Weekly Update: This Is Huge

Oregon AFL-CIO Weekly Update • August 24, 2016

A Huge Win for Student Workers

Yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that students who work as teaching and research assistants at private universities have the right to stand together and organize unions on campus to negotiate for wages, benefits, and working conditions.  

This is a huge step forward for student workers, like those at Columbia University whose struggle lead to this momentous ruling from the NLRB.

Paul Katz, one of the graduate student workers at Columbia University involved in the organizing campaign told the New York Times why he and others are fighting for a union: “It’s a question of power and democracy in a space in the academy that’s increasingly corporatized, hierarchical. That’s what we’re most concerned about.” Simply put, it’s about giving student workers the ability to level the playing field by having a voice at work.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released a statement which puts yesterday's ruling into perspective:

“Today’s momentous decision by the NLRB marks a major victory for teaching and research assistants at Columbia University whose right to organize and form a union has been restored. This common sense decision will empower over 100,000 teaching and research assistants at other private institutions across the country, including Yale, Harvard, Cornell, and the New School whose teaching and research assistants are already organizing. These student workers often toil under unpredictable conditions while they teach undergraduates and provide the backbone work that sustains our world-class research laboratories.

Like all other working people, they deserve a say in determining their wages, benefits, and working conditions. The decision is also a win for working people everywhere who are challenging insecure working conditions in other industries. Working people are taking advantage of new and innovative ways to organize and engage in collective bargaining.

The labor movement will continue to stand by these student workers, and all working people, as together we ensure fairness in our economy.”

Union -Made School Supplies

It’s that time of year again! As kids across Oregon head back to school, make sure you’re filling up their backpacks with union-made school supplies.  Here’s a list to help you out, courtesy of Labor411:

ICYMI: Justice Department Bans Private Prisons

The Department of Justice announced last week that it would stop the use of private contractors, such as Corrections Corporation of America, to run prisons under their jurisdiction. The announcement comes on the heels of damaging reports about the safety, security, and oversight of private prisons released by DOJ and Mother Jones in recent months.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement in reaction to the news:

“The labor movement applauds the Department of Justice for taking the necessary steps to end their use of private prisons. Privately run prisons have a long record of being less safe and providing fewer resources and opportunities than publicly run institutions.

Our criminal justice system can never be fair while there is money to be made in locking up individuals. The entire labor movement will continue to fight until all incarcerated people are treated with dignity and every man and woman who works inside a correctional facility is safe on the job.“

AFSCME President Lee Saunders applauded the move as a step in the right direction:

“Whether at the federal or state and local level, private prison operations have long been a stain on our nation’s criminal justice system. Compared to publicly run correctional facilities, private prisons provide a fraction of the safety and rehabilitation our communities should expect. They have not kept us secure, nor have they delivered savings to the taxpayers—instead, corporate prisons have profited off of the suffering of our communities and have led the way to mass incarceration and the immoral detention of immigrant families in privately operated facilities that just this week were revealed in reports to be wasting taxpayer money.

Today’s announcement reinforces what we have long asserted: The dedicated women and men working in our nation’s federal, state and local public prisons keep our communities safe, day in and day out, and they do it more cost effectively than at prisons operated for profit by private corporations. Private prisons are a failed experiment. We wholeheartedly applaud the Justice Department’s decision to end their use and call on state and local governments, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, to follow the federal government’s lead on this decision.”