On October 24, more than 350 picketers turned out for a rally and picket line at EA offices in Playa Vista, Calif. in response to failed negotiations with video gaming companies that union officials say have been unwilling to meet even close to where the needs of its members are.
The strike involves the following video game employers: Activision Publishing, Inc.; Blindlight, LLC; Corps of Discovery Films; Disney Character Voices, Inc.; Electronic Arts Productions, Inc.; Formosa Interactive, LLC; Insomniac Games, Inc.; Interactive Associates, Inc.; Take 2 Interactive Software; VoiceWorks Productions, Inc.; and WB Games, Inc. The strike applies to games that went into production after February 17, 2015, for the aforementioned employers.
In a statement issued in early October by the union, SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris said, “Through many months of bargaining with interactive employers, we have not reached a fair agreement covering SAG-AFTRA performers working in video games – often the most popular games in the world. Our members have been clear, now is the time for employers to negotiate a modern contract that covers this highly profitable industry.
“A strike is not to be entered into lightly, but when the employers leave us with no recourse, we must stand firm for our members. It is imperative that we secure for them the protections, compensation and benefits they deserve,” Carteris added.
The Union’s Chief Contracts Officer Ray Rodriguez noted that members working in the video game industry were negotiating to reach a fair contract, but that progress had essentially been stalled for more than a year.
“We need a contract that fits the needs of our members working in video games,” said Rodriguez. “So far employers have been unwilling to meet us even close to where the needs of our members are.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka made the following statement regarding the SAG-AFTRA Video Game Strike:
The AFL-CIO stands in solidarity with the SAG-AFTRA voice-over and motion-capture performers who are on strike after failed negotiations with eleven video game employers. Performers deserve a modern contract that offers the protections necessary to work in today’s video game industry.
No one wants a strike. But, for nearly two years video game employers have been unwilling to meet basic demands necessary to bring this collective bargaining agreement up to the standards of other mature industry contracts. We urge video game employers to negotiate in good faith and work with SAG-AFTRA to bargain a fair agreement. ■
“A critical part of the safety net is being both attacked and eroded in no small measure because there are no federal minimum standards for workers’ compensation”
— DOL Secretary Tom Perez
A recent U.S. Department of Labor report lays out in gory detail the problems with workers’ compensation programs in the U.S., noting that those hurt on the job are at “great risk of falling into poverty” because state workers’ compensation systems are failing to provide them with adequate benefits. Unfortunately, the DOL has no oversight of workers’ compensation programs and has not monitored state compliance since 2004 because of cutbacks.
According to the report, more than 30 states have changed their workers’ compensation laws since 2003, favoring employers far more than workers. In most instances, states have decreased benefits to injured workers, created hurdles to medical care, raised the burden of proof to qualify for help and shifted costs to public programs, such as Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.
Employers are reaping the rewards—the cost of insurance has decreased dramatically and insurance companies are paying their overages back to corporations in the form of dividends. Since 1988, the average cost to employer has declined from $3.42 for every $100 paid in wages to $1.85 per $100.
“With this report, we’re sounding an alarm bell,” Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said in an interview with ProPublica, which had published a series of articles with NPR on the issue over the past year and a half (https://www.propublica.org/series/workers-compensation).
The Grand Bargain
Workers’ compensation was created more than 100 years ago. It was a response to challenging and horrific workplace injuries which left workers devastated and employers vulnerable to lawsuits. Labor and business compromised: workers injured on the job gave up the right to sue their employers for personal injury damages in return for less generous but more certain benefits, guaranteed pay and medical care. The compromise became known as The Grand Bargain.
In 1972, The National Commission on State Workmen’s Compensation Laws in its final report to Congress noted that “in general, workmen’s compensation programs provide cash benefits which are inadequate.”
Now, with the rollbacks of the laws’ protections, the programs are not only inadequate, they are a burden on injured workers and on taxpayers. In fact, in some instances, employers have set up a system that require workplace injuries be reported before the end of a shift, which leads to a denial of a claim of injury that only becomes apparent after leaving work or even a few days later.
“A critical part of the safety net is being both attacked and eroded in no small measure because there are no federal minimum standards for workers’ compensation,” said Perez.
In 1972, the National Commission agreed on five basic objectives for workers’ compensation programs: broad coverage of employees and work-related injuries and diseases; substantial protection against interruption of income; provision of sufficient medical care and rehabilitation services; encouragement of safety; and an effective system for delivery of the benefits and services.
No Federal Oversight Leads to State Cuts
Compliance with the report’s recommendations increased substantially over the next decade, despite no federal law compelling compliance. By the mid 1980s, though, states realized that federal intervention to enforce the Report’s recommendations was not forthcoming, and the rollbacks began.
No one was paying attention except the employers reaping the rewards and the legislatures responding to lobbyists who pushed for changes.
During the recession, states used the rolled back laws to attract businesses to their states.
Twenty-two states now set arbitrary time limits on injured workers’ temporary wage benefits. Ten states allow “independent medical reviews” of workers’ compensation claims to assess the recommendations of the injured workers’ doctors. Ten states have also increased the use of pre-existing conditions to limit or deny care after workplace injuries. There are now 37 states that restrict a workers’ ability to choose their doctor. In 18 states, employers can select the physician who treats their injured workers at least initially, according to the Workers Compensation Research Institute. In another 19 states, the injured worker is required to choose from a list of doctors — sometimes as few as four — approved by their state, insurer or employer.
“Again and again, American workers are being robbed of their rights, health protections and fair compensation,” said Rich Kline, president of the Union Label Department. “This is just another example of how the anti-government, anti-regulation agenda pushed by big business is fragmenting our laws and destroying working families in the process. No one should be pushed into poverty because they are injured on the job.”
“If you work in a full-time job, you ought to be able to put food on the table,” said Perez. “If you get hurt on that job, you still should be able to put food on the table, and these laws are really undermining that basic bargain.”
“I hope that Congress will step up,” he added. “We have to fix this system.” ■
On September 7, 2016, the AFL-CIO officially endorsed the boycott of the Crowne Plaza Hotel LAX per the request of UNITE HERE President, D. Taylor.
The boycott includes the Crowne Plaza Hotel LAX, Yokoso Sushi Bar, the Landing Restaurant, Century Taproom, and the Boulevard Market Cafe.
The boycott endorsements adopted by the AFL-CIO Executive Council will remain in effect for up to one year, unless UNITE HERE requests an earlier termination of the listing. At the end of the first year, the union may request for the hotel to continue to be included on the list for another 12 months.
Electing the right people to office is an important part of ensuring that workers’ rights are protected. The new Working Families Toolkit (www.wftoolkit.org ) — built by the AFL-CIO — aims to make electing the right candidates easy. This web-based tool offers prebuilt materials for virtually every race taking place around the country.
Materials can be ordered as social media ready files and pdf documents that are emailed to you, or they can be printed by the AFL-CIO’s union contracted printer and delivered to you free of charge.
To create materials using the toolkit, visit www.wftoolkit.org to register and follow the prompts. A quick guide to using the toolkit can be found on the Union Label’s website at http://wp.unionlabel.org/download/13880/
Training is available through the AFL-CIO Campaigns Department. Contact Emilia Torre, firstname.lastname@example.org to set up your quick 30-minute tutorial today.
J David Cox, Sr
By J. David Cox, Sr., AFGE National President
You can have fast lines or good security, but you can’t have both. At least not with the skeleton crew with which the Transportation Security Administration is currently operating.
Airports all across the country are reporting massive lines, with hours-long waits for passengers becoming the norm. It’s unpleasant, but also entirely avoidable.
Transportation Security Officers have asked for more staffing resources for years, but our call has fallen on deaf ears in an austerity-obsessed Congress. After years of neglect, it’s no wonder the situation has gotten as dire as it is today. And if something isn’t done soon, the waits will only get longer and longer.
The TSA Officer workforce has declined by more than 5,000 since passenger volume began to increase steadily in 2011. In fact, since 2013, air travelers have grown 15 percent while the number of Transportation Security Officers has dropped 10 percent. What was once a workforce of 47,000 screening 740 million passengers a year, has now dwindled to around 42,000 officers screening a record 800 million passengers. So long as Congress sits on its hands, that gap is only expected to widen.
The good news is that this is not a complicated problem. It’s common sense that more airline passengers require more screeners to process them safely and quickly. The bad news is that Congress funded just a few hundred new screeners in its most recent budget, which won’t even make a dent as the summer travel season heats up.
That’s why we’re calling on Congress to end the waits once and for all by hiring a minimum of 6,000 new screeners to staff security checkpoints. This will bring staffing back up to 2011 levels and restore sanity and security to screening lines across the country. With thousands of passengers missing flights due to long waits, Congress would be wise to move quickly.
But the problem goes beyond just underfunding. For a year now, Congress has been raiding funds from TSA ticket fees that are supposed to offset the cost of passenger screening. In 2014, Congress decided to divert billions in fee revenues away from security toward what they called “paying down the deficit.” This change has led to $12.6 billion in ticket fees being diverted away from security screening over the next ten years – all at a time when TSA needs those resources the most.
TSA officers show up to work every day and do their job to keep the flying public safe. Last year, they discovered a record 2,653 firearms at security checkpoints across the country, on top of countless other weapons and dangerous items. The haul was a 20 percent increase from 2014, despite the lower staffing levels. There hasn’t been another 9/11 thanks to their often thankless work. They’ve been doing more with less for years, and the long lines are proof positive that we can’t wait any longer to act.
Robbing ticket fees and shortchanging security budgets is not leadership – it’s an unacceptable security risk. It’s time for Congress to do their job and take immediate action to end the waits by staffing the TSA.
J. David Cox Sr. is national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 670,000 federal and D.C. government employees nationwide.
UMWA Plans March on Washington
Lexington, Kentucky–Over 5,000 miners rallied here last Tuesday to protest health benefit cuts threatened to happen before the end of the year. Responding to the call of their union, United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), miners came from seven states to gather at the convention center. Some arrived with walkers, canes, wheel chairs, and oxygen tanks, giving tangible evidence of the toll on human health inflicted by the mining industry.
The UMWA reports that 22,000 retired union miners, widows or dependents would lose health care benefits at the end of the year if federal legislation they are backing isn’t enacted this year. Retirement benefits are also at risk.
UMWA President Cecil Roberts told those assembled that union miners had spent their lives working in dangerous places to provide America’s electricity and steel and make it the most prosperous nation on earth.
“We have stood up for America, and it’s time America stood up for us!” said Roberts, “America owes us, and we will collect on that debt!”
Union miners said the promise of good health care and pensions dates to 1946, when the federal government promised benefits in resolving a labor dispute.
Roberts Calls for March on Washington with Civil Disobedience
Roberts announced at the rally that union members will march on Washington D.C. later this year and risk being arrested if that’s what it takes. He told miners to go home and find at least five others that would be willing to rally at the nation’s capital.
The UMWA is calling for passage of legislation in Congress, Senate Bill 1714 and House Resolution 2403, which would redirect existing appropriations to ensure health care benefits for retirees whose companies have gone bankrupt in the last 4 years, as well as prevent the UMWA pension fund from collapsing. The Lexington Herald-Leader endorsed the proposed bills.
Contact your two senators and ask them to support S 1714 and your representative and ask him/her to support HR 2403. Call the US Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121 and ask for your congresspersons by name.
This coal miners’ crisis is further testimony that collective bargaining power alone is insufficient to resolve the health care problem for unions and workers. Workers and the nation must have a legislative solution. If we are to protect and improve health care for workers, the labor movement must lead the battle for national single payer health care.
HR 676, a national single payer bill, would improve Medicare and expand it to everyone. It includes all medically necessary care including dental and drugs with no co-pays and no deductibles. It was introduced by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) and has 62 co-sponsors. If your union has not yet endorsed this bill, please do so!
Endorse HR 676:The sample resolution is here: http://unionsforsinglepayer.org/tools/sample_resolution
Build the movement to make it happen!