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Talks Resume for San Diego's Sharp Nurses

by Clyde Weiss  |  November 30, 2016

Talks Resume for San Diego's Sharp Nurses Photo courtesy of UNAC/UHCP

It's back to the bargaining table for the registered nurses at San Diego’s Sharp HealthCare, whose plan for a three-day strike starting Monday was called off after management offered improvements to their earlier proposal.

"Over the past week, Sharp has made slight improvements in some of their proposals addressing nurse turnover,” said Christina Magnusen, RN, president of Sharp Professional Nurses Network (SPNN), an affiliate of the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP). “Sharp seems to now recognize the need to be in a better position to recruit nurses, and keep them once they’ve spent the money to train and orient them, so they will stay and make a career at Sharp. We remain hopeful that we can more fully tackle this crucial issue and complete the contract."

Negotiations resumed Tuesday.

The key issue – nurse recruitment and retention – has been the sticking point as the nurses contend that inadequate pay is the cause of high turnover at the Southern California hospital chain. More than 500 nurses have left the company in just the first nine months of this year because hourly pay is $8 to $15 less than what other nurses earn at area health organizations.

Talks to craft a contract that addresses such concerns, and others, have been going on since July. In October, more than 300 nurses and allies gathered in solidarity with Sharp Healthcare nurses at the San Diego Convention Center.

A 10-day strike notice demonstrated to management that the nurses were committed to resolving the recruitment and retention problem, and ending what the nurses said was Sharp’s repeated violations of federal labor law, including prematurely abandoning negotiations.

What Do We Want? $15! When Do We Want It? Now!

by Bart Acocella  |  November 30, 2016

What Do We Want? $15! When Do We Want It? Now! Hundreds of union members, faith and community leaders rally to support fair wages for Washington National Airport workers. (Photo by Kris Stith)

Last week, skycaps, baggage handlers and cabin cleaners worked extra hard, on the busiest days of the year, to get air travelers to their Thanksgiving destinations as safely and efficiently as possible.

This week, they’re insisting on fair pay for all the important work they do.

On Tuesday, AFSCME joined SEIU, UNITE-HERE, other unions, faith and community leaders for a rally at Washington National Airport to insist on a $15 an hour wage and a union for airport contract workers.

Hundreds of people gathered to stand in solidarity with the workers, many of whom are living in poverty, making less than $7 per hour plus unreliable tips. Aynalem Lale, a wheelchair dispatcher at Dulles Airport, spoke about her daily struggle and what a well-deserved raise would mean in her life.

“If I made $15 an hour,” she said, “I would only [need] one job, and I would not have to sleep in the airport between jobs.” She added: “We deserve respect and…job security and enough to support our families.”

Following the rally, the crowd marched nearly a mile to the other end of the airport to present the demand for a raise at the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority offices. Workers also authorized a vote to strike during the December holidays.

This airport march and rally was just one of more than 300 events occurring nationwide, to mark four years to the day since the launch of the Fight for $15 movement. Tens of thousands of people participated in protests and demonstrations, a day of disruption that included acts of civil disobedience in front of McDonald’s restaurants from coast to coast.

The Fight for $15 has enjoyed resounding success in a short period of time, already leading to wage increases for more than 22 million people. But AFSCME and its partners won’t quit fighting until all working families get the dignity and respect they deserve, until they get at least the $15 per hour it takes to make ends meet.

Trump: Where the Rubber Hits the Road

by Lee Saunders, AFSCME President  |  November 30, 2016

Last week, families came together to express gratitude for all the blessings in our lives. If your Thanksgiving table was anything like mine, there was plenty of lively debate about politics and current affairs, about what a Trump administration will mean for our country’s future.

First, it cannot mean a rise in hate speech. It must not mean attacks on women, religious minorities, LGBTQ people and communities of color.

There’s no question that white nationalists have been emboldened by this election, or that Donald Trump has stoked fear and resentment for political advantage. This has to stop, and the president-elect has an obligation to stop it. It’s the very opposite of what makes America great.

If he is truly committed to unity and healing, there may be opportunities for cooperation — perhaps on infrastructure investment, as long as it provides good-paying jobs and not just corporate boondoggles. I don’t believe obstructionism should be our default position, as it was for the right wing from the moment President Obama was elected. There’s too much at stake for short-term political brinkmanship. We in the labor movement and the progressive community will work with President-elect Trump when — but only when — doing so aligns with our values.

The Trump campaign tapped into legitimate frustration on the part of so many working people. It’s time to address this economic insecurity, and we will hold the president-elect’s feet to the fire to ensure that he does.

But in many cases, the Trump governing agenda seems to contradict the Trump campaign platform.

If fighting for the forgotten woman and man is the president-elect’s goal, for example, it’s unclear how trillions in tax cuts for the wealthy get us there. The same goes for a rollback of the Obama administration rule allowing millions more Americans to receive overtime pay. And if wresting power from the elites is a defining principle of a Trump presidency, does it make any sense to undo regulations that rein in greed and excess on Wall Street?

For generations, it’s been the labor movement that has led the way in lifting living standards for working people. Why, then, would someone who claims to be working people’s champion pursue a national right-to-work law that would crush collective bargaining rights? Although Trump suggested he would shore up the retirement safety net, there are indications that he will move to privatize Medicare and convert Medicaid to a block grant program.

Such an approach would mean Draconian benefit cuts inflicting pain and hardship on millions of people. It is also deeply unpopular. Recent polling shows that 80 percent of Trump voters believe “protecting Social Security and Medicare” should be a priority for the incoming administration and new Congress.

Donald Trump was elected on a pledge to help working people. Now is his chance to show us, not tell us. We will give him every opportunity to prove his sincerity, and we will not miss an opportunity to oppose him if he doesn’t.

Judge Blocks Obama Rule Giving Overtime to Millions

November 23, 2016

Judge Blocks Obama Rule Giving Overtime to Millions

In a huge blow for millions of workers, a federal judge in Texas has blocked the Obama administration’s new rule that would grant automatic overtime pay to workers making more than $47,476 per year. “This is an extreme and unsupportable decision and is a clear overreach by the Court,” said the Economic Policy Institute in a statement.

The new cap — a rise from $23,660, would have ensured that millions of workers across the country are paid the overtime they’re entitled to for the work they do. The rule was supposed to go into effect December 1, but Judge Amos Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas issued an injunction against the rule going into effect.

The Obama administration estimates the rule would have given 4.2 million workers the overtime pay they deserve, and helped a total of 12.5 million people by strengthening the current overtime rule.

“In this month’s election, voters spoke loudly and clearly about their economic anxiety,” said AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders. “Blocking the overtime rule, which would have given millions of Americans a raise, is a cruel slap in their face.”

The big winners in this decision are corporations who now will get out of paying fair wages to employees making more than $23,660 who work more than 40 hours a week. Their allies like the Chamber of Commerce, along with right-wing elected officials, have pushed to defeat the new rule.

The judge’s decision flies in the face of previous precedent, which for decades has given the Labor Department the authority to set a threshold for salaried workers. By rejecting that threshold, the judge makes it much easier for employers to declare that salaried workers are ineligible for overtime. It also allows more abuse of the overtime system as it adds confusion to who is eligible and who isn't.

Providing Economic Security for All Generations

by Laura Reyes  |  November 23, 2016

Providing Economic Security for All Generations

Serving as your secretary-treasurer gives me the opportunity to work closely with members in both the dawn and the twilight of their careers.

I love the enduring energy that AFSCME Retirees and Next Wave bring to AFSCME, whether working on retirement security or shining a light on issues like student debt.

Protecting Our Future

Our retirees are fighting to ensure that all retirees can live in dignity after a lifelong commitment to making our communities stronger. Millions of Americans are in danger of not having enough money to maintain their standard of living after they’ve reached the end of their working years. Meanwhile, right-wing politicians continue to attack the pensions we have earned, while threatening to shred the retirement safety net. For so many people a Social Security check is their only source of income, and they couldn’t visit the doctor if it weren’t for Medicare.

Meanwhile, our Next Wavers are fighting for their rights just as they are getting a foothold in their careers. In an economy that can be tough sledding for workers of all ages, they often face the additional pressure of starting adulthood buried under an avalanche of debt. Total student loan debt nationwide now exceeds $1 trillion (yes, that’s trillion with a “t”).

An Economy for People of all Ages

With the election behind us, we need to make sure the incoming administration truly understands the pressures working families face — and often, the intergenerational nature of those pressures. During his campaign, President-elect Trump said he would shore up Social Security and Medicare; we need to make sure he keeps his word. Privatization would mean deep benefit cuts that would drive many retirees into poverty. And if we’re going to make America even greater than it already is, we can’t put young people in such a deep financial hole before their work lives even begin.

The stakes in the coming years are high for all of us — and certainly for our retirees and Next Wave. We need to build an economy that works for everyone, providing greater security for young and old and everyone in between. But it will only happen if we honor our debt of gratitude to our retirees, and if we recognize the need to invest in the workforce of tomorrow.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Thank These Folks for Getting You Safely to Your Family

by Clyde Weiss  |  November 23, 2016

Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Thank These Folks for Getting You Safely to Your Family Illustration by Kris Stith

Thanksgiving is stressful enough without worrying about getting to your destination safely, on time, and with the least difficulty. You probably have a union member to thank for getting you to your destination, whether you travel by train, plane or automobile.

Nearly 49 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from their homes this holiday, according to AAA, a nearly 2 percent increase over last year. More than 89 percent of them will drive. You can thank union-represented transportation workers – many of whom are AFSCME members – for designing, building, maintaining and operating our streets, highways, airports and other public transport facilities.

Let’s not forget the law enforcement officers out there, away from their families, ensuring traffic safety on the busy roads. Many of them are AFSCME members, too. But no matter which union represents them, they’re all working for you. Your safety is their number one priority.

If you take to the air, you’ll bump into a union member working hard to get you safely to your family. From the luggage handlers at curbside check-in, to the customer service agent at the ticketing desk, approximately 80,000 workers – ramp agents, mechanics, dispatch personnel, among others – are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ Airline Division.

More than 45,000 airline industry workers, including firefighters, paramedics and mechanics, are members of the Transport Workers Union of America. And flight attendants do more than bring snacks to help you keep comfortable once you’re in your seat. Just watch the movie “Sully” to remember the critical work they do. So thank the 50,000 flight attendants who are members of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) when you travel by air this week.

Your pilots are card-carrying union members too! Thanks to the 54,000 pilots at 31 U.S. and Canadian airlines who are members of the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA). Your safety is their first priority, and making sure they can do their job in the safest manner possible is the job of their union.

Catching a train? The 55,000 members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) deserve our thanks too. The union represents locomotive engineers, conductors, brakemen, firemen, switchmen and other employees who work on the railroads.

Going by bus? Thank the members of the Amalgamated Transit Union, more than 197,000 in 253 local unions in 47 states (and nine Canadian) provinces, including 3,000 workers at Greyhound Lines, Inc. In addition to bus drivers, ATU represents light rail operators, maintenance and clerical personnel and other transit and municipal employees.

Even if you’re just staying home for the holidays, waiting for friends and relatives from other places, remember to thank all the hardworking union members who are out there this holiday to ensure that everyone who does travel gets to enjoy the good food and family that they set out for, whether by train, plane or automobile.

AFSCME Supports Rallying Airport Workers

by Pablo Ros  |  November 22, 2016

AFSCME Supports Rallying Airport Workers Workers protest at a "sleep in" at Reagan Airport Tuesday night for higher wages. (Courtesy of Julie Karant/SEIU)

Airport workers in the Washington, DC area, as well as Los Angeles, Boston and other cities are rightfully protesting and raising their voices to demand wage raises and better working conditions.

Some wheelchair attendants, baggage carriers and others who work at Ronald Reagan and Dulles airports earn as little as $6.75 an hour. Although the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority implements a living wage policy that applies to many airport workers, said policy doesn’t help employees of companies that contract directly with individual airlines.

These workers have joined the Fight for $15 campaign to demand no less than $15 an hour. Under their current salaries, many of them can’t afford to pay rent or even transportation to and from work. And some report sleeping in their cars for lack of time to go home between shifts.

On Nov. 29, workers at 20 airports will hold rallies to make their voices heard. That includes 500 workers at Chicago O’Hare International who may later walk out of their jobs to protest low wages, inadequate working conditions and retaliation against union organizing efforts.

These workers will be joined by fast-food employees in 340 cities, as well as child care workers, home care providers and others whose wages normally fall below $15 an hour.

AFSCME supports the Fight for $15, and we will continue to stand with airport workers and others who deserve better pay and working conditions. Sign up to attend the rallies.

COSH Conference Will Be a Post-Election Strategy Session

November 23, 2016

COSH Conference Will Be a Post-Election Strategy Session

Union members and staffers who wish to understand the coming changes in worker safety rules and regulations will be among those attending the 2016 Conference of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH), to be held in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, just outside Baltimore, from Dec. 6-8.

To sign up for the conference, register here.

The event will be an opportunity to discuss:

  • how to organize in a new political and economic environment;
  • what to expect from employers and regulatory agencies like OSHA, MSHA and others;
  • and how we can support each other in our workplaces, states and local communities.

In addition to union members and staffers, participants will include workers’ centers seeking new ways to protect undocumented and vulnerable populations; COSH groups trying to understand how the future will play out for non-profits; and occupational health and safety professionals seeking new ways to share and expand best practices in workplace safety.

COSH is a federation of local and statewide committees and coalitions on occupational safety and health. COSH groups are private, non-profit coalitions of labor unions, health and technical professionals, and others interested in promoting and advocating for worker health and safety.

Attend the COSH 2016 Conference by registering here.

15 Million+ Reasons to be Grateful This Thanksgiving. You’ll Be Surprised!

by Clyde Weiss  |  November 24, 2016

It's not the number of possible recipes for your Thanksgiving meal. It's the number of Americans who work in private-sector retail, many of whom are required to work on the holiday rather than spend the entire day with their families. Some of them have more rights, thanks to their union.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) represents thousands of these dedicated employees nationwide. They are encouraging you to support union-friendly retailers. That includes fashion retailer Zara, Modell’s Sporting Goods and Macy’s. Also Bloomingdale’s, H&M, Book Culture and Harry’s Shoes, just to name a few. All are businesses where the employees have rights and a voice on the job through RWDSU.

"These workers have strong union contracts that give them strong wages and benefits, and mandate fair scheduling practices,” RWDSU says. “But for countless non-union retail workers, the 21st century presents a number of challenges.”

So as you sit down with your family for that special meal, please remember that there are many who can’t. They’re retail workers without a voice on the job who will be there waiting when you’re done with your feast – and on Black Friday. They deserve better. So let’s give them some respect and support when you’re shopping.

This Thanksgiving, Make Sure You Shop Union

by AFSCME Staff  |  November 21, 2016

This Thanksgiving, Make Sure You Shop Union

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends and food. Lots of food. Whether you're going for the traditional turkey, stuffing and gravy or celebrating in your own way, chances are you are headed to the grocery store at least once in the next few days.

Click here for a list of UFCW supermarket and grocery store chains.

People choose their grocery stores for all sorts of reasons: because it's close to home, because of quality and certainly because of price. But as you're deciding where to shop this Thanksgiving, there's another important factor to keep in mind: which stores support our union sisters and brothers.

The United Food and Commercial Workers represents supermarket employees all across the country, in many different stores. We all know union workers make more money, have better benefits, have a more secure retirement, and work in safer conditions than non-union workers. So what better way to send a message and strike a blow for fairness this Thanksgiving than to shop at union stores?

Some of the bigger chains with employees represented by UFCW include Safeway, Shop Rite, and Super Fresh. For a complete list, click here. And once you’re in the store, you can buy union-made food too!

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