February 25, 2018
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Vatican Receives Letter Urging Support for Nabisco Workers
Vatican Receives Letter Urging Support for Nabisco Workers
Vatican Letter
BCTGM

The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers' (BCTGM’s) campaign against the outsourcing of North American Nabisco jobs has generated widespread support. From U.S. congressional leaders, university students, union trade and justice activists to American veterans and consumers, the message carried by Nabisco workers across the nation has resonated loud and clear: Stop the global exploitation of workers that is devastating families and communities.

The campaign has grown particularly strong within the faith community, as leaders and activists have rallied behind Nabisco workers, embracing their fight for justice on both a local and global scale. It is the faith community that has helped shine the light on how the company has broken faith with its workers, and by extension, broken faith within communities.

In the last half of 2017, a coalition of faith and labor representatives, led by Interfaith Worker Justice, conducted a six-city investigation of Nabisco bakeries across the United States and Mexico. The group studied the impact of the company’s business practices in cities where BCTGM members produce Nabisco products in Mondélez-Nabisco bakeries.

In late November, the IWJ coalition traveled to Monterrey and Salinas, Mexico, to learn more about workers and the working conditions at the Mondélez plants. While in Mexico, the Nabisco workers were met by a priest from the Catholic Archdiocese of Monterrey to detail the harmful impact of Mondélez-Nabisco’s outsourcing in the United States.

At the conclusion of the five-month investigation in December 2017, IWJ released a detailed report, Breaking Faith: Outsourcing and the Damage Done to Our Communities, that reveals the impact of Mondélez-Nabisco’s outsourcing and exploitation of workers in both the United States and Mexico.

The report has gained the attention of the global faith community. The general secretary of the International Union of Food Workers, Sue Longley, has sent a letter to Cardinal Turkson at the Vatican requesting support from the highest levels of the Catholic Church. The IUF represents 2.5 million workers in 130 countries.

The international scope of this campaign continues to escalate, as the chorus of voices from the faith community grows in opposition to the devastation caused by Mondélez-Nabisco.

Click to read the IUF letter to Cardinal Turkson at the Vatican.

This post originally appeared at BCTGM.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 02/23/2018 - 14:34

‘Right to Work’ Is a Cynical Power Grab
‘Right to Work’ Is a Cynical Power Grab
Right to work for less
The Stand

The effort to expand cynically named "right to work" laws says a lot about what is wrong with politics in our country. Disguised as protecting workers, the real goal is to silence workers’ voice, reduce our bargaining power and make our jobs more precarious. It’s about power—social, political and economic power.

After years of deceptive messaging, most people have the misconception that state law can force a worker to join a union. The reality is that no federal law and no law in any state can force a worker to join a union.

That’s good. No state or federal legislator should tell you when to join a union or when you can’t. This is a decision for you, your co-workers and your employer.

There is one and only one way to have the situation where all workers contribute to their union. If your workplace has agency fee or fair share fees, it’s because your co-workers demanded it and fought to write it into your contract. AND the employer agreed. AND your co-workers ratified the contract. In each subsequent round of contract negotiations, both sides ratify it again.

This condition becomes part of the collective bargaining agreement—"the contract"—which is just that, a legally binding contract between two willing parties.

To conservative thinkers, a contract is an object of reverence. Government shouldn’t interfere with a contract between two willing parties. The cynically named right to work legislation really forbids workers and employers from writing mutually agreed contract language that recognizes working people’s voice at work.

Let’s be clear. We could certainly use more rights at work. The Bill of Rights in the Constitution does not apply inside the workplace.

Most employers have near-total authority over employees regarding hiring, firing, transferring, moving work locations and assignment of work to employees. An employer can insist that all workers listen to anti-union speeches. In the workplace, an employer can search your belongings, tap your phone, read your email, tell you when and where you can eat, prohibit you from smoking, and tell you what you can and can’t read on the internet.

State and federal laws protect military veterans, women, older workers and certain protected classes. Beyond that, in most states you can be fired for almost any reason, or no reason at all.

Champions of right to work argue from a cynical pretense that they care about workers. They don’t.

If disingenuous right to work groups wanted to protect working people, they would champion free speech and due process in the workplace. They might insist that you could only be fired for just cause; and that workers not be disciplined for something they wrote on Facebook on their private time. Right to work advocates might restrict "non-compete" agreements that block working people from seeking new jobs, or they could strengthen control of patent rights for employees.

The cynicism of right to work is in its true purpose—to weaken unions, and minimize one of the few remaining institutions of civil society that speaks for working people and communities.

The cynical premise of right to work laws is that working people have too much power. They can overwhelm helpless employers. Particularly, they say, local, state and federal governments are unable to resist the power of public employee unions.

It’s worth stopping for a second to look at wages levels for public employees—teachers, legislative staff, fish and game agents, national park rangers, nurses at Veterans Affairs hospitals, and Cabinet members in the White House. No one goes into public service to get rich.

Public employees are driven by mission. They almost always could make more in the private sector.

While productivity has gone up steadily, wages in America have been stagnant for decades. Who got those gains from productivity?

Productivity
The Stand

For 30 years, we’ve heard promises that gains will trickle down to us. A more realistic strategy for higher living standards is for us to demand a share of the gains we create. In the post-war period, working people were able to demand a share of the gains they created. They could bargain, with the potential to strike. If one union strikes, another group of employees have that example of strength to bargain with their employer.

Work stoppages
The Stand

Since the mid-1970s, strikes have become more rare. Employers have moved work to low-wage locations with weak labor laws. Bargaining power for working people is at historic lows.

It is tough to argue that workers have too much power. It is even tougher to tell workers that everything will be fine if we just lower our standard of living faster by weakening unions.

Canadians understand the deceit underpinning right to work. Canada made labor rights a key demand in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, a trade deal between Mexico, the United States and Canada. Canada wants the U.S. to end right to work.

A Canadian labor leader put it this way: "The United States has two problems. Number one is Mexico, number two is themselves. Canada has two problems: Mexican [wages] and right to work states in the United States."

Right to work falsely claims to be about free speech. Courts already have carved out religious objectors and provided an opt-out regarding union expenses for legislative lobbying.

If you believe in collective bargaining and the legitimate role of unions in civil society, then the right place to deal with union dues is in collective bargaining between workers and employers. That’s exactly what collective bargaining is for.

This post originally appeared at The Stand.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 02/23/2018 - 11:23

In Janus Case, Working People Continue Fight Championed by Martin Luther King Jr.
In Janus Case, Working People Continue Fight Championed by Martin Luther King Jr.

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. joined the sanitation strikers in Memphis, Tennessee, who carried signs that boldly proclaimed "I Am a Man," at a time when many employers rejected that very notion. King and the working people of Memphis fought for the freedom to join together in unions and to be treated with dignity and respect on the job.

Now, corporate lobbyists and the special interests that fund them are trying to undo many of the things King, the sanitation workers and many others have fought hard to win. Through a Supreme Court case, Janus v. AFSCME Local Council 31, they are ratcheting up their fight to divide and conquer us. These are the same extremists who are working to limit voting rights, roll back economic protections and gut the laws that protect working people. 

The Supreme Court soon will hear the Janus case, and it will have a big impact on our voice in the workplace. Tomorrow, working people across the country will be standing up in defense of the freedoms that we've fought for with a day of action from coast to coast (find an event near you).

Working people across the country have been using their voice to reject the attacks on unions in the Janus case. Here are some highlights of what they've been saying.

Bonnee Breese Bentum, science teacher, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers: "As a teacher in the School District of Philadelphia for the past 16 years, I am living proof that being a member, a supporter and an activist in my local union assists not only the lives of our members, but also the consumers, the clients and the children we serve. Our contracts go far beyond what we do in the classroom or in an office. Our members withstood a four-year fight for a fair contract from a hostile School Reform Commission, driven by our state with an antiquated and unfair funding formula, and coupled with the force of a majority of politicians who opposed public schools and unions. We were able to win counselors and nurses for every public school; pay increases for staff after obtaining graduate degrees; and safe and healthy building conditions for all our children."

Maureen Dugan, RN, University of California-San Francisco and board member of the California Nurses Association/NNOC: "With the union I have that platform where I can safely speak out for patient care. A lot of time in nonunion environments, nurses are intimidated and bullied into staying quiet. These hospitals that don’t have unions don’t care. It’s the union that brings many safety laws in legislation and public regulatory protections. It’s the union dues that fund those efforts. It’s the nurses in my hospital, in my region, in my whole state that make up the strength of our union and our ability to protect our patients, our license, and our profession."

Dovard Howard, certified control systems technician in California, AFSCME Local 1902: "It is my job to make sure that the public has safe drinking water. There is no room for any mistakes. That’s why I am deeply concerned that this Supreme Court case threatens the ability of the skilled and dedicated people I work with to have a say about their future."

Stephen Mittons, child protection investigator in Illinois, AFSCME Council 31: "My work as a child protection investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is vital to the safety of our state’s most vulnerable children and families. This court case is yet another political attack on the freedom of my colleagues and I to speak up to ensure that we can safely and adequately manage our caseloads, which reflects our commitment to safety and public service to our community."

Rich Ognibene, chemistry and physics teacher, Fairport (N.Y.) Educators Association: "Technological advances and societal changes make us more isolated, and we are hesitant to make commitments to others. We assume the wages, benefits, safety and social justice that we enjoy at work have always been there, and that they will never disappear. That’s a dangerous assumption. The benefits we have today were earned over many years of hard-fought negotiations; they could disappear tomorrow without our union. Billionaire CEOs are trying to destroy our community and create a Hunger Games scenario for workers. They want to remove our collective voice and reduce the quality of life for working families. We cannot let them succeed. Now, more than ever, we must fight to keep our unions strong."

Sue Phillips, RN, Palomar Medical Center, Escondido, Calif.: "Union protection absolutely saves lives."

Matthew Quigley, correctional officer in Connecticut, AFSCME Local 1565, Council 4: "Big-money corporations and super-wealthy special interests are trying to prevent correctional officers, firefighters, police officers and other working people from having the freedom to join together and create positive working conditions. When we belong to strong unions, we are better able to fight for staffing levels, equipment and training that save lives within state prisons and the communities where we work and live."

Stephanie Wiley, child care attendant in Columbus, Ohio, AFSCME Local 4/OAPSE: "Our ability to speak together with a collective voice ensures that we can better assist children who need our help. That’s why I am deeply concerned about the Supreme Court case, which could severely limit our voice on the job and hurt our ability to best serve the children we care so much about."

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 02/22/2018 - 10:07

Working People Flip State House Seat in Kentucky
Working People Flip State House Seat in Kentucky
Kentucky victory
AFL-CIO

On Tuesday, working people claimed a landslide victory in a Kentucky special election. "I could not have done this without labor," said Democrat Linda Belcher in her victory speech. She’s the newly elected state representative for House District 49 in Bullitt County, just south of Louisville where then-presidential candidate Donald Trump carried 72% of the vote in 2016.

Union members knocked on doors in freezing weather and made phone calls in the district to make sure a real champion for working people would represent them in the state House. The Greater Louisville Central Labor Council, Kentucky State AFL-CIO, United Steelworkers (USW), Laborers (LIUNA), UAW Local 862 and Teamsters Local 89 members had thousands of conversations with more than 2,000 union members who live in House District 49.

"Unions stand in solidarity with pro-working family candidates. We are proud to fight for folks who will pass pro-working family policies and give all of Kentucky's hardworking men and women a better life," said Todd Dunn, president of the Greater Louisville Central Labor Council and Local 862.

Fred Zuckerman, president of Local 89, added, "In January 2017, the previous state representative in District 49 betrayed the working people of Kentucky by voting for so-called right to work and voting to repeal prevailing wage. Teamsters Local 89 swore on that day we would do everything in our power to flip any seat that voted against workers. Tonight, the Kentucky labor movement has done just that by helping to elect Linda Belcher. They started this war on workers but, in the end, we are going to win it."

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 02/21/2018 - 13:22

Time for Solidarity: What Working People Are Doing This Week
Time for Solidarity: What Working People Are Doing This Week

Welcome to our regular feature, a look at what the various AFL-CIO unions and other working family organizations are doing across the country and beyond. The labor movement is big and active—here's a look at the broad range of activities we're engaged in this week.

A. Philip Randolph Institute:

AFGE:

AFSCME:

AFT:

Air Line Pilots Association:

Alliance for Retired Americans:

Amalgamated Transit Union:

American Federation of Musicians:

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance:

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA:

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists:

Coalition of Labor Union Women:

Communications Workers of America:

Department for Professional Employees:

Electrical Workers:

Fire Fighters:

Heat and Frost Insulators:

International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers:

Ironworkers:

Jobs With Justice:

Laborers:

Machinists:

Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association:

Maritime Trades Department:

Metal Trades Department:

Musical Artists:

National Air Traffic Controllers Association:

National Association of Letter Carriers:

National Domestic Workers Alliance:

National Nurses United:

National Taxi Workers Alliance:

The NewsGuild-CWA:

NFL Players Association:

North America's Building Trades Unions:

Painters and Allied Trades:

Plasterers and Cement Masons:

Pride At Work:

Professional Aviation Safety Specialists:

SAG-AFTRA:

School Administrators:

Seafarers:

Solidarity Center:

Theatrical Stage Employees:

Transport Workers:

Transportation Trades Department:

UAW:

Union Label and Service Trades Department:

Union Veterans Council:

UNITE HERE:

United Food and Commercial Workers:

United Steelworkers:

Working America:

Writers Guild of America, East:

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 02/21/2018 - 12:02

Time to Go on Offense: The Working People Weekly List
Time to Go on Offense: The Working People Weekly List
Great Lakes Meeting
AFL-CIO

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

AFL-CIO President Trumka Tells Unions It’s Time To Go on Offense: "All that came just after Trumka told the UAW 'It’s time to drop our shield, pick up our sword and go on offense for a while,' to campaign for protecting pensions, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, to rebuild infrastructure and to 'protect our water from becoming poisoned like it was in Flint, Mich.'"

Is Trump Joking About ‘Strengthening the Federal Workforce’?: "At an AFGE rally Tuesday outside the AFL-CIO headquarters, just across Lafayette Square from the White House, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) warmed the crowd by saying, 'You are here today not only on behalf of hundreds of thousands of federal workers who want decent pay and decent working conditions, but you are here today on behalf of 300 million Americans who understand that what this country is about is providing quality care for veterans, to the elderly, to the children, to the poor and to the sick. That’s what you do. Thank you very much for doing it.'"

German Union's Big Win Shows U.S. Labor the Path Forward: "Last week the German metalworkers’ union, IG Metall, arguably one of the world’s most powerful unions, showed that unions have the power to shape their future workplaces.  IG Metall negotiated a precedent-setting collective-bargaining agreement that privileges working conditions over wages. It won its key demand that workers have the right to reduce their working week from 35 to 28 hours for a period of up to two years in order to care for family members."

Labor Chiefs Make Their Pitch to CEOs Studying Connecticut's Competitiveness: "'Simply put, union workers empowered by the freedom to negotiate with their employers do better on every single economic benchmark,' said Lori Pelletier, president of the state AFL-CIO."

Empowering Working People in the West: AFL-CIO Holds Third Regional Meeting of 2018: "AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre welcomed nearly 400 labor leaders and activists to his home state of California for the AFL-CIO Western District meeting this week. Gebre emphasized the importance of the actions attendees are taking to empower working people in the West, saying, 'Our movement is at its best when we work from the grassroots up, not from D.C. down.'"

Trump Administration Should Rescind Proposal That Allows Bosses to Pocket Working People's Tips: "As we previously reported, President Donald Trump’s Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta announced a new proposed regulation to allow restaurant owners to pocket the tips of millions of tipped workers. This would result in an estimated $5.8 billion in lost wages for workers each year―wages that they rightfully earned."

Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act Would Strip Working People of Freedoms: "Congress should protect worker freedom and uphold the sovereignty of Native American tribes, not pit the two against each other. Working people must have a legally enforceable right to form unions and negotiate together with the tribal enterprises that employ them. It’s fair, it’s democratic and it’s one important step toward an economy that works for all working people."

SAG-AFTRA Releases Sexual Harassment Code of Conduct: "SAG-AFTRA recently released a code of conduct on sexual harassment as part of a broader program to protect its members, confront harassment and advance equity in the workplace."

We Don't Play 'Chicken' with Safety: Worker Wins: "Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with poultry workers coming together to preserve safe line speeds and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life."

Taking the Wheel: A New Generation Is Driving the Future of the Labor Movement: "Building on the achievements of the past, newly elected union leaders and young workers are spreading optimism across the country. Inspired by the history and mission of the labor movement, a new generation of workers and activists are assuming leadership roles as the ranks of young union workers continue to grow."

Unions Are Fighting for Families by Supporting Women and Rejecting the Status Quo: "Women in the workplace have made major strides. Women currently make up 48% of the workforce and are the sole or primary breadwinner for 40% of families in the United States. Yet most family responsibilities still rest on women’s shoulders and, too often, women put in a full day’s work only to come home and clock in for a second shift."

6 Activist Women You Need to Know About for Black History Month: "As we celebrate Black History Month, we thought we'd take a look back at some of the women who have made history in the realm of fighting for the rights of working people. The battles they fought at the intersection of the rights of African Americans, women and working people should have made these women household names. Women continue to be at the forefront of battles for the rights of African Americans today, building on the work of these women and many others. Here is an introduction to a group of amazing women who did some amazing things."

Shuler: ‘What Unites Us Is Work and the Desire for a Better Life': "'Our movement is made up of working people of all parties and ideologies,' AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler told a crowd of more than 300 labor leaders and activists gathered at the AFL-CIO Northeast District Meeting in Silver Spring, Md. 'What unites us is work and the desire for a better life. Improving the lives of union members and all working people must be our guiding light in politics.'"

Working People Stand Together Against Sexual Harassment: "The AFL-CIO brought allies and union leaders together yesterday with the aim of ending sexual harassment in the workplace. When working people join together in union, we can listen to each other, mobilize our co-workers, speak with a unified voice and fight together to win justice in the workplace."

A Wave of Worker Activism: 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 and central labor councils on Twitter."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 02/16/2018 - 14:47

Empowering Working People in the West: AFL-CIO Holds Third Regional Meeting of 2018
Empowering Working People in the West: AFL-CIO Holds Third Regional Meeting of 2018
AFL-CIO Western Meeting
AFL-CIO

AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre welcomed nearly 400 labor leaders and activists to his home state of California for the AFL-CIO Western District meeting this week. Gebre emphasized the importance of the actions attendees are taking to empower working people in the West, saying, "Our movement is at its best when we work from the grassroots up, not from D.C. down."

Representatives from state federations, central labor councils and affiliate unions from Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming joined together at the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 324 hall in Buena Park, California, for a full day of strategizing to win for working people. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) acknowledged the latest achievements of the union movement out West, including the successful union election at the Los Angeles Times and the election of labor leaders to local government positions in Washington and Utah.

Other recent examples of workers out West turning the tide include:

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka urged everyone in the room to keep growing that momentum. "The test of 2018 and beyond will be to build on these successes. Each election, each organizing drive, each legislative battle will showcase our growing clout," Trumka said.

A series of breakout sessions and a panel of state federation presidents from Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming conveyed a key theme of the meeting: engaging union members and empowering them to be active and take ownership of their unions. Participants left the meeting energized and ready to turn anti-worker attacks into opportunities to strengthen the labor movement in 2018.

This was the third of several regional meetings the AFL-CIO is organizing for early 2018. The others are in Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Detroit; New Orleans; and Las Vegas.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 02/16/2018 - 13:04

A Rising Tide of Buyer's Remorse Even in the Red States?
A Rising Tide of Buyer's Remorse Even in the Red States?

Donald Trump carried all but two of Kentucky’s 120 counties, and he collected a whopping 62.5% of the vote.

Kentucky is among only a dozen states where the president’s popularity is 50% or higher. He’s at 51 in the Red State Bluegrass State.

Nationwide, Trump received votes from 43% of union households, according to a poll by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. The survey didn’t break down the results state by state. The president probably did as well or better among Kentucky union households.

Anyway, go ahead and call it whistling past the graveyard. But the 51% number suggests that buyer’s remorse is creeping up in the border state I’ve called home for all my 68 years.

I’ve packed a union card for about two dozen years. Most of us in organized labor voted for Hillary Clinton, the AFL-CIO-endorsed Democrat. But I’m hearing about rumblings of regret in union ranks.

We said Trump was—and still is—a fraud and a con man. He ran on a standard Wall Street Republican platform with planks supporting:

  • "Right to work" (On the campaign trail, Trump said he preferred right to work states to non-right to work states.)
  • Repeal of the prevailing wage on federal construction projects.
  • Deep cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Sharp rollbacks in federal regulations that safeguard worker safety and health on the job, protect consumers and shield the environment from polluters.
  • Hefty tax breaks for corporations and rich people and tax crumbs for the rest of us.

The Trump-Republican Robin-in-reverse tax bill came up at this month's meeting of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council, where I’m recording secretary.  

"We’ve always preached that what’s good for the union is good for everybody, and it has been historically," said delegate Jimmy Evans, Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 816 business manager.

He cited as proof the tax legislation, which AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) called in a statement "nothing but an attack on America’s workers." He added, "We will pay more, corporations and billionaires will pay less. It’s a job killer. It gives billions of tax giveaways to big corporations that outsource jobs and profits."

The devil is always in the details. Under the tax bill, corporations can deduct payments to union-busting lawyers, but union members can’t deduct their union dues, according to the United Steelworkers (USW).

"Previously, employees could potentially write off work-related expenses that added up to more than 2% of their gross income, and for which an employer didn't reimburse them," explained CNBC's Annie Nova. 

Nova also wrote that the axing of "miscellaneous itemized deductions" for a lot of taxpayers might not sound like a big deal, but she cautioned that their disappearance "will leave a hole in many workers' pockets, experts say."

The end of those deductions "was a shot across the bow of union members,” Evans said. "But it also affects a lot of nonunion members that work construction, just like it does our construction members."

Nova also said workers can no longer deduct "work-related legal fees...medical examinations required by an employer, union dues and licenses."

She quoted Seth Harris, a deputy labor secretary under President Barack Obama: "The really big story of the tax bill is that it favors capital over labor. It's heavily skewed to benefit people who get money without working, as opposed to those who labor for a living."

Harris also told her that many workers who itemize have a lot of different expenses—including mortgages—that would still make itemizing worth their while. He added that deductions for corporations are still abundant.

In addition, Nova quoted David Kamin, a law professor at New York University who was an economic policy adviser in the Obama administration: "While people can say there's a doubling of the standard deduction, those who have significant unreimbursed business expenses will not do as well."

She also interviewed Martin Davidoff, a New Jersey CPA and tax attorney who said it's unfair that companies can still deduct the "so-called cost of doing business."  

"Take a look at McDonald's," he told Nova. "They spend $50 million on a Superbowl ad, and they get to deduct it."

Tax attorney Paul Drizner said that under the tax bill, many teachers will be forced to choose between spending less on their classrooms or taking home less from their salaries. (Teachers can still can claim a $250 above-the-line deduction on unreimbursed workplace expenses if they itemize or not, according to Nova). "Teachers shouldn't be paying out of their own pocket to put their lessons together," said Drizner in the story. 

Evans said it’s not just the tax bill that has union members rethinking the ballots they cast for Trump and other Republicans. "Now they’re wanting to get back on board and be on our side again. They see that those things we fought for is what helped them."

I carry AFT and National Education Association/Kentucky Education Association retiree cards. More than a few community college and public-school teachers not only voted for Trump in 2016, they also cast ballots for GOP Gov. Matt Bevin the year before. (Most of us in AFT and KEA also voted for Jack Conway, the KEA- and Kentucky State AFL-CIO-endorsed Democratic gubernatorial hopeful.

The fact that the president's popularity rating in Kentucky is 11.5 percentage points lower that his victory margin suggests that many Trump backers regret their votes. We'll know more in a Feb. 20 special House election in Bullitt County.

The incumbent, Republican Dan Johnson, took his own life. His widow, Republican Rebecca Johnson, who shares her late husband's ultra-conservative views, wants to replace him. Her opponent is state AFL-CIO and KEA-endorsed Democrat Linda Belcher, whom Dan Johnson unseated in 2016.  

KEA warned that the Tea Party-tilting Bevin could turn out to be the worst governor for public education in a long time, if not ever. Unions warned he was a union-buster to boot.

In 2017, he and his GOP-majority legislature pushed through a bill authorizing charter schools, which drain much-needed funds from public schools. (With Bevin cheering them on, GOP lawmakers also passed a right to work law and repealed the prevailing wage on state construction jobs.

Bevin’s proposed 2018 budget takes a meat-axe to education spending from kindergarten through higher education, including community colleges and state universities. He also wants to gut the workers' compensation program. 

Too, in the phony name of pension "reform," Bevin has proposed a measure that would curb some benefits for current employees and retirees and force most new hires onto risky 401(a) programs.

Teachers are up in arms over the pension bill. (The GOP-majority House has been devising its own pension bill behind closed doors but has yet to release it.)

"It’s great to see all the educators getting involved," Evans said. "But you know what it took to get them involved? Somebody is dipping his hand into their wallets."

Evans hates to say, "We told you so," but he reminded the delegates at our meeting that, all along, organized labor has been telling union members what politicians like Trump and Trump fan Bevin "want to do to them. It’s the same in our ranks. It’s taken politicians dipping into their wallets to get a lot of people re-engaged."

This post originally appeared at Kentucky State AFL-CIO.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 02/15/2018 - 14:05

Trump Administration Should Rescind Proposal That Allows Bosses to Pocket Working People's Tips
Trump Administration Should Rescind Proposal That Allows Bosses to Pocket Working People's Tips

As we previously reported, President Donald Trump’s Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta announced a new proposed regulation to allow restaurant owners to pocket the tips of millions of tipped workers. This would result in an estimated $5.8 billion in lost wages for workers each year―wages that they rightfully earned.

And most of that would come from women’s pockets. Nearly 70% of tipped workers are women, and a majority of them work in the restaurant industry, which suffers from some of the highest rates of sexual harassment in the entire labor market. This rule would exacerbate sexual harassment because workers will now depend on the whims of owners to get their tips back.

In a letter to Congress, the AFL-CIO opposed the rule change in the strongest possible terms, calling for the proposal to be rescinded:

Just days before the comment period for this [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking] closed, an extremely disturbing report appeared indicating that analysis of the costs and benefits in fact occurred, but was discarded. On Feb. 1, 2018, Bloomberg/BNA reported that the Department of Labor "scrubbed an unfavorable internal analysis from a new tip pooling proposal, shielding the public from estimates that potentially billions of dollars in gratuities could be transferred from workers to their employer." Assuming these reports are correct, the Department of Labor should immediately make the underlying data (and the analyses that the Department conducted) available to the public. We call on the Department of Labor to do so immediately and to withdraw the related Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

The AFL-CIO strongly urges the Department to withdraw the proposed rule, and instead focus its energies on promoting policies that will improve economic security for people working in low-wage jobs and empower all working people with the resources they need to combat sexual harassment in their workplaces.

The Department of Labor must provide an estimate of its proposed rules’ economic impact. However, while suspiciously claiming that such an analysis was impossible, it turns out that this wasn't true:

Senior department political officials—faced with a government analysis showing that workers could lose billions of dollars in tips as a result of the proposal—ordered staff to revise the data methodology to lessen the expected impact, several of the sources said. Although later calculations showed progressively reduced tip losses, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and his team are said to have still been uncomfortable with including the data in the proposal. The officials disagreed with assumptions in the analysis that employers would retain their employees’ gratuities, rather than redistribute the money to other hourly workers. They wound up receiving approval from the White House to publish a proposal Dec. 5 that removed the economic transfer data altogether, the sources said.

The move to drop the analysis means workers, businesses, advocacy groups and others who want to weigh in on the tip pool proposal will have to do so without seeing the government’s estimate first.

Democrats in Congress quickly responded that the rule change should be abandoned, as the new rule would authorize employers to engage in wage theft against their workers. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said:

You have been a proponent of more transparency and economic analysis in the rulemaking process. But if DOL hid a key economic analysis of this proposed rule—and if [Office of Management and Budget] officials were aware of and complicit in doing so—that would raise serious questions about the integrity of the rule itself, and about your role and the role of other OMB officials in the rulemaking.

Take action today and send a letter to Congress asking it to stop Trump's tip theft rule.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 02/15/2018 - 09:58

Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act Would Strip Working People of Freedoms
Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act Would Strip Working People of Freedoms

Congress should protect worker freedom and uphold the sovereignty of Native American tribes, not pit the two against each other. Working people must have a legally enforceable right to form unions and negotiate together with the tribal enterprises that employ them. It’s fair, it’s democratic and it’s one important step toward an economy that works for all working people.

Corporate-backed politicians and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have a new disguise to cut back worker freedoms, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (S. 63, H.R. 986), which would deny National Labor Relations Act protection to more than 600,000 workers.

It’s the classic strategy of divide and conquer. The AFL-CIO supports tribal sovereignty and workers’ freedoms. The two should never be pitted against each other.

Tribal governments and labor unions share a host of basic values, including a desire for broad prosperity, good jobs and thriving communities.

America’s working people want new economic rules so we can raise pay and expand worker freedom, and that means rejecting the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act.

Read more from our letter to representatives opposing the act:

The AFL-CIO supports the principle of sovereignty for tribal governments but does not believe that employers should use this principle to deny workers their collective bargaining rights and freedom of association. While the AFL-CIO continues to support the concept of tribal sovereignty in truly internal, self-governance matters, it is in no position to repudiate fundamental human rights that belong to every worker in every nation. Workers cannot be left without any legally enforceable right to form unions and bargain collectively in instances where they are working for a tribal enterprise, which is simply a commercial operation competing with non-tribal businesses....

The AFL-CIO opposes any effort to exempt on an across-the-board basis all tribal enterprises from the NLRA, without undertaking a specific review of all the circumstances—as current NLRB standards provide. Where the enterprise employs mainly Native American employees with mainly Native American customers, and involves self-governance or intramural affairs, leaving the matter to tribal governments may be appropriate. However, where the business employs primarily non-Native American employees and caters to primarily non-Native American customers, there is no basis for depriving employees of their rights and protections under the National Labor Relations Act.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 02/14/2018 - 13:00

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