Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘working families’

Labor-Backed Candidates Win Big in Tuesday’s Elections

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

It was a big night for labor’s agenda as pro-worker candidates won election from coast to coast Tuesday.

In Virginia, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam handily defeated Ed Gillespie as AFL-CIO-endorsed candidates won throughout the commonwealth. Virginia AFL-CIO President Doris Crouse-Mays hailed the victories:

“Today, Virginia’s voters turned out in record numbers to stand with working people and reject the hateful, divisive rhetoric that has taken over the airwaves throughout the campaign. Virginia voters have spoken—we must work toward a commonwealth that puts working families first and prioritizes real issues that impact our lives each and every day. All students must have quality public education and job-training opportunities. All workers must be guaranteed fair wages, safe working conditions and the freedom to join in union. And all Virginians must have access to quality, affordable health care no matter where they live.

“We are proud to stand with you all and elect Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, Mark Herring and a host of delegates in districts from Blacksburg to Hampton and so many places in between. Voters came together to enact real change in our commonwealth by flipping control in at least 15 house districts despite our heavily gerrymandered lines.”

In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy defeated Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, one of several key victories for labor in the state. New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charlie Wowkanech said union solidarity made it possible:

“The results of New Jersey’s critical gubernatorial election are in, and the election of Phil Murphy as governor and Sheila Oliver as lieutenant governor speaks to the unmatched mobilization efforts of organized labor and the New Jersey State AFL-CIO’s political program that is unparalleled by any other in our state or nation.

“Let’s be clear: what made the difference tonight was our unified labor voice, comprised of support from thousands of union volunteers, national, state and local affiliates, central labor councils and Building Trades councils. We had an opportunity to show strength and solidarity and we did. We joined together every Saturday for labor walks, made calls at evening phone banks and delivered thousands of mail pieces around the state. There is no question that our 1-million-member-strong state labor movement determined the outcome of this election.

“Working people needed a victory and organized labor delivered. The results of this election make clear that the New Jersey labor movement will lead the way forward for the rest of the nation, securing needed reforms that promote job creation, quality education, skills training, modernized infrastructure, affordable health care, equitable taxation, and a sustainable and secure retirement future for all New Jersey families.”

This blog was originally published at AFL-CIO on November 8, 2017. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tim Schlittner is the AFL-CIO director of speechwriting and publications and co-president of Pride At Work

Working People Have 17 Recommendations for NAFTA. Here’s #2

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

By now, you’ve probably heard of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). You might have heard that some businesspeople think it’s a great deal, while average working families—and those who stand with us—think it only works if you’re already at the top.

If you’ve been reading our blog regularly, then you know NAFTA is being renegotiated. That means working people like us have an opportunity to fix it. And we laid out the first step: open the negotiations so that average citizens, not just corporate lobbyists and CEOs, can participate. So far, it’s not clear the negotiators heard us—but you can help us keep up the pressure.

Even if they do keep the doors closed on the talks, we have to address the rules of the deal. The first rules that need replacement are the labor rules. The labor rules determine whether the playing field is fair for all workers or whether global corporations can treat us like pawns, bidding down our wages and working conditions as they increase their profits at our expense.

Given our long experience of trying to use trade rules to protect rights and freedoms for working people, we know what works and what doesn’t. We won’t fall for vague promises about NAFTA being the best deal ever for working people. Instead, we will be looking for specific provisions.

A fair North American deal will:

  • Ensure that all three countries protect fundamental labor rights as set for in the International Labor Organization’s eight core conventions.

  • Establish an independent monitoring and enforcement entity so that governments can’t use delay tactics to deny our rights.

  • Establish prompt enforcement tools.

  • Ensure that goods traded between the countries are made by workers being paid living wages.

  • Protect migrant workers from fraud and abuse.

  • Protect all workers from discrimination and trafficking.

  • Contain effective tools to continually lift our wages and working conditions, rather then putting a ceiling on what we can achieve.

  • Ensure that no communities are left behind—we must all prosper together or we won’t prosper at all.

Since the dawn of the modern trade era (roughly 1990), no trade deal has ever put working families first. But we know the rules we need to make it happen. But no one will fight for those rules if we don’t lead.

Are you ready to join us? Urge your representative to call for open, transparent NAFTA renegotiations.

This blog was originally published at AFL-CIO on August 22, 2017. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Celeste Drake is the trade and globalization policy specialist at the AFL-CIO, where she advocates for reforms to U.S. trade policy to create shared gains from trade on behalf of working families. She has testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, various House subcommittees and the U.S. International Trade Commission, and made presentations before the European Union’s Economic and Social Committee.

Day 1 in the Newly Seated Kentucky Legislature Is About Attacking Working People

Monday, January 9th, 2017

Kentucky Republican leaders, led by Gov. Matt Bevin, gained control of the state House, giving them control of the executive and legislative branches. Their first order of business? Go after working families. Bevin and the Republicans are pushing forward with several anti-worker resolutions. In the process, they have given more say in the state’s future to outsider billionaires and CEOs than the people of the state.

Kentucky Republicans abused their power, changing the rules to move the anti-working people bills as “emergency legislation,” even though the only emergency happening is the one they are creating for working families. Legislators don’t even have time to read the bills, much less take the time to fully understand the impact of the legislation. New legislators don’t even have phones or offices yet, and they’re being asked to quickly vote yes or no on dangerous, destructive bills.

Even worse, by bending the rules in their favor, Republicans have given the public no chance to weigh in on the legislation. The bills have been reported out of committee and could be voted on the floor of the legislature as early as Saturday.

The Kentucky State AFL-CIO condemned the sneaky move:

The so-called right to work and prevailing wage repeal bills passed (out of committee) today will deny economic opportunities for Kentucky’s working families.
Kentucky’s working families are suffering. They are facing employment, health care access and education challenges. The Kentucky GOP not only ignored their plight, they made them worse with these anti-worker bills.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and House Republican leadership made hurting working Kentuckians their number one priority. They did not advance bills to increase education funding, raise wages, or fund vital services in our community. Instead they chose to give multi-national corporations more power to outsource jobs, cut wages, and reduce benefits at the expense of our workers, small businesses, and the local economy. This is shameful.

The Kentucky labor movement will continue to fight for the rights of Kentucky’s working families, like we have been doing for more than 100 years. We will demand government transparency and accountability. And we will continue to fight for better wages, reasonable hours and safer working conditions. We will take this opportunity to grow the labor movement and organize like hell!

Politicians didn’t create the labor movement and politicians aren’t going to destroy the labor movement.

Other working family advocates agree. Bill Finn, director of the Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council, said: “A lot of working people voted for change in this election. They didn’t vote for this. They didn’t vote for a pay cut.”

Learn more at Kentucky State AFL-CIO.

This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on January 4, 2017.  Reprinted with permission.

Kenneth Quinnell: I am a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist.  Before joining the AFL-CIO in 2012, I worked as labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  Previous experience includes Communications Director for the Darcy Burner for Congress Campaign and New Media Director for the Kendrick Meek for Senate Campaign, founding and serving as the primary author for the influential state blog Florida Progressive Coalition and more than 10 years as a college instructor teaching political science and American History.  My writings have also appeared on Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.  I am the proud father of three future progressive activists, an accomplished rapper and karaoke enthusiast.

Takeaways from the 2014 Elections for Working Families

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Mary Kay HenryDespite a tough night with many close races, a key takeaway from Election Day is the progress made toward raising wages for working families for an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few.

Raising the minimum wage was a winning issue yesterday in red, blue, and purple states.
In deeply conservative states like Nebraska and South Dakota, the economy isn’t working for working people and the message from voters was clear: we’ve got to increase wages.

In San Francisco, where workers will get to $15 an hour a year ahead of Seattle, we saw incredible momentum built from the Fight for $15, where workers have had the courage to come out and call for wages they can raise a family on without having to cobble together 2-3 jobs and still live on the brink.

Working families issues also prevailed in Oakland with the increase in the wage to $12.25 and earned sick time, which also passed in Massachusetts.

The minimum-wage results and wins in Governors’ races in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Connecticut show that working families want action on higher wages.

I spent yesterday in Pennsylvania, where folks were so excited to get out and volunteer for Tom Wolf, who made it crystal clear from the very beginning the sharp contrast with Gov. Corbett on wages, healthcare, and education.

We need more champions like Tom Wolf, Mark Dayton and Dan Malloy. They won because of their leadership on the issues that families care about: higher wages, good jobs, better schools, and affordable healthcare. Full-throated champions of those issues can and will win.
The Fight for $15’s momentum continued even on a tough night like last night because of the boldness of the fast food workers, home care workers, Walmart workers and others. Their courage to stand up for a living wage is helping the nation understand that if you work hard for a living, you ought to be able to work one job and live a decent life

The wins in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Connecticut and in the minimum wage initiatives show that there is a clear path forward for working people. Working people will keep fighting for higher wages and good jobs, at the ballot box, in the workplace, in our communities and on the street.

This blog originally appeared in SEIU.org on November 5, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.seiu.org/2014/11/takeaways-from-the-2014-elections-for-working-fami.php

About the Author: Mary Kay Henry is the president of the SEIU.

8 Ways That ALEC Is Targeting Working Families

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Kenneth-Quinnell_smallInformation about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) working in secret to push state-level policy to more extreme levels is coming to light more and more and America’s working families are starting to stand up to the group’s corporate-driven agenda. While ALEC’s agenda is all over the policy map, the organization has a particular focus on pushing new laws that attack working families and undercut the rights of workers, both in the workplace and in retirement.  Here are eight of the most dangerous and most widespread ways that ALEC is targeting workers and their right to a voice on the job.

8. Voter ID Act: Laws directly based on or similar to ALEC’s Voter ID Act have been introduced in recent years in nearly every state, with more than a dozen states passing or strengthening such laws in the past three years. These laws disproportionately affect working families, senior citizens, people of color and residents of rural areas and help elect legislators who vote against the rights and needs of workers.

7. Paycheck Protection Bills: ALEC has at least four different versions of this legislation, each one more extreme than the last, that were introduced 20 times in various states in 2013. These bills range from requiring that each employee sign an annual form authorizing that their union dues be allowed to be used for political purposes to preventing payroll deductions from being used for union dues. These bills provide no additional rights to workers and do nothing more than weaken the ability of workers to collectively bargain by depriving unions of the funds they need to fight on behalf of their members.

6. Direct Union Assaults: Through model legislation such as the Election Accountability for Municipal Employee Union Representatives Act and the De-certification Elections Act, introduced in Idaho and Arizona, respectively, ALEC is seeking to make public employees vote over and over again to retain their union status, giving ALEC and other groups the opportunity to flood workers with anti-union propaganda.

5. Public Employees’ Portable Retirement Option Act: Through this and similar bills, 10 states have attempted to weaken or eliminate defined-benefit pension plans and replace them with defined-contribution plans, which make retirees depend on the market for how much money they have for retirement and health care.

4. Council on Efficient Government Act: As Orwellian a name as any in the ALEC arsenal, this legislation does nothing but use government money to create a commission to figure out ways to privatize government services. In other words, yet another example of ALEC attempting to get taxpayer money into the hands of private corporations without any accountability or taxpayer recourse.

3. “Right to Work” Act: This incredibly misleadingly titled legislation gives no one any new rights and does nothing but prevent employees from paying for the benefits that unions earn on their behalf. So-called “right to work” for less states end up paying their workers a lot less than states that don’t have such laws. In 2013, 15 states introduced this legislation.

2. Parent Trigger Act: These laws give parents the option, once a majority of parents sign a petition, to change a public school into a charter school, give students vouchers or close the school. Seven states have passed parent trigger laws similar to the ALEC bill. Parent Trigger laws force parents to make a bad choice—either stick with a poorly performing school, or take drastic actions that are likely to make things worse, do little to help students and are a boon for corporate groups that run private schools. Meanwhile one of the best tools for helping working families reach the middle class—public education—gets less and less funding.

1. Wage Protections: In 14 states, ALEC model legislation attacking wage protections were introduced. The bills sought to weaken or eliminate laws that require prevailing wages, living wages or minimum wages. Big corporations heavily support these efforts, which would only serve to lower wages for workers.

On Thursday, Aug. 8, working families and other opponents of the ALEC agenda will be rallying at the conservative group’s convention in Chicago. Those who are in the area can RSVP online.

This article originally appeared on AFL-CIO NOW blog on August 7, 2013.  Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist whose writings have appeared on AFL-CIO, Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.

Peaceful Revolution: Champion Real Workplace Flexibility

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Image: Netsy FiresteinThe White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility has generated an energetic buzz in work family advocacy circles across the nation. As a longtime advocate for family friendly workplaces, I am thrilled by First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama’s keen interest and commitment to build and promote flexible workplaces. I also commend the many businesses that are genuinely trying to create workplaces that reflect the current needs of America’s working families. But I am cautiously optimistic. For, I am also aware of the many “fake flex” policies that force workers to “flex” their lives to fit the job and not vice versa.

Workplace flexibility remains an elusive phenomenon in most American workplaces — the majority of such benefits are available only to the highly qualified and skilled professional workforce. And when flexible work arrangements are offered to service sector workers, they do little to address the workers’ needs but plenty for the company’s bottom-line. Creating a more “flexible” and cheaper workforce is a popular profit-making strategy of many large retail employers including big box chains like Walmart. In the name of flexibility, employers are capping wages, forcing full-time workers into part-time positions without benefits, and forcing them to work irregular and erratic work schedules, including working more nights and weekends. The demand that workers be available round the clock puts the company’s needs first and the needs of working families last. Such management-driven “fake flex” policies that penalize workers and give them little or no control give workplace flexibility a bad name.

As I see it, real workplace flexibility equals workers’ control over their job plus security. It is never forced on workers. It expands their choices by giving them the power to shape their work days, hours and schedules to achieve work family balance. A key task for the Obama Administration is to put existing flexible workplace policies through a sieve and champion only those policies that truly give workers control over their work time without risking their wages, benefits or job security.

We have made some advances in creating family friendly workplaces — but these have been worker by worker and workplace by workplace. For the most part, labor unions have been at the forefront of re-envisioning the workplace — the 8-hour work day, the weekend, safety standards, and important family friendly policies such as paid sick days, paid family leave and family health insurance (see Family-Friendly Workplaces: Do Unions Make a Difference?). In many industries, unions have regulated “flexibility” that is controlled by the employer and a burden on employees (see Real Flextime – Union Made). Any policy discussion on advancing workplace flexibility stands to gain from a strong union presence at the table.

Nearly 75 percent of all working adults in the United States have little or no control over their work schedules — lower paid workers (especially lower income women) have the least control. Arriving or leaving even a few minutes late can cost them their jobs. We continue to lag behind other developed nations in guaranteeing our workers important labor standards such as paid sick days and paid family leave. In his closing remarks at the Forum, President Obama said, “Caring for loved ones and raising the next generation is the single most important job we have.” It is indeed time we made this easier for our working families.

A Peaceful Revolution is a blog about innovative ideas to strengthen America’s families through public policies, business practices, and cultural change. Done in collaboration with MomsRising.org, read a new post here each week.

*This post originally appeared in The Huffington Post on April 5, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Netsy Firestein is founder and Executive Director of the Labor Project for Working Families, a national non-profit organization that educates and empowers unions to organize, bargain and advocate for family friendly workplaces. Ms. Firestein is recognized as a national expert on labor and work family issues. For over 25 years, Ms. Firestein has worked with the labor movement to ensure that work family issues are an integral part of labor’s organizing, bargaining and advocacy efforts.  Ms. Firestein has also helped forge important partnerships between labor and community groups to advocate for statewide and national work family policies.

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