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What You Need to Know About Washington, D.C.'s Initiative 77 and the Minimum Wage

Mon, 2018-06-18 13:57
What You Need to Know About Washington, D.C.'s Initiative 77 and the Minimum Wage ROC United

On Tuesday, Washington, D.C., voters will have an opportunity to vote on Initiative 77, a ballot measure supported by a wide array of progressive and labor organizations that would eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped workers and give many working families a much-needed raise.

Initiative 77 would increase the tipped minimum wage to match the full wage: If it passes, the initiative would phase out the tipped minimum wage, leaving a flat $15 per hour minimum wage for D.C. workers. This would be phased in between now and 2025, giving restaurant and bar owners more than enough time to adjust to the change.

Tipped workers aren't limited to restaurants and bars: Many other workers get tips, too, including manicurists/pedicurists, hairdressers, shampooers, valets, taxi and rideshare drivers, massage therapists, baggage porters and others. Very few of them get anywhere near the 20% standard you see in high-end restaurants and bars.

The current law is changing, but it will still leave tipped workers behind: The current minimum wage in D.C. is $12.50 an hour, with a minimum wage of $3.33 for tipped workers. If tipped workers don't earn enough from tips to get to $12.50, employers are supposed to pay the difference. After existing minimum wage increases are fully implemented, the full minimum wage for D.C. will be $15 an hour, while the tipped minimum will increase to $5. The cost of living in D.C. is higher than every state in the United States except Hawaii.

D.C. has a particular problem with the minimum wage: As one of the places in the United States with the highest costs of living, low-wage workers are hit harder by discriminatory laws. D.C. has the largest gap in the country between its tipped minimum wage and its prevailing minimum wage. Tipped workers in D.C. are twice as likely to live in poverty as the city's overall workforce. Tipped workers in D.C. are forced to use public assistance at a higher rate than the overall population, with 14% using food stamps and 23% using Medicaid.

Wherever tipped wage jobs exist, they are typically low-wage, low-quality jobs: Nationally, the median wage is $16.48 and tipped workers median wage is $10.22. Nationally, 46% of tipped workers receive public assistance, whereas non-tipped workers use public assistance at a rate of 35.5%. Workers at tipped jobs are less likely to have access to paid sick leave, paid holiday leave, paid vacations, health insurance and retirement benefits. Seven of the 10 lowest-paying job categories are in food services, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Tipped workers are more likely to end up in poverty: In states where the tipped minimum wage is at the federal standard of $2.13, the lowest in the country, the poverty rate for all workers is 14.5%, which breaks down to 18% for waitstaff and bartenders and 7% for non-tipped employees. What day of the week it is, bad weather, a sluggish economy, the changing of the seasons and any number of other factors completely outside of a server's control can influence tips and make a night, a week or a season less likely to generate needed income.

The predictions of doom and gloom about raising the minimum wage or the tipped minimum wage never come true: Eight states already have eliminated the tipped wage and the restaurants in those states have higher sales per capita, higher job growth, higher job growth for tipped workers and higher rates of tipping. In fact, states without a lower tipped minimum wage have actually seen sectors where tipping is common grow stronger than in states where there is a subminimum wage. This is consistent with the data from overseas where countries have eliminated tipping and subminimum tipped wages. In states without a subminimum tipped wage, tipped workers, across the board, earn 14% higher. Increased minimum wages lead to employers seeing a reduction in turnover and increases in productivity. And, while there are certainly some exceptions, tippers in states without subminimum wage don't tip less. 

Tipped workers are more likely to be women, making lives worse for them and their families: Of the 4.3 million tipped workers in the United States, 60% of them are waiters and bartenders. Of that 2.5 million, 69% of them are women. Furthermore, 24% are parents, and 16% of them are single mothers. Half of the population of tipped bartenders and waitstaff are members of families that earn less than $40,000. Increasing the tipped minimum wage lets parents work fewer nights and have more time at home with their families. It also helps provide for a more steady, predictable income. Since 66% of tipped workers are women, a lower tipped minimum wage essentially creates legalized gender inequity in the industry. These lowest-paid occupations are majority female. More than one in four female restaurant servers or bartenders in D.C. live in poverty, twice the rate of men in the same jobs.

Harassment and objectification are encouraged by the tipped system: The stories about harassment in the restaurant industry are legion. Servers are forced to tolerate inappropriate behavior from customers in order to not see an instant decrease in income. This forces them to subject themselves to objectification and harassment. Workers in states with a subminimum tipped wage are twice as likely to experience sexual harassment in the workplace. In D.C., more than  90% of restaurant workers report some form of sexual harassment on the job. Women's tips increase if they have blond hair, a larger breast size and a smaller body size, leading to discrimination against women that don't have those qualities. Nearly 37% of sexual harassment charges filed by women to the EEOC come from the restaurant industry. This rate is five times higher than the overall female workforce. LGBTQ servers also face a higher rate of harassment in order to obtain tips. Sexual harassment of transgender employees and men is also high in tipped environments. Some 60% of transgender workers reported scary or unwanted sexual behavior. More than 45% of male workers reported that sexual harassment was part of their work life, as well. 

The subminimum tipped wage harms people of color: Research shows that tipping has racist impacts, too. Nonwhite restaurant workers take home 56% less than their white colleagues. Research shows that if the minimum wage had held the value it had in 1968, poverty rates for black and Hispanic Americans would be 20% lower. While many restaurants and bars claim to be race-neutral in hiring, the evidence shows that race often has an impact on who gets hired for jobs that directly interact with customers. And fine-dining environments, the ones where servers and bartenders make the most in tips, are much more likely to hire white servers and bartenders, particularly white males. Also, customers, generally speaking, tip black servers less than white servers. For instance, black servers get 15-25% smaller tips, on average in D.C.

The people behind the opposition to 77 are not worker- or democracy-friendly: Public disclosures show that the Save Our Tips campaign that opposes Initiative 77 is heavily funded by the National Restaurant Assocation. This particular NRA represents the interests of, and is funded by, big corporations, such as McDonald's, Yum! (which owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut & KFC), Burger King, Darden Restaurants (which owns Olive Garden, Red Lobster and others) and more. The group spends as much as $98 million to oppose minimum wage increases, safety and labor requirements and benefit increases and requirements. Meanwhile, the CEO of the NRA, Dawn Sweeney, took home $3.8 million in total compensation.

The Save Our Tips campaign is managed in part by Lincoln Strategy Group. In 2016, the group did $600,000 worth of work for the Donald Trump presidential campaign. Lincoln Strategy is managed by Nathan Sproul, a Republican consultant and former executive director of the Arizona Christian Coalition. Sproul has a history of being accused of fraudulent election-related activities, including destroying Democratic voter registration forms and creating a fake grassroots effort to undermine the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Another corporate-sponsored group, the Employment Policy Institute, has come out strongly against the initiative and created a website to attack it and ROC. The Institute is the creation of Rick Berman, a wealthy corporate lobbyist who runs campaigns against public interest groups like the Humane Society and labor unions.

Up until 1996, the tipped subminimum wage had been tied into being 50% of the prevailing minimum wage. That year, legislation decoupled the two and the subminimum wage for tipped jobs has stayed at $2.13 nationally, while some states have raised it. The NRA, headed up then by former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, who would go on to run for president, led the charge to separate the two minimum wages.

The separate tipped minimum wage is a burden on employers and invites misuse: The system of tracking tips and wages so that employers can make up the difference is a complex one that is burdensome for employers. The system requires extensive tracking and accounting of tip flows. Not only this, employers are allowed to average tips over the course of a workweek and only have to pay the difference if the average is less than the minimum wage. Tips can also be pooled among various types of restaurant employees. Tip stealing and wage theft are hard to prove and workers are often reluctant to report them out of fear that they will be given fewer shifts or fired.

Employers frequently fail to pay the balance to their employees: While the law requires to make up the balance when tipped wages don't reach the full minimum wage, employers often fail to do so. The Department of Labor investigated more than 9,000 restaurants and found that 84% had violated this law and had to pay out nearly $5.5 million in back pay because of tipping violations. How many didn't get caught?

Restaurants are using union-avoidance tactics to sway employees against the initiative: Numerous reports from workers at D.C. restaurants have made it clear that not only are employers singing on to public letters and posting signs against Initiative 77, they are trying to sway their employees, too. Tactics that have been reported are straight from the union-advoidance industry. Many employers are forcing employees to listen to their opinion on the measure. Others have instructed them to evangelize to customers. Some are sending instructions to their employees on how to volunteer at the polls against the Initiative. Others have shared explicitly political videos with employees. Some managers have gone as far as to speak negatively about community organizations advocating for Initiative 77.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 06/18/2018 - 13:57

Stand with Pride: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 2018-06-15 15:00
Stand with Pride: The Working People Weekly List AFL-CIO

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s this week’s Working People Weekly List.

Pride Month Profiles: Miriam Frank: "Throughout Pride Month, the AFL-CIO will be taking a look at some of the pioneers whose work sits at the intersection of the labor movement and the movement for LGBTQ equality. Our next profile is Miriam Frank."

Vote to Pay LGBT Servers a Secure, Living Wage: "The Washington, D.C., restaurant scene has reached soaring heights over the past few years. That prosperity—and the dining experiences we’ve grown accustomed to—has been built by working people putting in exhausting hours on the restaurant floor and behind the bar."

Pride Month Profiles: Tom Barbera: "Throughout Pride Month, the AFL-CIO will be taking a look at some of the pioneers whose work sits at the intersection of the labor movement and the movement for LGBTQ equality. Our first profile is Tom Barbera."

Union Veterans and Labor Volunteers Team Up with Community to Restore Interior of American Legion: "Nearly 100 union volunteers spent their Saturday painting the interior of an American Legion post. The effort, led by the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, Union Veterans Committee and the Community Service Liaison, began after legionnaire Jim Heimann noticed his home post of more than two decades was beginning to look a little dingy. Heimann is a Vietnam veteran who describes the Legion as a 'place to be with other veterans who have gone through what you’ve gone through.' Union veterans couldn’t agree more with Heimann: A gathering place for veterans is essential to the men and women who have served our country to maintain camaraderie."

Fun Ethical Essentials for Father’s Day: "There is no instruction manual for actually becoming a parent, but we know a thing or two about the kinds of things that dads are into. With Father’s Day coming up fast, Labor 411 has a few suggestions for your Dad Essentials Kit. These items work equally well for new fathers and for the men who have had years of experience at this 'dad' thing. Best of all, the items below are all made by ethical employers who treat their workers with respect and dignity. As you assemble your ethical Dad Essentials Kit, you’ll be helping to strengthen the middle class."

Worker and Consumer Groups to Santander: You’re on Notice: "The Texas heat would not be enough to deter a powerful and broad coalition of consumer groups, unions and international representatives with the UNI Global Union from delivering a powerful message to Santander Consumer USA at its annual shareholders meeting: Listen to your workers and stop practices that lead to racial discrimination in vehicle lending. According to reports by consumer advocate organizations, dealer interest rate markups on vehicle loans have resulted in racial disparities for African American and Latino borrowers compared with similarly situated white borrowers."

ITUC Report: Democratic Space for Working People Is Shrinking: "A new report from the International Trade Union Confederation concludes that the world is seeing shrinking democratic space for working people and unchecked corporate greed on the rise. The 2018 ITUC Global Rights Index documents violations of internationally recognized collective labor rights by governments and employers."

Grand Theft Paycheck: How Big Corporations Shortchange Their Workers: "A new report, Grand Theft Paycheck: The Large Corporations Shortchanging Their Workers’ Wages, reveals that large corporations have paid out billions to resolve wage theft lawsuits brought by workers. The lawsuits show that corporations frequently force employees to work off the clock, cheat them out of legally required overtime pay and use other methods to steal wages from workers."

The Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act Reminds Us to Keep Working to Close the Gender Pay Gap: "Sunday was the 55th anniversary of the signing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 into law. The landmark law was the first that required equal pay for equal work for women."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/15/2018 - 15:00

AFL-CIO and ETUC Support Fair Trade Practices

Fri, 2018-06-15 10:30
AFL-CIO and ETUC Support Fair Trade Practices

AFL-CIO and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) issued a joint statement today on trade and multilateralism:

The working people of the United States and Europe have been harmed by unfair trade practices, including China’s deliberate overproduction of steel and aluminum, intellectual property theft, forced transfer of production, and violation of basic labor rights.

The working people of the United States and Europe have supported the growth of multilateral global governance since the end of the Second World War, and have continued to support that structure even as it has been increasingly captured by the interests of global corporations and the failed ideology of neoliberalism. A global economy requires multilateral institutions; the alternative is a war of all against all. We support the reform of the multilateral system so that it is more democratic, more open and takes into consideration labor-social-environmental rights, but we oppose efforts to destroy it. The refusal of the Trump Administration to engage productively in established multilateral processes at the OECD and the G-7 in recent weeks has been detrimental to the international system and we urge the Trump Administration to change course.

We support trade that is fair and effectively enforced, in particular when it comes to protecting and enhancing key international labor rights such as freedom of association, right to organize and collective bargaining. This is the only way to ensure a level playing field for workers’ rights and avoid a race to the bottom on wages and working conditions. So far, our respective governments and the European Commission have paid too much attention to international trade liberalization, while neglecting the consequences on workers’ rights and their conditions. This neglect now threatens the underlying legitimacy of the international system and must be addressed.

When states or firms break trade rules or exploit loopholes, working people are the first to be harmed, and we expect our elected governments to stand up for us. When unfair trade practices go unaddressed, working people suffer further harm. That is why we have long advocated for swift and concrete global actions to address harmful, state-driven trade-distorting practices. To avoid a spiraling trade crisis, a comprehensive multilateral approach must be developed so no country has to go it alone.

We believe that trade enforcement is most effective when our governments cooperate to achieve shared goals. The priority should be to work together to thoughtfully and effectively address trade practices, including those by China, that for too long have allowed global companies to profit at our expense instead of with us. A rules-based trading system requires that rules be enforced. We are united in support for a concerted approach to China’s trade-distorting practices and in our opposition to a trade war. We believe the failure on the part of multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) to effectively address China's trade-distorting practices is a threat to the multilateral system itself and must be addressed.         

Global shared prosperity, sustainable development, inclusive growth, and respect for international labor rights require comprehensive trade reform and multilateral action. We urge all of our governments and the European Commission to work together, not at cross-purposes, to achieve these goals.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/15/2018 - 10:30

Pride Month Profiles: Miriam Frank

Fri, 2018-06-15 10:14
Pride Month Profiles: Miriam Frank NYU Bookstore

Throughout Pride Month, the AFL-CIO will be taking a look at some of the pioneers whose work sits at the intersection of the labor movement and the movement for LGBTQ equality. Our next profile is Miriam Frank.

Miriam Frank began her career as a professor in Detroit who launched women's studies at the community college level in the 1970s. She worked with the National Endowment for the Humanities to bring discussions and cultural events to union halls and community centers. She moved to New York to teach at New York University in the 1980s. 

In 1995, she began work on Out in the Union: A Labor History of Queer America (2014), in which she collected oral histories from LGBTQ union activists, many of whom spoke to her at great risk to their personal safety and professional life. A decade later, the work was published and the voices of the activists she captured gave human shape to the intersection between the rights of working people and the rights of the LGBTQ community.

In 2015, she was interviewed by Katherine Turk. Frank spoke about the need for her research:

The field of LGBTQ history includes many studies of queer working-class communities but very few investigations of the actual work lives of queer working-class people in those communities. Traditional labor history considers the everyday lives of working-class people at their jobs in terms of unionization, job mobility, and racial, ethnic and gender segmentation in the workforce. Queer workers and queer issues have not been a topic.

She spoke of the relevance of those workers' words today:

The U.S. labor movement has a great history of strong political coalitions that have pressed for reform on economic and social problems. I wanted readers to consider how LGBTQ trade unionists developed alliances to apply their organizations’ principles and resources to queer union members’ economic status, basic civil rights, and workplace cultures. The successful LGBTQ coalitions that first emerged in the 1970s continue today, influencing collective bargaining priorities, community organizing, regional politics, and trade union ethics.

She described where the movements for labor and LGBTQ rights first started to collaborate:

But as gay liberation entered the political mainstream during the mid-1970s the strategy shifted from radical confrontation to a lesbian/gay civil rights agenda. Two issues emerged, both of them popular and possibly winnable: legal sanctions to halt sexual orientation discrimination and legalization of domestic partnerships. Anti-discrimination policies were included in unions’ constitutions in the early 1970s and the first collective bargaining agreement to protect domestic partners was ratified in 1982. Lesbian and gay advocates in the labor movement based their claims on union principles as old as the labor movement itself—an injury to one is the concern of all. 

She explained how being LGBTQ union members were able to overcome the prejudice against them in unions:

From my interviews I have consistently found evidence of LGBTQ union members supporting one another in organizational decisions and working out their differences in frank dialogue. At best that openness flows from the union hall to the workplace and back again. LGBTQ union members who have come out have usually found fair-minded allies among straight and cisgendered co-workers: on the job and in their organizations

Often what sealed that respect was the willingness of LGBTQ activists to join in the projects of their unions. Everyday tasks, focused planning, and casual conversations gave people paths for productive collaboration. Queer people were seen less as outsiders and more as compatible volunteers; the energies of new activists lightened everyone’s loads.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/15/2018 - 10:14

Tags: Pride at Work

Union Veterans & Labor Volunteers Team Up With Community to Restore Interior of American Legion

Fri, 2018-06-15 09:35
Union Veterans & Labor Volunteers Team Up With Community to Restore Interior of American Legion Milwaukee Area Labor Council

Nearly 100 union volunteers spent their Saturday painting the interior of an American Legion Post. The effort, led by the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, Union Veterans Committee and the Community Service Liaison, began after legionnaire Jim Heimann noticed his home post of more than two decades was beginning to look a little dingy. Heimann is a Vietnam Veteran who describes the Legion as a "place to be with other veterans who have gone through what you’ve gone through." Union Veterans couldn’t agree more with Hiemann, a gathering place for veterans is essential to the men and women who have served our country to maintain camaraderie.

More than a dozen union organizations teamed up with members of the Legion, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter and an area business to complete the job. "It looks fantastic, it’s like a brand new post," Heimann said after seeing the newly painted interior for the first time. "A Veterans Organization [such as the American Legion] is like a brotherhood, just as the unions are a brotherhood and help each other."

Members of the area labor council say they’re grateful for the service the men and women of the armed forces have given, and continue to give. When it comes to brotherhood there is a clear understanding that they’ll always have each other’s backs.

"Labor has a long history of supporting our veterans, this project show us that history is alive and well in the Milwaukee Labor community"  said Will Attig, executive director of the National Union Veterans Council, AFL-CIO. "Volunteer efforts similar to this can and will be replicated by our Union Veterans Committee’s nationwide. As one, we have and can continue to make a difference."

In all, more than $6,000 in labor and supplies was donated to the American Legion and the work was completed in less than four hours.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/15/2018 - 09:35

Tags: Union Veterans Council

Fun Ethical Essentials for Father’s Day

Fri, 2018-06-15 00:25
Fun Ethical Essentials for Father’s Day AFL-CIO

There is no instruction manual for actually becoming a parent, but we know a thing or two about the kinds of things that dads are into. With Father’s Day coming up fast, Labor 411 has a few suggestions for your Dad Essentials Kit. These items work equally well for new fathers and for the men who have had years of experience at this “dad” thing. Best of all, the items below are all made by ethical employers who treat their workers with respect and dignity. As you assemble your ethical Dad Essentials Kit, you’ll be helping to strengthen the middle class.

Clothes for Dad 

  • All American Clothing
  • Belleville Boots
  • Brooks Brothers
  • Ethix Merch
  • Stacy Adams
  • Thorogood Boots

Gear for Dad

  • Remington Arms
  • Standard Golf products
  • Wilson Sporting Goods

Tools for Dad

  • Black & Decker
  • Channellock
  • Craftsman
  • RIDGID

Drinks for Dad

  • Bass
  • Coors
  • Jim Beam
  • Wild Turkey

And hundreds more. Check out our listings at Labor 411.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/15/2018 - 00:25

Worker and Consumer Groups to Santander: You’re On Notice

Thu, 2018-06-14 13:25
Worker and Consumer Groups to Santander: You’re On Notice AFL-CIO

The Texas heat would not be enough to deter a powerful and broad coalition of consumer groups, unions and international representatives with the UNI Global Finance Union from delivering a powerful message to Santander Consumer USA at their annual shareholders meeting: Listen to your workers and stop practices that lead to racial discrimination in vehicle lending. According to reports by consumer advocate organizations, dealer interest rate markups on vehicle loans have resulted in racial disparities for African American and Latino borrowers compared to similarly situated white borrowers.

Jerry Robinson, a Committee for Better Banks member and retiree, described his experience at Santander: "Our job was to get people who were already upside down on their loans back in their cars by making them pay more fees." In describing his experience in another department, he told the CEO that he "saw how auto dealer inflated the costs of loans. I saw first-hand how customers paid for products that they did not know were optional. Sometimes our customers were sold GAP insurance that they did not know they could decline. Practices like these added costs to their loans and made their monthly payments too high."

Leaders of unions in the finance sector from Norway, Spain, Brazil, and the global union federation, joined members of the Committee for Better Banks, CWA, the AFL-CIO and local community organizations in Dallas to participate in the shareholder meeting and directly bring this message to the company’s CEO and board of directors.

Joining the workers in sending this message was a powerful coalition of consumer and advocacy groups from across the country who shared concerns over the company’s lending practices and the risk of racial discrimination in auto lending. The letter included support from the NAACP, Americans for Financial Reform, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, Consumer Action, the Center for Responsible Lending and many other groups with long-standing records of standing with consumers and against racial disparities. The letter complemented a shareholder proposal that the AFL-CIO introduced that asked the company to prepare a report on the risk of racial discrimination in vehicle lending.

Pål Adrian Hellman, president of FINANSFORBUNDET (the national finance workers’ union of Norway), told the CEO and board of directors that he knew first-hand that "workers in Dallas and Fort Worth on several occasions have tried to meet management and discuss their collective concerns."

Outside of the shareholder meeting, workers and community leaders rallied in support of the participants of the shareholder meeting, and stood with workers as they continue their effort to build a voice and organization at Santander that can make a difference on these issues. Peggy Spencer, a Santander employee, said: "We have so many calls coming in today; we can’t get up from our desks. We don’t have time to drink water or go to the bathroom. I really need more time to help customers when I’m on the job. In 2016, I decided to join the Committee for Better Banks. I joined because want to help make Santander Consumer a better place to work."

Spencer and the Committee for Better Banks will continue to do all they can to build that voice, and hope that allies from across the region, country and world will continue to stand with them as they fight to make improvements at the company.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 06/14/2018 - 13:25

ITUC Report: Democratic Space for Working People Is Shrinking

Wed, 2018-06-13 15:08
ITUC Report: Democratic Space for Working People Is Shrinking

A new report from the International Trade Union Confederation concludes that the world is seeing shrinking democratic space for working people and unchecked corporate greed on the rise. The 2018 ITUC Global Rights Index documents violations of internationally recognized collective labor rights by governments and employers.

Here are some of the key findings from this year's report:

  • 54 countries deny or constrain freedom of speech, up from 50 last year.
  • More than 80% of countries have violated the right to collective bargaining.
  • The 10 worst countries for working people are: Algeria, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. 
  • In 65 countries, workers were exposed to physical violence, death threats and intimidation, up from 59 last year.
  • Trade unionists were murdered in nine countries.
  • 59 countries arbitrarily arrested and detained workers, up from 44 last year.
  • The right to strike has been violated by 87% of countries.
  • 65% of countries do not allow workers to exercise the right to establish or join a trade union, up from 60% last year.
  • Again this year, the United States remains in the "systematic violations of rights" category.

Read the full report to learn more.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 06/13/2018 - 15:08

Vote to Pay LGBT Servers a Secure, Living Wage

Wed, 2018-06-13 14:17
Vote to Pay LGBT Servers a Secure, Living Wage

The Washington, D.C., restaurant scene has reached soaring heights over the past few years. That prosperity—and the dining experiences we’ve grown accustomed to—has been built by working people putting in exhausting hours on the restaurant floor and behind the bar.

Working people deserve to receive a fair share of the wealth they help create. And they certainly deserve economic security while lifting up a booming industry.

Instead, servers and bartenders are being paid a $3.33 hourly wage, relying on customers’ unpredictable tips to make their living.

That leaves employees wildly vulnerable to harassment, discrimination and painfully low wages. Queer workers—especially women and people of color—are predictably at greater risk than most.

From blatant bigotry toward queer servers to increasingly common fits over any public utterance of Spanish to rampant sexual harassment, employees have been left at the mercy of less-than-stellar patrons.

Currently, when a worker’s tips don’t add up to minimum wage, the employer is obligated to make up for the rest. But that puts the onus on the most vulnerable workers to speak up and ask their managers to pay them their due. Through lax enforcement and coercive management tactics, that often doesn’t happen—leaving working people to survive off less than minimum wage in a crushingly expensive city.

The industry has been quick to obscure the economic reality their workers are facing. In his recent piece opposing Initiative 77, Mark Lee claimed that “tipped employees earn incomes well above minimum wage, typically totaling $25, $35 or more an hour.”

That simply isn’t true. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, tipped restaurant workers in the district earn approximately $11.81 per hour. There’s no reason these workers should be left behind. It’s time for them to earn a guaranteed $15 wage—just like their counterparts in every other industry—while continuing to collect tips.

It’s a commonsense notion. The National Restaurant Association’s own internal polling found that 7 in 10 Americans support a higher minimum wage. What’s more, they’re willing to pay more for their meals to make it happen.

But the broken status quo has some deep-pocketed allies. Restaurant and bar owners have rushed to funnel money—and press their employees—into a wrong-headed campaign against the best interests of D.C.’s LGBT community.

We have a chance to break through those efforts. This Pride Month, we can make sure the voices of queer workers are heard loud and clear at the ballot box.

Jerame Davis is executive director of Pride At Work. This post originally appeared in the Washington Blade.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 06/13/2018 - 14:17

Pride Month Profiles: Tom Barbera

Wed, 2018-06-13 12:27
Pride Month Profiles: Tom Barbera Pride at Work

Throughout Pride Month, the AFL-CIO will be taking a look at some of the pioneers whose work sits at the intersection of the labor movement and the movement for LGBTQ equality. Our first profile is Tom Barbera.

Tom Barbera was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but moved to Boston and grew to become a legend in the movements for LGBTQ rights and working people, both in his adopted hometown, and in the larger world around him.

Colleague and friend Harneen Chernow wrote about Barbera at the time of his passing:

I first met Tom in the early years of the Gay and Lesbian Labor Activists Network (GALLAN), an organization of Boston area gay and lesbian union members that came together in the late 80s to bridge the two movements – bringing the fight for class and economic justice to gay and lesbian activism and the fight for gay rights to the labor movement. It is easy to forget what life was like for gay adults in the late 80s and early 90s as many folks were closeted at work, in their unions and to their families. But not Tom. He was as out as one could be, demanding not just acceptance but a full and fabulous welcome wherever he went.

GALLAN is an important organization in the history of the LGBTQ civil rights movement, started to promote and secure workplace and other rights for the LGBTQ community. Barbera was an early and important activist for the group and he not only pursued justice and equality in GALLAN, he was active in his SEIU local and the Democratic Party. All while doing his day job serving people with developmental disabilities at the Walter E. Fernald State School.

Later, Barbera helped organize one of the first LGBTQ receptions at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., in 1992. He was an active participant in the conference that led to the founding of Pride At Work. In Boston, he helped grow his local union's Lavender Caucus and helped create SEIU's International Lavender Caucus, eventually becoming national co-chair. He also was the first delegate from GALLAN or Pride At Work to serve on the Massachusetts AFL-CIO Executive Board.

Chernow continued:

There is no replacing Tom Barbera. As they say, he was a force.  Tom’s untiring commitment to a democratic labor movement, a progressive Democratic Party, electeds that represent the little guy and fight for workers’ rights, an LGBT community that took on economic and racial privilege, as well as his loyalty to friends and unending adoration for the many special people in his life, is impossible to put into words.

Upon his passing, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry fondly remembered Barbera:

I loved his wicked sense of humor and his insistence on what was fair and just. Tom had a strong belief in equality and the right of people to love who they love without judgment. He stuck his neck out and demanded equality for LGBTQ people long before it was accepted, or even safe, to do so. He was righteously indignant against all forms of oppression—racism, sexism, classism—and he wanted his brothers and sisters to understand and back each other. He lived as an ally.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 06/13/2018 - 12:27

Tags: Pride at Work

Grand Theft Paycheck: How Big Corporations Shortchange Their Workers

Tue, 2018-06-12 12:22
Grand Theft Paycheck: How Big Corporations Shortchange Their Workers Good Jobs First

A new report, Grand Theft Paycheck: The Large Corporations Shortchanging Their Workers’ Wages, reveals that large corporations have paid out billions to resolve wage theft lawsuits brought by workers. The lawsuits show that corporations frequently force employees to work off the clock, cheat them out of legally required overtime pay and use other methods to steal wages from workers.

"Our findings make it clear that wage theft goes far beyond sweatshops, fast-food outlets and retailers. It is built into the business model of a substantial portion of Corporate America," said Philip Mattera, the lead author of the report and director of research for Good Jobs First, which produced the report in conjunction with the Jobs With Justice Education Fund.

Here are nine things you need to know from the Grand Theft Paycheck report:

1. The top dozen companies from the report, in terms of wage theft settlement payouts, are Walmart, FedEx, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase & Co., State Farm Insurance, AT&T, United Parcel Service, ABM Industries, Tenet Healthcare, Zurich Insurance Group and Allstate. With the exception of Tenet Healthcare, each of these companies had profits in 2017 of $3 billion or more.

2. More than 450 big companies have paid out $1 million or more in wage theft settlements.

3. Since 2000, there have been more than 1,200 successful collective actions that have been resolved for a total in penalties of more than $8.8 billion.

4. Only eight states enforced wage theft penalties and provided data for the report. Those eight states combined with the federal totals bring the number of cases to 4,220 and the cumulative penalties reaching $9.2 billion. This includes no data from the remaining states.

5. Fortune 500 and Fortune Global 500 companies account for the bulk of the penalties, with 2,167 cases and $6.8 billion in penalties. 

6. Seven individual settlements exceeded $100 million. The worst case was a $640 million omnibus settlement with Walmart, covering more than 60 different initial lawsuits.

7. The retail industry is the most frequent violator, followed by financial services, freight and logistics, business services, insurance, miscellaneous services, health care services, restaurants and food service, information technology, and food and beverage products.

8. The most penalized industries tend to be those that employ a large percentage of women, African American and Latino workers.

9. These numbers only include penalties that have been publicly disclosed. More than 125 confidential cases were found involving nearly 90 large companies, including AT&T, Home Depot, Verizon Communications Inc., Comcast, Lowe’s and Best Buy.

Read the full report.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 06/12/2018 - 12:22

The Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act Reminds Us to Keep Working to Close the Gender Pay Gap

Mon, 2018-06-11 10:29
The Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act Reminds Us to Keep Working to Close the Gender Pay Gap

Sunday was the 55th anniversary of the signing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 into law. The landmark law was the first that required equal pay for equal work for women.

In the early 20th century, women were about 25% of the workforce. Women workers were paid far less than men in those cases where women were allowed to do jobs that men did. Some states limited the hours that women could work, some going as far as to ban women from working at night.

When women started moving into the workforce in larger numbers during World War II, activists stepped up their efforts to increase pay for women workers, leading to the National War Labor Board endorsing equal pay for women who were replacing male workers who were at war. In 1945, Congress introduced the Women's Equal Pay Act, but it failed to pass, despite valiant efforts from advocates to win support. 

By 1960, some progress had been made, but women were still paid less than two-thirds for the same work. During President John F. Kennedy's administration, things started to fall into place. Esther Peterson, who ran the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor, endorsed legislation to close the pay gap, as did former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Pro-corporate forces fought the passage of the law, but it finally prevailed in 1963.

Since then, the gap has shrunken further, but we still have a long way to go. The latest research shows that the median woman worker today is paid 80% of what men get for the same work. While it varies, the gap persists across the wage distribution and at all education levels. Women who have a college degree or higher are only paid 73% of what men make. The problems are exacerbated for women of color, with black and Hispanic women getting paid 66% and 60%, respectively, of what men get.

We have a lot of tools to help close the gap more, even in a time when Congress and the White House are uninterested in solving the problem:

  • Increase union membership, since women in unions get paid 94% of what men in unions make. In addition to more equal pay, being a union member offers better benefits, helps create safer work environments and helps maintain life-work balance.
  • Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. This bipartisan legislation would close loopholes in existing law, break harmful patterns of pay discrimination and strengthen protections for women workers.
  • Require more transparency in compensation data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • Strongly enforce anti-discrimination laws, including requiring that employers prove that hiring, pay and promotion are based on factors other than sex or gender.
  • Allow workers to earn additional benefits such as paid sick leave and paid family leave and add policies such as fair and flexible scheduling, which help enable workers to balance demands at home and at work.
  • Since both wages disproportionately affect women, raise the minimum wage and eliminate the tipped minimum wage.
  • Provide accessible, affordable, high-quality child care and early childhood education.

These are just some of the tools we could use. We will continue to close the wage gap to finish the job of the Equal Pay Act and the pioneers who helped pass it by pursuing laws and policies that ensure women are paid and treated equally. 

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 06/11/2018 - 10:29

You Can't Break Our Will: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 2018-06-08 11:59
You Can't Break Our Will: The Working People Weekly List

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s this week’s Working People Weekly List.

Supreme Court Can’t Break the Will of American Workers and Their Unions: "The nation’s top court will rule on Janus v. AFSCME any time now, an attempt by the rich and powerful to end economic equality in this country. When my grandfather Sanseverino first arrived in the United States from Italy in the 1940s, he worked at a factory. He joined his factory’s union, which not only gave him representation at work, but also benefits and negotiated regular wage increases that propelled our family into the middle class and home ownership. My brother, cousin, and I have all been able to join unions and reap the benefits as well. We are now a union family."

Pride At Work: Despite SCOTUS, Laws Still Protect LGBTQ People: "Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 7-2 ruling letting a Colorado bakeshop discriminate against a gay couple by refusing to bake them a wedding cake, civil rights laws—state and federal—still protect lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer people, gay rights organizations say. And that’s the message those groups, including Pride@Work, are sending out in the wake of the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, adds Jerame Davis, executive director of the P@W, the AFL-CIO’s constituency group for LGBTQ people."

MGM Resorts Reaches Tentative Deal with Las Vegas Unions: "MGM Resorts International, the state’s largest hotel operator by employees, late Saturday joined Caesars Entertainment Corp. in approving new five-year contracts with Culinary Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165. 'We are pleased to announce that a tentative agreement has been reached with @MGMResortsIntl,' Culinary Local 226 tweeted about 11:15 p.m. Saturday."

Fighting to Make Sure Janitors Get a Fair Wage: "Lilia Garcia-Brower, 45, is executive director of the Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund. The Los Angeles-based organization investigates wage theft and other abuses in the janitorial industry, which is notorious for paying workers below minimum wage. The organization, funded by unionized janitorial companies, partners with government enforcement agencies or organizes private lawsuits to bring cases. It has helped collect more than $30 million in unpaid wages owed to thousands of janitors since its founding in 1999."

Trump Has Quietly Cut Legal Aid for Migrant Kids Separated from Parents: "When the Trump administration announced this month it would criminally prosecute everyone who crossed the border illegally, which meant jailing immigrant parents and separating them from their children, it effectively manufactured a whole new group of unaccompanied minors who now must navigate the complicated U.S. immigration system by themselves. In less than two weeks, 658 kids were divided from their mothers and fathers—and the policy is still ramping up."

UW Teaching Assistant Strike Canceled After Union Members Ratify Contract: "University of Washington teaching assistants and other academic student employees have approved a new contract and canceled plans for a strike. The TAs, research assistants, readers, graders and tutors number about 4,500 and they’re represented by UAW 4121. They had previously announced plans to strike this week, a move that threatened to disrupt final exams and delay grades."

To the Polls: Worker Wins: "Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with an electoral victory and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life."

Young Workers on the Future of Work: Courtney Jenkins: "The AFL-CIO conducted a discussion last month on the future of work. Among the panelists that day were a group of young workers. Let's continue our more in-depth discussion with these young workers. Next up is American Postal Workers Union (APWU) member Courtney Jenkins."

UNITE HERE Calls on Marriott to Use Its Clout to Combat Sexual Harassment in Global Hospitality Industry: "In recent years, UNITE HERE members across North America have taken the lead in challenging sexual harassment and sexual violence in the hospitality industry. The union has put the issue at the forefront of its political agenda, in bargaining new contracts—and now, in its global campaigns."

Union Tips for U.S. Trips: Union Monuments: "Across the nation, there are great monuments to the labor union legacy, and some may even be closer than you realize. Add these sites to your travel itinerary to put a union twist on your summer plans and save with Union Plus Travel Benefits."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/08/2018 - 11:59

Bayard & Me

Fri, 2018-06-08 09:56
Bayard & Me AFL-CIO

June is Pride Month. We are proud of the LGBTQ labor leaders who blazed a trail for dignity and equality. None had a greater impact than Bayard Rustin. To celebrate Rustin's life and legacy, the AFL-CIO, through its Ideas at Work series, hosted his longtime partner, Walter Naegle, for a screening of the award-winning documentary "Bayard & Me." The event was co-sponsored by Pride At Work and the A. Philip Randolph Institute. Following the screening, Naegle participated in a wide-ranging discussion with Stuart Appelbaum, the openly gay president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Naegle provided a firsthand account of Rustin's triumphs and tribulations as he faced incredible political and personal challenges during the civil rights movement. And both Naegle and Appelbaum talked about where we go from here. 

The following are Naegle's remarks, as prepared:

I want to thank Tim Schlittner and Christine Cafasso for inviting me to join you for this showing of "Bayard & Me," and to Pride At Work and APRI for co-sponsoring it. Matt Wolf's film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017, has received much exposure over the last year and was nominated for a "Webby" Award—prizes for films made for the internet. 

I'm going to make some brief remarks and then we will move into a discussion/Q&A session. I much prefer those to just giving a speech, and I believe that Bayard was of a similar mind. There was nothing he enjoyed more than a lively exchange based on facts, logic, reason, in an effort to get to the truth. You remember those, don't you?

I'm going to start with a few facts that may seem unnecessary, but in these times it is sometimes important to keep things simple and, for lack of a better word, "straightforward." Maybe we could call these "ground rules"—the facts and the choices that shaped his life and enabled him to make his mark.

Bayard Rustin was a human being, a man, a black man, a gay man, and a Quaker. The fact that he was black and gay made him a target for discrimination and persecution throughout his life. That he chose to be a Quaker meant that he equipped himself with the tools to address discrimination and bigotry with humanity, understanding, and love, never resorting to the tactics of hatred and oppression used by some of his opponents. 

His evolution as an activist moved him from his start as a radical Christian pacifist to being a more pragmatic political person willing to negotiate and compromise for the greater good of a movement rather than hold to an absolutist position in the name of political purity. He moved, in the words of his most famous article, "From Protest to Politics," and grew to recognize that democracy is perhaps the closest thing we have to a political expression of the philosophy of nonviolence. He came to understand that through democracy we can come close to achieving those values that were instilled in him by his grandmother, Julia Davis Rustin, and which informed his lifelong activism—the belief in the oneness of the human family, the presence of the divine spirit in every person, integrity, and working for equality and justice. 

One example of his commitment to working for a more just society was his long association with the labor movement, especially his close ties to his mentor A. Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and Don Slaiman, head of the AFL-CIO's Civil Rights Department during the peak years of the African American struggle. Randolph saw organized labor as the vehicle for African Americans to achieve economic uplift and move toward social equality. He and Bayard instinctively understood that when legal barriers to equality were lifted—Jim Crow laws, school segregation, voter suppression, and others—that the issue of economics would take a front seat. Centuries of second-class citizenship, schools that were separate but not equal, poor housing, lack of proper health care, would result in a disproportionate number of impoverished blacks and the solution would require a national commitment to the eradication of poverty. But they also knew that a program targeting only African Americans was not politically viable. In 1965, under the auspices of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, they proposed A Freedom Budget for All Americans, a plan to eliminate poverty within a 10-year period. Although there were congressional hearings about the Freedom Budget, the plan never took off, largely because of the disproportionate funds that were being spent fighting the Vietnam War. The budget could be credited with influencing President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiative. Now 50 years later, eradication of poverty is again under discussion, with some proposing a guaranteed annual income for all, a proposal that was included in the Freedom Budget. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. increasingly supported the call for economic justice and the connection between the labor movement and the black working class. He was assassinated in Memphis while mobilizing support for the striking sanitation workers there who sought better wages and working conditions. His Poor People’s Campaign that was carried on by his successors sought to address the issue of poverty. Today, we have a new Poor People's Campaign—a National Call for Moral Revival, supported by a coalition of labor unions, faith-based organizations, civil and human rights groups, and other progressive entities, including APRI and the National LGBTQ Task Force. 

In the years since his death, Bayard’s life and work have been recognized through a variety of initiatives, many spearheaded by the LGBT community. During his centennial year, APRI organized a special tribute to Bayard, its founding executive director. 2013 brought the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and much of the coverage featured Bayard, something that was not done in 1963. A posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom was awarded in November of that year by President Barack Obama. A number of community centers and political clubs carry Bayard’s name, as well as a high school in his hometown [of West Chester, Pennsylvania]. A few weeks ago, the school board in Montgomery County [Maryland] voted to name an elementary school after Bayard. Later this month, a plaque will be installed outside of Bayard's residence in New York City, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016. His home for 25 years, and Randolph's for ten, Penn South was founded by the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union to provide decent, safe, and affordable housing for its workers and members of the community. 

If you would like to learn more about Bayard, there are a number of biographies available, including Jervis Anderson's Bayard Rustin, Troubles I've Seen, John D'Emilio's Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, and one for young readers Bayard Rustin, The Invisible Activist. "Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin" is an award-winning full-length documentary. You also can visit the website: rustin.org.

Tim Schlittner Fri, 06/08/2018 - 09:56

To the Polls: Worker Wins

Thu, 2018-06-07 11:59
To the Polls: Worker Wins

Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with an electoral victory and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life.

UNITE HERE Member Wins California Senate Primary on Behalf of Working People: Maria Elena Durazo, a California labor icon for decades and current international vice president for UNITE HERE, won her primary for the California Senate with more than 70% of the vote, the largest victory in the district's current configuration. She now moves on to the November general election. Other pro-working people candidates also did well in California's primaries.

Employees at The New Yorker and Fast Company Magazines Vote for Union Representation: The New Yorker and Fast Company have become the latest journalism offices to organize. At The New Yorker, 90% of editorial staffers voted in favor of the The NewsGuild of New York union. They have asked management for voluntary recognition. Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of staff at Fast Company have signed union cards with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE).

South Carolina Flight Readiness Technicians at Boeing Join IAM: Mike Evans, Machinists (IAM) lead organizer for Boeing in South Carolina, said: "Today was a victory for the American worker. The 176 men and women Flight Readiness Technicians stood up with South Carolina pride and voted for a better life. They exercised their freedom to join in union and speak with one voice. This election was never just about wages. The men and women wanted dignity and consistency in the workplace. And this vote put them closer to achieving those goals. We hope Boeing does the right thing by agreeing to sit down and negotiate in good faith with the dedicated Flight Readiness Technicians."

Portland App-Based Ride Service Drivers Win Improved Oversight: In a unanimous vote, the Portland City Council endorsed the creation of a new oversight body that will improve transparency and protections for 10,000 Uber and Lyft drivers. The Portland Bureau of Transportation is directed to research ideas for creating the panel. The resolution endorsing the new body also calls for equalizing standards between app-based ride services and traditional taxi companies.

Working People at Largest Las Vegas Strip Casino and Resort Employers Reach Tentative Agreement: The two largest companies employing working people on the Las Vegas strip, MGM and Caesars, have reached a tentative agreement on new five-year contracts with Culinary Workers Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165. The deals now go to members for ratification votes. The two deals cover 36,000 of the 50,000 Vegas hotel workers whose contracts expired last week. 

Talking Points Memo Voluntarily Recognizes Editorial Staff Union: Becoming the latest digital newsroom to organize, the editorial staff at progressive publication Talking Points Memo have voted to join the WGAE. WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson said: "We applaud the progressive management at Talking Points Memo for respecting the decision of the writers and editors to join with the Writers Guild of America, East, and we look forward to a positive, productive experience at the bargaining table.  And we welcome these hardworking journalists to the union and to the movement."

Nurses at City of Hope National Medical Center Ratify New Contract with Patient Protections: Registered nurses at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California, represented by California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, ratified a new three-year contract. The new contract strengthens nurses' ability to protect patients and improve recruitment and retention of nurses. RN Alma Torrez said: "It is absolutely essential that our hospital be able to recruit and retain great staff so we can provide optimal care for our patients. We’re celebrating the new pact because it puts our hospital in a strong position to do just that."

Working People at New Jersey Communities United Join The NewsGuild: Organizers at New Jersey Communities United have voted to join the The NewsGuild-CWA (TNG-CWA) and have asked management to voluntarily recognize their union. NJCU is a grassroots organization that builds power for working class communities and communities of color. Rebecca Mahabir, one of the organizers, said: "We feel that we must embody the values that guide our vital work. We know that unions are the best tool workers have to achieve democracy, accountability, and dignity in their workplaces, and are ready to put that tool to use here, at New Jersey Communities United."

Postdoctoral Researchers at University of Washington Vote to be Represented by UAW: After winning 89% of the vote, postdoctoral researchers will be represented by UAW Local 4121. Now, 1,100 researchers will join UAW. Next, the new union members will elect a bargaining committee and prepare for negotiations with the university.

Oregon State University Faculty Sign Cards to Join AFT: A decisive majority of the faculty at Oregon State University have signed union cards and filed a petition with the Oregon Employment Relations Board. Once certified, the 2,400 faculty will become members of the AFT and will seek a contract that strengthens shared governance, improved working conditions, and the freedom to create the best possible environment for teaching, learning and research.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 06/07/2018 - 11:59

Tags: Organizing

Young Workers on the Future of Work: Courtney Jenkins

Wed, 2018-06-06 11:28
Young Workers on the Future of Work: Courtney Jenkins Courtney Jenkins

The AFL-CIO conducted a discussion last month on the future of work. Among the panelists that day were a group of young workers. Let's continue our more in-depth discussion with these young workers. Next up is American Postal Workers Union (APWU) member Courtney Jenkins.

AFL-CIO: What barriers do you think stand in the way of young people becoming fully participating members of the workforce?

Courtney: The most formidable barrier young people face is the current economic climate. As corporate greed continues to grow, many jobs are not attractive or appealing to young people trying to fully participate in today's workforce. 

AFL-CIO: What issues and challenges do young workers face that the rest of us might not recognize?

Courtney: Whether it's child care, health care or student debt, it seems like everything today comes at a price. Many employers don't understand, or care to empathize, with young people who have these types of challenges because they weren't as prevalent a generation ago. 

AFL-CIO: What inspired you to organize/form/join a union?

Courtney: I was inspired by the power of collective bargaining and action, recognizing that being a young black male, my voice alone may not resonate as much as my voice along with hundreds of thousands of my sisters and brothers of the American Postal Workers Union. I joined and continue to be active within my union because of the many unionists who have fought who came before me and the many who I fight for now who will come after me. 

AFL-CIO: What can the labor movement do to rally more workers to join unions?

Courtney: The labor movement can be more intentional about reaching out to young workers just coming into the workforce. That first contact matters and continuing education matters to working people, whether they belong to a labor union or not. Most people have been so demoralized by an economy that doesn't work for them, and because of this their time is valuable, spending much of their disposable time, if any, working. The labor movement has to continue to develop ways to reach working people where they are. 

AFL-CIO: What can young workers do to better prepare themselves for success in a changing economy?

Courtney: Young workers can first support their labor unions and if not members, young workers need to join up or start helping to organize their workplaces. We need to also educate one another on the benefits of labor unions and their positive effects on our workplaces and communities. To better prepare ourselves, we should be demanding better training to ensure we are prepared for jobs in this changing economy, while also protecting those jobs that greedy corporations consider expendable.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 06/06/2018 - 11:28

Tags: Future of Work

UNITE HERE Calls on Marriott to Use Its Clout to Combat Sexual Harassment in Global Hospitality Industry

Wed, 2018-06-06 10:52
UNITE HERE Calls on Marriott to Use Its Clout to Combat Sexual Harassment in Global Hospitality Industry UNITE HERE

In recent years, UNITE HERE members across North America have taken the lead in challenging sexual harassment and sexual violence in the hospitality industry. The union has put the issue at the forefront of its political agenda, in bargaining new contracts—and now, in its global campaigns.

In partnership with the International Union of Food  Workers (IUF) and the AFL-CIO, UNITE HERE convened a group of Marriott workers from around the world to meet in Geneva on May 29, to present Marriott International—the world's largest hotel company—with demands on ending sexual harassment across its global operations. At the International Labour Conference, where negotiations are currently underway on a new legal standard on violence at work, Marriott workers shared their own experiences of sexual violence and harassment on the job.

As they made clear, sexual harassment is an open secret across the hospitality industry, everywhere in the world. The problem is not worse at Marriott properties. But Marriott is, increasingly, reshaping the global hotel industry through its aggressive expansion, and given its sheer size and economic power, it has the responsibility to take leadership on this issue. There are nearly 6,500 Marriott hotels around the world and, on average, a new one opens every day. Marriott's annual profits total almost $1 billion. 

The content of the global demands on Marriott reflected not only the testimony of workers in the room, but also hundreds of interviews conducted by hotel unions affiliated with the IUF in the months leading up to the meeting. Workers shared horrific experiences of guests grabbing them, exposing themselves, propositioning them and attempting rape. They made clear that the hotel industry needed to implement a set of commonsense measures:

  • Training staff at all levels.
  • Reducing precarious work, as a critical step to reducing vulnerability.
  • Limiting the isolation of workers in jobs such as housekeeping.
  • Protecting against retaliation for reporting harassment and abuse.
  • Installing panic buttons in guest rooms to ensure that security can be alerted immediately.
  • Blacklisting guests with a record of harassing or abusing workers.
  • Putting in place an independent oversight body to receive and investigate complaints.

Unions affiliated with the IUF, including UNITE HERE, have demanded that Marriott negotiate a global agreement with the IUF on sexual harassment, based on the demands above.

For UNITE HERE, this campaign builds on protections won by their members in locals across the United States. In cities like New York and Chicago, hotel workers have won panic buttons and other important measures through collective bargaining. In Seattle and Chicago, workers launched citywide campaigns and secured protections through local ordinances.

Additionally, hotel workers in the United States already have made their opinions on sexual harassment known to Marriott. On May 4, eight Marriott hotel workers attended the company's annual shareholder meeting in Washington, D.C., demanding that Marriott—as the world's largest hotel brand—step up and lead the fight to end sexual harassment. Instead, as they told the company's shareholders, Marriott is part of a coalition trying to delay and block implementation of Initiative 124, the ordinance in Seattle.

In joining with hotel workers from around the world with these demands, UNITE HERE members are demanding that this global corporation negotiate a global solution to a global problem.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 06/06/2018 - 10:52

Union Tips for U.S. Trips: Union Monuments

Tue, 2018-06-05 12:13
Union Tips for U.S. Trips: Union Monuments

Across the nation, there are great monuments to the labor union legacy, and some may even be closer than you realize. Add these sites to your travel itinerary to put a union twist on your summer plans and save with Union Plus Travel Benefits.

Check out this list of union sites around the country!

  1. Amtrak Workers Memorial—Washington, D.C.: Memorial that honors those Amtrak employees who lost their lives in performance of their duties. Fun fact: The Amtrak Workers Memorial is located in the district's Union Station.
  2. Memphis Strike of 1968 Monument—Memphis, Tennessee: This gallery expands the story of the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike. Features exhibits and videos highlighting the Rev. James Lawson and T.O. Jones, who courageously waged the battle on behalf of striking sanitation workers. Fun fact: The iconic "I Am a Man" signs held by strikers and the garbage truck from the original exhibition can be found here. 
  3. Haymarket Martyrs Memorial—Chicago: On May 4, 1866, what began as a peaceful rally to protest unfair working conditions erupted into violence after a man threw a bomb at police, resulting in injuries and deaths between both protesting workers and police officers. Eight union activists were wrongfully accused, convicted and hanged. This monument is a reminder of the lives lost during the fight for workers' rights. Fun fact: Visitors often leave union buttons, flowers and other tokens at the base of the monument.
  4. Pullman National Monument Site—Chicago: Chicago may be most well-known for its blustery weather, but it's also home to a rich labor history as well. The Pullman National Monument honors Chicago’s labor history with a series of monuments, museums and other important landmarks—one of which was the scene of a violent strike in the 1890s. Fun fact: The Pullman District was the first model, planned industrial community in the United States.
  5. Mother Jones Monument—Union Miners Cemetery, Mount Olive, Illinois: This 22-foot granite monument pays tribute to the achievements of Mother Jones, the woman who is credited with co-founding the Industrial Workers of the World labor union and coordinating several major strikes. Fun fact: The Mother Jones monument is also her official burial site.
  6. Ludlow Monument—Ludlow, Colorado: Colorado is a major mining state, producing everything from gold to coal during its mining history. The Mine Workers (UMWA) erected the monument to honor the victims of the Ludlow Massacre, an event in which more than 1,000 striking coal miners were attacked by the Colorado National Guard and guards from the Colorado Fuel & Iron Co. Fun fact: Another mining monument, the Victor American Hastings Mine Disaster Monument, is less than two miles away from the Ludlow Monument.
  7. Rosie the Riveter WWII National Historical Park—Richmond, California: It's no secret that Rosie is one of the most recognizable faces of the labor movement. This memorial goes beyond the iconic image to honor all the “Rosies”—working women of World War II and beyond. Fun fact: The Rosie the Riveter Trust (the nonprofit trust behind the Rosie the Riveter WWII Park) operates a free summer camp for at-risk youth called Rosie's Girls. The camp is modeled "after women like Rosie" to help young women gain courage and confidence in their abilities.

This post originally appeared at Union Plus.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 06/05/2018 - 12:13

Tags: Union Plus

Rhetoric vs. Reality: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 2018-06-01 11:19
Rhetoric vs. Reality: The Working People Weekly List

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s this week’s Working People Weekly List.

When It Comes to Janus, There Is Rhetoric and There Is Reality: "Sometime in the next few weeks, the Supreme Court will decide a case called Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, that threatens to undermine the freedom of working people to join together and negotiate for better wages and working conditions. Corporate CEOs and their allies know that working people have a much stronger voice when we speak together, so they are pulling out all the stops to silence our voices."

From #MeToo to a Global Convention on Sexual Harassment at Work: "Labor unions around the globe are participating in the International Labor Conference to demand a new global standard to end violence and sexual harassment in the workplace. This epidemic of unwanted touching, sexual comments, requests for sexual favors and sexual assault happens in palm fields in Honduras, garment factories in Cambodia and hotels in the United States. Violence in the workplace hurts both women and men, but women and workers with nonconforming gender identities experience the highest rates of violence."

Say No to Subpar VA Service: In the States Roundup: "It's time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states."

Better Answers on Trade, America’s Economy: "In 2016, Donald Trump prevailed over 17 establishment opponents. He is a disrupter. In particular, he disrupted establishment trade policies that have failed millions of Americans."

Kentucky: Labor 'Batted' .647 in the Primary: "If candidate endorsements were like baseball batting averages, the Kentucky State AFL-CIO would be leading the big leagues and heading for the Hall of Fame."

Harley-Davidson Move Shows Failure of Trump Tax Cuts: "In February of last year, President Donald Trump met with executives and working people at Harley-Davidson, promising that his proposed changes to tax law, trade, tariffs and other policies would help the company grow and working people would be the beneficiaries. This promise was widely made by Trump and other Republican advocates of the tax bill that Trump signed in December. But, as time goes on, we see, more and more, that the law not only isn't helping working people, it's making things worse."

Boeing's Flight Line Workers in North Charleston Vote for Union, Giving Organized Labor a Boost in South: "Anti-union ads, social media campaigns and a mea culpa from Boeing Co. executive Kevin McAllister weren't enough to sway flight-line employees at the aerospace giant's North Charleston campus Thursday, as they voted for union representation in a big win for organized labor in the South. Of the 169 workers who cast ballots, 104 — or 61.5 percent — voted in favor of having the International Association of Machinists union represent them in collective bargaining."

AFL-CIO Launches ‘Join a Union’ Ad Campaign: "The AFL-CIO has launched a national print and digital 'join a union' ad campaign, complete with quarter-page ads in top national and regional newspapers. The point, federation President Richard Trumka says in an open letter to all workers—the centerpiece of the drive—is to tell workers if they want decent raises, better benefits, and a voice on the job, unionizing is the way to go. 'Join us—be a part of the fight to build a brighter future for you, your family and working people everywhere,' his open letter reads."

Editorial: CEO-Employee Pay Disparity Rises, Threatening the Golden Goose: "The AFL-CIO’s study for 2016 found the ratio was 347 to 1, up from 20 to 1 in 1950, 42 to 1 in 1980 and 120 to 1 in 2000. Results vary widely depending on who a company’s workers are. At Mattel Inc. the ratio was 4,987 to 1, but the company operates a lot of overseas factories with extremely low-paid workers. Also, CEO Margaret Georgiadis left the struggling toy maker last month, forfeiting all but $10.8 million of what was to have been $31.3 million in compensation. In other instances, ratios can be lower when companies outsource a lot of labor to contract employees."

The Democrats’ Labor Pains: "'It's not hard to think that the defeat of 2016 had its roots in 1994,' said Liz Shuler, the secretary and treasurer of the AFL-CIO during a panel discussion on labor's political woes this week."

Labor Leader William Burrus, Longtime Clevelander, Dead at 81: "William Burrus, who rose from sorting mail in Cleveland to leading one of the largest postal unions, died on Saturday, May 19. He was 81. He had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure two years ago, according to his wife, Ethelda, who survives him. Burrus was the first black president of a major union directly elected by members."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/01/2018 - 11:19

Economy Gains 223,000 Jobs in May; Unemployment Little Changed at 3.8%

Fri, 2018-06-01 09:55
Economy Gains 223,000 Jobs in May; Unemployment Little Changed at 3.8%

The U.S. economy gained 223,000 jobs in May, and unemployment was little changed at 3.8%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since the labor market continues to recover at only a tempered pace, the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee should not raise interest rates.

While unemployment hovering around 4% may seem rosy, 1.2 million unemployed workers in America have been looking fruitlessly for work for more than six months, and 5 million workers are stuck in part-time jobs while looking for full-time work. Wages for too many of us have remained stubbornly low.

America’s working people demand better.

  • We want federal and state legislation to lift the minimum wage to $15 an hour and index it to the median wage.

  • We want new appointments to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors to be committed to full employment, which has been a sidelined priority of the Federal Reserve for far too long, and we want full employment to be measured by the growth of real wages in line with productivity.

  • We want budget and tax policies that prioritize full employment and good-paying jobs, including massive and sustained investments in America’s infrastructure.

In response to the May jobs numbers, AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs tweeted:

Payroll employment was up 223,000 in May and unemployment was 3.8%.  Average wages were up 2.7% from last year.  Combined changes for March and April boosted previously reported job gains by 15,000 jobs. @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) June 1, 2018

Black unemployment continued its recovery trend started in 2010.  Black unemployment fell to 5.9% on a rise in the share employed to 58.4%.  @CBTU72 @APRI_National @dchometownboy @rolandsmartin @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) June 1, 2018

Maybe a good sign?  Employment in temp agencies fell 7,800 while there was net job growth.  That means a higher share of direct hires by firms. @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) June 1, 2018

Seasonally adjusted, employment in food and drinking establishments rose 17,600.  Minimum wage increases aren't slowing down this number.  @NelpNews @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) June 1, 2018

Signs workers are optimistic: those out of the labor force in April were 2.7 times more likely to land a job in May when they re-entered the labor market than be simply looking (be unemployed) @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) June 1, 2018

Chart showing the decline in unemployment began in 2010 under @BarackObama @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/cukDPhjEKf

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) June 1, 2018

Last month’s biggest job gains were in retail trade (31,000), health care (29,000), construction (25,000), professional and technical services (23,000), transportation and warehousing (19,000), manufacturing (18,000), and mining (6,000). Employment changed little in other major industries, including wholesale trade, information, financial activities, leisure and hospitality, and government. 

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates decreased for adult men (3.5%), blacks (5.9%) and Asians (2.1%). The unemployment rate for teenagers (12.8%), Hispanics (4.9%), whites (3.5%) and adult women (3.3%) showed little or no change in May.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed in May and accounted for 19.4% of the unemployed.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 06/01/2018 - 09:55