Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘Jason Lefkowitz’

Labor Dept. Announces $100 Million in Green Jobs Training Grants

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Big news out of the Labor Department today — they awarded $100 million in grants to programs training workers for the green jobs of the future:

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today announced nearly $100 million in green jobs training grants, as authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). The grants will support job training programs to help dislocated workers and others, including veterans, women, African Americans and Latinos, find jobs in expanding green industries and related occupations. Approximately $28 million of the total funds will support projects in communities impacted by auto industry restructuring.

Through the Energy Training Partnership Grants being administered by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, 25 projects ranging from approximately $1.4 to $5 million each will receive grants. These grants are built on strategic partnerships — requiring labor and business to work together.

The grants announced today are part of a $500 million program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 — a.k.a. “the stimulus.”

For details about the individual programs awarded grants, click on over to the Labor Department’s announcement page.

UPDATE (Jan. 7): It’s not really clear from the list of grantees that DOL posted on their site, so I want to point out that training programs led by CtW-affiliated unions are prominent among those that received grants yesterday. For example, New York’s Shortman Fund (which was awarded a $2.8 million grant) is operated by SEIU 32BJ; SEIU locals also participate in H-CAP Inc. (granted $4.6 million); and LIUNA is active in training programs in Virginia, Rhode Island, Michigan, and Montana that were collectively awarded almost $17 million.

UPDATE (Jan. 7, 3:00PM): Quotes!

Mike Fishman, President of SEIU 32BJ:

High-impact, cost-effective labor-management programs like [the Shortman Fund’s] Green Supers are vital to the success of President Obama’s energy and environmental protection agenda. With nearly 80 percent of New York’s greenhouse gas emissions produced by buildings it’s imperative for owners, workers, environmental groups and the Federal government to jointly tackle this environmental challenge.

Terry O’Sullivan, General President, LIUNA:

Weatherization on a nationwide scale will require hundreds of thousands of skilled workers and LIUNA’s weatherization training program is leading the way while creating good jobs for working families and their communities. LIUNA’s credentialed weatherization workers will set the standard for a new American industry.

*This post originally appeared in Change to Win on January 6, 2010. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author Jason Lefkowitz: is the Online Campaigns Organizer for Change to Win, a partnership of seven unions and six million workers united together to restore the American Dream for everybody. He built his first Web site in 1995 and has been building online communities professionally since 1998. To read more of his work, visit the Change to Win blog, CtW Connect, at http://www.changetowin.org/connect.

Labor Department Unveils Regulatory Priorities for 2010

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Today, the Department of Labor released its Fall 2009 Semi-Annual Regulatory Agenda (PDF). That may sound dull, but if you care about good jobs and safe workplaces, you should care about this, because it signals the Department’s regulatory priorities for the year to come. And now that we have a Labor Department with leaders who actually care about workers, we’re seeing movement on a wide range of issues that languished throughout the Bush Administration.

The good news: the Labor Department is moving swiftly to clear out the backlog of rules stuck in the pipeline, to reverse bad decisions by the Bush Administration, and to start fulfilling a new agenda based on protecting workers first. Millions of workers on construction sites, in factories, warehouses, nursing homes, truck terminals and other vital industries will all benefit from the Administration’s commitment to workers’ rights.

The new agenda includes action on a wide range of issues, including:

  • Advancing towards safety standards to protect workers from combustible dust (the need for which we have written about at length), diacetyl (the source of “popcorn lung”), pandemic flu, and silica dust
  • Documenting the epidemic of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that more and more workers suffer from each year
  • Amending the recordkeeping regulations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require that workers receive pay stubs, and that those pay stubs break down how their pay was computed, helping workers guard against wage theft
  • Implementing President Obama’s Executive Order #13496, which requires all government contractors to post notices of their workers’ rights under federal labor laws — a move that will better inform a fifth of the private-sector workforce of their rights
  • Conducting a review of the regulatory protections that apply to temporary non-agricultural guest workers, which were weakened by the Bush Administration in one of its final acts.

*This post originally appeared in Change to Win on December 7, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author Jason Lefkowitz: is the Online Campaigns Organizer for Change to Win, a partnership of seven unions and six million workers united together to restore the American Dream for everybody. He built his first Web site in 1995 and has been building online communities professionally since 1998. To read more of his work, visit the Change to Win blog, CtW Connect, at http://www.changetowin.org/connect.

When The Revolution Comes, Your 401(k) Will Be First Against The Wall

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Everybody’s favorite vampire squid, Goldman Sachs, has practiced a form of virtual class warfare for a long time now.

But Bloomberg reports today that top execs there are now arming themselves for the real thing:

“I just wrote my first reference for a gun permit,” said a friend, who told me of swearing to the good character of a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker who applied to the local police for a permit to buy a pistol. The banker had told this friend of mine that senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank.

I called Goldman Sachs spokesman Lucas van Praag to ask whether it’s true that Goldman partners feel they need handguns to protect themselves from the angry proletariat. He didn’t call me back. The New York Police Department has told me that “as a preliminary matter” it believes some of the bankers I inquired about do have pistol permits. The NYPD also said it will be a while before it can name names…

Talk of Goldman and guns plays right into the way Wall-Streeters like to think of themselves. Even those who were bailed out believe they are tough, macho Clint Eastwoods of the financial frontier, protecting the fistful of dollars in one hand with the Glock in the other. The last thing they want is to be so reasonably paid that the peasants have no interest in lynching them.

I’m not sure what kind of Mad Max future these people are envisioning, exactly. But it is kind of funny to imagine an investment banking nerd thinking that dropping $500 on a Glock 19 will turn him into the Road Warrior.

UPDATE (4:00PM): More reactions…

SEIU:

They just don’t get it. The thousands of people that showed up outside their door in Chicago and DC aren’t part of some violent mob; we’re taxpayers who’ve been taken for a ride by Wall Street and want to get off at the next stop. Our message has been clear and simple every time: stop using our money on lobbying and bonuses.

LOLFed:

Goldman employees…think about this for a moment. You work for one of the nation’s most hated institutions. You’re pretty unpopular already. But one of the few things Goldman has not yet been accused of is actually killing someone. Do you really want to be the one to break that long and storied tradition of not killing someone? That’s a guaranteed way to get your bonus chopped down to five figures, mister.

*This post originally appeared in Change to Win on December 1, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author Jason Lefkowitz: is the Online Campaigns Organizer for Change to Win, a partnership of seven unions and six million workers united together to restore the American Dream for everybody. He built his first Web site in 1995 and has been building online communities professionally since 1998. To read more of his work, visit the Change to Win blog, CtW Connect, at http://www.changetowin.org/connect.

Sweatshop-Free Gifts For The Holidays

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Last month I told you how to buy union-made treats for Halloween. But now Christmas is coming, and that means even more shopping — and for a wide range of stuff beyond just chocolates.

With the rise of globalization and outsourcing, the shopper’s dilemma is especially acute when buying clothes. You don’t want your holiday shopping dollars enriching an absentee CEO who takes advantage of the North Pole’s weak labor regulations to force his workers to churn out product night and day year-round. (His apologists will tell you he’s “jolly.” But there’s nothing jolly about a repetitive stress injury.)

What’s a conscientious consumer to do?

Never fear! The International Labor Rights Forum and SweatFree Communities have stepped into the breach with the latest edition of their Shop With a Conscience Consumer Guide, which lists tons of places you can buy sweatshop-free clothing for everyone on your list. And their 2010 Sweatshop Hall of Shame is a handy list of retail outlets that don’t deserve your business until the way they treat the men and women who make their products moves from “naughty” to “nice”.

They’ve even got these materials available as PDF brochures (Consumer Guide, Hall of Shame), suitable for printing out and taking with you to the mall. Heck, you could even print out some extra copies and hand them out to other shoppers while you’re there, you know?

So this year, don’t give lumps of coal to the men and women who make the gifts you give — shop sweatshop-free!

*This post originally appeared in Change to Win on November 17, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author Jason Lefkowitz: is the Online Campaigns Organizer for Change to Win, a partnership of seven unions and six million workers united together to restore the American Dream for everybody. He built his first Web site in 1995 and has been building online communities professionally since 1998. To read more of his work, visit the Change to Win blog, CtW Connect, at http://www.changetowin.org/connect.

Union-Made Treats for Halloween

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

It’s almost Halloween, and you know what that means: buying tons of candy.

But why give your money to a company that treats its workers like Oompa-Loompas? They were slaves who got paid in beans, remember! (Don’t be fooled by their catchy songs; that’s just a show they put on for the boss. You should hear the things they say about him in the break room.)

UnionPlus has a great list of yummies made by members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), and the United Farm Workers of America (UFW). Among them are:

  • Hershey’s Kisses
  • Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars
  • Kit Kat Bars
  • Caramello
  • Cadbury Fruit & Nut Bar
  • Jelly Bellies
  • Red Vines
  • Jawbreakers
  • NECCO Wafers
  • Clark Bar
  • Ghirardelli squares
  • Baby Ruth
  • Butterfinger

(Note that some of these are made both in union shops in the U.S.A. and non-union shops in Mexico; the list has details on which ones you’ll want to check the country of origin labels on.)

It’s perfect for printing out and taking with you on your big candy run. So what are you waiting for? Get the list here.

This post originally appeared in Change to Win on October 27, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author Jason Lefkowitz: is the Online Campaigns Organizer for Change to Win, a partnership of seven unions and six million workers united together to restore the American Dream for everybody. He built his first Web site in 1995 and has been building online communities professionally since 1998. To read more of his work, visit the Change to Win blog, CtW Connect, at http://www.changetowin.org/connect.

Training Workers for The Green Jobs of Today and Tomorrow

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

You’ve probably heard lots of buzz about “green jobs” lately. But, you may have wondered, what does all that buzz translate to in the real world? How is the green jobs movement affecting real people and real communities? And are new green jobs being created in ways that make them good jobs — jobs that can help a worker achieve the American Dream — too?

Here’s a good story that answers all those questions: Seattle NPR affiliate KPLU reports on how Washington state has allocated nearly $15 million of the Federal stimulus money they received to create good jobs “weatherizing” buildings to make them more energy efficient — and how the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA, a CtW affiliate) has created a training program to provide its workers with the skills they need to fill those jobs:

Inside an old home in west Seattle, 23-year-old Joseph Cortez is cutting insulation as an instructor looks on. He gets praise for catching on quickly. He’s a trainee with the Laborers International Union of North America. His new position is part of a demonstration project, meant to show what the federal government’s five billion dollars in stimulus spending for weatherization can do. The union says their training program could create thousands of high-quality jobs and upgrade millions of homes in Washington State alone.

Cortez is newly married and has a child on the way, so he’s grateful for the prospect of union career, specializing in green building.

“Not a job paying minimum wage,” he says, “but a job that’s paying $20 an hour, so that we can live comfortably and have a great success in our lives.”

Washington passed a law in May that guarantees access to these jobs for low-income and disadvantaged populations. Cortez fits the demographic. The union plans to train hundreds more this summer.

And the program isn’t just benefiting people like Cortez. The retrofitting of the single mom’s home where he’s working is being done at no cost to her – $3,500 worth of work, which will also save her an estimated $350 a year in heating costs.

LIUNA’s not just training workers for green jobs in Washington state, either. Green for All reported a few months back on LIUNA’s weatherization training work on the other side of the nation, in Newark, New Jersey:

On a snow covered street in a suburb of brick houses in Newark, a sea of green hard hats filled the street to celebrate the first house “weatherized” as part of this new pilot program…

Laborers Local 55 will train the first class of 25 Newark residents in green construction techniques this winter. The weatherization work on homes will continue through January, and the laborers will earn accreditation while being paid union rates, with health benefits.

Ray Pachino, Vice-president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, spoke of the immediate benefits of weatherization:

“In our training center, where we had some of these workers training on Saturday, they put some of their newly learned skills to work and did some insulating around the building, especially in the garage area. We got a call this morning that the temperature in the garage was ten degrees warmer with the thermostat ten degrees lower.

So it works! It does work.”

From coast to coast, there’s lots of work to be get our economy ready for the energy challenges of the 21st Century — and the working men and women of LIUNA are leading the way.

Jason Lefkowitz: Jason A. Lefkowitz is the Online Campaigns Organizer for Change to Win (http://www.changetowin.org/), a partnership of seven unions and six million workers united together to restore the American Dream for everybody. He built his first Web site in 1995 and has been building online communities professionally since 1998. To read more of his work, visit the Change to Win blog, CtW Connect, at http://www.changetowin.org/connect .

This article was originally posted at CtW Connect on July 1, 2009. It is reprinted here with permission from the author.

Your Rights Job Survival The Issues Features Resources About This Blog