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AUDIO: America Votes President Joan Fitz-Gerald Talks Republican Primary

Joan Fitz-Gerald, President of America Votes, spoke with Rick Smith yesterday on the Rick Smith Show (WIOO and WEEO in Central Pennsylvania) about the Republican primary race.

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UPDATED: Right-to-work fight in Indiana hits a roadblock

The fight over right-to-work legislation in Indiana has become increasingly complicated for unions and other supporters of labor as their attempts to protest the passing of this legislation is now more difficult in light of new capacity restrictions in the Statehouse. “The fire marshal determined the Statehouse could safely hold 3,000 people at one time. With about 1,700 state employees and lawmakers in the building every day, that leaves room for up to 1,300 more people,” according to the Indiana Economic Digest.

“This is suppression of workers’ speech,” said Rep. Win Moses, D-Fort Wayne. “It’s a deliberate attempt to hide what they want to do, which is to destroy unions and reduce wages for working people. It’s arrogance – it’s almost beyond belief.”

On top of those limitations, special groups are being allowed access to the Statehouse through e-mailed waivers, further limiting the amount of people allowed to have their voices heard while speaking up against the right-to-work legislation. A prayer group was granted special access to the Statehouse through an e-mail that instructs members of the group to avoid the crowds of protesters by coming in through a side entrance and showing security guards a print-out of the email. By actions such as this, the state now can pick and choose who to allow into a building that is supposed to be for the citizens of Indiana.

**UPDATE** On Wednesday, Governor Mitch Daniels rescinded the crowd limit for the Statehouse that critics say was aimed at protesters. Daniels said "Democrats and media coverage of the change influenced the decision to change the policy back." The Governor also said he is dedicated to keeping the crowd at safe levels, but is not looking to limit public access.

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A Great Day in New Hampshire

Labor and progressive partners scored a huge victory in New Hampshire today, as the state House voted to uphold Governor Lynch's veto of the Right to Work bill. America Votes congratulates Labor, who worked so hard for months on this bill - and we thank the hundreds of volunteers who helped in this important effort.The AV office in Concord became an impromptu campaign headquarters this morning, as volunteers streamed in once they got word that today might be the day the Speaker would call for a vote.

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Senate Targets NLRB in Spending Bill

On Thursday, the House voted to approve the "Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act," a Republican-backed bill prohibiting the NLRB from trying to block Boeing from moving to a new non-union 787 production line in South Carolina. The labor board would be barred from seeking to have an employer shut, transfer or relocate employment or operations "under any circumstances." The vote, 238 to 186, fell largely along party lines.

Building on Thursday's House vote, Republicans are now attempting to attach a rider barring the agency from pursuing any order threatening Boeing's new production line to the NLRB budget. The Senate Appropriations Committee has a narrow 16-14 Democratic majority, and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), a member of the panel, has said that he is "leaning toward" the GOP amendment. The amendment, drafted by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is clearly aimed at the Boeing case, but its language would also impact the NLRB's powers in other cases where employers are shown to have moved facilities in order to retaliate against workers for union activities.

Boeing claims that the new South Carolina facility was built for cost reasons, but the company's executives have made past comments expressing concern over strikes and walkouts organized by unionized workers in the Seattle area. The NLRB's counsel found that Boeing's decision to locate in the right-to-work state of South Carolina constituted illegal retaliation against its union workers.

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Success in the process to repeal Ohio's SB 5

Yesterday, opponents of Ohio Governor John Kasich’s anti-union bill, SB 5, that was signed into law this past march, achieved another victory in their attempts to repeal the law on the November ballot. This victory came by way of the state Ballot Board voting for a clear “yes” to support the law, and “no” to vote against it verbiage for the ballot this November.

Supporters of the law were trying to make the repeal efforts more confusing by submitting wording that would mean a “yes” vote translated into voting for the repeal of the law. It has been proven that voters who are skeptical or confused by an issue tend to vote no, therefore supporting the opponents of the law. With 13.7% of the population of Ohio as union members, higher than the U.S. average rate of 11.9%, this law is clearly an important issue to the people, and this new ballot wording will help their efforts to repeal it come November.

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Digging a little deeper into Labor Day

With the summer starting to wind down, that final weekend of parades and picnics celebrating Labor Day is around the corner. NPR posted an interesting interview with Jeff Cowie, an Associate Professor of Labor History at Cornell University, in which he discusses the history of the labor movement and what changes it has seen since the first time Labor Day was celebrated in 1882. Listen to the interview and view the transcript here.

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Collective Bargaining Law enacted today in WI

Today is the day that Wisconsin's collective bargaining law goes into effect. Right before public employees lose their rights to negotiate benefits and other terms of their employment, Gov. Scott Walker commented in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel saying he should have prepared the public for this law sooner to help ease some of the tensions that have erupted over it.

Walker says, however, that people should have been aware this was coming based on his campaign for governor in 2010. He doesn't see the elimination of collective bargaining rights as a rights issue at all, instead it's just "an expensive entitlement." Walker also doesn't see haw he ever attacked teachers, a group that has come out strong to protest the collective bargaining law, blaming it on them receiving misinformation from union leaders. Now that the law is enacted, recall elections are in motion to replace some of the legislators who voted for it. Read more of Walker's comments in the Journal Sentinel's article.

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Wisconsin Supreme Court signs off on Walker's Collective Bargaining Law

Despite numerous protests and 14 Democratic senators leaving the state for three weeks, the Wisconsin Supreme Court signed off on Gov. Scott Walker's law that eliminates collective bargaining rights for public employees. The law will now take effect on June 29, leaving public employees without any rights to collective bargaining.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, sued to block the law from taking effect on the ground that the open meeting policy was not observed and the meeting in which the law was passed was not announced 24 hours in advance. A Circuit Court judge, Maryann Sumi, agreed and passed a permanent injunction on the law on May 27th, preventing it from taking effect. The Supreme Court decided that her action "usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin Constitution grants exclusively to the legislature." Now it is only a matter of a few weeks and waiting for the ruling to be reviewed before public workers start to feel the effect of these restrictions on collective bargaining.

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Budget Cuts Put Important Programs on the Chopping Block

With the economy in its current state, many families must rely on food banks to keep food on the table and to keep their families going. In efforts to work within the faltering economy,conservative lawmakers are looking at cutting funding for important programs like food banks, leaving many hungry.

In places like Pittsburgh, PA where mills and plants are shutting down and leaving people without jobs, food banks become an important resource for the community. According to the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank "children in 'food insecure' homes are twice as likely to suffer poor health and one third more likely to be hospitalized." By cutting funds to food banks, the lives of children are put at greater risk.

Other important programs such as the AIDS Drug Assistance Program in Florida may fall victim to budget cuts as well. Governor Rick Scott has proposed looking to raise the income standard for receiving medication, cutting down the largest waiting list for HIV medication in the country, but also cutting down the possibility for people with low incomes to receive treatment. Programs like these and food banks are critical for people with lower incomes, but as long as politicians refuse to look to new sources of revenue, these important programs are going to continue to be threatened by drastic budget cuts.

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Collective Bargaining Rights Threatened Across the Country

It's not quite clear what makes this year different from all other years when it comes to worker's rights, but states across the country are making moves to "restrict or eliminate collective bargaining rights of public workers," with a force that has not been seen before. In an interview with NPR, Jeanne Mejeur

The fight in Wisconsin has led to recall efforts of 6 GOP state senators, where the law has not been enacted yet, but similar laws have been passed in other states as well.

Legislation in regards to collective bargaining does not have to be an all or nothing issue. Nebraska could serve as a positive role model for other states battling with collective bargaining bills, as legislators and public employee unions were able to work together to draft legislation that truly was a compromise. While public employees still made quite a few concessions it protected the practice of collective bargaining and upheld the Commission of Industrial Relations as "an unbiased third party that, when asked, will review the facts and render a fair ruling." If more states could follow this cooperative model, perhaps it could eliminate some of the "bitterly partisan" tension that's surrounds the upcoming recall elections

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