000), retail trade (+23,000), mining rose (+21,000) and financial activities (+16,000). Employment in health care and information changed little in March. 

In March, the unemployment rate increased for Asians (6.0%). The rates for Hispanics (8.5%) and teenagers (13.0%) declined. The rates for Black Americans (9.6%), adult men (5.8%), adult women (5.7%) and White Americans (5.4%) showed little or no change over the month.

The number of long-term unemployed workers (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) barely changed in March and accounted for 43.4% of the total unemployed.

Mon, 04/05/2021 - 15:32

04/05/2021 - 10:46am
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Chicago Opens Vaccination Site for Front-Line Union Members Chicago Federation of Labor

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.

President Bob Reiter (IUOE) of the Chicago Federation of Labor and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on Tuesday the creation of the country’s first vaccine site specifically for union essential workers. They are hosting the clinic at the Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 399 union hall; the clinic is a partnership between the labor council and the city. Some 1,200 union members may be vaccinated per week, with the plan to expand to 6,000 per week as vaccine supplies increase. To be eligible, you must live or work in Chicago, hold a current union card or be a union retiree, and qualify under the city’s current eligibility criteria.

“Two-thirds of our members are Black and Brown workers, and we must do everything we can to get this vaccine into arms as quickly as possible,” Reiter said. “Let’s move past this pandemic once and for all.”

Mon, 04/05/2021 - 09:32

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

04/01/2021 - 2:00pm
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: UMWA Goes on Strike at Alabama’s Warrior Met Coal UMWA

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.

Unless the parties can reach a last-minute agreement, the Mine Workers (UMWA) union is launching its largest strike since the 1990s. UMWA President Cecil Roberts lambasted the company in a press release announcing the strike at Warrior Met Coal in Alabama. “[I]nstead of rewarding the sacrifices and work of the miners, Warrior Met is seeking even further sacrifices from them, while demonstrating perhaps some of the worst labor-management relations we’ve seen in this industry since the days of the company town and company store,” he said. The union explained that workers at Warrior have made significant concessions since 2016 to help bring the company out of bankruptcy.

Roberts said: “We have always been ready to reach a fair agreement that recognizes the sacrifices our members and their families made to keep this company alive. At this point, Warrior Met is not….Despite Warrior Met’s apparent appetite for this conflict, we will prevail.”

Thu, 04/01/2021 - 08:41

Tags: Community Service, COVID-19

03/31/2021 - 8:00pm
Profiles in Courage: Celebrating AAPI Labor Activists Ai-Jen Poo

In the wake of the rise of hate crimes and violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, we take an important pause to voice our support of our brothers, sisters and friends in the AAPI community. The AAPI community has played an important and active role in the growth, expansion and unique diversity of this country and has given the labor movement many of its true heroes. This community is our community, and we are proud to celebrate these seven labor activists—all of whom have advanced the cause of worker justice. 

Ai-jen Poo: Ai-jen Poo started organizing domestic workers in 1996 and helped found Domestic Workers United (DWU). In 2010, DWU was key in the passage of New York's Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights, the first law in the country to guarantee domestic workers labor protections. The next year, DWU helped organize the first national meeting of domestic worker organizations, leading to the formation of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA). Poo has been NDWA's director since 2010. Her other efforts on behalf of working people include Caring Across Generations, which campaigns for affordable health care for our aging population and for access to quality jobs for the caregiver workforce.

Larry Itliong: Born in the Philippines, Larry Itliong was a farmworker in California. In 1956, he founded the Filipino Farm Labor Union and later organized a group of Filipinos to strike against grape growers in Delano. For eight days, they were harassed and faced violence and saw no progress. Itliong approached César Chávez and the two groups joined together to launch the Delano Grape Strike of 1965 that eventually led to the creation of the United Farm Workers (UFW). Chávez became director and Itliong assistant director. He continued to organize with the UFW and the Filipino American Political Alliance until his passing in 1977.

Maf Misbah Uddin

Maf Misbah Uddin: In 1988, Maf Misbah Uddin began work as an actuary in New York City. He became active in the Accountants, Statisticians and Actuaries Local 1407, becoming president in 2000. He also became treasurer of AFSCME District Council 37. As treasurer, he improved the transparency of the union's finances. His work was vital in keeping District Council 37 on budget in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which did extensive damage to the union's headquarters. He is also founder and president of the Alliance of South Asian American Labor.

May Chen

May Chen: Before moving to New York in 1979, May Chen taught high school and college courses in California and founded a day care center. In New York, she did some work for UNITE HERE Local 6. Inspired by the 1982 garment workers' strike in Chinatown, she joined the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU). There she worked on the Immigration Project, the first union-created legal advocacy department for immigrant workers. She later worked in ILGWU's Education Department and served the New York City Central Labor Council, the Coalition of Labor Union Women and the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, ILGWU Local 23-25, the New York Metropolitan Area Joint Board. Before retiring in 2009, she served as international vice president of UNITE HERE.

Philip Vera Cruz: Born in the Philippines, Philip Vera Cruz worked on farms before moving to the United States. In 1943, he moved to California and became a farmworker. As a co-founder of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, he was a key part of the grape pickers strike in Delano, California, in 1965. He was a co-founder of UFW and served as vice president until 1977. After that, he helped create the Farm Workers Credit Union and he was the UFW officer in charge of the Agbayani Village, a retirement community for farmworkers.

Sue Ko Lee and the Dollar Store Strikers: Sue Ko Lee worked in the National Dollar Store's San Francisco factory in sweatshop conditions in the 1930s. ILGWU began organizing the Chinese Ladies Garment Workers Union Local 361, and it won a union election in 1938. The owner immediately sold the company to a new company headed by the factory manager and a former National Dollar Store employee in attempt to set aside the contract and break the union. Lee and her fellow workers went on strike and actively organized the strike, obtaining solidarity from their White co-workers. The unified front led to a contract that improved salaries, benefits and working conditions for the workers and helped break down racial barriers in San Francisco. Lee went on to become secretary of the union local and the San Francisco Joint Board.

Velma Veloria: After graduating from San Francisco State University and working on anti-war and Filipino rights causes, Velma Veloria became an organizer for the Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU), ILWU Local 37 for cannery workers and SEIU. She fought for justice for Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo, ILWU local leaders who were assassinated in 1981. Later, she began working in support of political campaigns. Veloria used her experience to win a seat as a state legislator and pursued a variety of causes important to women and people of color. She organized numerous trade missions to Southeast Asia and helped strengthen relations between the United States and countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia.

Learn more and support the AAPI community:

Wed, 03/31/2021 - 13:22

03/31/2021 - 2:00pm
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Alaska State AFL-CIO Demands Answers on Copper River Seafoods Investigation Alaska AFL-CIO

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 Alaska AFL-CIO has called out Copper River Seafoods for workplace safety violations. Throughout the pandemic, the company has failed to effectively screen employees for COVID-19 symptoms, implement social distancing, provide barriers for employees when they could not social distance, and prevent sick and symptomatic workers from entering the facility. Officials also have revealed that even employees who had tested positive were working, despite being required to quarantine for at least 10 days.

The state federation is fighting to hold this employer accountable. Alaska AFL-CIO President Joelle Hall (UFCW) wrote in a recently published op-ed, “Recent media reports have uncovered that [state] Commissioner of Labor Tamika Ledbetter blocked nearly $450,000 in proposed fines against a seafood plant that willfully violated COVID-19 workplace safety standards and was hostile with public health officials from the State of Alaska and the Municipality of Anchorage.…Our organization stands firm in holding employers accountable for their actions—or, in this case, inactions.”

Wed, 03/31/2021 - 08:30

Tags: COVID-19, Community Service

03/30/2021 - 7:30pm
Women's History Month Profiles: Sara Steffens Sara Steffens

This year, for Women's History Month, we're taking a look at a group of leaders who are currently active making women's history across the labor movement. Check back daily for a new profile and meet some of the people working to improve not only their community, but also to improve conditions for working people across the country. Today's profile is Sara Steffens.

Sara Steffens knows firsthand why passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act is so important. As a reporter at the Contra Costa (California) Times, Steffens successfully led her co-workers to organize and join The NewsGuild-CWA, only to be fired with a group of other activists two weeks after the vote. Since then, Steffens has dedicated her career to helping workers build power to improve our workplaces and our communities. She currently serves as secretary-treasurer for the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

Tue, 03/30/2021 - 09:30

Tags: Women's History Month

03/30/2021 - 7:30pm
Women's History Month Profiles: School Administrators AFSA

This year, for Women's History Month, we're taking a look at a group of leaders who are currently active making women's history across the labor movement. Check back daily for a new profile and meet some of the people working to improve not only their community, but also to improve conditions for working people across the country.

The School Administrators (AFSA) profiled several of its members this month. Check them out:

Tue, 03/30/2021 - 12:23

03/30/2021 - 1:00pm
Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Northwest Oregon Labor Council’s Food Distribution NW Oregon food distribution

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 March 14, the Northwest Oregon Labor Council ran a food distribution at the Laborers (LIUNA) Local 737 Training Center in Portland, Oregon. The labor council and affiliates came together over a four-day period to unload and break down the load from the Albertsons–Safeway warehouse, box up and hand out the food. The labor council and affiliates also paid for food with donations of cash to the labor council.

The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 364 gave 3,000 boxes of Ritz Crackers and Chicken in a Biskit crackers donated by Nabisco, and BCTGM Local 114 gave 1,000 loaves of fresh bread donated from Franz Bakery. A total of 867 boxes were provided to different groups throughout the state to distribute in their communities. The remaining 133 boxes were handed out to people who signed up on the website for a box and picked them up at LIUNA Local 737.

Tue, 03/30/2021 - 08:34

Tags: Community Service, COVID-19

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