The announcement over the weekend that AT&T is buying T-Mobile USA could benefit both consumers and employees. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the deal offers tens of thousands of T-Mobile USA employees the opportunity to benefit from the pro-worker policies of AT&T, the only unionized U.S. wireless company. Some 42,000 AT&T mobility employees are represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Trumka adds:
For T-Mobile USA workers who want a voice in their workplace, this acquisition can provide a fresh start with T-Mobile management.
Members of CWA joined with their colleagues at ver.di, the German telecommunications workers union in 2009 to create TU—a global union for T-Mobile workers. CWA President Larry Cohen says of all the possible partners for T-Mobile, AT&T will mean better employment security, a management record of full neutrality toward union membership and a bargaining voice.
The acquisition also promises sorely needed increased broadband speed in the United States, particularly in rural communities, Cohen said. For more than a decade, the United States has continued to drop behind nearly every other developed nation on broadband speed. Nearly half (49 percent) of U.S. residents have Internet connection speeds that do not meet the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) minimum broadband standards and, more important, the United States overall ranks in the bottom half of the world in broadband speed.
The “2010 Report of Internet Speeds in All 50 States,” released by CWA, found there are wide areas of the nation, both rural and urban, that do not have any broadband access at all. We even trail countries like Romania in broadband speed.
Six Brazilian labor confederations expressed their solidarity with public employees in Wisconsin and other states who are struggling to defend their right to bargain for middle-class jobs. In a letter to President Barack Obama, who is visiting South America, the trade union leaders called on the United States to guarantee “full freedom of association, collective bargaining, and freedom of expression and assembly” for public employees.
The letter states that the Brazilian workers protest the way some U.S. state governments are limiting and even extinguishing basic rights won by public employees.
The six national confederations that signed the letter are the CUT, Forca Sindical, CTB, UGT, Nova Central, and CGTB. The signees represent nearly 5 million affiliated workers, while bargaining for some 50 million workers in the country.
Speaking today to the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spelled out a comprehensive new vision for global trade and investment policies to create a global economy that is good for working people, the middle class and democracy—both here in the United States and around the world.
The United States needs a “single, stream-lined, coherent national economic strategy that puts good jobs first.” The key, he said, is changing the incentives for corporations to encourage more domestic investment in cutting-edge manufacturing jobs—rather than gearing all of our trade, investment and tax policies toward pushing jobs to other shores.
Click here to read the full speech.
For a generation, Trumka said, we have focused our international economic policies on the profitability of U.S. corporations abroad, rather than the quantity and quality of jobs at home or sustainable and democratic development around the world. As a result, large U.S.-based multinational corporations have thrived, but the United States is suffering from massive job loss and unsustainable trade deficits.
To build a stronger economy that serves our needs as a superpower, we must tackle inequality, unsustainable debt, lackluster job growth, crumbling physical infrastructure and under-investment in skills and education, he said.
That means we must invest in schools, bridges, high-speed Internet and highways, which our competitors have already done, Trumka said. And business must be a partner with workers to demand that we refocus on America’s fundamental needs.
On income inequality, Trumka pointed out that 56 percent of all income gains in the past 20 years have gone to the richest 1 percent, which many economists attribute to trade liberalization and the offshoring of jobs. The result is that the U.S. economy can’t seem to get itself out of its deep slump—partly because consumers—who are workers—are deep in debt, don’t have good jobs and have seen their real wages stagnate for a couple of decades now. But global corporations are booking record profits.
So let’s build a new U.S. global strategy, one founded on rebuilding our competitive position in the full range of high-end economic activity. We can start by improving the woeful state of our infrastructure and investing in our educational system. And we need to use our tax dollars to support and strengthen domestic job creation, get serious about addressing currency manipulation, invest in renewable energy technology and production and eliminate loopholes in our tax system that reward offshoring.
On the global front, Trumka called for a new trade policy that emphasizes human rights, helps retain and build U.S. jobs and revises investment policies that allow foreign companies to bypass U.S. laws. He said the AFL-CIO opposes the Colombia Free Trade Agreement on human rights grounds and the Korea-U.S. treaty because the auto job protections negotiated by the Obama administration do not go far enough. But he said President Obama has an opportunity with the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to make good on his commitment to craft a new trade policy for the 21st century that makes sense for working people and not just for multinational corporations.
These changes will require a new attitude toward working people and their unions and our education system, Trumka said. He pointed to the success of Germany, Japan, Denmark and Sweden—countries that run a trade surplus, have high wages and heavily unionized manufacturing sectors, have lower unemployment and invest much more than we do in life-long skills development, education and infrastructure.
High wages, strong unions and well-trained workers are not the problem in a globalized economy—they are the solution.
Trumka summed up by saying, “Democracy and workers’ rights are not a means to some greater good—they are part of the fabric of the good life itself.”
Silencing workers—no matter for what purpose—undoes our common future. And when workers reclaim their voice, we reclaim our common global democratic future—a future where all of us can prosper.
Jennifer Wright Dorr at Union Plus sends us this feature about two Union Plus National Labor College scholarship winners.
Linda Murphy and Laura Dely both know the benefit of a higher education degree and through the Union Plus National Labor College scholarship program, they can achieve their goals of becoming college graduates.
They are two of the eligible students who will be awarded a total of $ 70,000 in Union Plus National Labor College scholarships in 2011. This is the largest financial aid contribution to the National Labor College (NLC).
A $ 2,000 Union Plus National Labor College Scholarship came just in time for Dely of Arlington, Va., an unemployed investigative reporter/editor. The scholarship will help her finish her Bachelor of Arts degree at the NLC.
“I love reading about all the workers’ struggles [and those] who fought for better conditions over the years,” says Dely. “Workers’ stories from the 1930s and 1940s are still the same today.”
Dely is a member of the National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981. She has told many stories of social justice over the years. She is actively pursuing writing jobs; and, after completing her degree, she hopes to advance her career by working for a union. As a professional writer, she knows her skills will help the labor movement better communicate its value to working Americans.
My dream job would be to work for a union president and help him or her gain more exposure in the media. I think it is terribly important for unions to meet today’s workplace challenges and present our case in a positive way.
Murphy, a member of California School Employees Association (CSEA) Local 284 in Santa Rosa, Calif., received a $ 1,334 scholarship. She says:
The National Labor College is excellent. It’s affordable, there are great teachers, and you can study online. I can take the classes when I need to and study around my schedule.
A para-educator teaching physical education to elementary students, Murphy says one of the reasons she wanted to go back to school is to practice what she preaches. Another reason was to teach her students how to learn by example. You can read more about Murphy and her path to the NLC here.
The scholarship program has provided more than $ 200,000 to some 160 recipients since it was created in 2002. The NLC offers a unique program that is tailor-made for full-time working men and women. Click here to learn more about the NLC’s degree programs and courses.
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Working people in Wisconsin continued to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-worker agenda with a march and rally at the state capitol in Madison. Iraq war veterans and union members, especially from the Machinists (IAM) and OPEIU are circling the Statehouse. Check out these tweets from the rally:
Sign: “I work to make a living. I teach to make a difference!” #weareWI
Wisconsin’s public employees have rallied for more than four weeks against the elimination of their right to bargain for middle-class jobs-and despite their struggle, they still have room to help others.
In response to the tragic events in Japan, the more than 65,000 Wisconsin workers represented by AFSCME Councils 24, 40 and 48 are donating $ 50,000 to an earthquake relief fund established by RENGO, Japan’s trade union confederation on behalf of all AFSCME members nationwide.
“Even as our members are facing great stress from being singled out as scapegoats for our state’s budgetary problems, their true nature shows though,” says Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, Council 24.
Our members have big hearts. They are committed to serving others, so it is only natural that even now their thoughts and compassion are flowing to the people of Japan.
If your union is planning to donate to help Japanese workers, please let Adam Renz in the AFL-CIO International Affairs Department know at [email protected].
Rick Badger, executive director of Council 40, said:
Because so many of our members serve on the front lines during disasters and emergencies, seeing the plight of our Japanese sisters and brothers has touched us all deeply.
Council 48 Executive Director Rich Abelson added:
Emergency workers in Japan are bravely and tirelessly putting their own lives on the line to protect and serve others as this catastrophe continues. We understand the vital role these workers play and we want to do whatever we can to show our support in this desperate time.
Tens of thousands of working people under attack from Republican governors in 12 states received some high-level support and encouragement today. In a virtual town hall meeting this evening, Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told the workers the Obama administration will stand with them and will stay with them to make sure their rights are protected.
Joined by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in the call, the Vice President opened with a quote from President Obama saying that “We can’t have a strong middle class without unions.” Then Vice President Biden added:
You built the middle class. This fight is not about wages or benefits; it’s about trying to break unions. We absolutely, positively need collective bargaining.
Solis also said our leaders should be focused on creating good jobs and helping working families get back to work.
That’s important to remember now that as states and cities grapple with enormous fiscal challenges and everyone we know is making sacrifices and meeting those challenges. But some states’ leaders have gone too far. Budget sacrifices are one thing, but having union members give up their rights is another.
As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:
I truly believe this moment will be what we make of it. The teachers and firefighters and nurses and EMTs and snowplow drivers on the ground in a dozen states have provided the inspiration and shown us the way. Now we need to carry it forward – the attacks on workers’ rights are huge, but the courage and activism we’re seeing are even bigger. Together we can build a movement for real change.
Trumka urged all the listeners to take the next step toward building that movement by talking with their friends and co-workers about what’s at stake. And he invited them to join thousands of people across the country on and around April 4 for a time of solidarity and action to say, “We Are One, Respect Our Rights.” (If you’re planning an event, whether public or private, click here and post it at our We Are One site.) Find out more about April 4 here.
The virtual town hall was sponsored by the unions of the AFL-CIO, SEIU, the National Education Association (NEA), Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Teamsters.
While the workers on the town hall phone call live in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire, Maine, Minnesota, Iowa and New Jersey, the attacks on workers are nationwide. Across the country, Republican governors and state legislators have proposed a variety of anti-worker measures that would cut bargaining rights, end prevailing wages, enact so-called right to work laws and a host of other measures.
Written by Rezwan
Tasfiyah Jalil at BRAC Blog reports about the plights of the Bangladeshi workers evacuated from Libya, who had supposedly escaped death and endured weeks of near-starvation and now find themselves in native soil empty handed and people owing them money they borrowed to go abroad.
This is bound to be controversial. If the original legal limit was sound, in effect, this is asking workers to sacrifice, potentially their health, or even lives, for the greater good.
TOKYO (AP) – Japan has raised the maximum radiation dose allowed for nuclear workers, citing the urgent need to prevent a crisis at a tsunami-stricken power plant from worsening.
Despite the increase, surging radiation levels forced emergency workers to temporarily withdraw from the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant on Wednesday, losing time in their struggle to cool overheating fuel in reactors crippled by last week’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.
The Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare raised the maximum allowable exposure for nuclear workers to 250 millisieverts from 100 millisieverts. It described the move as “unavoidable due to the circumstances.”
Some 15,000 Maryland teachers, government workers and other public employees rallied and marched in Annapolis last night to protect public school funding and workers’ health and retirement security. Bills before the state legislature call for big cutbacks in all three.
Before marching to the State House, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told the crowd that rallied at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium:
We keep hearing from politicians that they’ve got to cut, cut, and cut. I want to ask you something, where did they ever get the nonsensical idea that you can cut our way out of the hole they put us in?
Destroying economic security and our fragile economic recovery is bad policy and is just plain wrong. Scapegoating teachers and other public workers is bad policy and it is flat ass wrong. Jeopardizing our children and America’s future by hacking up public education is bad policy and it is just wrong and it won’t go on in the state of Maryland.
Here’s more on the rally from Union City’s Chris Garlock:
Terry Jefferson, a 20-year special education teacher and member of AFSCME Maryland, which spearheaded the event with the Maryland State Education Association, said, “The way things are going; I don’t even know what my future looks like.”
IBEW 26’s Larry Greenhill Sr., standing amid the huge crowd thronging Lawyer’s Mall, said he was there “to support Maryland’s public workers” and to protest the state’s attempt “to balance the budget on the backs of their workers.”
Added Earl Beatty of ATU 689, “We have to support workers not only here, but in states across the country. This is the time when we all need to get out and fight for what’s right.”
For more on the rally, click here.
A second fire was discovered Wednesday in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the latest in a series of setbacks at the stricken plant that has heightened fears that the incidents could lead to widespread radiation contamination.
The 50 workers who have stayed behind to stave off catastrophe are true heroes. But they now have 6 reactors to focus on.
As the NYT reported 8:39 pm EDT, beyond the “the three stricken reactors, Nos. 1, 2 and 3, where overheated fuel rods continued to boil away the water at a brisk pace” during much of the day, “Concern remained high about the storage pools at that [4th] reactor and at two other reactors, Nos. 5 and 6.”
For Japan news junkies, here is the live stream from NHK WORLD TV, a 24-hour English language news channel:
It can get quite repetitious, but I suppose that’s the point.
If you want more background on the issue of the spent fuel ponds, here is the audio of a news conference from Monday, which I thought was pretty good.
Reuters posted a piece at 8:51 pm EDT, “Analysis: Japan nuclear crisis now seen worse than Three Mile,” which I think was kind of obvious by Monday morning:
Conditions at a stricken nuclear power plant in Japan have deteriorated so much that there is a growing consensus the crisis is greater than the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, and there are fears that it could get significantly worse.
Academics and nuclear experts agree that the problems at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors are grave, and the solutions being proposed are last-ditch efforts to stem what could well be remembered as one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.
All six reactors at the complex have problems — be it blown-out roofs, potentially cracked containment structures, exposed fuel rods or just the risk of explosion that has been great enough to force emergency measures.
Of particular concern are a fire in a massive pool holding spent atomic fuel rods and a blast at the building housing the pool and reactor No.4. The pool is exposed to the elements unlike the reactor core which is protected in steel and concrete.
“I would say that it has now eclipsed the Three Mile Island accident but it is not a Chernobyl,” said Keith Holbert, director of the Nuclear Power Generation Program at Arizona State University and an associate professor there….
Several experts said that Japanese authorities were underplaying the severity of the incident, particular on a scale called INES used to rank nuclear incidents. The Japanese have so far rated the accident a four on a one-to-seven scale against Three Mile at a five and Chernobyl at a seven….
“This is a slow-moving nightmare,” said Dr Thomas Neff, a research affiliate at the Center for International Studies, which is part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This could be a five or a six — it’s premature to say since this event is not over yet.”
Experts said that international politics is starting to become evident in the international pressure being put on the Japanese. France’s nuclear safety authority ASN said Tuesday it should be classed as a level-six incident.
So right now there are 50 exhausted and probably irradiated workers standing between the world and another Chernobyl.
The great trick of the last few years has been convincing private and public-sector workers that their interests somehow diverge from one another. Public workers look at the rising pay in the private sector and ask why they can’t have that. Private workers look at the benefits in the public sector and fume about the underfunded 401(k)s they’ve been left with. But as Larry Mishel and Heidi Shierholz write, the truth is both more upsetting and less divisive. “Neither private-sector workers nor state and local government employees have seen their pay rise much over the last two decades, and what meager pay growth they have experienced has been far outpaced by growth in productivity — the increased goods and services that they themselves have generated.”
The numbers are pretty stark. Between 1978 and 2009, the hourly wage for the median worker grew by only 10.1 percent — and most all of that came between 1996 and 2002. Meanwhile, productivity grew by 80 percent. More growth hasn’t translated into better wages, and that’s been true for both private and public-sector workers, and both skilled and unskilled workers (as you can see in the graph above).
There are a number of reasons for this. A lot of the money that would’ve gone into wages went into health-care costs — but our health didn’t improve by very much. The rich began demanding bigger salaries and lower taxes and managed to get both. Unions have weakened. Profits in the economy tilted away from sectors that shared gains widely, like manufacturing, and towards sectors, like finance, that concentrated them narrowly. Some think central bankers have been so obsessed with inflation that they’ve hewed to overly tight policies for most of the last 30 years.
But whatever your explanation, or bunch of them, it’s been happening to workers in both the public and the private sectors. The effort to raise one or another up as a privileged class is smart politics on the part of those who want elections dominated purely by corporations, but it doesn’t point toward any answers for either group. Quite the opposite, in fact. The Walker agenda — which plenty of other governors would like to emulate — is to take both benefits and power away from public-sector employees, and then use the political space opened up by weakening unions to tilt policy toward corporate interests and away from poorer constituencies. That’s a world in which both private and public-sector workers end up worse off.
Today marks the 23rd day Indiana teachers, public employees and other workers have been at the state Capitol protesting more than 30 bills backed by Republican lawmakers and Gov. Mitch Daniels (R). The legislative package includes bills that slash public school budgets, defund women’s health care and eliminate public-sector unions.
Indiana AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott says the four weeks of large crowds and actions
have proven that the working men and women cannot be ignored. We will continue to make our voices heard until these politicians end this assault on working families in Indiana.
Here are some other comments from workers who have been part of the month long vigil.
Jeff Withered, Operating Engineers (IUOE), Local 399—We’re down here in the fight at the Statehouse for workers and also for the public schools, This is truly a fight about the working class, not the unions. We’re down here trying to get our word and get our message out and bring as much support as we can.
Doug Stuckey, president of Heat and Frost Insulators Local 18— I have many friends who are Republicans, but they tell me they didn’t vote for this. They didn’t vote to destroy the middle class.
Jeff Combs, Teamsters (IBT) Local 135— This fight is about all workers. It’s an attack on all workers, union or non-union, we’re there for everybody…We have to continue the fight because it’s too important to our members, our state and our families.
Indiana AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Joe Breedlove—Working people need to continue the pressure on these elected officials. By being at the Statehouse every day, we make sure that working men and women are the first thing on their mind. We must make sure the middle class is their priority, just as it should be for any legislator.
Make sure to visit the “Stand Up For Hoosiers” Facebook page to stay updated as events unfold.
When Republicans across the country are attacking the right of public employees to bargain, the Postal Workers (APWU) and the U. S. Postal Service (USPS) today showed that public employees and government can work together to solve financial problems and provide good service. The two sides have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract, which APWU President Cliff Guffey says is “a win-win proposition” for both parties.
In a video to members, Guffey said:
When workers across the country are fighting to protect their right to collective bargaining, our tentative agreement is a testament to a great American freedom: the right of workers to have a voice at work and to negotiate for a better life.
With the USPS in financial trouble, Guffey said negotiators had to be creative to fashion a fair contract. The tentative new agreement, which will expire on May 20, 2015, will safeguard jobs, protect retirement and healthcare benefits, and provide a 3.5 percent wage increase over the life of the contract. The first raise will be in November 2012, Guffey said.
“Avoiding layoffs was a top priority,” Guffey said, noting that more than 100,000 postal jobs have been eliminated in the last three years.
The contract also includes provisions that will return to postal employees a significant amount of work that had been outsourced or assigned to managerial personnel. Guffey said:
This will strengthen job security for our members while it saves the Postal Service money.
There will be no changes to the healthcare benefits of APWU members in 2012. Each year from 2013 through 2016 there will be a slight shift in employees’ share of contributions toward healthcare coverage. This will amount to an increase of several dollars per pay period each year.