Workers and Their Unions Have Plenty to Protest

The body politic is crawling with dissent. Town meetings with legislators are uproarious with citizens of all political persuasions who are deeply concerned about their healthcare, Medicare and Medicaid. Scientists are marching in defense of unbiased inquiry. Educators are protesting privatization schemes. Environmentalists protest and publicize the threat to our water, our air, our land and the planet at large. Women have and are protesting misogyny, legal restrictions and workplace inequities. Union members, including those who voted for Donald Trump and Mike Pence and their Republican allies in the Congress, governors’ offices and in state legislatures, have plenty to protest, too. Bills in the Senate and House, (H.R. 785 and S. 545), originating from determined anti-union legislators, call for a National Right-to-Work Law. The objective is to destroy the ability of unions to protect their members’ interests. President Trump said during the election campaign that he favors right-to-work (for less). Vice President Pence was anti-union as governor of Indiana and hawkish on right to work. Republican-controlled legislatures press for right-to-work (for less) where they haven’t already got it. A Repeal Davis-Bacon Act bill (H.R 743) is pending in the House. A similar measure is under consideration in the Senate (S. 244). A successful repeal would strip away the prevailing wage provision that enables unionized construction contractors to compete effectively for federal contracts. Voter’s remorse will be the least of the ills suffered if Davis-Bacon repeal passes into law. Good paying jobs with benefits will disappear as non-union contractors jump in with low bids. Union Activism and Education Must Counter Anti-worker Program What can be done? In-plant, job-site and community...

Labor Day Message

Labor Day has great meaning to many. Yes, a three-day weekend filled with family gatherings, last-minute end of summer trips, barbecues and fun, but it means so much more to those of us in the Labor Movement. It’s a call to action. For the Union Label Department, it means a renewed effort to encourage our brothers and sisters and all Americans to look for the Union Label on items we purchase and services we seek. It means, we must work to defend our Movement against those who would seek to erase the past and erode the rights our unions gained for us over the years. There is a long history of workers rising up to fight back against the injustices placed upon them. And I hope there is a long history ahead. We’re already seeing great victories in our immediate past. Workers at Zara Fashion stores voted to form a union, giving 1,000 retail workers a voice at one of the largest fashion retailers in the world. Two hundred workers at the Lipton Tea plant in Virginia just voted to join a UFCW local. The “Fight for $15” campaign is gaining traction nationwide with legislative victories coming fast and furious. But they are still fighting us. A Pacific Northwest restaurant group has put a “living wage” surcharge in place to turn diners against the living wage law recently passed in that area. The surcharge is a mere one percent – easily added to the restaurants prices with little pain (or notice) to diners. The restaurant group’s use of this tactic forces employees to explain the surcharge to diners, probably...

Social Security, Other Issues Face a Crucial 2016 Election

Social Security has a Union Label. The 1935 passage of the original Social Security act was preceded by long-term labor movement activism. Every subsequent improvement and extension of social security protection was moved forward by labor movement action. Protections for disabled workers, Medicare and Medicaid, all part of the Social Security program, were the result of pressure from the labor movement and its allies in government and beyond.

Recent Labor News Confirms Importance of 2016 Presidential Elections for Unions

The split decision in the Friedrich’s case, an unveiled attack on public unions by rightwing opponents  to collective bargaining, produced a stalemate which leaves those rights as they were. In the event that the Supreme Court cannot reach a decision, the lower court ruling stands. Therefore, public unions can continue to represent their members and to collect dues to meet union expenses. The absence of the late Justice Antonin Scalia from the Supreme Court was the key to this quasi-victory. To maintain public employee bargaining rights and to keep public employee unions strong, a progressive replacement for Scalia on the Supreme Court is needed. Undoubtedly, the anti-union element will try again to reverse earlier decisions affirming these rights. To make the victory secure, a more progressive Supreme Court is needed. Hence, the importance of November’s presidential election. The next president will name judges to federal courts at every level. And who knows, maybe President Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia will eventually be seated. If not, the Supreme Court seat and all it implies for union rights will be hugely important in 2017. Finally, kudos to Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and the Obama administration for the new union persuader rule that requires the identification of consultants hired by companies to defeat union organizing campaigns. Such activities should be known to employees. The Obama administration, friendly to unions, their members and potential members, produced the persuader rule. An unfriendly administration could reverse it. One more indication of the presidential election’s importance....

Water is a Human Right

If health care is a human right, then clean water is no less so. The two are closely intertwined. Yet, from Flint, Michigan, to Hoosick Falls, New York, to Fresno, California and hundreds more cities and towns nationally, water supplies are polluted and dangerous. The resultant harm to health in children and adults is well documented. Yet, it takes a health and safety catastrophe, such as occurred in Flint’s lead poisoning of children, to bring more than handwringing. In other cities and towns, inadequate water supply systems threaten to cause health problems, raise the cost of water to homeowners and waste vast quantities of water through deteriorating antiquated pipes. One example of this problem is Washington, DC, which still utilizes some wooden water pipes and suffers significant water waste. What can be done. If we recognize the criticality of clean water and the means to provide it, why are we not doing more to resolve the problem. This part of our infrastructure, if repaired or replaced, would bring immediate benefits to health, job growth and  property values. Members of the UA in Flint are working to help homeowners whose pipes have been damaged by the bad water a misguided emergency manager inflicted upon the city. These members should be honored for their public service, but the installation of faucets and filters is only a temporary band aid. The city of Flint will need to replace its aged lead and galvanized pipes that lead the water to area homes. Main lines will need to be replaced. An issue that extends far beyond the city of Flint and the state of...

The Union Label Means Business

Some of our affiliates are using their union label to gin up business. The Bakery, Tobacco, Confectionery and Grain Millers Union has its label on baked goods, for example. The Painters union maintains a digital database of its business managers to encourage individuals and companies to employ its unionized workforce. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has an online resource of materials made by its members too. And there are many other organizations doing similar things. We would like to learn of more such promotional activities. At the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention, a resolution submitted by the UL&STD called for contract negotiations to seek agreement on placing the union label on products and services. We would like to hear from unions that have been successful in doing so. In fact, technology offers additional means to identify union-made wares; bar codes and scans, which are readable on many devices, could make identification easy. The UL&STD website links to union websites that list union-made goods and services. We also promote them in the Label Letter and in social media. We look forward to adding more such products and services and the union programs designed to promote them to our own...

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