||At a June community hearing in South Carolina, workers spoke in support of the NLRB complaint against Boeing.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) threatened to come out with “full guns a blazing” against the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) if NLRB acting-General Counsel Lafe Solomon issued a complaint against the Boeing Co., charging it with moving production away from its Washington State facility in retaliation for the workers exercising their right to strike. The call occurred nine days before the NLRB issued the complaint April 20.
Graham’s threats were revealed in Solomon’s notes on the phone call that The Hill newspaper obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. In those notes Solomon writes:
He said that if a complaint was filed, it will be very, very, nasty.…He said that if a complaint was issued he was going “full guns a-blazing.”
Since the complaint was issued, Republican lawmakers have threatened to cut the NLRB’s funding, block nominations to the board and impose new laws to curtail its authority. Click here for more on the Republican attacks against the NLRB on the attacks.
Solomon’s notes on the case also reveal that Boeing General Counsel Mike Luttig threatened to bring congressional pressure if the NLRB issued a complaint.
He told me…he would go to the Hill to prevent me from litigating the case….I said that I had the CEO on tape saying that the move to SC was not because of economics but because the Machinists strike. I said I had a triable case and that I would do whatever I thought was right under the NLRA [National Labor Relations Act].
In a letter released yesterday about Graham’s and Boeing’s threats, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says:
No corporation should be able to discriminate against American workers and then avoid accountability for its actions by using its political influence in Congress to seek to undermine the rule of law. These new documents raise serious concerns that this may be exactly what happened in this case.
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Apparently unsatisfied by the enormous profits they’ve made while average Americans suffer in a difficult economy, corporations are pushing Congress to enact a new law that would exempt a large class of workers from receiving overtime pay. And they’re receiving support from members of both parties on Capitol Hill.
Dubbed the Computer Professionals Update Act (CPU Act), Senate bill 1747 would change the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to remove overtime protection and compensation from “almost everyone working primarily in information technology” who earns either a salary, or an hourly rate of $27.63, according to Paul E. Almeida, president of the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees (DPE).
Information technology companies are focused on cutting pay for the people who work for them. If their effort succeeds, however, it will suggest to every other industry that the time is now to gut FLSA for every covered private-sector worker.
Introduced in the U.S. Senate last month by Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), the CPU Act has found a Democratic co-sponsor in Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.), who is joined by two Republican co-sponsors, Sens. Mike Enzi (Wy.) and Johnny Isakson (Ga.).
In a letter to senators, DPE President Almeida said of the corporations pushing the bill:
[T]he same companies that send work offshore and bring lower-paid workers to the U.S. on H-1B visas now want to pay U.S. workers less in the U.S.
At at least one major anti-labor law firm, cheerleading for the bill borders on the exuberant. On the Wage & Hour Defense blog of Epstein, Becker & Green, Douglas Weiner and Meg Thering write:
Unlike much of the other legislation affecting employers that has been proposed or passed this year, the CPU Act would make business easier for employers and decrease the risk of employee misclassification lawsuits. If the proposed legislation passes, employers would be able to classify more employees as exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA. This would be a welcome change from the persistent drum beat of enhanced enforcement initiatives announced by government agencies and upticks in class and collective actions this year.
In July, Epstein, Becker & Green’s Jay P. Krupin testified before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in opposition to proposed modest NLRB rules changes.
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U Maung Maung, general secretary of the Federal Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB), visited the AFL-CIO last week to give some perspective on the draft Labor Organizations Law the Burmese government has introduced. The International Labor Organization (ILO) will decide in November whether to send a Commission of Inquiry to the country, a move Burma would like to avoid.
Although the law is a step in the right direction, U Maung Maung pointed out several holes in its reach, foundation and application and says it lacks adequate procedures for protecting collective bargaining or freedom of association. The announcement of changes in the labor law was accompanied by the release of 15 activists in October, all of whom were held on charges of “affecting the morality or conduct of the public or a group of people in a way that would undermine the security of the Union or the restoration of law and order.” However, 22 activists are still being held for this same reason, with sentences reaching up to 28 years.
He was realistically optimistic about the continuing fight for the freedom of association and the freedom to organize in Burma. Although he acknowledged the tricky political reasons for a shift in the law, ultimately he believes the support of international organizations and the use of sanctions—continued pressure on the government—is effectively bringing about positive change in Burma. Whether the passage of the Labor Organizations Law is a real commitment to freedom of association, or just another façade, remains to be seen. But the draft Labor Organizations Law provides for the registration of unions in Burma for the first time in 39 years. In fact, on Oct. 25, the Agriculture and Farmers Federation of Myanmar sent in their registration, and others are soon to follow. U Maung Maung thanked the AFL-CIO, the ITUC and our affiliated unions for their support and commented:
In 1988 we were on the streets…while we stopped everything, we did not know how to move forward. Now we have real people, trained, and registered, to move forward using international standards.
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In New Jersey yesterday, 34 graduates of the New Jersey AFL-CIO Labor Candidate School won election to various local and state offices. That brings to 684 the union member/candidate wins since the unique school opened its doors in 1997.
Working family candidates in several closely contested state Senate and Assembly races won their battles and Democrats maintained control of both houses. New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech says the election was “a great victory for working families.”
Our success comes as a result of the outstanding effort put forth by thousands of union members and community allies working together to educate and engage voters in this election. The leaders we elected to the New Jersey State Legislature are committed to standing up for working families during these tough economic times and will make job creation our state’s number one priority.
Click here for more complete results.
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A proposal by Republicans on the so-called “Super Committee” to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy while cutting hundreds of billions of dollars in Social Security and Medicare benefit is “Robin Hood in reverse: class warfare against the American middle class on behalf of the top 1 percent,” says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
Click here for his full statement.
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The Paris Air Show—the largest and most prestigious in the world—draws thousands of aviation and aerospace companies looking for new products and technology and, in many cases, new manufacturing locations.
This year, representatives from Machinists (IAM) District 751 and SPEEA/International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 2001—their high-skilled members work at the Boeing Co.—are joining with Washington State officials to showcase the state’s aerospace industry and workforce.
The video above—produced by Kathy Cummings, Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) communications director—will be showing at the Washington State Pavilion at the Le Bourget Airport in Paris. In it union workers talk about the pride they take in producing the world’s best airliners, the skill and education level of the workers not just at Boeing, but throughout the states’ aerospace workforce that numbers about 84,000 people at 650 companies.
SPEEA member Michael Hochberg says that if he was “an aerospace company and wanted to find,”
a large pool of talented people to help me make airplanes or make other aerospace products, I would think the Puget Sound is a great place because we have literally generations of people who have worked in airplanes, kids who have grown up with aerospace…it’s just an amazing place to do business for an aerospace company.
The workers also talk about the positive role unions play making a quality product. Says SPEEA member Jennifer McKay:
I think a union is really an airline customer’s best friend and it’s a shareholder’s best friend. It’s a place that can work with the company’s leaders to make sure the right things happen, so that our products can be efficient and in the most cost-effective manner that we can get them out of here.
Tags: National News
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) this morning released proposed changes in the way union representation elections are conducted that the NLRB says will “reduce unnecessary barriers to the fair and expeditious resolution of questions concerning representation.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the proposed changes are a “modest step to remove roadblocks and reduce unnecessary and costly litigation—and that’s good news for employers as well as employees. But he adds:
The proposed rule does not address many of the fundamental problems with our labor laws, but it will help bring critically needed fairness and balance to this part of the process.
Trumka says the rules “appear to be a common sense approach to clean up an outdated system and help ensure that working women and men can make their own choice about whether to form a union.”
When workers want to vote on a union, they should get a fair chance to vote. That’s a basic right. But our current system has become a broken, bureaucratic maze that stalls and stymies workers’ choices. And that diminishes the voice of working people, creates imbalance in our economy and shrinks the middle class.
Because the changes will clean up a system plagued by delays, bureaucracy and litigation, the rule is good for employers, employees and taxpayers who foot the bill.
The proposed changes would:
- Allow for electronic filing of election petitions and other documents.
- Ensure that employees, employers and unions receive and exchange timely information they need to understand and participate in the representation case process.
- Standardize timeframes for parties to resolve or litigate issues before and after elections.
- Require parties to identify issues and describe evidence soon after an election petition is filed to facilitate resolution and eliminate unnecessary litigation.
- Defer litigation of most voter eligibility issues until after the election.
- Require employers to provide a final voter list in electronic form soon after the scheduling of an election, including voters’ telephone numbers and email addresses when available.
- Consolidate all election-related appeals to the Board into a single post-election appeals process and thereby eliminate delay in holding elections currently attributable to the possibility of pre-election appeals.
Make Board review of post-election decisions discretionary rather than mandatory.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, says that a key part to rebuilding the middle class “is ensuring that every American worker has the same right that powerful CEOs take for granted—the right to sign a contract ensuring fair treatment on the job.”
The [NLRB’s] modernized election rules take an important step forward in making this right a reality. By giving workers the right to a fair, up-or-down vote, the rules don’t encourage unionization or discourage it —workers get to make the decision that is best for them. But preserving this right brings some balance to the system, so that the deck isn’t always stacked against ordinary working people and in favor of the wealthy and the powerful.
Trumka warns that while the proposed changes are modest, he expects that in “poisonous political environment” there will be a torrent of attacks from politicians and ideologues opposed to any protection of workers’ rights.” Such opposition is pure politics, part of unprecedented attacks on workers’ rights. Whether you’re a teacher, firefighter or nurse’s aide – right-wing legislators and their corporate funders have made it clear that their ultimate aim is to take away workers’ rights on the job
We call on leaders from both sides of the aisle to defend the independence of the NLRB. Political interference with any independent agency sets a dangerous precedent that should not be tolerated.
Click here for a fact sheet and summary of the proposed changes from the NLRB.
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How many times have we heard from big corporations and their political allies—usually well-financed by corporate campaign contributions—that the latest workplace safety, environmental or consumer protection regulation will kill jobs, ruin the economy and lead to the end of civilization as we know it?
I’ve lost track—but the new Cry Wolf Project hasn’t.
The Cry Wolf Project is a network of advocates, researchers and scholars dedicated to demonstrating that, in fact, conservatives and business groups are only “crying wolf” to delay, prevent and weaken important and commonsense regulations that save lives, clean our environment and make our families more secure.
The group’s just-launched website includes:
- A Quote Bank of nearly 800 “cry wolf” quotes opposing popular and effective laws and regulations over the past century.
- Evidence including dozens of articles, studies showing how health, safety, environmental and other important laws have actually saved lives, motivated innovation and helped grow the economy.
- Backgrounders and briefs on a variety of issues, from auto emissions to workplace safety.
- Cry Wolf Blog with the latest commentary showing the latest efforts to block important laws and regulations.
Click here to check it out and you also can like Cry Wolf on Facebook and follow on Twitter (@CryWolfProject).
Tags: National News
Research and teaching assistants at New York University (NYU) last week moved one step closer to regaining their rights under federal law to form a union and bargain for improvements at work.
Graduate assistants won a major victory in 2010, when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ordered a new hearing on a ruling, which had prevented some 1,800 graduate assistants at NYU from voting for union representation. The board based its ruling on a 2004 NLRB decision that graduate teaching and research assistants were not employees and could not form a union.
Last week, in the NLRB-ordered hearing, acting NLRB Regional Director Elbert Tellem accepted the key claim presented by the assistants, members of Graduate Student Organizing Committee/UAW (GSOC/UAW Local 2110), that they are university employees.
“This decision clearly recognizes that we are employees, who work for and receive compensation from NYU,” said Jan Padios, a teaching assistant in NYU’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis.
We’re glad we got a timely ruling. Now we’re going to take this case to the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C., and claim our rights as workers.
UAW President Bob King praised the NYU employees’ resolve.
Our members at NYU have been an amazing example for all of us in the UAW. A very narrow, very partisan decision by the labor board in 2004 tried to strip them of their rights, but these workers know better. They’re standing firm, and we’re proud to stand with them.
Because of precedent of the 2004 decision, the case now goes to the full NLRB.
The NYU teaching and research assistants have repeatedly demonstrated majority support for their union, most recently verified in April 2010 by the American Arbitration Association. The student employees held a mass rally in April 2010 where a large majority of the students signed the petition to the NLRB (see video above).
Tags: National News
AFL-CIO Community Services Director Will Fischer sends us this report on union members pitching in to make a camp for people with disabilities more accessible.
Since 1959, Camp Pow Wow in Menomonee Park has provided outdoor recreational opportunities for adults and children with disabilities. During the past two years, unions from the Waukesha County (Wis.) Labor Council have donated funds—and most important—their time and talents to make the 470-acre park’s trails and other facilities more accessible.
Earlier this month, volunteers from 10 of the council’s unions and AFL-CIO Community Services liaison Kurt Schmidt built five ramps and railings in the park in a project for the Association for the Rights of Citizens with handicaps (ARCh). Last year, union volunteers constructed four other ramps and railings. Those accessibility projects mean campers won’t have to struggle to participate.
Jeff Arnold, president of the Waukesha County Labor Council when the project began last year, says:
Union members are community members first and foremost. We fight for access and equality on the job, and we want our kids to be able to enjoy the great outdoors with ease and dignity as well.
The camp offers residential and day camp options for people of all ages with a variety of abilities. As one of the first camps in the area established to serve people with disabilities, Camp Pow Wow is committed to accommodating all needs—no one is turned away due to disability or financial circumstance. Says Schmidt:
I’m proud to say I’m a union member and proud to work with the United Way in Waukesha County. This year in Wisconsin, I could not be more proud of the unions that rally in Madison for each other and still find time to help their community. This is what a union looks like.
Volunteers included Painters and Allied trades (IUPAT) Local 781, Sheet Metal Workers (SMWIA) Local 18, Carpenters (UBC) Local 344, Machinists (IAM) locals 66 and 1377, Bricklayers (BAC) Local 8, Electrical Workers (IBEW) locals 494 and 2150, Cement Masons (OPCMIA) Local 599, Laborers (LIUNA) Local 113 and the Directly Affiliated Local Union 2411.
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