Labor Day falls on September 4, 2017, this year, and is also the day in history when the United States got its nickname Uncle Sam.
“Uncle Sam” is linked to Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, New York, who supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812. Wilson (1766-‐1854) stamped the barrels with “U.S.” for United States, but soldiers began referring to the grub as “Uncle Sam’s.” The local newspaper picked up on the story and Uncle Sam eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for the U.S. federal government.
Labor Day made its mark in U.S. history around the same time 70 years later, evolving, much like Uncle Sam, into a national symbol.
While, Uncle Sam is the personification of the U.S. and is generally regarded as a patriotic symbol, Labor Day symbolizes the power of the U.S. worker and the hard work undertaken to achieve the eight-‐hour day, a 40-‐hour work week, a fair wage, and a path to the middle class.
Both are a tribute to our nation in their own way and while Uncle Sam is a product directly of war, there were countless battles fought to achieve Labor Day.
We can’t forget those hard fought battles. We must honor the promise of a better future long sought by our founding union brothers and sisters. This Labor Day, we must resolve to look for the Union Label, to seek providers of union services in hotels and restaurants and post offices.
And we must take action, like they did, to fight back against the employers who would destroy our unions, who choose to move our jobs overseas. We must honor boycotts and picket lines and we need to help our brothers and sisters who are looking to organize a union in their workplace.
Just as important, we have to call for policies at every level of government that do the same. Our government should buy American products and services the same way foreign nations patronize theirs. Our government should fight for the rights of workers seeking a collective voice in their workplace.
We must remind everyone that we strengthened the United States and we built its middle class.
We face a challenge and an opportunity this year to support both union-‐made goods
and services and expand the ideals of unionism to all Americans. This Labor Day buy union and shop union.
From Labor Day, Monday, September 4, through Sunday September 10, 2017 American labor will observe Union Label Week—the time traditionally set aside for union families and all consumers to make a special effort to support good jobs by looking for union-‐made goods and union-produced services when they shop.
Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country. All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man’s prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day…is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation.
-‐-‐ Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor
The Missouri AFL-CIO and a coalition of local unions called “Preserve Middle Class America” are looking to gather enough signatures to place Missouri’s recently passed “right-to-work” to work law on the ballot in November 2018.
The coalition wants to give voters the chance to weigh in on the issue after it was pushed through the GOP-controlled Legislature this year and signed into law by Republican Gov. Eric Greitens. The coalition must gather enough signatures by August 25 to stop the law from taking effect and to place it on the ballot. Missouri residents can call a referendum on a new law by collecting signatures totaling five percent of voters from two-thirds of the state’s congressional districts.
The new law, which was set to go into effect Aug. 28, would allow employees in unionized workplaces to opt out of paying union dues for the cost of being represented. Greitens says the change will boost the state’s economy by attracting more businesses, a claim the facts show is not true.
Efforts to pass a right-to-work law last year were stymied when Missouri’s former governor Jay Nixon vetoed the bill.
The referendum needs 140,000 signatures to get on the ballot, but the coalition is aiming to get around 300,000 to be safe.
There are over 260,000 union members in Missouri, Ryan Burke, senior field representative with the AFL-CIO, who conducted a signature-gathering training at IBEW Local 1, said. “If you all just do your job, go back to your locals and your friends and family and collect your signatures, we can get there.”
Since 1914, Missouri voters have had the chance to vote on 26 referenda – 24 laws were overturned because of those votes. According to a poll conducted by the Missouri AFL-CIO, a plurality of voters opposed right-to-work, and the plurality grows when voters are informed of what the law does.
According to the Labor Tribune, other states that have passed right-to-work have lower wages, fewer benefits and more dangerous workplaces. They also, on average, have seen smaller median income growth than Missouri. In fact, two of Missouri’s RTW neighbors – Kansas and Oklahoma, lost jobs last year while Missouri created more new jobs than all its right-to-work neighbors.
The Union Label and Service Trades Department, AFL-CIO, is in the process of building a new App for iPhone and Android devices to help union members and conscientious consumers find union-made products and services. In addition to offering a database of products, the App will have links to all of our affiliated unions and push notifications to alert users when companies are added to the ‘Don’t Buy’ list.
The Department is working to reach out to all of our affiliated unions to help us update our existing database of products and to add new products and services. If you have a product you would like to see listed, please visit our website at www.unionlabel.org and add it today.
The new App is expected to launch in late summer or early fall.
U.S. Representative Donald Norcross (D-NJ)
The Right to
By U.S. Representative Donald Norcross (D-NJ)
I joined the IBEW as an electrician’s apprentice in 1979, and spent the following decades wiring buildings, lighting bridges, and fighting for the rights of my fellow workers. I felt the dignity of working with my hands, and I saw the benefits of union membership. Hard work provided me with the pay and benefits to support a growing family and the opportunity to help others do the same.
As a business agent, I fought for fair contracts, safe workplaces and higher wages. As the president of the Southern New Jersey AFL-CIO Labor Council for seventeen years, I forged relationships with businesses and governments to create jobs and put my union brothers and sisters to work. And now, as the only electrician in Congress, I’m fighting to defend Davis-Bacon, create jobs, and defeat a national “right-to-work” law.
As Americans, we are guaranteed the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness — and we already have the right to work. When corporate billionaires push “right to work,” what they’re really saying is that the right to work is all we have, regardless of the pay or the conditions. They’re saying we have the right to work for less, in less safe conditions, with less secure retirements. They’re saying we’re on our own – and they’re wrong.
So-called “right-to-work” states rank among those with the lowest union membership, and as this egregious law spreads across the country, union membership nationally steadily declines. Workers in right-to-work states make an average of about $1,500 less a year, they pay more for health insurance coverage, and they have less secure retirement benefits.
The consequences of this corporate union busting have been devastating for all workers. Despite these clear facts, 28 states have passed phony “right-to-work” laws to limit unionizing — including two new states just this year.
They’re selling a fake bill of goods to working-class Americans who have real frustrations and fears. Unfair trade agreements and greedy corporate boards have outsourced their jobs and slashed their wages to the point they’re desperate for change at any cost – even giving up their rights.
With more than half the country having passed these anti-worker laws, union members now stand at a pivotal crossroad. We can submit to corporate interests or recommit to fighting for our rights.
When they claim to be fighting for the “right to work,” we must point out how low their bar is. The dignity of a job is critical, but it doesn’t amount to much if you can’t feed your family and provide for their future. We’re not just fighting for the right to work – America’s unions are fighting for the right to respect.
The sense of respect that comes from having a career that gets you ahead, that leaves you and your family better off, that makes you proud to go to work. Anyone can run in a hamster wheel, and too many of us have fallen behind. What we need is a fair deal that gets American families ahead in life.
I’m inspired by the workers who joined together to kill a “right-to-work” bill in New Hampshire. We must follow their lead and unite in solidarity to defeat these corporate anti-worker bills at every level of government. We must redouble our efforts and communicate our core values to all workers.
President Trump promised to fight for American workers – and now we must hold him and every elected official accountable to their promises. Write the president, call your representatives, demand action from your state’s leaders, and march in the streets if that’s what it takes.
Tell them: we have the right to work; we want the right to respect. ■
Postal management informed the APWU in writing that the “Approved Shipper” program in Staples stores will be shut down by the end of February 2017. This victory concludes the APWU’s three-year struggle. The boycott against Staples is over!“I salute and commend every member and supporter who made this victory possible,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “I never doubted that if we stayed the course, stuck together and kept the activist pressure on, we would win this fight.”
APWU Sprung Into Action
“The Staples pilot was an acceleration in the privatization of retail services and a direct assault on our jobs,” said Dimondstein. “It was time to draw a line in the sand.”
“We wasted no time swinging into action,” Dimondstein continued.
Early in 2014, the Stop Staples campaign started to put pressure on Staples and the USPS. On April 24, 2014, APWU members staged a country-wide National Day of Action with 56 Stop Staples protests in 27 states. After this, the APWU launched the official Staples Boycott.The APWU delegates to the 2014 National Convention reaffirmed the Stop Staples fight, authorizing necessary resources for the campaign. A thousand delegates took to the streets in front of a Staples store in downtown Chicago, IL, proclaiming, “The U.S. Mail is Not for Sale!”
“If Staples was going to take our work and jobs for their private profit, we were going to hit back and affect their bottom line,” Dimondstein explained. The APWU launched StopStaples.com where tens of thousands pledged to join the boycott. The union also engaged in a postcard campaign which resulted in over 100,000 postcards delivered to Staples’ CEO.The entire labor movement showed great solidarity with the APWU. Many national unions endorsed the boycott including large teacher unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA). The other postal unions enthusiastically supported the campaign. The 12 million worker-strong AFL-CIO added Staples to their official boycott list. UNI the Global Union, an international union association, endorsed the Staples boycott urging all of the affiliated unions throughout the world to put pressure on Staples, since the company does business in 26 countries. Dozens of state AFL-CIO federations, local unions, Central Labor Councils, community allies and city councils passed resolutions endorsing the boycott.
Kept Up the Pressure
The fight continued for another two and a half years, but APWU members did not give up. Constant pressure was maintained, especially in Atlanta, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Protesters held signs and distributed leaflets in front of Staples stores across the country. APWU members and supporters spoke with prospective Staples customers and answered questions about what the protest was about and why they should not shop there. Many customers chose to respect the boycott.In February 2015, the APWU released two research papers critical of Staples’ proposed $5.5 billion merger with Office Depot and met with the staff of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) examining the merger. The FTC eventually blocked the merger and Staples was forced to pay a $250 million penalty to Office Depot.
The APWU carried out investigations that proved Staples was shortchanging the Postal Service in revenue, undermining the security of the mail and trashing the Postal Service’s brand. The union requested a USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation that further proved these facts. The APWU won a series of cases before the National Labor Relations Board culminating in a recent Administrative Law Judge’s decision that said the USPS failed to bargain with the union over the subcontracting of postal work to Staples.“This is not only a victory regarding the Staples’ dirty deal,” Dimondstein said. “In regards to the USPS’s planned retail privatization expansion to dozens of other corporations, those companies have largely backed-off and gotten the message – mess with postal workers and customers and you will have to tangle with the APWU family!”
“With the Staples deal out of the way, there is a fresh opportunity for postal management and the APWU to consider the future expansion and improvement of retail operations without these misguided privatization schemes that undermine great service, good jobs, and a strong postal brand.” President Dimondstein said.President Dimondstein applauds “the many local and state organizations that joined in the fight; our retiree and auxiliary chapters who stepped up with enthusiasm; APWU National officers and staff who stayed the course; and especially the many Stop Staples activists, active and retired, career and non-career, who worked day-in and day-out to see this struggle through and were the heart and soul of the campaign.
“A job well-done, Sisters and Brothers!” said Dimondstein. “The struggle continues and this victory helps strengthen and steel us for the battles ahead.”
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. ■