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...

Union Label Week is September 7-13

Labor Day falls on September 7, 2015, 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...

President Obama, Don’t Sign Trade Promotion Authority

President Obama has Fast Track Authority legislation in hand this will empower him to rush the Trans Pacific Partnership, a massive trade deal, through Congress to an up or down vote. And other trade deals lurk nearby. But he can disprove Lord Acton’s aphorism, absolute power in this case, need not corrupt the legislative process. He has the power, yet he can refuse to use it. Don’t sign the fast track legislation, President Obama. It’s an unlikely scenario, but let’s consider its virtues. If President Obama does not sign the Fast Track Authority legislation, he reserves the right to do so later. By refusing to sign it, he retains the support of progressives, labor, environmentalists, consumer protection groups and more. Sign it and watch the coalition that elected him dissolve. If his only concern is personal, his legacy, he may not care. If he cares about the Democratic party, he should think twice. As for his legacy, wait and see as it pertains to jobs and the middle class. He claims that TPP is good for the U.S. economy, including workers. His claim flies in the face of history. Millions of jobs were lost under NAFTA, the WTO and other similar trade deals, for example, under the Korea agreement, Korean auto exports to the U.S. have soared to more than 1.3 million cars annually while the U.S. auto exports to Korea are a paltry 38,000 a year. An implicit acknowledgement of the high cost trade pacts exact in jobs is the administration’s side deal with Republicans to pass a watered-down, underfunded Trade Adjustment Assistance measure. TAA is supposed to...

Remembering Our Labor Heroes this Labor Day

By Rich Kline, Union Label and Service Trades Department, AFL-CIO Ah, Labor Day. Picnics and parades, sales and vacations, what more could one ask for to celebrate the end of summer. Only, that isn’t what Labor Day is about. Labor Day, which originated in the late 19th century is the “workingman’s holiday.” It should be a time to honor the American workers and remember those who came before us and forged a path to prosperity. A time to remember those brave soles who fought for fair wages and working conditions during a time fraught violence and oppression. In 1883 railroad workers fought back against the Pullman Railroad Car Company and under the leadership of American Railway Union President Eugene Debs, who called for a full-scale national strike after Pullman cut wages by 25 percent, froze transportation at twenty railroads in 27 states. More than 30 people died and Debs was arrested in Chicago when federal troops intervened and broke the strike. That event or the one led by a New York City carpenter named Peter McGuire, where in 1882, after working many long hours under poor conditions, McGuire rallied 100,000 workers to go on strike. These events are the ones we should strive to remember this Labor Day. We don’t even have to look that far back in history to find examples of the bravery of workers fighting back in America. More recently we can look at Kellogg workers who were locked out of their jobs for nine-months. Faced with financial uncertainty the workers held strong and were vindicated by a federal judge last month and allowed to return...

Trans Pacific Partnership: Threat to Jobs and Quality of American Life

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) threatens more than American jobs, its full impact could undermine the quality of life for all Americans. This free trade agreement, if signed by the US, will undermine food safety, Wall Street regulation, Buy American requirements for government spending, and give corporations equal rights with the sovereignty of nations under the emerging “investor state” doctrine. TPP is comprised of 29 chapters covering the environment, food and drug safety, intellectual property, financial regulation, telecommunications and much more. Yet, details are sketchy, dependent upon Wikileaks and whistleblowers. If any national laws among any of the participating nations is challenged by one or more corporations under the investor state doctrine, corporate interests could prevail. No wonder this massive deal is a big secret, kept from the hundreds of millions of people it will affect. Which countries are negotiating this Free Trade Agreement? Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam are at the table and China is reputed to be interested in joining them. Perhaps it is a mistake to say that the countries are negotiating. The negotiations are in secret, open only to corporations, their lobbyists and agents, who are officially called “trade advisors.”‘ Civic groups, unions, common citizens are excluded, as are members of Congress. We only know what they tell us. And we are only told that a lot of jobs and good fortune will flow from this massive agreement. Just like NAFTA. In his State of the Union address, President Obama threw in one subtle but major demand: a renewed request for Fast Track Authority on the Trans...

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