From the Labor Commission of the CPUSA, updates, information, news, analysis, and organizing materials in solidarity with workers of the world.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What's a union gonna do for me?

By Melissa O'Rourke

For young workers who may not know what the advantages of being in a union are, the question "What's a union gonna do for me?" was answered in a report released last week by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The report detailed good news and bad news. The bad news is that workers aged 18-29 have the lowest unionization rates of any age group, and they have been hit hardest by the stagnant wage growth over the last three decades. This is despite a substantial increase in the number of young workers with college degrees.

The good news is that young workers who are in a union make an average of 12.4%, or about $1.75 an hour, more than non-union workers. They are also 17% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and 24% more likely to have a pension plan.

According to American Rights at Work, the Employee Free Choice Act would give workers a fair and direct path to form unions through majority sign-up, help employees secure a contract with their employer in a reasonable period of time, and toughen penalties against employers who violate their workers' rights. Senator Barack Obama not only supports the legislation, but is a co-sponsor. Senator McCain opposes it completely.

For young workers in the lowest-wage occupations, the study shows the contrast between union and non-union is even more stark. The median young worker in a low-wage occupation earned $10.62, almost two dollars an hour more than the $8.74 the median non-union young worker earned. These benefits also carried over into their health care coverage, 40% of union workers vs. less than 20% of non-union workers, and 29% had a pension compared to only 11.2% of their non-union counterparts.

In these tough economic times, the union advantage is not only strong, but obvious and necessary. If young workers are to survive, thrive and build a solid future, we must make sure the Employee Free Choice Act is enacted.

The report can be read in its entirety here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bush Hugs New Deal

The irony of it leaves one's toes tingling.

In 2000 Bush invaded the White House with a copy of FDR's New Deal in his back pocket. His plan was to dig a deep hole in the South Lawn and drop it in.

Today, as Bush's days as President dwindle down, the headline of a major newspaper informs us, "Bush Forces 9 Major Banks To Accept Partial Nationalization."


Friday, October 10, 2008

A not so Merry Christmas for Ohio workers

News from CWA: GM Refuses IUE-CWA Efforts to Keep Moraine, Ohio, Plant Open

Rejecting the efforts of IUE-CWA to negotiate a way to save a General Motors assembly plant in Moraine, Ohio, the company has announced it will shut down the plant and lay off the final 1,400 workers two days before Christmas.

"IUE-CWA and the Local 84798 negotiating committee worked closely together to try to rescue this plant," IUE-CWA President Jim Clark said. "We had a strong basis to start from given the high quality and productivity of the workforce. Despite offers to 'do whatever it takes to save Moraine,' GM was determined to shut down the plant."

GM announced this summer that it would close the SUV plant by 2010 because of the big vehicles' slumping sales. About 1,000 jobs were cut in September when GM ended the plant's second shift.

The economic crisis and soaring fuel prices have hit Moraine and nearby Dayton, and its working families, especially hard. Clark described it as a "community already rocked by plant closings and layoffs."

But he said the Moraine plant could have survived if GM had been willing to work with IUE-CWA. "We left no stone unturned," Clark said, describing outreach to elected officials and a range of innovative proposals. "We presented GM with proposals that would have made the Moraine, Ohio, facility - the most competitive in the GM portfolio - even more competitive than their competitors. But GM was not willing to work with us by committing to new product."

The union is finalizing a settlement package for IUE-CWA members at the plant that Clark said "will allow them to transition their lives after this devastating blow." The package will include buyout, retirement and flowback opportunities.

"I know that we can count on the professionalism of our membership to see that the last truck out reflects the quality they are known for," Clark said, urging members to pour their anger into electing a president who stands with workers.

"I call on our members to express their outrage by voting in November for an Obama administration that will work to keep good manufacturing jobs in the United States instead of a continuation of the same trade policies and lax regulation that have destroyed our economy," he said.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Support Striking Colombian Sugar Cane Workers!

From the IUF: Some eighteen thousand Colombian sugar workers in the Cauca river valley region, organized in the National Union of Sugarcane Cutters (SINALCORTEROS) have been on strike since September 15. The IUF is requesting international support for their struggle.

While sugar ethanol production is booming and the mill owners reap super profits fortified by tax exemptions, the condition of the cane cutters continues to worsen steadily. The sugar workers of Valle del Cauca receive poverty wages for a workday stretching to 14 hours a day or more, 7 days a week. The work is debilitating, injuries and occupational diseases are widespread, and the living and working environment and drinking water are heavily polluted by pesticides.

The cane cutters are employed through the bogus "cooperatives" promoted by the Colombian government in order to free the actual employers of any obligations for collective bargaining and health and retirement benefits, which workers must pay out of pocket. These "cooperatives" supply the mills and ethanol plants (located in Free Trade Zones benefiting from additional tax breaks) with a vast army of contracted labour.

On July 14, the union presented a charter of demands to the mill and ethanol plant owners' association ASOCAÑA on July 14, calling for a living wage, reduced hours, an improved living, health and educational environment and the replacement of the fake cooperatives with formal work contracts, union recognition and a collective bargaining agreement.

The demands were ignored for two months, and the union took strike action on September 15. The government and employer response was to use police violence to clear the mills of striking workers.

The striking workers and their union have received strong support and messages of solidarity from IUF affiliates in the region and in the global sugar sector. Through the website of the IUF Latin American regional secretariat, you can add your support by sending a message to the government of Colombia and to the employers' association ASOCAÑA. The message calls on the the government to intervene immediately to bring the employers to the negotiating table to discuss the union demands presented on July 14.

To send a message in English, click here.

To send a message in Spanish, click here.

International and European union leaders call for crisis action from the G7 Finance Ministers

From the ITUC:

Brussels, 8 October 2008: The General Secretaries of the ITUC, ETUC and TUAC have sent an open letter to the G7 Finance Ministers meeting on 10 October, calling for a major recovery plan to stave off the risks of a global recession that goes beyond the coordinated cuts in interest rates announced by six central banks.

The mounting financial chaos is taking its toll on the real economy with sharply falling employment in the United States now spreading into a global recession, threatening jobs around the world with especially severe impacts on the poorest countries. The G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors must put in place a coordinated recovery plan targeted at stimulating the real economy in the G7 and beyond. There should be further coordinated interest rate cuts as necessary. Governments should bring forward infrastructure investment programmes as well as measures to create “green jobs” through alternative energy development and energy saving and conservation. Direct tax and expenditure measures should be introduced to support purchasing power of median and low income earners. As large parts of the financial system are being supported by public taxpayers, the unions insist that governments should take equity stakes and act as activist investors to protect the public interest and ensure that taxpayers are reimbursed. Beyond the immediate action, the G7 governments must work to ensure that a crisis of this scale does not happen again. Work on a new regulatory architecture must begin, covering not just banks but also the parallel financial system as well.

The call for action on the crisis follows the mobilisation of more than a million workers by trade unions in 123 countries around the world on October 7, the World Day for Decent Work. The central demand of the World Day focused on a fundamental transformation of the global economy against the background of the current crisis.

To read the full text please click here

The ITUC represents 168 million workers in 155 countries and territories and has 311 national affiliates.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Today is World Day for Decent Work!

From the AFL-CIO NOW Blog:

Global Unions Join for World Day for Decent Work

by James Parks, Oct 7, 2008

Around the world, thousands of workers will observe the first World Day for Decent Work today to focus attention on global solidarity and a joint action to ensure that every worker has a job that provides basic needs for themselves and their families. The AFL-CIO Solidarity Center and its partners worldwide will participate in a range of activities focusing on three themes: rights at work, solidarity and ending poverty and inequality.

Last year, global unions called on governments and global leaders to keep their promises to create decent work for all. The promise was part of a July 2006 U.N. ministerial declaration, and several international workers’ groups are sponsoring the Decent Work/Decent Life action.

With half the world’s workers earning less than $2 a day and more than 12 million women and men working in slavery, the need for decent work is clear. Says Ellie Larson, executive director of the Solidarity Center:

I am struck by how many people throughout the world do not have decent work—whose jobs do not pay enough to provide for the very basic necessities of food and shelter for themselves and their families; whose employers do not respect their workers enough to ensure a safe and healthy work environment; whose compensation does not include any hope for a secure retirement or for appropriate health care. These, the rights of every worker, are denied to so many.

Guy Ryder, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), adds:

Today, the global financial architecture is more fragile than ever. The lack of regulation in financial markets has led to global economic panic, a risk of downturn in the real economy, and thousands poised to lose their homes. People no longer believe that globalization works to their benefit. Governments agreed to make decent work a goal. Now those same governments must act to ensure that decent work is mainstreamed in global institutions.

To learn more about the ITUC’s Decent Work campaign, click here and here to sign an international Call to Action for Decent Work-Decent Life.

The Decent Work campaign is calling on world leaders to:

  • Reaffirm the commitment to create healthy economies and just and equal communities through strategies for full and productive employment.
  • Affirm that everyone has the right to work, to good working conditions and to sufficient income for their basic economic, social and family needs—rights that should be enforced by providing adequate living wages.
  • Respect workers’ freedom to form and join trade unions and bargain collectively.
  • Strengthen and broaden social safety net protection by ensuring access to social security, pensions, unemployment benefits, maternity protection and quality health care for all.
  • Change unfair trade rules and ensure that trade agreements are used as instruments for decent work, sustainable development and empowerment of the world’s workers, women, the unemployed and the poor.
  • Create binding mechanisms for the promotion and enforcement of decent work, including core labor standards, in trade agreements.
  • Ensure the priorities of the international financial institutions incorporate social and environmental concerns. Particularly, loan and debt conditions, which force countries to deregulate labor markets, reduce public spending and privatize public services must be stopped.
  • Ensure that migrant workers are not exploited and that they enjoy the same rights as other workers.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on the State of the Economy and the Jobs Report

October 03, 2008

What will it take for our elected leaders to help Main Street? Today’s news that our nation lost another 159,000 jobs last month – bringing the total number of jobs lost this year to 760,000 – should set off alarm bells at every level about the need to pass an economic stimulus package and provide real help to stem the continuing flood of foreclosures before asking taxpayers to bail out Wall Street. It is simply an outrage that our representatives are spending their remaining time helping Wall Street when the clock is running out for working families across the country. The middle class is collapsing. Across the country, more and more workers are facing long-term unemployment with little hope for finding any job, let alone one that pays the bills.

It is essential that we provide immediate relief to families across the country who are bearing the brunt of our economic meltdown. Congress should pass a stimulus bill that will help working people along with any effort to boost Wall Street. This is the moment to extend unemployment insurance for those without work. The number of long-term unemployed people rose by 167,000 last month, bringing the total unemployed for longer than 27 weeks to 2 million. The National Employment Law Project estimates that three-quarters of a million of those currently receiving unemployment benefits will exhaust their benefits this year without finding a new job. We also must give support to the states whose budgets will suffer under the current economy and create new jobs by rebuilding our nation’s crumbling roads, schools and bridges.

The roots of our nation’s current economic crisis are decades deep. They reflect a basic elitism that has been built into our economic rules -- a philosophy that underpins the Bush Administration’s economic agenda and has permeated McCain’s as well for his 26 years in the Senate. These rules favor corporate profits and Wall Street investors over the working people who build our cities, teach our children and nurse our ills.

Working people are suffering real economic pain, and if there is money enough for Wall Street, Congress and the president need to dig a little deeper and find the funds to take care of people who are shouldering the burden of this economy.