A new website from the Oregon AFL-CIO, tracking Rep. Walden's shift to the right wing, Workers' Memorial Day on April 28 and union scientits speaking out against budget cuts.
Rally & March on Presidents’ Day
Since Inauguration Day, the rights of too many have been threatened, attacked, or withheld. We are all stronger when we stand together in unity. Resistance to attacks on members of our community requires a strong, steady and collective voice. Be part of that collective voice, take action and march on Presidents’ Day in downtown Portland to show our unified resistance to injustice.
- When: Monday, February 20 at noon
- Where: Director Park, downtown Portland
- Please click here to RSVP and spread the word on Facebook
Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain released the following statement yesterday regarding the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education:
“Today, the United States Senate confirmed President Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. DeVos has shown an apathy toward public schools, choosing to instead embrace private, for-profit alternatives. That makes me concerned about the future of public schools in this country, and what could happen here in Oregon. She hasn’t shown us that she understands what our children need to succeed in school.
I applaud Oregon’s Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both of whom were outspoken in their opposition to DeVos. Our Senators heard working Oregonians’ concerns in this important matter and stood with us as concerned parents, teachers, and students spoke out across the state.”
A recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center shows Oregon as having the tenth highest per capita rate of hate incidents in the nation in the month following the November election.
In light of these incidents, it’s important that you know what your rights are and what you can do if you or someone you know is the target of one of these incidents in the workplace.
Get the facts:
Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch
Judge Neil Gorsuch was nominated to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court. Soon the U.S. Senate will hold hearings on his nomination. In taking a deeper look at Gorsuch's record, there are quite a few rulings and writings that should concern working people. As a private lawyer and as a judge, he has aligned himself with the interests of Big Business, not the concerns of working families.
He has ruled against protecting the health and safety of workers, made it harder to have discrimination-free workplaces and argued for corporations’ misconduct to be protected from correction by investors and consumers. Click here to learn more about Judge Gorsuch.
We Are Better Than This
President Trump’s Executive Orders regarding refugees and immigrants have set off a tidal wave of protest, advocacy, and organizing across the country.
Yesterday AFL-CIO President Trumka issued a statement titled “Attacking Immigrants and Refugees Hurts All Working People” where he explains “these Executive Orders are a clear attack on our members, and elevated fear is a direct obstacle to workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively. We call on President Trump to revoke these orders.”
President Trumka’s statement also explains how we, as a nation, are better than this and that we should never turn our backs on those fleeing violence and oppression. He asked that we, as union members, adhere to our core principles of solidarity, dignity, and respect for all working people. And most of all, that we defend all the members of our unions and communities who are being threatened by these Executive Orders.
Our country and our labor movement were founded by immigrants. Labor history teaches us about the struggles, the discrimination, and the violence endured by immigrants from across the world who came here to work – many of them in the factories, fields and mines where pivotal victories for workers’ rights were won. These struggles, this endured discrimination and violence built a foundation for today’s labor movement, and for our country. It’s our duty to stand up to injustice, and to stand up for the rights of all working people.
Are You Ready for the Fight?
The flames of so-called “Right-to-Work” laws have moved quickly in 2017. The fight to protect the right of working people to stand together in strong unions has, until this week, focused in states like Kentucky (where a “Right-to-Work” law was signed into law earlier this month), Missouri and New Hampshire.
Today, our fight has gone to the national level, as GOP lawmakers introduced anticipated federal “Right-to-Work” legislation. Today’s statement from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka calls out the deceptive nature of this legislation:
“Right to work is a lie dressed up in a feel-good slogan. It doesn’t give workers freedom—instead, it weakens our right to join together and bargain for better wages and working conditions. Its end goal is to destroy unions. Numbers don’t lie. Workers in states with right to work laws have wages that are 12% lower. That’s because unions raise wages for all workers, not just our members.
A recent Pew survey shows that 60% of Americans—an overwhelming majority—support unions. Americans clearly see the value of coming together with their co-workers to tackle inequality. Right to work isn’t the will of the people, it’s legislation pushed on working people by out-of-touch corporations that want to ship jobs overseas, cut health and safety protections, and pay lower wages. This is an attempt by corporate CEOs to further tip the scale even more in their favor, at working people’s expense.
Working people were loud and clear in this past election. We want an economy that works for all, not just corporations. We know we need to rewrite the rules of the economy so that policies like bad trade deals and right to work aren’t the new norm. President Trump has said he supports unions and the people who are our members. He has stood up to corporate Republicans on trade. We call on him to do the same on right to work, and to stand up for every worker’s right to join a union.”
Outside of Congress, the national labor movement is concerned about President Trump’s nomination for Supreme Court. AFL-CIO President Trumka explained why Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination should raise concern for working people.
“His rulings to date raise very serious concerns about where he stands on issues like worker health and safety, equal opportunity in the workplace and the ability of agencies to adopt rules to protect workers’ rights. We will be digging deeper into Judge Gorsuch’s record in the days ahead to see if he meets the high standards that working families deserve.”
All Labor Has Dignity:
A Black History Month Event
On February 15th, the University of Oregon Labor and Education Research Center is hosting a lively facilitated discussion with civil rights activist and trade-unionist leader, William “Bill” Lucy.
Mr. Lucy helped lead and was a voice in the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees for 57 years. As a lifelong labor activist he collaborated with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr during the 1968 sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis, Tennessee. Mr. Lucy was a founding member and President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU).
The event also includes a viewing of the new short documentary: "Love and Solidarity" directed by Labor historian and filmmaker, Michael Honey.
The event will take place in Portland, with a simulcast at the University of Oregon campus in Eugene. Click here for all the details.
Keep the Women’s March Moving
The following is a message from Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer (and Oregonian!):
Wow, Saturday was amazing. I was at the march in Washington, D.C., and I’m still feeling the unbelievable energy and solidarity of the hundreds of thousands of people who came.
People across the country made it clear on Saturday that we’re not going to allow President Donald Trump and our other elected leaders to move an agenda that endangers women, families and communities. But Saturday was just the start.
We need to turn that energy into action—and we have one thing you can do right now to keep up the momentum.
Click here or dial 1-844-551-6921 now to call your senator and tell her or him why the women’s march on Saturday was important to you. It’s one way to hold your legislator accountable on issues like paid family leave, equal pay and stopping harassment in the workplace.
Even if you weren’t at the women’s march in Washington, D.C., or a march near you, you can still take this action.
We need to make it clear to President Trump and our congressional members that this was just the beginning in the movement for equality and justice.
A First Step
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement on Monday in response to President Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership:
“Last year, a powerful coalition of labor, environmental, consumer, public health and allied groups came together to stop the TPP. Today's announcement that the US is withdrawing from TPP and seeking a reopening of NAFTA is an important first step toward a trade policy that works for working people. While these are necessary actions, they aren’t enough. They are just the first in a series of necessary policy changes required to build a fair and just global economy. We will continue our relentless campaign to create new trade and economic rules that end special privileges for foreign investors and Big Pharma, protect our planet’s precious natural resources and ensure fair pay, safe conditions and a voice in the workplace for all workers.”
Today, our allies in the struggle for immigrants’ rights participated in a press conference at Multnomah County in response to President Trump’s executive order on immigration.
Click here to watch the press conference, and stay tuned for more information about how changes to immigration policy will impact working people in Oregon.
Leading the Way
Oregon has a history of leading the way in elections, first with vote by mail and most recently through our ground-breaking Motor Voter system, which automatically registers voters through the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Motor Voter works, helps ensure the security of your vote and potentially saves tax payers money. Accurate data makes it easier for officials to maintain accurate lists of eligible voters. They can verify that only eligible voters can cast ballots by maintaining up-to-date lists. The streamlined electronic system drastically reduces the potential for error and keeps the data more secure by using existing technology. Oregon is potentially saving a significant amount of money because of its streamlined voter registration process. Processing paper voter registrations costs almost 30 times more than an electronic registration.
Not only does it work, but new polling shows most Oregonians support it: 73% of registered voters polled, which breaks down to 86% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans. Nikki Fisher, Executive Director of the Bus Project, explains why Motor Voter is so important to our state’s elections: “The overwhelming majority of Oregonians support Oregon Motor Voter. This proves that automatic voter registration is the future of how we administer elections in the state and across the country. Democracy works best when more eligible voters can participate. Oregon Motor Voter is the best way to ensure that all eligible voters regardless of political party can participate in our elections.”
The Challenges We Will Face
Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain is featured in the current issue of the Northwest Labor Press, where he describes some of the challenges we will face in the years ahead:
“What is occurring in Washington, D.C., is a ramp up to dismantle the American union movement. Federal employees will experience wage freezes, privatization, and the downsizing of their workforce through attrition. The Building Trades face either an attempt to eliminate Davis Bacon (prevailing wage) or the development of strategies to circumvent prevailing wage.”
“Trump’s promised $1 trillion infrastructure plan may be funded by tax credits, allowing corporate America to sidestep prevailing wage laws. Public-sector unions will be watching who will be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, knowing that a bad decision on a Friedrichs-like case would implement “right-to-work” for public workers nationwide. There are still rumors that “right-to-work” and “paycheck deception,” which limits how union workers can make their voices heard in the political process, are targets for federal legislation.”
Inauguration Weekend Events
The Oregon AFL-CIO, along with many other unions and community partners, has endorsed the United Front Against the Trump Agenda Rally & March which begins at 10am on Saturday in Shemanski Park in downtown Portland. Click here to learn more and to spread the word about the event on Facebook.
Staples Boycott Ends
A controversial partnership between the United States Post Office and office supply chain Staples has ended, and the American Postal Workers Union has declared victory.
APWU President Mark Dimondstein was interviewed by the Washington Post, where he explained what this win means for postal workers across the country:
“This is a big win. Staples is out of the mail business which they should never have gotten into. Our members take great pride in their training and their responsibilities; they swear an oath; they perform a public service. The quality of service at a Staples store isn’t comparable. The public should have confidence in the mail. Important letters, packages and business correspondences shouldn’t be handled like a ream of blank paper.”
What if Betsy DeVos Were Your Boss?
Betsy DeVos was nominated as secretary of education, and hearings for her nomination are currently underway.
Standing Up, Speaking Out
This weekend, working people in Portland and Salem are standing up and speaking out at two important events. Here’s what you need to know to get out there and make your voice heard:
Immigrant Rights Day of Action, Jan. 14
For generations, immigrants have made Oregon a stronger, more vibrant state.
On January 20, the new Trump administration will be sworn in. They’ve promised to start tearing apart hundreds of thousands of immigrant families that call Oregon home from day one. We cannot sit by while they target members of our communities. Let’s send a message of hope to Oregonians in every corner of our state. Join us for a National Day of Action prior to Trump’s Inauguration as President.
Save Health Care Rally, Jan. 15
Join Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici in Portland on Sunday, January 15 at a rally to save our health care system. President-elect Trump and his allies in Congress want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, slash Medicare and Medicaid, and defund vital health care programs across the country. It's up to us to speak out, stand tall, and rally the American people to stop them.
Changes to Oregon’s Overtime Laws
In case you missed it, Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) has changed how it interprets overtime laws and these changes could mean fair pay for workers at Portland Specialty Baking. Head over to Northwest Labor Press to learn the latest.
Workers’ Voices Must Be Heard in Trade Deals
The AFL-CIO is urging President-elect Donald Trump and his recent pick for U.S. trade representative to make sure workers’ rights at the top of the list of demands during trade negotiations. Click here to read more.
What if Jeff Sessions Were Your Boss?
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) was nominated as attorney general, and hearings for his nomination are currently underway. Many are discussing the long, terrible record that Sessions has, but we thought it would be interesting to imagine what it would be like to actually work for Sessions. This is speculative fiction, of course, but based on the things he's said and done over the years (click on the link after each entry to read more about Sessions and that topic). But here's what we think it could be like to work for Sessions.
- Sessions sends out an e-mail taking credit for the work done by the organization's civil rights committee, lauding himself as a hero for the work he did in protecting and expanding people's rights. He never attended the committee's meetings and contributed nothing to their report. (Read more about Sessions on this topic.)
- After overhearing a male African American employee chastize a white subordinate who made a costly mistake, Sessions takes the African American employee aside and says, "Boy, you should be careful what you say to white folks." Sessions gives the white subordinate a raise. (Read more.)
- A job search committee led by Sessions refuses to advance a Muslim applicant out of "security fears." (Read more.)
- Sessions forwards an article from white nationalist platform Breitbart. When asked if sharing such an article is appropriate in the workplace, Sessions says he's "just sharing it, nobody has to agree with it." (Read more.)
- After receiving a complaint that an employee drove a car to work that has a Confederate flag bumper sticker, Sessions calls a work meeting to lecture employees that the flag celebrates the fabulous accomplishments of "our history." (Read more.)
- Sessions brings everyone into his office to show them his awards shelf. It includes the Annie Taylor Award from the David Horowitz Freedom Center (an organization known for racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bigotry); the Keeper of the Flame Award from the Center for Security Policy (another virulently anti-Muslim group that argues that Black Lives Matter has aligned with Islamic supremacists); the Phyllis Schlafly Award for Excellence in Leadership from the Eagle Forum (Schlafly argued that Latino immigrants don't understand the Bill of Rights and that "they're running an illegitimacy rate that's just about the same as the blacks are"); and the Defender of the Rule of Law Award from anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA. (Read more.)
- An employee who is overheard speaking in Spanish on her phone is warned by Sessions to only speak English at work. (Read more.)
- Two employees talking about membership in the American Civil Liberties Union and Sessions learns about it. He interrogates the workers for several hours, noting that the ACLU is "un-American" and "Communist-inspired" and those employees are never again approved for raises or promotions. One of them, an African American, is later fired over an improperly filed travel voucher. The other, who is white, is referred to by Sessions as a disgrace to his race for being part of the ACLU. (Read more.)
- Sessions makes a "joke" during a meeting that the Ku Klux Klan used to be OK until he learned that some of them were pot smokers. (Read more.)
- Sessions reprimands an employee for listening to U2 at his desk, since Sessions read an article from the Center for Security Policy that claims that U2 lead singer Bono is a tool of militant Islam. (Read more.)
- A worker who has a Black Lives Matter sticker on their iPhone is given a formal warning by Sessions that they will be fired if they bring the sticker to work again. (Read more.)
- A white-owned company with a shoddy record of cost and time overruns is given a contract by Sessions over that of a company owned by a black woman who produces better results, cheaper and quicker. (Read more.)
A State of Emergency: Oregon Leads the Nation in Incidents of Hate Per Capita.
A recent report published by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) describes a country under assault, assault from within. One of the side effects of the presidential election is that every four years our nation is reminded of the issues that divide us, and rather than rallying around the similarities and shared values of our nation, we are propelled to split friends, pick sides, and focus on our disagreements. In a country as diverse as ours, disagreement is natural and good, debate is good. In a civilized society debate is the only way to grapple with our toughest issues and reach a compromise or consensus. Unfortunately, the country described in the report from the SPLC isn’t a country reaching a compromise; regrettably the country described isn’t even a country of debate. The country described in the report from the SPLC is one where disagreement and debate are being replaced with acts of hatred and blame. In the ten days following the November 8th election there were close to 900 reports of harassment and intimidation in the United States, with Oregon producing 33 of those acts. That places our state as the Nation’s leader in incidents of hate per capita, a statistic that the Oregon AFL-CIO cannot ignore.
In the days following the report from the SPLC the Oregon AFL-CIO drafted and presented its board with A Resolution to Act Against Hate Incidents and Crimes in Oregon. Alongside the resolution the Oregon AFL-CIO has vowed to provide a hotline to receive and record calls regarding incidents of hate, so that workers in the state of Oregon have somewhere to turn when they are faced with workplace discrimination. The goal of the hotline is to ultimately reduce the occurrence of workplace discrimination and incidents of hate by creating a formal report of every incident and relaying that report to the appropriate governing body of the employee so that justice can be served.
Equality For All Workers Is A Consistent Theme From The Beginning Of The AFL-CIO.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations is an expression of the hopes and aspirations of the working people of America.
We resolve to fulfill the yearning of the human spirit for liberty, justice and community; to advance individual and associational freedom; to vanquish oppression, privation and cruelty in all their forms; and to join with all persons, of whatever nationality or faith, who cherish the cause of democracy and the call of solidarity, to grace the planet with these achievements.
We dedicate ourselves to improving the lives of working families, bringing fairness and dignity to the workplace and securing social equity in the Nation. We will prevail by building a strong, free and democratic labor movement.
We will organize workers into unions allied by common purposes and mutual reliance. We will recruit generations of organizers, amass resources to sustain their efforts and inspire workers to achieve dignity and security through organization and collective bargaining. We will generate broad understanding of the necessity of organizing among our members, our leaders and all unorganized workers.
We will give political voice to workers in the Nation. We will fight for an agenda for working families at all levels of government. We will assemble a broad progressive coalition for social and economic justice. We will create a political force within the labor movement that will speak forcefully and persuasively on the public issues that affect our lives.
We will enable workers to shape a changing global economy. We will speak for working people in the international marketplace, in the industries in which we are employed and in the firms where we work. We will expand the role of unions to securing worker influence in all the decisions that affect our working lives, from capital investment to the quality of products and services to how work itself is organized.
We will establish unions as active forces in our communities. We will make the voices of working families heard in our neighborhoods. We will create vibrant state, local and community labor councils. We will strengthen the ties of labor with our allies. We will speak out effectively and creatively on behalf of all working Americans.
With confidence and trust in the inherent power and goodness of our people and in the virtue and promise of unionism, we proclaim this Constitution.
Why Aren't We Talking About Working-Class Americans of Color?
After the election, much of the discussion has been focused on working-class voters, but many of these discussions are heavily focused on white working-class voters and they largely leave out working-class voters of color. But if you look deeper, the economic anxiety that was said to be a driving force for those white working-class voters is stronger for people of color and it isn't being talked about that much at all.
CNN Money runs down some of the numbers:
- "In a CNN/Kaiser poll taken before the election, 63% of white working-class respondents said they were satisfied with their personal financial situation compared to just 40% of black working-class respondents."
- "White families, on average, tend to have 13 times more wealth than black and Latino families, according to the Pew Research Center."
- "Blacks and Latinos also tend to be paid less than whites and they are also more likely to have higher rates of unemployment than whites do. They are also more likely to live below the poverty line than whites."
- "One study by the Economic Policy Institute showed that black employees with more experience and education were still paid less than their white counterparts."
- "Another study by the Corporation for Economic Development and the Institute for Policy Studies said if current trends persist, it would take 228 years for black families and 84 years for Latino families to accumulate the same amount of wealth as whites."
William Spriggs, AFL-CIO chief economist, condemned the avoidance of discussing people of color as working class:
'In general, there is a tendency to not talk about blacks as workers. This hurts the whole dialogue.' Instead, black and brown workers are considered 'underclass' as opposed to working class and 'lazy' instead of hardworking, said Spriggs. And yet, they too have worn overalls and lost factory jobs. 'The notion of the white working class implicitly embodies a view of white privilege. It implies that things are supposed to be different for them, that they aren't the same, that they aren't going to face the same pressures.'
Spriggs also said:
“More white workers should view the lower wages and higher unemployment of blacks with empathy and as an indication the labor market really hasn't worked as well as believed. Accepting bad outcomes for some workers should always have been interpreted as a threat to all workers' well-being. So, anger at the system should not have manifested itself in voting for an anti-union candidate who did not talk about raising wages for Americans.”
The labor movement has one message for all our members and indeed for all working people: You are not alone. We will stand together. We will protect the freedoms that make America and Oregon strong—and we will protect those freedoms for all who live and work here.
The National AFL-CIO’s Response
to President Trump
By Jon Hiatt, Executive Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff at the AFL-CIO.
This post originally appeared at On Labor.
Rather than slice and dice the electorate into different demographics and voting blocks, we have to understand what happened on Nov. 8 not as a vote for or against the two candidates. Rather, it was something much larger. It was an expression of the insecurity of working people all over the formerly industrialized world, brought on by globalization forcing them to compete for work in a labor market without borders. Candidate Trump was correct when he said, "I see a big parallel" between U.K. voters favoring Brexit and U.S. citizens supporting him. Both were expressions of the belief that existing institutions of government are no longer protecting the security and well-being of working people in a global economy.
Union officers who talk to their members will tell you that the insecurity and anger underlying the vote was real. And they also will tell you that if that insecurity and anger is not addressed, they will threaten liberal democracy and slow or even reverse our halting progress toward equality.
Both candidates were right that we need to rebuild our physical infrastructure to compete in the global economy, but we also need to rebuild the infrastructure of government and society—most centrally the institutions that speak for working people, their unions. If we revive U.S. manufacturing without unions, we will not bring back good jobs. Factory jobs and jobs in the mines were not good jobs until they became union jobs and the same will be true in the future.
Long before Donald Trump eyed the presidency, U.S. unions understood what our trade policy was doing to working America. Standing against democratic presidents, unions opposed The North American Free Trade Agreement and unions opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Unions have called for an industrial policy that would train U.S. workers for high value-added occupations, rebuild our infrastructure, bring opportunity to disadvantaged communities and create green jobs.
If we invest in infrastructure, shift our trade policy and encourage manufacturing without rebuilding our unions, the rich will get richer and the rest will get angrier. If we permit workplace raids and deportations that make people afraid to organize and divide workers by color and nationality, working people will lose rather than gain bargaining power. If we do not rebuild the institutions that used to insure that working people had a voice in government, working people will continue to lose faith in democracy. Yet within hours of the election results being announced, Trump’s colleagues in the Republican Party were planning exactly that—to adopt "right to work" laws weakening unions in Missouri, Kentucky and New Hampshire and to appoint a Supreme Court justice who will cut the financial legs out from under unions that represent firefighters, nurses, teachers and sanitation workers. If the president-elect allows his party to undermine the very organizations needed to deliver on his promise to working Americans, their rightful anger will not only drive him from office, but threaten to tear the fabric of our democracy.
To prevent this from happening, the AFL-CIO is committed to the following:
1. Preserving the labor movement as the largest, most diverse institution in civil society. Our unions represent housekeepers in Las Vegas, crane operators in New York City and teachers in Shreveport. Almost half of union members are women and a growing number are people of color and recent immigrants. The divisions reflected in the recent election also exist in our unions and the divisiveness of the campaign has reverberations within and among trade unions. Maintaining local union halls, city labor councils, national unions and a federation where those divisions can be honestly discussed and common interests identified and pursued is our most critical task.
2. Ensuring that union members understand that they are the union. The necessary institutional structures that enable members to act collectively cannot become disconnected from the members. That can be challenging, since in many contexts unions do not draw the boundaries around the units of working people they represent. In many states in the public sector, for example, AFSCME represents broad, statewide units of employees in diverse departments, work locations and classifications. Nevertheless, starting in early 2014, AFSCME committed to a strategy of talking to all the one and one-half million working people it represents and asking those who were not members to join, and to date has succeeded in organizing a quarter of a million new members within its existing units. UNITE HERE is also a model in this respect, building a thriving culinary local in right to work Nevada that served as the foundation for election victory in that state as well as the defeat of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in neighboring Arizona. With the possibility that right to work will spread to Missouri, Kentucky and New Hampshire, and that the Supreme Court after a Trump appointment could impose right to work throughout the public sector, these efforts are more important than ever and will involve both millions of face-to-face conversations at workplaces and new forms of communications enabled by technological tools being developed at the AFL-CIO and in the larger unions, and disseminated throughout the labor movement.
3. Integrating new Americans into the workforce. Unions have always played an important role in integrating immigrants into the labor market, society and democratic government. This was true of garment workers in the sweat shops of New York City, factory workers in Detroit and Chicago, and farm workers in California. Periods of economic stagnation and insecurity have always made this difficult and, particularly during those periods, there have always been calls for exclusion, outside and inside the labor movement. But the labor movement has resisted those calls in the past several decades, calling for the extension of the full protection of our labor laws to all people working in this country so that there is no group that lacks an effective right to organize and is subject to exploitation that lowers standards for all.
4. Holding the president-elect's promises to working people up against his appointments and policies and results. With Republican control of both houses likely to result in less than penetrating congressional oversight, the labor movement will be the center of an effort to inform union members and the broader public about how performance is measuring up to promises. And that yardstick will not be applied in one geographic area or among one group of working people, but on behalf of all working people. In the gaps between what was promised and what is likely to be sought and realized, is where we will develop the policies that will actually achieve the promised results, testing them where we can at the local and state levels and building the coalitions to enact them at the federal level four or eight years from now.
5. Organizing and bargaining. Despite overblown rhetoric about the death of collective bargaining and appropriate calls for a new labor law, unions will continue to organize within the outmoded and challenging structure of the National Labor Relations Act while also seeking new forms of collective action. Collective bargaining, itself, is a mechanism for social innovation—by workers, themselves. Safety and health practices that were developed through collective bargaining have now been socialized to the benefit of all workers, i.e., are now mandated by law. Other issues currently in vogue with legislatures, like flexible work schedules, were won at the bargaining table decades ago. Collective bargaining also serves as a mechanism for social integration: immigrant workers, for example, have won benefits at the bargaining table for themselves and their families that have made it easier for them to integrate into the workplace and into their communities. The president-elect complains about outdated and rigid legal mandates. But through collective bargaining workers will continue to express their collective needs and values on an equal footing with employers, instead of receiving protection from elites and self-declared leaders. The 14 million working people covered by collective bargaining agreements are the foundation both for any meaningful response to the insecurity and anger registered in the recent election and for the innovation desperately needed to give all working Americans a meaningful voice.
Workers Stand Up and Speak Out for Higher Wages
Yesterday was a nationwide day of action calling for a $15 minimum wage. From airport workers, to Uber drivers, people in cities across America made their voices heard.
Here is a roundup of the news coverage of yesterday’s protests:
Airport workers at major U.S. hubs to join Fight for $15 protests Tuesday – The Washington Post
“Cabin cleaners, baggage handlers and wheelchair attendants at major U.S. hubs will join thousands of other low-wage airport workers in a national day of protest Tuesday to demand better wages.”
Uber drivers in US cities to join 'Fight for 15' protests – AOL News
“Hundreds of Uber drivers in two dozen cities, including San Francisco, Miami and Boston, for the first time will add their voices to the union-backed "Fight for $15" campaign that has helped convince several cities and states to raise starting pay significantly above the U.S. minimum wage of $7.25.”
Despite Hundreds of Arrests, Striking Workers Remain Undaunted in Fight for $15 – Monetary Watch
“We won’t back down until we win an economy that works for all Americans, not just the wealthy few at the top,” said Naquasia LeGrand, a McDonald’s worker from Albemarle, North Carolina.
Workers Across U.S. ‘Fight For $15’ In Strikes For Wage Hikes – The Huffington Post
“In 2012, Alvin Major was earning the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour when he went on strike at his KFC restaurant in New York City. Four years later, he’s earning $10.50 per hour, a 45 percent increase. But Major isn’t done striking.”
Whether you are gathering with family and friends or working on Thanksgiving it is a time of reflection and a time to give to those who are in need. Here are a couple of ways to help:
Remember Farm Workers at Thanksgiving
"When the man who feeds the world by toiling in the fields is himself deprived of the basic rights of feeding, sheltering, and caring for his own family, the whole community of man is sick.” - César Chávez
Many farm workers are facing a unique anguish right now. In the best of times, non-union farm workers’ wages are pitifully low. But as the days grow colder, their take-home pay decreases even more. Click here to read more about the struggles facing farm workers and to find out how to support them.
Help Local Families in Need
Please help families who are in need this holiday season! We are collecting new, unwrapped gifts for the annual Presents From Partners toy drive, and warm blankets and coats for IBEW’s Renew program to be donated to the Union Gospel Mission. We have drop-off boxes located in the lobby of our office at 3645 SE 32nd Ave in Portland. Blankets and coats will be collected until 12/9, and toys until 12/13.
Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season and it’s important to support businesses who support their workers. If you’re planning to shop on “Black Friday,” consider shopping at a retailer who put their workers ahead of profits and kept their doors closed on Thanksgiving. ThinkProgress has a list of those retailers.
A Holiday of Solidarity
The following is a letter to all union members from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:
Dear Union Member:
Thanksgiving is a holiday of solidarity—commemorating a short-lived moment when Pilgrims and Native Americans broke bread together at a common table. This Thanksgiving, America’s working people and our unions are committed to standing with each other—in solidarity. We are reminded this holiday season of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms—freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and most of all, freedom from fear.
Thanksgiving is a holiday of plenty—a celebration of the bounty that hard work in America can and should bring. This election season we heard many promises of plenty—promises to create jobs, to raise wages, to protect working people from economic insecurity. Yet we know the business lobbyists are already making plans for how the Trump administration can cut working people’s wages, privatize Medicare and Social Security and attack workers’ rights on the job. This Thanksgiving, the labor movement reaffirms our commitment to hold America’s newly elected president accountable to the promises he made to working people.
Thanksgiving is a holiday created to bind us together. Yet all across our nation, the presidential election and its aftermath have left too many who do the work of America feeling vulnerable—immigrants, people of color, Muslims, women and the LGBTQ community. Afraid they will be scapegoated, afraid they and their families could be the target of the kind of persecution that led the Pilgrims to come here in the first place. The labor movement has one message for all our members and indeed for all working people—YOU ARE NOT ALONE. WE WILL STAND TOGETHER. WE WILL PROTECT THE FREEDOMS THAT MAKE AMERICA – AND WE WILL PROTECT THOSE FREEDOMS FOR ALL WHO LIVE AND WORK HERE.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that reminds us of our history as a country. Of our best moments, and the hopes they embodied. We are a nation that fought fascism. Our military cemeteries are filled with men and women who gave their all in that fight. Our National Mall honors Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.— heroes in the fight against racism. Working people expect that those entrusted with leading our nation are worthy of this inheritance, an inheritance for which we are truly thankful.
Overtime Taken Away from Millions of Workers
In a shocking and wrongly-decided opinion, a U.S. district court judge in the Eastern District of Texas has taken away overtime protection from millions of American workers.
Yesterday, Judge Amos Mazzant issued an injunction to stop the Barack Obama administration’s update of federal overtime eligibility rules, which was scheduled to take effect on December 1, 2016.
The updated rule is designed to restore overtime protections for an estimated 4.2 million workers, while making it harder for employers to deny overtime to another 8.9 million workers who are already overtime-eligible.
Equally shocking was Mazzant’s reasoning. He argued that the Labor Department does not have legal authority to set a minimum salary threshold below which workers are guaranteed overtime protection. The administration’s new rules would raise the overtime salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476.
This is an extreme decision that ignores 78 years of precedent. The Labor Department has been exercising its authority to apply a minimum salary threshold since 1938. It has increased the threshold seven times, most recently in 2004 under President George W. Bush. Congress has amended the overtime law several times and never objected to the minimum salary threshold, and no court had previously ruled that the salary threshold violated congressional intent.
The Labor Department issued this statement:
We strongly disagree with the decision by the court, which has the effect of delaying a fair day's pay for a long day's work for millions of hardworking Americans. The department's overtime rule is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive rule-making process, and we remain confident in the legality of all aspects of the rule. We are currently considering all of our legal options.
The Economic Policy Institute said this in its statement:
This is an extreme and unsupportable decision and is a clear overreach by the court. For 78 years the Department of Labor has used salary as well as duties to determine overtime eligibility. Congress has amended the Fair Labor Standards Act many times and has never objected to the salary test. The law is clear on this. The District Court’s ruling is wrong.
The National Employment Law Project said this in its statement:
Supporters of the rule are considering a range of legal strategies, and it’s premature to speculate about the course they’ll pursue if an appeal is filed. We believe the judge’s analysis and decision are deeply flawed and should be reversed on appeal.
The Center for American Progress said this in its statement:
Today’s decision from the Eastern District of Texas represents a major setback for the country’s workers. By siding with the big business lobby and granting an injunction against the Department of Labor’s plan to raise the overtime salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476 a year, one judge has prevented millions of Americans, who are not currently guaranteed overtime protections, from getting a much needed raise.
The National Women’s Law Center issued this statement:
A single judge in Texas has ignored 78 years of legal precedent and taken money out of the pockets of millions of working people across the country by blocking the long overdue update of the overtime rule. These workers, the majority of whom are women, earn modest salaries, work long hours and have just been told that they will still be denied fair pay… The National Women’s Law Center calls on the incoming Administration to affirm that it will fight to raise the wages of working people by vigorously defending the overtime rule.
Andrew Stettner of the Century Foundation said this in his blog post:
The main intended beneficiaries of the rule were lower-middle-class workers earning between the old and new thresholds. In one of the signature moves of the pre-implementation period, Walmart raised the wages of its managers above the new threshold. This group of workers includes a diverse set of working-class workers, including a big slice of the white working class workers without a college degree who voted for Donald Trump in record numbers. Workers with only a high school degree make up 25% of the potential salaried beneficiaries of the new rules, but only 15% of the total workforce. The new overtime rule was one of the most reliable levers available to policy makers who want to take action on the stagnant wages of those earning above the minimum wage.
'We Will Fight for the Working People of This Country'
Working people are still processing the results of the 2016 General Election, and we look to leaders who can offer insight and inspiration as we move forward. Senator Elizabeth Warren is one of those leaders. She addressed the AFL-CIO Executive Council last week and spoke to the results of the election. Here is what AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wrote about her speech:
“I strongly believe the outcome of this election is an indictment of politics as usual—the type of politics Sen. Elizabeth Warren has spent her career fighting against.
That’s because she leads with her values. Sen. Warren understands better than anyone that Washington must turn away from neoliberalism and trickle-down economics—trade agreements written by and for big corporations, economic policies drafted in Wall Street board rooms and the assumption that only those with money should have power.
That work starts today. Sen. Warren is uniquely positioned to partner with us on a pro-worker agenda consistent with our shared values. In these challenging times, there is no one I would rather have standing with us than her.”
Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain in Street Roots
Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain was recently profiled by Portland newspaper Street Roots, and spoke on a range of issues impacting Oregon workers and the future of unions in our state.
“With more than 300,000 members among its affiliated unions, Oregon AFL-CIO represents a wide range of professions, such as steelworkers, plumbers, teachers and letter carriers.
But whether you belong to a union or not, Oregon AFL-CIO’s legislative agendas are likely to affect you. It was a strong advocate for raising the state’s minimum wage and for giving all Oregonians paid sick days, and next session it will be advocating for fair scheduling laws.”
Thanksgiving is one week from tomorrow! Whether you are cooking a full dinner or providing a side-dish, please make sure you are buying as many union-made goods and products as possible. From turkeys to pies, union members are involved with every aspect of the foods we love to share on Thanksgiving. Find more union-made lists at Labor411.
Click here to see a list of union-made foods and products for Thanksgiving.
Washington Farmworkers End Driscoll / Sakuma Boycott
Our friends at the Northwest Labor Press published an update about a boycott that many in the Pacific Northwest have been following for the past three years:
“A three-year union boycott against Sakuma and Driscoll berries and Häagen Dazs strawberry ice cream is over. In September, Skagit Valley agri-giant Sakuma Berries agreed to allow a union election and recognize and bargain a contract with the union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), if it won. FUJ is a local farmworker union affiliated with Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Workers voted 195-58 on Sept. 12 to join FUJ; 377 workers were eligible to vote, and the now-union-represented workforce swells to about 500 at the height of berry-picking season.
No state law in Washington governs farmworker unionization, and farmworkers aren’t covered by the National Labor Relations Act, so Richard Ahearn, former regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, agreed to oversee the privately conducted vote count.”
Thank you to everyone who knocked on doors, made phone calls, passed out fliers, and helped with every component of the Oregon AFL-CIO’s Labor 2016 program!
We knocked on over 100,000 doors, made over 260,000 phone calls, sent almost 650,000 pieces of mail, handed out over 2,800 fliers at worksites, and our incredible volunteers filled over 1,000 shifts. You can find detailed election results for every candidate and ballot measure in Oregon here, and thank you again for your hard work.
AFL-CIO Responses to the Election Results
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has released the following statement in response to the 2016 Presidential Election:
Donald Trump has been elected president. America is a democratic nation, and the voters have spoken.
The AFL-CIO accepts the outcome of this election, and offers our congratulations to President-elect Trump.
More than anything, this election is an indictment of politics as usual.
For too long, the political elites have embraced economic policies that hold down wages, increase inequality, diminish opportunity and ship American jobs overseas. Voters in both the primary and general election have delivered a clear message: enough.
The President-elect made promises in this campaign—on trade, on restoring manufacturing, on reviving our communities. We will work to make many of those promises a reality. If he is willing to work with us, consistent with our values, we are ready to work with him.
But make no mistake, we can never back down from our values. The presence of racism, misogyny, and anti-immigrant appeals caused damage in this campaign and we must all try to repair it with inclusion, decency and honesty.
As we move forward, the labor movement is committed to defending our American democracy. Ultimately, the fundamental duty of America’s President, symbolized by swearing to uphold our Constitution, is to protect and preserve our democracy and the institutions that make it real. We hope to work with President Elect Trump to help him carry out this solemn responsibility. Regardless, America’s labor movement will protect our democracy and safeguard the most vulnerable among us.
This election is a statement about our broken economic and political rules. Therefore, the work of the labor movement continues with fresh urgency. The change voters cried out for in this campaign can be found by standing together in unions. The election is over. But we are more committed than ever to helping working people win a voice on the job and in our democracy.
We will never stop striving to represent everyone, fighting for basic human dignity, expanding our diversity and growing our ranks to give working people a strong, united voice.
Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain has released the following statement in response to the results of Oregon’s elections:
As the final results from elections in Oregon and around the country are counted, one thing is certain: Union members and working people have stepped up to the plate in a tremendous way over the past two months. Our efforts in mobilizing union members to vote for candidates and issues who support us cannot be ignored. Our volunteers spoke with thousands of voters on the doorstep, on the phone, and at worksites. Union member volunteers in cities across Oregon worked hard to contact voters over the past two months, and their efforts led to important victories for our endorsed statewide and legislative candidates.
The election of Governor Kate Brown will push our state forward for working people. Governor Brown has a long history of advocacy and I know she will continue to stand up for workers and our unions in the coming years. I’m disappointed that Brad Avakian will not move on to Secretary of State, and know that he will continue to be a strong voice for workers as Labor Commissioner. Working people will continue to make sure all our voices are heard in elections – not just large corporations.
While Measure 97 was defeated, we changed the debate about the massive gap between where we are and what we need to fund education, health care and senior services in Oregon. To close that gap, we can no longer afford to be 50th in the nation in corporate taxes.
Our efforts on behalf of union endorsed candidates in our state legislature have shown us that in communities across Oregon working people are eager to support leaders who stand up for our issues and our priorities. We look forward to a productive 2017 legislative session and more opportunities to advance an agenda designed to give all Oregonians a fair shot at prosperity.
I’m grateful for all the volunteers across Oregon who made our successes in this election possible. We could not have done this without union members taking action together to fight for what we believe in.