Weekly Update: Standing for Freedom

Unions Stand for Freedom of American Workers

AFSCME President Lee Saunders was recently featured in The Hill, where his article about unions makes a compelling point: Freedom is one of the most cherished principles of our nation, and unions are an integral part of what freedom means for working people:

“Freedom is also the ability to enjoy economic security and stability. And that means more than making a decent living and having enough to pay the bills. It’s about both financially supporting our families and having time to be there for them. Freedom is the ability to take your mom or dad to a doctor’s appointment, to attend a parent-teacher conference, and to retire with dignity.”

Click here to read the rest of President Saunders’ article.

Minimum Wage Increase:
Important Information

On Saturday, over 300,000 working Oregonians received a much-needed raise when our state’s minimum wage increased. This means that full-time minimum wage workers in the Portland area will see a $3,210 increase in their annual pay and minimum wage workers in the rest of the state will earn an extra $1,040 over the course of the year.

With nearly a quarter of Oregon’s workforce concentrated in low-wage jobs, our efforts to raise the wage and defend against attacks on policies that help working Oregonians are making a real difference in people’s lives. Women and people of color have a disproportionate share of low wage jobs, and by raising the wage, we are helping working Oregonians support their families and strengthening our state’s economy.

It’s important for workers to check to make sure the raise they expect on July 1 shows up in their paychecks. With three regions and annual increases, there may be instances of employers forgetting to raise wages. Concerned workers can head to the Bureau of Labor and Industries website or call 971-673-0844 to find tools for making sure they’re getting paid the right amount.
Nobody who works full time should live in poverty. The minimum wage increase on July 1 is a step forward to hundreds of thousands of Oregonians and another reminder that when we stand together, a fair shot at prosperity for all is within our grasp.

Registration for AFL-CIO Summer School closes on Friday!

Don't miss out! Register Now for the 2017 LERC/AFL-CIO Summer School, held August 4-6 on the UO campus in Eugene. Sign up today to make sure you get to take the classes you want!

Summer School is a unique opportunity to learn about current challenges facing the labor movement and to master the most important skills of union representation – all while hanging out with 150 other union members from across the state.

The 2017 LERC/AFL-CIO Summer School will focus on how we strengthen unions and build a united movement at a time of growing divisions in the country. Join us for engaging classes and plenary discussions of the challenges facing Oregon workers and what it takes to build a fair economy.

New this year: We offer courses on
   • How unions can succeed under "right to work" laws
    • How to engage more conservative union members
    • How to step up when something racist, sexist, or anti-immigrant happens in the workplace, and how to protect undocumented co-workers.

We also have courses on:
   • Trade and "Buy American" – American Jobs in the Global Economy
    • Labor History
    • How to Deal with Bully Bosses and Speak with Management like an Equal

Click here to learn more about summer school and to register today!

Protecting the Davis-Bacon Act

By Tim Schlittner. This article appears courtesy of the AFL-CIO Now Blog

In 1931, a Republican senator, James Davis of Pennsylvania, and a Republican congressman, Robert Bacon of New York, came together to author legislation requiring local prevailing wages on public works projects. The bill, known as Davis-Bacon, which was signed into law by President Herbert Hoover, also a Republican, aimed to fight back against the worst practices of the construction industry and ensure fair wages for those who build our nation.

Davis-Bacon has been an undeniable success—lifting millions of working people into the middle class, strengthening public-private partnerships and guaranteeing that America’s infrastructure is built by the best-trained, highest-skilled workers in the world.

Yet today, corporate CEOs, Republicans in Congress and right-wing think tanks are attacking Davis-Bacon and the very idea of a prevailing wage. These attacks reached an absurd low in a recent piece by conservative columnist George Will who perpetuated the myth that Davis-Bacon is racist.

“As a matter of historical record, Sen. James J. Davis (R-PA), Rep. Robert L. Bacon (R-NY) and countless others supported the enactment of the Davis-Bacon Act precisely because it would give protection to all workers, regardless of race or ethnicity,” rebutted Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, on the Huffington Post:

“The overwhelming legislative intent of the Act was clear: all construction workers, including minorities, are to be protected from abusive industry practices. Mandating the payment of local, ‘prevailing’ wages on federally-funded construction projects not only stabilized local wage rates and labor standards for local wage earners and local contractors, but also prevented migratory contracting practices which treated African-American workers as exploitable indentured servants.”

The discussion surrounding Davis-Bacon and race is a red herring. The real opposition to this law is being perpetrated by corporate-backed politicians—including bona fide racists like Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)—who oppose anything that gives more money and power to working people. For decades, these same bad actors have written the economic rules to benefit the wealthiest few at our expense. King and nine Republican co-sponsors have introduced legislation to repeal Davis-Bacon, a number far smaller than the roughly 50 House Republicans who are on record supporting the law. King and his followers simply cannot fathom compensating America‘s working people fairly for the fruits of their labor. Meanwhile, after promising an announcement on Davis-Bacon in mid-April, President Donald Trump has remained silent on the issue.

So the question facing our elected officials is this: Will you continue to come together—Republicans and Democrats—to protect Davis-Bacon and expand prevailing wage laws nationwide? Or will you join those chipping away at the freedom of working men and women to earn a living wage?

We are watching.