We're Only Getting Started

Oregon AFL-CIO Weekly Update: We’re Only Getting Started
July 24, 2019

Liz Shuler: We’re Only Getting Started

National AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer (and Oregonian!) Liz Shuler wrote a recent piece which explains why the challenge of Janus v. AFSCME are creating a strong union movement to build prosperity for working people:

It has been a year since the Supreme Court awoke a sleeping giant: The labor movement.

Working people accepted the challenge of Janus v. AFSCME and used this test to reignite our solidarity and prove that we are stronger than any corporation, politician or high court. It takes more than a court case to tear down a century and a half of grit and gumption.

Together, union members from communities across the country reclaimed our power and redefined this past year with a historic movement of collective action.

Teachers captured the country's attention, walking off the job for the fair treatment they deserve in states where collective bargaining is illegal. Workers at Marriott hotels in eight major cities across the country won groundbreaking protections against harassment and assault and a voice in how technology impacts their work. Grocery store employees throughout New England won better wages and respect after a massive strike that garnered support from workers and communities across America. Now, airline catering workers voted to authorize a strike and demand that “One Job Should Be Enough.”

But, it’s not just union members calling for a fair return on work.

This week, Wayfair employees embraced the power of collective action when they walked out of their workplace to protest the immoral abuse of migrants in detention centers at the border.

Google workers worldwide staged massive protests last fall, demanding an end to workplace harassment.

And, video game developers are joining together to fight for a voice at work.  

Working people from every corner of the country are ready to experience the transformational power that comes with a union card. With the labor movement’s popularity at its highest point in more than 15 years, research from MIT shows that half of Americans would join a union today if they could.

For too long, rugged individualism was the false narrative sold to generations of Americans. At the same time, corporate interests chipped away at our most fundamental rights and freedoms. The result we’re seeing today is a concentration of wealth and power for the 1% that shocks the conscience and threatens the democratic system we have come to rely on.

But, the labor movement is refusing to settle for the false promises and comfortable confines of the status quo. We’re being bold. We’re taking risks. We’re helping to rewrite the American story.

We’re standing together and fighting for the change we need. We’re debating and defining the future of work with life-changing contracts and through cutting-edge training and education that helps working people advance to better jobs and fulfilling careers.

After all, we built the middle-class, won retirement security, created safe workplaces and determined what a fair economy could and should look like. That’s why the labor movement continues to be the most powerful force for working families.

Our mission now, and in the years to come, is to convert today’s historic levels of collective action into resurgent collective bargaining, so we can build a fairer, stronger and more upwardly mobile America.

There are signs of progress far and wide, and we are ready to give this moment everything we have.

The Supreme Court didn’t deliver the labor movement’s eulogy. It sparked our triumphant rise, and we’re only getting started.

Oregon AFL-CIO Launches Ballot Initiative Against
Self-Checkout Machines

Last week, the Oregon AFL-CIO filed a ballot initiative with the goal of regulating the reduction of jobs in grocery stores by limiting the amount of self-checkout stations in Oregon’s grocery stores. Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain explained why Oregon’s unions are taking action against self-checkout machines:

“The goal of our initiative is to protect grocery workers and our communities. Self-checkout machines are part of a strategic corporate attempt to reduce costs and eliminate jobs. These machines turn customers into unpaid workers and allow stores to reduce the number of full-time employees. This significantly impacts workers of color negatively, who are disproportionately overrepresented as cashiers in retail businesses. Meanwhile, the push towards expanded automation at grocery stores places older customers and people with disabilities at a disadvantage when they are expected to use machines to purchase groceries.”

The Oregon AFL-CIO represents hundreds of affiliated local unions across the state, and fights for the rights of all working people in Oregon. The statewide federation of unions will gather the necessary signatures to ensure the Grocery Store Service and Community Protection Act is placed onto the 2020 ballot, giving voters the option to weigh in on an issue that impacts the millions of Oregonians who purchase groceries.

Fighting for Fair Treatment Amid Record Profits:
Tenae Stover's Story

This story appears courtesy of the National AFL-CIO Blog

My name is Tenae Stover. I am a native Washingtonian, and I have been working at Reagan National Airport for LSG Sky Chefs for the past three years. I’m a leader with my union UNITE HERE in our national fight for respect and dignity and for one job to be enough to live for airline catering workers across the United States.

Our jobs are hard, and we deserve more than Sky Chefs and American Airlines want to give us. We have been in negotiations since October of 2018, but Sky Chefs continues to reject our asks—a national $15 wage floor and affordable health care. Workers at more than 30 airports around the country, including National, took votes over the past month to authorize a strike when we are released by the government. At National, the vote passed by 100%.

Sky Chefs is our employer, but it is a subcontractor of the airlines, merely the middleman. American Airlines ultimately has the power and influence over our wages and benefits. It’s the one who determines what food we prepare, how we prepare it and how much its willing to pay for our hours of difficult labor.

Sky Chefs is a 365-day business—it is open every single day of the year and never closes. My co-workers and I spend most of our time there, including holidays, which we are rarely able to spend with family members. Every day, we prepare meals and beverages for thousands of passengers traveling through National, many traveling on American Airlines.

We all work on our feet for eight or more hours a day. Our health insurance is not good at all. My individual insurance costs me about $60 per week—some $250 per month—and others pay hundreds more for family plans. Even though some of my co-workers are older, right now they don’t have a pension they can benefit from and must continue to work these long hours just to survive. On top of all this, we only make around $13 per hour. One co-worker of mine who has been working there for 30 years makes the same low hourly rate as I do.

Two years ago, I was evicted from my home because Sky Chefs wasn’t paying me enough. At the time, I was making just over $9. I couldn’t afford to pay my rent, transportation, food and clothing with Sky Chefs as my only source of income. I was forced to move in with a family member, even though I want to be independent. Still to this day, Sky Chefs does not pay me enough and I cannot live on my own.

But I know that the way to stand up and fight back is through my union. I’m a proud member of UNITE HERE and proud to be a leader in this campaign, which is not only a fight for workers at National, but a nationwide fight for tens of thousands of workers. I decided I wanted to fight for myself as well as all the other workers in this industry. After getting more involved with my union, I can see that whether we’re workers for Sky Chefs in Washington, D.C., or at other American Airlines hub airports, in Marriott hotels in other cities, or even at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in my own hometown, we’re all fighting against corporations and their greedy, unfair labor practices that put our livelihoods and families at risk. I want to pave the way for the generations to come by setting the standard for a better living for all.

Today, the economy is doing well and the airline industry continues to earn record profits, and yet airline catering workers like me continue to be forgotten. That’s why we fight back against these companies to win what we rightfully deserve. We’re simply tired of being overworked and underpaid. We are fighting for $15 and for affordable health care. I am proud that my union UNITE HERE is fighting for fair treatment and respect for all airline catering workers. This fight we’re in, and the strike authorization votes we’ve taken, show we have power. Without us, the workers, neither Sky Chefs nor the airlines would profit, and they know that. We’ll do whatever it takes within the law, even if that means a strike when we’re released, to get what we are fighting for.