Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘James Parks’

What Do Packers and Steelers Have in Common?

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Image: James ParksWhat do the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers have in common–besides playing in the Super Bowl Sunday? Both teams are named after the major manufacturing industry in their towns. Both cities were built on manufacturing and enjoy a loyal following built on the middle-class, blue-collar jobs supported by these industries. The Packers’ middle-class fans are also the team’s owners–the only team not owned by a super-rich person.

This is not the first Super Bowl with both teams hailing from proud working class communities.  The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) has launched the first-ever Super Bowl Manufacturing Index, which shows how many people were employed in manufacturing at the time of each working class Super Bowl. The index shows that in 1967 when the Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs, there were 17.9 million manufacturing jobs. This Sunday, there are only 11.7 million.

The players know the importance of manufacturing to their fans. At a recent AAM town hall meeting in Green Bay, Packer players A.J. Hawk and Mason Crosby spoke out about the value of manufacturing jobs (see video).

Scott Paul, AAM’s executive director, says:

As we celebrate this year’s Super Bowl, let’s not forget the men and women who have made these team great–their blue-collar fan base.  We can keep these communities strong by supporting a strong American manufacturing base and its highly skilled workers.

*This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on February 4, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: James Parks – My first encounter with unions was at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when my colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. I saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. I am a journalist by trade, and I worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. I also have been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. My proudest career moment, though, was when I served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.

AFL-CIO, Global Unions Applaud New Egyptian Labor Movement

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Image: James ParksRepresentatives of the Egyptian union movement announced they are forming a new labor federation, the Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions, which will represent workers in more than a dozen industries and  enterprises. The federation also plans to set a date for a nationwide general strike for democracy and fundamental rights. Many people believe the labor demonstrations in the past two years played a significant role in giving Egyptian citizens  courage to stand up to the government.

In a letter today to Egyptian union leaders Kamal Abbas and Kamal Abu Eita, recipients of  last year’s George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka praised the workers’ “extraordinary courage and defiance of a ban on free and independent unions.”

Yesterday we learned that your organizations joined with retirees, the technical health professionals and representatives of workers in the important industrial areas to announce the organization of a new labor federation to represent workers in a new era of democracy in Egypt. We salute you in this brave endeavor and join the international labor movement in standing with you.

The people’s movement for democracy in Egypt and the role unions are playing for freedom and worker rights inspires us and will not be forgotten.

Abbas is general coordinator of the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS) and Eita heads  the Real Estate Tax Authority Workers (RETA), the first independent trade union in Egypt in more than 50 years. The Egyptian government has not formally recognized RETA, but has ignored its application for recognition.

The Egyptian government tried to silence the CTUWS, closing down two of its regional offices and its headquarters in 2007.  Bowing to an Egyptian court decision and international criticism, the government allowed CTUWS to reopen in July 2008.

RETA was formed after municipal tax collectors held an 11-day sit-in strike in front of the Ministry of Finance, gathered 30,000 signatures and elected local union committees in the provinces.

Read a statement from the CTUWS here about the situation in Egypt and workers’ demands.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) joined in congratulating the Egyptian unions and supporting the call for a general strike. In a statement, ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said:

The union actions will increase pressure for genuine democratic change and respect for human rights. Just as in Tunisia, where the ITUC-affiliated UGTT has been at the forefront of the democracy movement, we salute the courage and determination of Egypt’s working people in standing up to an autocratic and illegitimate regime.

This article originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on Jan 31, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author, James Parks: My first encounter with unions was at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when my colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. I saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. I am a journalist by trade, and I worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. I also have been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. My proudest career moment, though, was when I served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.

Too Much Money Can Make the Boss Mean

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Image: James ParksHere’s another reason to do away with runaway CEO pay.  A study shows bloated CEO pay can make the boss mean.

The study examined the corporate behavior of 261 companies and found a close correlation between pay inequality and poor treatment of workers. In companies where CEOs made much more than their average workers, the companies were more likely to underfund pensions or cut corners on health and safety. Often, according to the study, the bosses engaged in a cost-benefit analysis, calculating that a fine would be a cost of doing business, compared with the profits they could make.

“You end up basically thinking of those at the bottom as numbers,’’ Sreedhari Desai, a Harvard research fellow who co-authored the study, told The Boston Globe columnist Joanna Weiss. “You feel somehow that they aren’t even worthy of the normal people that you’d meet. They’re disposable.’’

Writing about the study last summer for the Campaign for America’s Future, Sam Pizzigati sums it up this way:

The…data and the lab games, in the end, would both generate findings that point to the same conclusion. Wide pay gaps between executives and workers…enhance the sense of power executives feel and cause them to “objectify lower level employees.”

Or, to put the matter more plainly, “executives with higher income treat employees more meanly.”

Click here to read the study, “When Executives Rake in Millions: Meanness in Organizations.”

This article was originally published on AFL-CIO Now Blog.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.

Martin Luther King Jr. Gave His Life Supporting Workers’ Rights

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Image: James ParksMartin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrate this weekend, died fighting for the freedom of Memphis sanitation workers to form a union with AFSCME. For King, economic justice went hand in hand with civil rights and the right to join a union was critical to gaining economic justice.

Writing on AlterNet, Laura Flanders says:

King saw public workers as the first line of defense. That’s why he went to Memphis to stand by striking sanitation members of AFSCME, the public workers’ union. In his view they led the way in the fight for fair pay and benefits…and in the fight for dignity for those who shovel our snow and clean our streets.

Read her full column here. Read about the AFL-CIO’s 2011l King Day celebration here and here.

King also recognized that the anti-union politicians in the South were the same people who opposed civil rights for all Americans. That’s why he opposed union-busting ”right to work” for less laws. In fact, in 1961, he said:

In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as “right-to-work.” It provides no “rights” and no “works.” Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining….We demand this fraud be stopped.

This article was originally published on AFL-CIO Now Blog.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.

WTO Ruling Shows Trade Law Can Work for Workers

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Image: James ParksA World Trade Organization (WTO) panel’s ruling in favor of U.S. tariffs on passenger and light truck tires made in China shows “the rules of trade, when vigorously enforced, can be made to work for working people,” United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard said.

In September 2009, President Obama became the first president to enforce U.S. trade law when he imposed tariffs to protect domestic workers against a surge in tire imports from China. The original complaint came from the USW, and Obama’s decision led to a rebound in the tire industry.

China appealed the decision to the WTO and the ruling was announced yesterday. Gerard applauded the Obama administration for “standing up and defending American jobs in its original decision to impose relief and in its strong defense of that action at the WTO.”

Fair trade law enforcement should be the standard of our government in requiring China to fulfill its obligations under its accession agreement with the WTO more than a decade ago.

“This is a major victory for the United States and particularly for American workers and businesses,” U.S. Trade Rep. Ron Kirk said in a statement.

We have said all along that our imposition of duties on Chinese tires was fully consistent with our WTO obligations. It is significant that the WTO panel has agreed with us, on all grounds.

This is the latest in a series of wins for U.S. workers in their battle to level the trade playing field against China. The USW has filed a series of complaints against illegal and improper trade practices by China’s government.

In the past few months, the Obama administration has accepted a USW complaint against subsidies to clean energy manufacturers by China’s government and the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) in October ordered duties imposed on paper products illegally dumped in the United States by China’s government.

This article was originally posted on AFL-CIO Blog.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections. Author photo by Joe Kekeris

NFL Lockout Could Cost $160 Million, 115,000 Jobs

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Image: James ParksIf the National Football League owners lock out the players next season, not only will millions of fans not have games to watch on Sunday afternoon, but more than 115,000 jobs could be lost, according to a new study.

The 32 NFL teams employ on average 3,739 people each, including players, concession workers and office staff. If the lockout lasts a long time, layoffs are likely and many of those jobs would not come back, said Jesse David, senior vice president of the economic consulting firm Edgeworth Economics, who conducted a study of the impact of a lockout for the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). Check out a summary of the study here.

Not only are the players affected, but the jobs of more than 25,000 concession workers at stadiums across the country are threatened by the lockout. (See video above.)

In a telephone press conference this morning, David and NFLPA official George Atallah said each NFL home game generates on average $20 million for the team and the community. A lockout could cost each of the 32 NFL cities. as much as $160 million, they said.

“A lockout would have an impact beyond the players,” Atallah said.

We want to raise public consciousness of the effect [on communities] if the owners lock out the players.

The NFLPA has joined with the other workers in the stadiums and the rest of the union movement to fight management’s greed. Last month, the NFLPA announced that its members will fully affiliate with all AFL-CIO state federations and the central labor councils where their NFL teams are based.

The owners terminated the collective bargaining agreement two years ago because, they say, it isn’t working for them. But they refuse to provide audited financial information to explain what is wrong in a business that generated $9 billion in 2009 during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The owners are demanding that the players give back $1 billion, although not one team has lost money. They also want players to pay for team travel and the cost of running practice facilities.

On top of that, the owners have threatened to make the players pay for their own health care in case of a lockout. As it is, management provides only five years of health care coverage after players retire. Players’ NFL careers average only 3.4 years and many retire with a range of serious health problems. Not many people would argue that facing a 325-pound lineman running at full speed over and over could be dangerous to your health

This article was originally posted on AFL-CIO Now Blog.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections. Author photo by Joe Kekeris

Global Unions Demand Rights for Migrant Workers

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Image: James ParksMany countries around the world, including the United States, depend on immigrant labor to boost economic development, but do not protect the rights of their immigrant workers. Trade union representatives at the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GMFD) meeting in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, last week called on the world’s governments to respect and protect the rights of migrant workers.

In a statement, the global unions said governments must be vigilant in fighting against racism and xenophobia, which are on the rise in several countries. They also urged countries to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions on migrant workers, eliminate abusive guest worker programs and assure the rights of domestic workers.

Says Ambet Yuson, general secretary of the Geneva-based Building and Wood Workers International:

Migrant workers contribute to the economic and social development; however, they are consistently marginalized, exploited, and abused. It is the fundamental responsibility of all governments to protect the rights of migrant workers.

While each country has its own particular experiences with migration, several common themes emerged at the conference. For example, nearly all the union representatives told of efforts to defend domestic workers from human rights abuses. In June 2010, the ILO took a giant step forward in the struggle to create workplace justice for the millions of housekeepers, nannies and other domestic workers around the world, by beginning the  process to establish a first-ever international standard (“convention”) to protect the rights of domestic workers. If the convention is passed at the ILO’s meeting in 2011, it would require governments that ratify it to ensure domestic workers are covered by the fundamental rights and principles of the ILO, which include the freedom to form unions, elimination of forced labor, abolition of child labor and the elimination of discrimination.

Migrant workers face horrific treatment ranging from rape to torture, Ana Avendaño, assistant to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in an interview with Frontera Norte Sur, a publication of the Center for Latin American and Border Studies at New Mexico State University.

The AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions are working to protect migrant workers by helping them join unions and fighting for their rights under the law, Avendaño said. The AFL-CIO is actively supporting an international campaign to ratify the new convention on domestic workers.

“Domestic work is a particular kind of work, not just because it takes place in the household, but also because of its fundamental importance in the very fabric of society,” according to a statement by RESPECT, a European network of domestic worker groups and supporters.

Without provision for child care, care for the elderly, cooking and cleaning, society simply couldn’t function.

In the United States, New York State recently enacted a law that gives basic labor rights to domestic workers. Nationally, the AFL-CIO is supporting independent domestic worker efforts to form unions, Avendaño added, as well as a new initiative called the Excluded Workers Congress that brings together domestic workers, day laborers, taxi drivers, farmworkers, unemployable ex-felons, and other people at the margins of the economy.

To read the Global Unions’ statement click here.

This article originally appeared on AFL-CIO Now Blog.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections. Author photo by Joe Kekeris

Wynn Casino Dealers Approve Historic Contract

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Image: James ParksThree years after voting to join a union, dealers at the casino in Wynn Las Vegas late last week ratified a collective bargaining agreement, the first-ever union contract for dealers in Las Vegas.

With the contract, the 600 Wynn dealers, who are members of Transport Workers (TWU) Local 721, now have a voice on the job. They are no longer “at-will” employees who can be fired at any time, and management no longer has the ability to make arbitrary decisions and alter work policies on a whim.

TWU President James Little said:

This was a long and tough fight, but when we stick together we can win against big companies. This is a crucial step for the dealers at Wynn and workers in Las Vegas.

Dealers at Wynn and Caesars Palace withstood a massive anti-union effort by Las Vegas casino owners and voted to join TWU in 2007. But they soon  faced company opposition to signing a decent contract.

“We are so proud of our members for passing this historic vote with such a strong margin and extremely high voter participation,” said Kanie Kastroll, president of Local 721.

They have demonstrated that they truly understand the value of union protection, brotherhood and a labor contract.

The contract, which was approved by a 4–1 margin, includes grievance procedures and protections against terminations.

This article was originally posted on AFL-CIO Now Blog.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections. Author photo by Joe Kekeris

Check Laws to Learn if You Can Take Time Off to Vote

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Image: James Parks

Each American citizen 18 years old or older has a right to vote and most—not all—have the right to take time off to vote. Thirty-three states have laws on the books requiring employers to give workers time off to cast a vote. The District of Columbia and 17 states do not.

With so much at stake in Tuesday’s election, working families are mobilizing to get out every vote. So, it is important to know if you can get time off to vote or if you have to go before or after work. To find out what the law is in your state, visit the website www.CanMyBossDoThat.com.

The new site offers an interactive list of laws in each state and Washington, D.C. The site also provides links to the specific laws, which differ from state to state. For example, in Minnesota, workers can take time in the morning on Election Day, but not the afternoon. In Massachusetts, only mechanical, retail and manufacturing workers can take time off. The law in North Dakota doesn’t require employers to let employees off to vote, it only “suggests” that they do it.

The site also provides information on which states protect workers from retaliation based on how they vote or because of political activity outside of work. As many people learned when a woman was fired for her John Kerry bumper sticker in Alabama in 2004, without state protection, workers are not protected from retaliation for their political views or how they vote.

Says Anne Janks, director of the site:

These new resources will help workers understand if they have any rights and how to get the time off to vote. We also hope that states which do not give these most basic rights to ensure a vibrant democracy will consider passing protections for their citizens.

So check the site to see what your rights are, but, by all means, make sure to vote Nov. 2.

CanMyBossDoThat.com is a non-profit website with more than 750 pages educating workers about their rights. Many employment rights are based on state laws. Topics also outline federal and state-specific protections. The site was started in 2009 by Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) to provide clear, usable, specific information for workers and their advocates.

To read more information about your voting rights as it relates to employment, visit Workplace Fairness’ Voting Rights Page.

This article was originally posted on AFL-CIO Now Blog.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections. Author photo by Joe Kekeris

Public Employees Under Attack

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Image: James ParksThe people who teach our children, protect us from crime, put out fires in our homes and make sure our water is clean are under attack. Conservative pundits and politicians across the country are using the economic crisis to attack public employees and portray them as privileged compared with everyone else. They use the fact that public employees, many of whom are union members, have been able to keep their well-funded pensions, reasonable hours and decent pay to stir up rage from those who have lost these benefits in the private sector.

Many cash-starved state and local governments have used these same arguments as a cover to cut services, personnel and pension benefits to balance their budgets and weaken unions.

Several new studies should put those arguments to rest. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that state and local public employees are actually underpaid. In “Debunking the Myth of the Overcompensated Public Employee: The Evidence,” Rutgers University professor Jeffrey Keefe found that, on average, state and local government workers are paid 3.75 percent less than similar workers in the private sector.

The study also found the benefits that state and local government workers receive do not offset the lower wages they are paid. The differential is greatest for doctors, lawyers and professional employees, the study found. Read Keefe’s report here.

Public employees also work hard for their lower pay, often putting themselves in danger. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), nearly two in five state and local government workers—more than 1.4 million— worked in either physically strenuous jobs or jobs with difficult working conditions. Notably, almost half (47.5 percent) of local government employees between ages 55 and 65 held such jobs. If the retirement age were increased, the report says, many of these workers, due to the physical challenges of their jobs, would have to leave the workforce before they are eligible for full retirement benefits. Read the CEPR report here.

Writing in the New York Daily News, Dan Morris of the nonpartisan Drum Major Institute for Public Policy says the attacks on public employees are absurd and dangerous.

…if public-sector workers become cheap, expendable labor, they will contribute less to the tax base and spend less, blunting private-sector job creation. A healthy public sector is just as good for the investment banker as it is for the unionized electrician.

EPI estimates that every 100 public-sector layoffs result in about 30 private-sector layoffs because the subsequent loss of income dampens consumer spending and thus weakens the economy. Says Morris:

The race to the bottom is a callous attempt to lower expectations for employment at a time when millions of people are counting on them to be raised. No victory worthy of the name can be achieved on those terms.

This article was originally posted on AFL-CIO Now Blog.

About The Author: John Petro is an urban policy analyst at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy. He runs the Progressive Urban Model Policies (PUMP) Project, a first-of-its-kind initiative to organize and share best practices in policy design and implementation. His writing on urban issues has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and his recent research has been covered in Politico, The New York Times, Reuters, and other media outlets.

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