Thursday, July 23, 2009

A New Generation of Labor Activists

The future of the union and social justice movements lies in reaching out to college students, young workers and young voters who are energized by the election of Barack Obama.

Reaching out to young people is a top priority for AFSCME and the AFL-CIO. Speaking at the Texas state federation convention last week, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, a candidate for AFL-CIO president, said:

If there’s anything our labor movement needs, it’s an infusion of younger Americans—the people whose futures are taking a beating at the hands of the Wall Street hucksters and fast-buck artists who’ve driven our economy into a ditch.

We have an opportunity, and indeed an obligation, to continue building stronger worker and student alliances in the fight for worker’s rights. To make the real changes we need, the leadership will come from working with a new generation. AFSCME Local 965 welcomes the next generation of public employees, and we are dedicated to involving this new generation of advocates for working families.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Family-Friendly Workplaces

Today’s report by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education and the Labor Project for Working Families comes at a seminal moment for the debate on economic and labor law reform in this country. This report emphasizes a crucial point - - that unions help families at a time when workers are forced to work more hours in an increasingly unstable environment, and as the social system in our country is being chipped away.

A unionized workplace dramatically helps working families. According to the report, unions increase compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act, ensure paid sick leave for employees and their children, and increase the likelihood that health care is covered for families. As corporations force working people to work longer and spend more time away from their home, unions are key to creating an economy that works for everyone and ensuring that workers have flexibility in handling their family and work responsibilities. Corporations have spent billions to try to eliminate benefits like paid sick leave, time off, and health care coverage. Without workers’ freedom to form and join unions, corporations will continue to chip away at the family-friendly practices that help working people across the country.

To download “Family-Friendly Workplaces: Do Unions Make a Difference?” go to or

--Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney

Saturday, July 11, 2009

1,500 Arkansas Workers March for Free Choice

On Saturday July 11th, national labor leaders joined over 1,500 Arkansas workers in Little Rock for a rally in support of the Employee Free Choice Act, which will restore workers’ freedom to join a union and bargain for a better life.

AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker, the first African-American executive officer of the AFL-CIO and widely known civil rights leader, joined other national labor, civil rights, and faith leaders in an historic march and rally. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Rich Trumka, Arkansas AFL-CIO President Alan Hughes, Communications Workers of America Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Rechenbach, and Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard led hundreds of union and faith and civil rights activists in the first of its kind demonstration in Little Rock.

Early Saturday morning, members of the Northwest Arkansas Labor Council and workers from all over Arkansas traveled to meet at Central High School. There, they remembered the sacrifices and contribution of the Little Rock 9 to freedom for all people in America. Led by Arkansas ministers, the assembled marched to another rally on the steps of the State Capitol featuring local faith leaders and local elected leaders in an even louder call for Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor to vote for the Employee Free Choice Act. The marchers concluded with an old-fashioned Arkansas catfish fry at the adjacent Arkansas Education Association building.

Workers across America have launched the largest grassroots mobilization effort since the November election to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. The bill will provide workers with a greater voice on the job and will allow them to bargain collectively for higher wages, benefits, and job security. It would additionally allow for workers to join a union through majority sign up and take away the right of corporations to demand a ballot election, giving the choice of majority sign-up or an election to the workers.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

20,000 Faculty Gain Bargaining Rights

More than 20,000 faculty members at two midwestern universities are one step closer to good union contracts. Yesterday, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle signed the state’s biennial budget, which includes a provision [1] extending collective bargaining rights to more than 20,000 University of Wisconsin (UW) faculty, academic staff and research assistants.

The same day, some 430 instructors and adjunct faculty at Western Michigan University (WMU) [2] voted for the Professional Instructors Organization (PIO), an [3] AFT affiliate, to represent them.

The University of Wisconsin victory capped a 40-year effort by faculty members to gain a better life by joining a union. The new law extends to 6,600 full-time, tenured and tenure-track faculty and 13,100 academic staff, which includes part-time and full-time lecturers, adjuncts, advisers, IT technicians and others. Another provision gives 3,200 research assistants the right to determine whether they want representation through the state’s first majority sign-up process.

The UW academics were the only nonmanagement public employees in the state without bargaining rights—until now. AFT-Wisconsin President Bryan Kennedy credits the continued building of workers’ political strength for the victory.

We’ve had the same legislation introduced in the three previous legislative cycles. Each time, we’ve had a chance to educate people and bring them around.

At Western Michigan University, the PIO soon will begin discussions with the WMU administration about better working conditions. Many instructors at WMU have not received any salary increase for 12 years.

Says Karl Schrock, who teaches in WMU’s School of Music:

We are confident that our organizing will help university leaders to see that part-time faculty are an essential component (along with tenure-line faculty and graduate teaching assistants) in the educational enterprise at WMU. We look forward to working with the administration to improve communication, faculty recognition and long-term planning for the university’s mission in ways that will benefit students and the university community as a whole.

These wins follow [4] several other votes in Michigan over the past two years. During that time, new unions representing contingent faculty and graduate employees have formed at Michigan State University, Central Michigan University, Henry Ford Community College and Wayne State University, all affiliated with AFT Michigan.

Article reprinted from AFL-CIO NOW BLOG:

URLs in this post:
[1] extending collective bargaining rights:
[2] voted for the Professional Instructors Organization:
[3] AFT:
[4] several other votes: