This week, working family advocates won electoral victories from coast to coast, with Dahlia Vertreese winning election as mayor of Hillside, New Jersey, and Myrtle Cole being re-elected as president of the San Diego City Council.
These victories are part of a larger trend, where a strong independent union movement provides the support and expertise to help ensure that when working people run for office, working people win.
Strong independent union movements at the state and local level have been growing for years, and now the impact is being felt at a national level as we define a pro-worker agenda committed to the issues that matter most to working people everywhere.
Too many restaurant owners already break the law by stealing tips from their servers. Now the Department of Labor wants to give its blessing to this kind of wage theft.
The Labor Department is moving quickly to establish a new rule that would make tips the property of restaurant owners instead of workers.
This week, President Donald Trump's administration proposed getting rid of an existing rule that makes tips the property of servers that restaurant owners cannot take away.
Under the new proposal, restaurant owners who pay their employees as little as $7.25 per hour could do whatever they want with tips left by customers for waitstaff. Restaurant owners could even keep the tips for themselves.
The federal minimum cash wage for tipped workers—at just $2.13 per hour—is already lower than for other workers. This low subminimum wage means that tipped workers depend on tips for virtually all their take-home pay after taxes, so they receive their take-home pay directly from customers. Not surprisingly, tipped workers have higher rates of poverty, discrimination and sexual harassment. Undocumented and immigrant workers in the restaurant industry are particularly vulnerable to wage theft.
The administration’s proposal would take money out of the pockets of some of the lowest-paid workers in our country and hand it over to restaurant owners, many of them big corporations.
Does that sound familiar? This is the same kind of reverse Robin Hood scheme as the disgraceful tax bill now making its way through Congress.
We cannot let them get away with this. The administration is trying to sneak this change through without hearing from workers, customers or even employers who disagree at a time of year when tipped workers are the busiest. The deadline for comments on this proposal is Jan. 4, 2018.
President of IBEW Local 1253 Joins Sit-In to Fight ‘Dead-Wrong’ Tax Bill
Outraged by the GOP’s tax bill, a local Electrical Workers (IBEW) president was among five protesters who staged a sit-in and ultimately were arrested Monday at Sen. Susan Collins’ (R) office in Bangor, Maine.
"This bill gives massive tax cuts to the rich on the backs of working people. It was written by the rich and powerful for the rich and powerful," said Nick Paquet, an electrician in his second term as president of IBEW Local 1253 in Augusta, Maine. "Sen. Collins knows right from wrong, and this bill is dead wrong for Maine."
Collins has bucked the GOP party line on occasion, and Paquet thought she might do it again. As a father of four children ages nine to 19, he certainly hoped so. "To be honest, I really thought she wouldn’t vote for it, especially because of who she represents. We’re not well-to-do," he said. "We’re a very scrappy part of Maine up here, and good-paying jobs are hard to come by."
Instead, Collins joined all but one Republican in voting for the bill, which passed 51-49 in the early hours of Dec. 2. The legislation has to survive a second vote once it emerges from a House–Senate conference committee.
If Collins and at least one other GOP senator can be persuaded to change their minds, the bill would die. Paquet urged union families to "call, aggressively call" their senators to demand they oppose it. "You don’t have to do a sit-in like we did, but we really hope we inspire other union households to get involved."
A nonpartisan economic analysis predicts the national debt will soar by $1.5 trillion under the bill, which hands hundreds of billions of dollars to corporations and the rich. Meanwhile, it ends or nullifies major deductions for low-income and middle-class Americans, including medical expenses, home mortgage interest, student loan debt and union dues. An estimated 13 million people would lose health care and—contrary to GOP talking points—the bill would destroy, not create, jobs due to tax breaks that give companies incentive to move Americans’ jobs to other countries. At home, the bill would have crippling effects on federal money for infrastructure, costing many workers their livelihoods.
The Economic Policy Institute called the bill "a scam through and through," warning that in addition to its immediate consequences, "the deficits it will leave in its wake will be used to attack Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."
Motivated by all of that, Paquet arrived at Collins’ office around 3 p.m. Monday with a nurse, a veteran [with disabilities], a retiree and an AFL-CIO mobilizer. They asked to talk to Collins by phone—she was in Washington, D.C.—but had to settle for an hour’s discussion with a staffer. Police arrested them peacefully several hours later when they refused orders to leave. They were quickly processed in and out of the county jail on criminal trespass charges. They have a Jan. 17 court date.
What upsets Paquet as much as the bill’s content is that Republican leaders wrote it in secret without public hearings or Democratic input, then pushed it through the Senate at warp speed. He doubts Collins and most other senators have read the bill’s 479 pages, let alone fully understood it before voting.
"Why this big rush?" Paquet said. "Our voices aren’t being heard—state level, federal, they really forget who they’re working for. They were elected to serve their constituents, just like I was elected to serve my members."
A Roving Ambassador for Peace: 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.
Labor Leader Tefere Gebre Awarded Peace Prize: "Tefere Gebre, a stalwart of the cause of organized labor, was given a 'Roving Ambassador for Peace' award in a ceremony, near Capitol Hill on Tuesday. Gebre, a native of Ethiopia, is an Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO. According to the program notes, he became in 2013, the 'first immigrant, political refugee, black man and local labor council leader elected as a national officer of the AFL-CIO.'"
JPMorgan and AFL-CIO CEOs: Finding a Job Is Still Too Hard. Here’s How We Can Fix That: "By the end of the year, it is estimated that almost 2 million new jobs will have been created in 2017. While that is certainly good news for the economy, we need strategies in place to ensure that this economic growth benefits all working families. Our country should be a land of opportunity for anyone willing to work hard to realize their dreams, regardless of their background."
Bank Deregulation Bill Will Leave Taxpayers Holding the Bag: "These days, it’s hard to keep straight all of Congress’ efforts to build plutocracy—the further consolidation of the power of the richest Americans at the expense of the rest of us. With the Senate passing a multi-trillion dollar job-killing giveaway of our tax dollars to the people and companies who need it least, you might have missed the bill moving through the Senate to deregulate Wall Street and consumer finance."
Guest Worker Bill Will Put Hundreds of Thousands of Americans Out of Work: "When the Carrier Corporation announced it would be closing its furnace factory in Indianapolis, a decision that would have destroyed close to 1,000 middle class jobs in the U.S., there was widespread outrage from political leaders from both parties. But when the House Judiciary Committee narrowly passed H.R. 4092 — the Agricultural Guestworker Act this fall, a bill that would flood the meat processing and agricultural sectors with hundreds of thousands of untrained visa holders — there was mostly silence on both sides of the aisle."
U.S. Government Turns Its Back on Migrant Rights—Again: "Last weekend, the U.S. government announced that it would pull out of negotiations on the U.N. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration ("Global Compact"). This decision abdicates U.S. leadership on a critical human rights issue and further weakens our position on the global stage. It also enables the Donald Trump administration to continue to advance an agenda that criminalizes migrant workers in our country and turns away people fleeing violence and persecution."
Here Come the Republican Benefit Cuts: "First, they run up the deficit with massive tax giveaways for millionaires and Wall Street; then they use the deficit as an excuse to cut benefits for working people."
Congress Can Restore Service Members’ and Veterans’ Rights: "In October, in a 50-50 tie vote broken by Vice President Mike Pence, Congress passed a resolution that stripped service members and veterans of their right to band together in court when companies violate the law and harm thousands or millions of people. Congress has a chance to right that wrong this week. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s arbitration rule repealed by Congress would have stopped Wall Street banks, giant credit bureaus like Equifax and predatory lenders from putting fine print clauses in their contracts that strip people of their right to join together in court."
The Economy Gains 228,000 Jobs in November, and Unemployment Unchanged at 4.1%
The U.S. economy gained 228,000 jobs in November, and unemployment was unchanged at 4.1%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This continues the recovery of the labor market at a tempered rate, which means the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee should continue to let the economy grow and not raise interest rates.
In response to the November jobs numbers, AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs tweeted:
So far this year, employment growth has averaged 174,000 a month compared to 187,000 last year. @AFLCIO#jobsreport
Continued attacks on health care access, like in the tax bill, have created uncertainty slowing growth in employment in health care. Growth has slowed to 24,000 a month this year from 32,000 a month last year. @AFLCIO#JobsReport
Wage growth continues to be moderate. Over the year, wages were up 2.5%. Combined with slowing average monthly job growth and uncertainty in health care from the tax bill; the @federalreserve needs to be slow on interest rate changes now. @AFLCIO#JobsReport
The broadest measure of unemployment (including part time but seeking full time and discouraged workers) is at 8.0% from 7.9% last month. So, labor market improvement stalls by broadest measures. @AFLCIO#JobsReport
Last month's biggest job gains were in professional and business services (46,000), manufacturing (31,000), health care (30,000) and specialty trade construction contractors (23,000). Employment in other major industries, including mining, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, leisure and hospitality, and government, changed little over the month.
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for teenagers (15.9%) increased in November. The jobless rates for blacks (7.3%), Hispanics (4.7%), adult men (3.7%), adult women (3.7%), whites (3.6%) and Asians (3.0%) showed little change.
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed in November, and accounted for 23.8% of the unemployed.
Department for Professional Employees Celebrates 40th Anniversary
On Dec. 7, 2017, the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, (DPE) celebrates its 40th anniversary.
In honor of DPE’s 40th year, we reflect on the growth of professional union members and recognize DPE’s affiliate unions. Since DPE’s founding, professional union members have grown from 18% to 42% of the labor movement. Today, more than 6 million professionals—including doctors, nurses, teachers, professors, scientists, engineers, entertainers, performers, sales representatives and administrative personnel—have joined together in union to negotiate for better pay, benefits and working conditions.
Here’s a message from DPE President Paul E. Almeida marking the occasion:
Earlier this year, the AFL-CIO 2017 Convention recognized the dramatic growth of professionals in unions and professionals’ role in the future of the labor movement when the delegates adopted Resolution 36—Celebrating DPE: 40 Years of Growing Professional Union Membership.
Credential Engine to Bridge Gap Between Skilled Workers and Companies That Need Them
In a new op-ed for Fortune, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon announce a project designed to bring together highly skilled, credentialed working people with companies that need their specific skills.
An excerpt from the op-ed:
Getting people into available, good-paying jobs remains a challenge. It is more confusing than ever to understand what training, education, and experience in the form of apprenticeships, certificates, college degrees, or licenses are valued in today’s dynamic and changing economy. It is critical for job seekers and employers to understand what credentials are necessary to get a good job and which will be the most helpful in advancing their career.
In fact, there has been no single registry to house the estimated 250,000 credentials available in the U.S. today. There has been no search engine for human resource departments, job seekers, or curriculum planners to easily sort, assess, update, and better understand the skills and competencies needed to fill the 5.5 million open jobs that are reported to be available today....
The good news is that a promising solution is on the horizon. It’s a database called Credential Engine, which like websites that use algorithms to compare flights and the cost of hotel rooms, allows job seekers, employers, and educators to easily search, aggregate, and compare employment credentials.
This open-source tool will make it easier for industries such as health care, which is expected to grow 18% by 2026, adding about 2.3 million jobs in the process, to easily lay out the education and training credentials required to train, recruit, and hire staff. People searching for jobs or educational programs can visit the site and compare options....
Helping every American share in our economic growth requires close collaboration and partnership between business and labor. This goal is within reach if we can utilize technology to build the tools and provide resources that offer a clear pathway for job seekers to secure the skills that today’s growing industries need.
By cutting through the confusion and working together, we can pioneer better ways to make our economy work for everyone.
U.S. Government Turns Its Back on Migrant Rights—Again
Last weekend, the U.S. government announced that it would pull out of negotiations on the U.N. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration ("Global Compact"). This decision abdicates U.S. leadership on a critical human rights issue and further weakens our position on the global stage. It also enables the Donald Trump administration to continue to advance an agenda that criminalizes migrant workers in our country and turns away people fleeing violence and persecution.
There is an urgent need for a rights-based coordination of migration governance, and unions have been actively advocating for such an approach. Mass human displacement is on the rise due to conflicts, climate change and lack of economic opportunity. In the past two decades, more than 60,000 adults and children have died on migration routes as more and more people undertake dangerous journeys in search of a better life. In 2016 alone, at least5,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe and we have seen a 17% increase in recorded deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2017. Those that make it to their destination are too often subject to exploitation, criminalization and discrimination. The stakes could not be higher.
The U.N. Compact is an opportunity for governments to build coherent migration policies that promote shared prosperity and protect workers' rights. Many migrant workers, particularly those who lack regular status, are subjected to wage theft, unsafe working conditions, harassment and abuse on the job. This is often enabled by domestic laws that exclude migrant workers from critical protections and criminalize those who come forward, making workers unlikely to report abuse. Some two-thirds of the world’s 244 million migrants are working, and like all working people, they should be allowed to work with dignity. Ensuring that migrants can exercise labor rights also benefits all workers by preventing employers from treating them as an exploitable underclass.
The Trump administration has pursued a domestic policy on migration that is discriminatory and cruel. From the ban on migration from predominantly Muslim countries and stripping Temporary Protected Status from workers who have been in the country for decades to raiding worksites and communities, the administration has rolled out policies and practices that violate fundamental human rights. In that context, it is unsurprising that the U.S. government has ceased working with the international community to ensure the safety of migrants and their families.
As the Global Compact process continues, we hope other countries will fill the void in leadership left by the United States. We urge them to use the labor demands document of the global unions as a guide. For our part, the AFL-CIO will continue to advocate for a rights-based approach to migration policy at the global level and promote immigration reforms at home that will help ensure safer workplaces, build a stronger economic future for our nation, and support the basic rights and dignity of all working people.
First, they run up the deficit with massive tax giveaways for millionaires and Wall Street; then they use the deficit as an excuse to cut benefits for working people.
This is what the Republican tax scam is all about. Anybody who’s been paying attention should have seen this coming a mile away. The only surprising thing is that they’re not even waiting for their tax bill to run up the deficit before they start demanding benefit cuts.
Last month, House Republican Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced, "Congress will turn next year to spending cuts to try to lower the deficit…that’s the second step after cutting taxes."
Yesterday Ryan said, "We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit." Just to be clear, by "entitlement reform," Ryan means cutting Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
Why would Ryan want to cut health benefits? Yesterday he claimed that, "Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt” and “that’s where the problem lies, fiscally speaking."
Well, gee, if you’re so concerned about the debt, maybe you shouldn’t be trying to ram through Congress a wasteful tax boondoggle that has an official price tag of nearly $1.5 trillion, but that will surely cost a lot more than that because it’s so chock full of budgeting gimmicks.
Other Republican leaders have joined the call for benefit cuts. Earlier this week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, "You’ve got to look at entitlements."
Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said, "You also have to bring spending under control….The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries."
Last week, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was pointing to the deficit as an excuse for letting children’s health benefits expire. The Children's Health Insurance Program provides health care for 9 million children, and its funding lapsed two months ago. Hatch explained that "the reason CHIP’s having trouble is because we don’t have money anymore."
"We don’t have money anymore?" Again, if Republicans really thought this were true, why would they be wasting $1.5 trillion on tax giveaways for millionaires and Wall Street? Why would they be wasting $151 billion on estate tax cuts for the wealthiest 0.2% of heirs in the country?
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) explained why Republicans are so intent on giving tax breaks to the wealthiest heirs: "I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it's on booze, or women, or movies."
In other words, working-class people are good-for-nothings who waste all their money, while Paris Hilton is powering the economy forward with her investments in miniature dog palaces.
Last week, Hatchshowed this same kind of contempt for working people. He said, "I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won't help themselves, won't lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything."
The Republican leadership seems to have a double standard when it comes to deficits. Deficits are no big deal when it comes to giving a $1.5 trillion Christmas present to their millionaire friends on Wall Street. Yet deficits are an urgent national emergency when it comes to things that matter to working people—like Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, education and infrastructure.
This double standard is at the core of the Republican tax scam that dings working people while rewarding people at the very top who don’t need any more tax breaks. The Republican plan is to give millionaires and Wall Street massive tax breaks and make the rest of us pay the price in the form of outsourced jobs, Medicare cuts, Medicaid cuts, education cuts, infrastructure cuts, higher taxes on middle-class families, higher health insurance premiums, more people without health insurance and more people dying because they lack health insurance.
The Federal Reserve Board makes key decisions about our economy and our financial system. It sets short-term interest rates and regulates the big banks.
For the past four years, it has been led by its first woman chair, Janet Yellen. Under Yellen’s leadership, the Fed has been focused on putting people to work—on full employment—in a way we haven’t seen in decades. This is why we have seen steady job growth over this period.
But President Donald Trump chose not to reappoint Yellen. The man he did nominate, Jerome Powell, comes from Wall Street, but he has worked with Yellen on the Fed. More appointments are on the way because of several vacancies on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors.
If not done right, this changing of the guard at the Fed poses a real threat to working people. If these vacancies are filled with the wrong people, monetary policy could turn hostile to jobs and the deregulation of the big banks could lead to investment capital moving away from Main Street and back to Wall Street speculation, starving operating businesses and threatening to bring about another financial crisis.
Some background. The Federal Reserve is an enormously powerful economic policy institution whose decisions have deep ramifications in the daily lives of working families. The Fed sets interest rates and its decisions impact a gamut of rates—including credit card rates, mortgage rates, auto loan rates and the rate of interest paid by federal, state and local governments. All of this, in turn, affects the level of economic activity, the availability of jobs and wages.
These are critical "bread and butter" concerns for all working people, which is why unions must monitor and influence appointments to the Federal Reserve.
The current situation. Trump’s nominee, Powell, is moving toward a confirmation vote in the Senate. In the coming months, Trump will be nominating more individuals to fill four other vacant slots.
Consequently, in the space of a few months, the president will have appointed five out of seven members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.
Given its powers and given its policy discretion, it is essential that the Fed be governed by individuals of the highest caliber who have a true commitment to public service in the public interest. To make sure this is the case, we believe nominees should be selected in accordance with six fundamental criteria listed below and described in more detail here:
Character and independence.
Experience and record.
Commitment to full employment.
Managing inflation as part of the larger economic picture.
Commitment to financial regulation.
Policy driven by what is happening to real people, not mathematical rules.
These criteria are nonpartisan, and they should guide the president’s choice of nominees as well as consideration of nominees by the Senate. They also should guide future administrations, regardless of political stripe.
Applying these criteria can help ensure that the Fed helps the economy create jobs, that real wages rise in line with productivity growth and that working people share in the wealth we help create.