Alameda Labor Council

Recent News Stories

Every week, we'll be bringing you a roundup of the important news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here's this week's Working People Weekly List. Read more >>>

Each week, we take a look at the biggest friends and foes of labor. We celebrate the workers winning big and small battles, and we shame the companies or people trying to deny working people their rights. Read more >>>

AFL-CIO Now Blog -- Recent News Stories

The Racist Roots of Right to Work
The Racist Roots of Right to Work

Proponents of "right to work" laws often use lofty language to sell their agenda, with false appeals to freedom, among other high ideals.

But right to work is about freedom only in this way: It’s about taking away the freedom of working people to join together in strong unions.

It’s no secret that wealthy corporations and individuals are pouring money into politics like never before to stack the deck against working people and pad their own profits. The State Policy Network, an alliance of right-wing think tanks with a combined annual budget of $80 million, is an example. In a 2016 fundraising letter, it announced a "breakthrough" campaign to "defund and defang" public service unions.

The goal of SPN, the letter reads, is to "permanently break the power of government unions." It cites its opposition to the role that organized public-service workers play as advocates for quality public services and for policies that help working families and hurt corporate bottom lines, like health care and retirement security.

This network of front groups for wealthy special interests has implemented a multipronged strategy to achieve its goal: passing right to work laws at the state and local levels, spreading misinformation and contacting public-service workers directly to persuade them to drop out of their unions, and by using the court system to undo legal precedent and impose right to work nationally. Both organizations behind Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which seeks to make right to work the law of the land and was argued before the Supreme Court in February, are part of SPN.

But what none of them would ever openly say—not even in a letter to donors—is where right to work comes from and what its real agenda is. 

Continue reading at AFSCME.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 03/23/2018 - 14:46

UAW Takes Action to Support Incarcerated Korean Trade Unionists
UAW Takes Action to Support Incarcerated Korean Trade Unionists

General Secretary Lee thanked UAW President Williams and his members for their support.

A UAW representative recently returned from a trip to South Korea to try to secure the release of two key labor leaders jailed for their union activity. Since December 2015, Han Sang-gyun, who was president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, has been imprisoned for representing his members. And last December, KCTU General Secretary Lee Young-joo also was arrested after a 10-day hunger strike and two years of house arrest. There are other trade unionists who are charged or incarcerated as well.

The UAW Executive Board passed a resolution calling for the pardon and release of these trade unionists and UAW President Dennis Williams has raised this issue at high levels of the U.S. and South Korean governments. The UAW representative met with Han, Lee and the U.S. and South Korean governments to present UAW member petitions and to push for basic labor and human rights and for their release.

Prison Visit with Lee

General Secretary Lee thanked UAW President Williams and his members for their support. She said that she is very touched and that it shows that the world’s workers are one. Although she had been ill at the time of her detention, due to a hunger strike, she reported that she is now on the road to recovery.

Visit to the South Korean Ministry of Justice

At the South Korean Ministry of Justice, the UAW met with two deputy directors of the Human Rights Policy Division delivering the petitions and the UAW letters condemning Han and Lee’s imprisonment and vowing to keep fighting.

Prison Visit with Han

The UAW delivered to President Han its petition for his release signed by President Williams and more than 500 UAW members. President Han was very moved by the support and solidarity.

U.S. Embassy Visit

At the U.S. Embassy, the UAW met with the counselor for political military affairs and delivered letters and petitions calling for the release of Han and Lee, as well as UAW President Dennis Williams’ statement in support of their release.

This post originally appeared on the UAW website

Tim Schlittner Fri, 03/23/2018 - 08:55

The People's March Madness Sweet Sixteen!
The People's March Madness Sweet Sixteen!

Labor and working people's marches throughout history.
Labor and working people's marches throughout history.

Welcome to the AFL-CIO's March Madness Sweet Sixteen! But instead of focusing on the hottest basketball teams, we're focusing on the MARCH part of March Madness. Not the month, but actual marches.

We've set up a bracket of some of the most important marches and rallies for working people in American history. When we organize and fight for our values, we win. Here are 16 times where working people came together as leaders or as supporters and allies toward the greater good. Which one is your favorite?

Here is a little bit more detail on each march, so you can choose your favorite:

New York Shirtwaist Strike (1909): Also known as the Uprising of the 20,000, the New York Shirtwaist Strike involved primarily Jewish women working in New York factories who went on strike in order to gain improved wages, safer working conditions and better work hours. Led by Clara Lemlich, the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union and the National Women's Trade Union League of America, the strike was the largest by female workers up to that point. While successful for the New York working women, industry-wide safety problems were exposed a year later when the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire killed 146 garment workers.

Bread and Roses Strike (1912): After the Massachusetts Legislature cut the workweek by two hours, mill owners in Lawrence sought to cut working people's take-home pay. The Industrial Workers of the World mill workers launched a strike that was met with hostility, from the banning of parades and outdoor rallies to troops patrolling the workers' neighborhoods. The workers refused to give up, however, as many of them were fighting not only for better work conditions and treatment, but for the basic bread they needed to survive. The strikers won not only a pay raise and other gains for themselves, but the new system they won led to pay increases for 150,000 New Englanders.

Mother Jones and the March of the Mill Children (1903): Mary Harris "Mother" Jones went to the Kensington section of northern Philadelphia to rally 46,000 textile workers in their demands for a reduced workweek of 55 hours and a ban on night work by women and children. The year following the march, the National Child Labor Committee formed and Pennsylvania toughened its child labor laws the year after that.

Women's Suffrage Parade (1913): The day before Woodrow Wilson's inauguration, more than 5,000 women came to Washington by foot, by horseback or by wagon. Among the marchers demanding women's suffrage were the incoming president's niece. The marchers were heckled and harassed by the crowd at the time, but six years later, Congress passed the 19th Amendment, enshrining women's right to vote in the Constitution.

Silent Protest Parade (1917): After years of violence against African Americans, the East St. Louis Riot left several hundred African Americans dead and nearly 6,000 homeless, inspiring the NAACP and other organizations to launch the Silent Protest Parade. More than 10,000 women, men and children marched silently through the streets of New York. 

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963): The largest civil rights march of its era, more than 250,000 descended on the National Mall in support of civil and economic rights for African Americans. Labor leaders such as A. Philip Randolph were key in planning and executing the event.

Farmworkers March from Delano to Sacramento (1966): In protest of poor pay and working conditions, 75 Latino and Filipino grape workers led by César Chávez marched 340 miles from Delano, California, to the state Capitol. After a 25-day trek, they were greeted by 10,000 supporters. The strike lasted five years, ending in the creation of the United Farm Workers and the first contract between growers and farmworkers in U.S. history.

Poor People's March on Washington (1968): In the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, 3,000 people marched on the National Mall and set up a protest camp for six weeks. The marched called for improved economic and human rights for poor Americans. Numerous government programs to assist the poor were created as a result.

Women's Strike for Equality (1970): On the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, more than 20,000 women marched in support of equal opportunity in the workforce, and political and social equality.

Equal Rights Amendment March in Illinois (1976): More than 16,000 protesters marched on Springfield, Illinois, calling on the state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Numerous marches would follow over the years, and they were one of the defining efforts of the women's movement.

National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights (1979): More than 100,000 people marched on Washington, D.C., in support of civil and economic rights for LGBTQ Americans. In addition to a call for comprehensive legislation, the marchers called for an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal government, military and government contracting.

Solidarity Day! (1981): A diverse crowd of more than 260,000 marched in opposition to cuts to programs that support working people. Ronald Reagan's cuts were aimed at everything from Social Security to occupational safety laws.

Million Woman March (1997): More than a million African American women marched through the streets of Philadelphia in support of improved civil, political and economic rights.

March for Women's Lives (2004): More than a million women marched on Washington, D.C., in support of women's reproductive freedom.

Detroit March in response to water shut-offs (2014): Detroit residents, union members and progressive activists, led by the Incredible Hulk himself, Mark Ruffalo, marched through the streets of Detroit in response to the water utility shutting off water for thousands of poor residents.

Women's March (2017): Following the inauguration of Donald Trump, more than 4.2 million women and men held rallies across the nation. The marchers protested the proposed policies of the administration and Trump's personal mistreatment of women.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 03/22/2018 - 12:18

New President for the New Mexico Federation of Labor
New President for the New Mexico Federation of Labor

 Vince Alvarado is sworn in as president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor.
New Mexico AFL-CIO
New Mexico Federation of Labor Secretary-Treasurer Ashley Long swears in Vince Alvarado as the new President of the state labor federation.

On March 20, the New Mexico Federation of Labor Executive Board unanimously appointed Vince Alvarado as its new president. Alvarado is the business manager and financial secretary for International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 49, a position he has held since 2010. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees for the SMART Local 49 Health Plan and Joint Apprenticeship and Training Council. Alvarado is a third-generation sheet metal worker originally from El Paso, Texas, who served in various leadership roles on the job and with his union for more than two decades. He is currently the only state federation leader in the country who comes from SMART.

New Mexico Federation of Labor Secretary-Treasurer Ashley Long (IAM) said New Mexico labor leaders were excited to support Alvarado in his new role: “The energy behind our Executive Board’s decision to appoint Vince as our new president was so enthusiastic and positive. There is a strong sense of unity that is growing and expanding across the New Mexico labor movement right now, and Vince is the exact leader we need. Together, we will keep up the momentum to grow a stronger movement for New Mexico's working families.”

New Mexico has emerged as an increasingly important state in the national fight to protect workers’ rights. As a team, New Mexico labor leaders, including Alvarado, mobilized working people and their communities to defeat "right to work" legislation in the state Legislature for the past four sessions. They continue to fight a right-wing funded push across the state to pass right to work on the county level. New Mexico is also a key state in the upcoming 2018 elections, where union leaders and activists are organizing to elect a pro-worker governor and solidify pro-worker majorities in their Legislature.

Long is confident that she and Alvarado can achieve those goals while continuing to unite and grow the New Mexico labor movement. “Vince is an absolute professional. He’s level-headed, thoughtful and experienced,” said Long. “We are a well-balanced, diverse leadership team that will work with our Executive Board to keep labor in New Mexico moving forward in a positive way.”

Alvarado said he also felt positive about the state labor movement's potential for growth: “The New Mexico labor movement has become more and more united ever since we joined together to defeat right to work four sessions ago, when we didn’t have the governor or the House on our side. Our movement has been doing well, but there is always room for improvement. There was a lot of good energy when our Executive Board appointed me to lead the federation, and there is a lot of potential to keep making our state better for working people."

Tim Schlittner Thu, 03/22/2018 - 11:20

JetBlue Inflight Crew Members Vote on Joining TWU
JetBlue Inflight Crew Members Vote on Joining TWU

TWU Workers

Nearly 5,000 JetBlue inflight crew members have begun the voting process this week in an effort to join the Transport Workers (TWU). Last year, an overwhelming majority of the inflight crew members signed cards in favor of coming together to negotiate a fair and just contract. Ballots will be cast between now and April 17.

TWU President John Samuelsen said:

JetBlue [inflight crew members] have come to the realization that the company does not have their best interests in mind. They have come to the right place, because TWU will win this election and will strategically engage JetBlue to win a solid contract. The company is more interested in making profits off the backs of its workers than in rewarding them for making it the extremely successful company that it is.

Inflight crew member Lyndi Howard explained the employees' motivation: "JetBlue [inflight crew members] would like the real opportunity and power to make improvements to our professional lives through collective bargaining and contractual language."

A statement on TWU's website explained how the process led to success:

This historic moment was made possible by the dedication of your co-workers who are serving as your committed team of in-house, rank and file activists. Through their efforts and your overwhelming support, you and your team have signed a sufficient number of cards needed to file for an election, so that the inflight crewmembers can begin to take control of their collective future. Your organizing team has done an exceptional job communicating with your workgroup and reaching out to the entire community of JetBlue inflight crewmembers. I congratulate them on their success.

Learn more about the campaign at Time We Unite.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 03/22/2018 - 11:17

Puerto Rico: Those Unforgettable Days
Puerto Rico: Those Unforgettable Days

Puerto Rico Relief
Gonzalo Salvador

There are days in our lives that are unforgettable. They are entrenched in our minds. They follow us like perennial shadows. Six months ago, I spent five days in Puerto Rico—two weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated this Caribbean island. As I look back into this short trip, I see images and situations that have stayed with me. Memories that are a constant reminder of how much remains to be done to lift up all working families who were affected by this disaster. Here are some of these moments:

Saturday, Oct. 7—Luis Muñoz Marin Airport, Carolina, Puerto Rico

Families with small children, elderly people. All of them desperately trying to leave the island. A feeling of guilt invaded me as I stepped onto my United Airlines flight to Newark, New Jersey. Nearly 300 volunteers from different unions stayed in Puerto Rico for another two weeks, providing critical relief to people who were affected by Hurricane Maria. In the previous four days, they became my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, Oct. 4—Baseball Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico

It is 4 o’clock in the morning. "Everyone up. Time to go." I overheard the voice coming from back in the locker room, still half asleep while laying down on a cot. My roommates, most of them operating engineers, dressed in a heartbeat. They were energized and looking forward to getting to work.

Less than 12 hours earlier, we arrived on a flight from Newark Airport provided by United. Buses took us to our new "home": The Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

Time flies. It took less than two weeks to organize this relief mission and to get volunteers from many unions who had valuable skills that were urgently needed in Puerto Rico—electricians, nurses, truck drivers, operating engineers, plumbers, only to name a few.

The conditions at the baseball stadium were precarious at best. We had a limited supply of food and drinking water. But at least we had electricity and spotty cell phone reception. We were the lucky ones. At the time, nearly 90% of the island didn’t have any power. Only a few had access to water.

But even as we encountered these dire conditions, all volunteers were eager to go out and help. They reminded me of what the labor movement is all about: brotherhood, sisterhood and solidarity. Each union member was proud to give a hand to those most in need.      

Friday, Oct. 6—Barceloneta, Puerto Rico

It took a caravan of trucks and heavy machinery nearly three hours to reach Barceloneta, a small town less than 50 miles west of San Juan. The scenery that surrounded us was similar to a surrealist painting—trees were uprooted, all the vegetation was wiped out. Desolation. There wasn’t a trace of that paradisiacal island I visited many years before on vacation.

As soon as we arrived to this town, nurses and doctors began visiting a nearby nursing home. I joined a team of truck drivers and operating engineers who were in charge of clearing a road of debris.

At a distance, I spotted a house without a roof. A tree had fallen on its balcony. The windows were broken. A couple in their late 60s came out and asked me for help. They hadn’t had water or electricity for days. They said that they lost everything. I turned around in frustration, only to find more people asking me for water to drink.

On our way back, I took a bus and sat next to our health care volunteers. A nurse told me that people were sick and unnecessarily dying. A doctor from California showed me the photo of a man in his 80s. He said that he was about to die of dehydration and malnutrition.

"If we had arrived a day later, he would have died," the doctor added.

The sun was down. Total darkness surrounded us. Only a light was blinking far away. A beacon of hope, I thought.     

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Almost six months have passed since that day. The news is not good. Nearly 10% of the island doesn’t have electricity. Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens, have no other option than to leave their homes and move to the "mainland." More than 1,000 people have died from causes related to the hurricane. Unnecessary deaths, as the nurse told me back in October. She was right. Most of those deaths were preventable.

And to add insult to injury, instead of pushing for policies that would provide Puerto Rico relief, there are talks of privatizing schools and lowering standards for teachers and other working people.

Today, I look back and think of all the people who I met during all those days in Puerto Rico. It is impossible not to wonder what happened to all of them. How is the couple in Barceloneta who lost everything doing? Is the man at the retirement home whose life was saved by a volunteer still alive?

Were our volunteer efforts in vain?  


Our volunteers not only repaired the electric grid and generators, restored water, cleared roads and provided critical health care, they left an impression on every person they helped. I am sure that even today, those efforts endure.

And while greedy corporations continue to take advantage and make money off of Puerto Rico’s misfortune, union members are still on the ground helping their fellow Americans.

Like that light blinking during the night among the darkness, I believe that there is still hope for Puerto Rico. Our union volunteers’ solidarity is proof that even in the middle of a catastrophe, goodness prevails over greed. The labor movement’s constant commitment to aid our brothers and sisters, who continue to be under distress, is nothing short of heroic.

I am proud to be part of this movement. I am proud of every single woman and man who responded to the call to go to Puerto Rico.

Those days. Those unforgettable days.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 03/20/2018 - 10:18

Trumka: The Politicians Screaming About a Trade War Are Beholden to Wall Street
Trumka: The Politicians Screaming About a Trade War Are Beholden to Wall Street

Wall Street’s hair is on fire about steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by President Trump, because closing mills and factories in the United States and moving them overseas is how investors enrich themselves.

And those wealthy investors reap even fatter profits when offshore mills and factories violate trade laws. Wall Street doesn’t care about the social and economic costs of unfair trade, because working people and our communities pay the price.

We care about working people and our jobs, and we care about holding bad actors accountable. That’s why the AFL-CIO has consistently made the case for the use of tariffs to crack down on trade law violations. In the case of steel and aluminum, it’s not just about unfair trade practices, it’s also about national security.

This isn’t about Trump. And it certainly isn’t about partisan politics. Many in both parties have failed working people on the issue of trade. The politicians who are screaming about a trade war have one thing in common: They are beholden to Wall Street.

The real trade war is being waged directly on working people — our jobs, our communities, our way of life. We’ve been getting our butts kicked for decades because the rules allow global companies to profit at our expense rather letting us rise together. It’s a rigged game. Just take a drive through my small coal-mining town in southwestern Pennsylvania if you want proof.

When American workers compete on a level playing field, we win. Tariffs are one important step to help us do exactly that.

How does that work? To understand, you first have to recognize these basic facts:

Read the full op-ed in the Washington Post.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 03/20/2018 - 09:55

It's About Dignity and Humanity: Worker Wins
It's About Dignity and Humanity: Worker Wins

NY Parking Production Assistants

Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with a group of production assistants voting unanimously for a voice on the job and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life.

New York Parking Production Assistants Unanimously Vote to Join CWA: Nearly 600 parking production assistants who secure parking in the New York City area for film and television productions voted unanimously to be represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The PPAs usually arrive 1224 hours prior to production and work to secure parking spaces for production vehicles and equipment, usually working long hours alone, overnight, in conditions that are potentially dangerous. "This vote was about dignity, about humanity," said Lanere Rollins, one of the PPAs who voted to join CWA. "Film and TV productions couldn't happen without us, but PPAs have been on the bottom rung of the entertainment industry for a long time. Not one PPA in the city voted 'no' for the union, because we're stepping up to demand the respect and fair treatment that we deserve."

Another Victory for CWA at AT&T: More than 12,000 AT&T wireless workers represented by CWA in nine southeastern states and the Virgin Islands won a tentative contract that provides increased wages, improved job security, and rollbacks of offshoring and outsourcing. "I am proud of our bargaining committee and the CWA members from across the country who supported their efforts with rallies and picketing events," said Richard Honeycutt, vice president of CWA District 3. "We are continuing to set new standards in the wireless industry and we are demonstrating that the best way for working people to achieve better pay and fair treatment on the job is by joining together in a union." The agreement comes on the heels of a similar agreement, which was ratified last month by AT&T wireless workers in 36 additional states and Washington, D.C.

Majority of Mic Editorial Staff Vote to Join The NewsGuild of New York/CWA: The overwhelming majority of the editorial staff at digital news outlet Mic voted to be represented by The NewsGuild of New York/CWA Local 31003. The employees are now requesting that management voluntarily recognize their union. "I am so proud that the overwhelming majority of Mic reporters, editors, correspondents, social media editors, producers and copy editors have come together as a collective voice to improve Mic’s workplace," said Kelsey Sutton, Mic political reporter.

Food Service Workers at Airbnb Join UAW: Nearly 150 Bon Appétit Management Co. employees working at Airbnb ratified their first union contract with UAW. The agreement covers workers in San Francisco, California, and Portland, Oregon, who work in food service for Airbnb. "The contract raises the bar for working people up and down the West Coast," said Gary Jones, the Western Regional Director for the UAW. "We believe the dishwashers, servers and chefs working for Bon Appétit and serving Airbnb employees are now among the highest paid food service workers in California. This contract includes first-class language that protects workers’ rights and ensures excellent health benefits."

Kaiser Permanente Nurses in California Win Tentative Agreement: Registered nurses and nurse practitioners at 21 Kaiser Permanente medical centers and offices in Northern and Central California won a tentative agreement on a five-year contract that protects existing standards and improves protections for patients. The nurses, who are represented by National Nurses United (NNU), will begin voting on ratification of the contract on March 26. 

Alaska Airlines' Flight Attendants Reach Agreement on Joint Collective Bargaining Agreement: Flight attendants at Alaska Airlines agreed to a joint collective bargaining agreement that covers more than 5,400 working people. The agreement improves upon the previous contract and includes pay increases. "We worked hard to achieve improvements for the Alaska Airlines Flight Attendants while simultaneously balancing the need to quickly address the disparity for the former Virgin America Flight Attendants working under their current pay and work rules. The JCBA accomplishes those goals and provides for a smooth path to combine the two Flight Attendant groups," said Jeffrey Peterson, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) president at Alaska Airlines.

Piedmont Passenger Service Agents Win Major Improvements in Tentative New Contract: More than a year of bargaining and mobilization by Piedmont Airlines' passenger service agents has resulted in a tentative new contract that includes major raises, improved benefits and other gains. "Courageous passenger service agents have been standing up for family-sustaining jobs at American Airlines, and it's because of their determination and commitment to winning a fair contract that thousands of hardworking agents at Piedmont will see big improvements in pay and benefits after this long and tough fight," said CWA President Chris Shelton. "Working people joining together in unions to negotiate collectively remains the best way to achieve the fair return on their work that they deserve."

Seattle NPR Staff Vote to Join SAG-AFTRA: Staff at KUOW-FM 94.9 overwhelmingly voted to be represented by SAG-AFTRA. The bargaining unit will cover public media professionals who create content for the NPR- and University of Washington-affiliated station. Next, the unit will begin negotiations toward their first contract.

Frontier Communications Employees Prove Even Home-Based Workers Can Organize: More than 160 home-based customer service representatives in Texas who work for Frontier Communications won a mail ballot election to be represented by CWA. The organizing committee set up a network to share information on a daily basis, using both traditional organizing methods, as well as text and social media.

Fire Fighters Win Safety Improvements: In response to dwindling resources and dangerous work conditions, firefighters across the country are stepping up to win improvements on the job. In Portsmouth, Virginia, Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 539 members helped elect a city council that increased resources. In Ohio, IAFF Local 334 members fought to establish a "cancer presumption law" that assumes that firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer contracted the disease on the job and are therefore eligible for workers' compensation and pension benefits. And in Henry County, Georgia, members of IAFF Local 4052 persuaded the Board of Commissioners to accept a SAFER Grant that improves safety for firefighters and local residents.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 03/20/2018 - 08:50

Today's Working Women Honor Their Courageous Foremothers
Today's Working Women Honor Their Courageous Foremothers

Nearly two centuries ago, a group of women and girls — some as young as 12 — decided they'd had enough. Laboring in the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, they faced exhausting 14-hour days, abusive supervisors and dangerous working conditions. When threatened with a pay cut, they finally put their foot down.

The mill workers organized, went on strike and formed America's first union of working women. They shocked their bosses, captured the attention of a young nation and blazed a trail for the nascent labor movement that would follow.

As we celebrate Women's History Month, working women are proudly living up to that example—organizing, taking to the streets and running for office in unprecedented numbers. It is a reminder that the movements for worker and women’s rights always have been interwoven.

But even as we rally together, our opponents are proving to be as relentless as ever. It’s been 184 years since that first strike in Lowell, and our rights still are being threatened by the rich and powerful. The Janus v. AFSCME case currently before the Supreme Court is one of the most egregious examples.

Janus is specifically designed to undermine public-sector unions’ ability to advocate for working people and negotiate fair contracts. More than that, it is a direct attack on working women. The right to organize and bargain together is our single best ticket to equal pay, paid time off and protection from harassment and discrimination.

Women of color would be particularly hurt by a bad decision in this case. Some 1.5 million public employees are African-American women, more than 17 percent of the public-sector workforce. Weaker collective bargaining rights would leave these workers with even less of a voice on the job.

This only would add insult to injury as black women already face a double pay gap based on race and gender, earning only 67 cents on the dollar compared to white men.

This is a moment for working women to take our fight to the next level. For generations, in the face of powerful opposition, we have stood up for the idea that protecting the dignity and rights of working people is a cause in which everyone has a stake.

Read the full op-ed at The Hill.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 03/19/2018 - 15:47

Drake: 'Tariffs to Protect U.S. National and Economic Security Are Overdue'
Drake: 'Tariffs to Protect U.S. National and Economic Security Are Overdue'

Celeste Drake, trade policy specialist at the AFL-CIO, participated in a discussion last week about trade and tariffs at The Dialogue. The following question was submitted to Drake and other experts:

U.S. President Donald Trump on March 8 signed into law new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum despite anxious warnings from leading members of his own party, global trading partners and liberal economists. At the same time, he announced that Canada and Mexico would be exempt from the tariffs, pending the outcome of the re-negotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The tariffs have support from a diverse coalition of interests, ranging from the largest labor union in the United States to right-wing advocates of Trump’s 'America First' political ideology. What would the tariffs mean for Latin American and Caribbean countries? Which players stand to gain or lose the most? How will concerns about a global trade war come to bear on the current talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement? 

Drake responded:

For years, firms and workers in both the developed and developing world have supported action against unfair trade practices. In this century, China, in particular, has engaged in currency manipulation, denial of labor rights and overproduction—trade issues that the WTO and other multilateral forums have failed to address. The tariffs to protect U.S. national and economic security are overdue. They are a good step toward strengthening firms and protecting workers in the steel and aluminum industries, providing they are targeted to the countries that caused the problem, such as China. It is important to distinguish between trade enforcement and a trade war. Wall Street’s 'chicken little' rhetoric comparing this action to the Smoot-Hawley tariff has no basis in fact. More important, however, is that the global trading system needs comprehensive changes to prevent the kind of game-playing we have seen in global steel markets. Unions across the Americas are united in calling for sustainable, equitable trade rules that strengthen economies and create wage-led growth. In our globalized economy, workers are always better off with international—not unilateral—solutions. Since the United States, Canada and Mexico are already working to fix NAFTA, the three countries should develop a coordinated response to global economic challenges like dumping, overcapacity, tax avoidance and currency misalignment—even as they work on improving existing NAFTA labor and investment regimes. Just as inaction in the face of illegal trade practices harms working people, so will a go-it-alone strategy. If President Trump has an interest in hemispheric shared prosperity, he should abandon the nationalist rhetoric that plays into the hands of Wall Street critics of trade enforcement. Now is the time for the countries of the Americas to come together to address beggar-thy-neighbor trade strategies, abandon the race to the bottom and build economies that work for ordinary families, not just the global investor class.

Read the other responses.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 03/19/2018 - 11:12

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