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

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