Wyoming State AFL-CIO

Recent News Stories

Every week, we'll be bringing you a roundup of the important news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here's this week's Working People Weekly List. Read more >>>

Each week, we take a look at the biggest friends and foes of labor. We celebrate the workers winning big and small battles, and we shame the companies or people trying to deny working people their rights. Read more >>>

AFL-CIO Now Blog -- Recent News Stories

Working People Are Watching, Mr. President: The Working People Weekly List
Working People Are Watching, Mr. President: 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.

Working People Are Watching, Mr. President: "To Washington, D.C., insiders, this month’s budget negotiations are just the latest partisan exercise in a series of manufactured crises that too often result in short-term solutions. But for those who live and work outside of the Beltway bubble, much more is at stake."

Paul Booth, Antiwar Organizer and Union Stalwart, Dies at 74: "Paul Booth, a leading architect of the first major march on Washington against the Vietnam War in 1965 and later an influential union organizer and a vigorous opponent of anti-labor legislation, died on Wednesday in Washington. He was 74."

Steelworkers Union President ‘Disappointed’ and ‘Frustrated’ with Trump: "In an interview with CNN, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard said that American workers are in some ways worse off now than they were just a year ago. 'We're terribly disappointed and hugely frustrated,' Gerard told CNN. 'There's been no action that has done anything to protect and defend American jobs.... In some cases we're worse off now than we were then.'"

AFL-CIO Unions Gear Up for Major Push in 2018 Election Cycle: "The determination of the nation’s labor movement to come out on the winning side of this year’s election battles was strongly reflected here at discussions during last weekend’s AFL-CIO Martin Luther King conference. Unionists mapping plans here see 2018 as an election year during which they can join with allies to win races in all levels of government and halt in its tracks the anti-labor offensive of the Trump administration and the GOP."

Women Get Tips on Running for Elective Office: "Liz Shuler, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, said she believes more female union members could become effective political candidates if they're encouraged to run. Polls conducted in 2017 by Gallup and Pew Research Center show public support for labor unions has rebounded in recent years, with about 60 percent saying they approve of them or view them favorably. Fewer than 50 percent of respondents voiced support for labor unions in the early 2010s."

Trumka: Key Battle Ahead is the 2018 Elections: "Saying when an economy 'doesn’t support the majority of its citizens, it needs to be fixed,' AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the 2018 elections are key. And in fixing the economy—by sweeping anti-worker elected officials out of office—workers and their allies will also counter the right wing’s attacks on public sector workers, many if not most of whom are minorities, including African Americans, he added."

In the Air: Renounce a Sexist Past: "Flight Attendants, about 80% women, are ongoing victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Not that long ago, the industry marketed the objectification of 'stewardesses,' a job only available to young, single, perfectly polished women who until 1993 were required to step on a weight scale. Our union was formed to give women a voice and to beat back discrimination and misogyny faced on the job."

Outgoing NLRB Chair Miscimarra Leads Attack on Working People's Rights: "On Dec. 16, 2017, National Labor Relations Board Chair Philip Miscimarra’s term came to an end. In the final days before the end of his term, a series of 3-2 decisions were handed down that were unprecedented in several respects, not the least among them was the extent that the decisions will harm working people."

When CEOs Say 'Do No Harm' in NAFTA, They Mean 'Don’t Harm Me': "We keep hearing CEOs of global companies and giant agribusiness conglomerates say 'do no harm' in the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations, but from the perspective of working families who haven’t had a raise in the past 20 years, this advice doesn’t make any sense."

Let’s Rebuild the Middle Class by Rebuilding Our Infrastructure: "The middle class has been on a steady slide for decades. Signs of this slide are all around us: anemic wage growth, historic income inequality, chronic unemployment and underemployment and, not coincidentally, the steady erosion of workers’ freedom to join unions and bargain for fair wages and benefits. At the same time, American households are facing rising costs that far outpace their stagnant wages. The result is that tens of millions of Americans are stuck in middling jobs that cannot support a family, while a select few enjoy the benefits of rampant inequality."

NJ State AFL-CIO Praises Gov. Murphy on Equal Pay Order: "Marking one of his first actions in office, Governor Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order promoting equal pay for equal work for women. The New Jersey State AFL-CIO released the following statement following the announcement."

In Houston, Working Families Seek to Reclaim King's Dream: "This past weekend in Houston, the AFL-CIO hosted its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference, with a theme of 'Reclaiming Our Dream: Strategize, Organize, Mobilize.' Hundreds of working family advocates came together to shift the rules and build power so that working communities can thrive and families can enjoy the fruits of their labor."

From Christmas Trees to Casinos: Worker Wins: "Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with a victory for Christmas tree workers in North Carolina and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life."

King and Meany Brought Civil Rights and Labor Together for a Legacy That Continues Today: "Beginning in 1960, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and then-President George Meany of the AFL-CIO began a relationship that would help bring the labor and civil rights movements together with a combined focus on social and economic justice."

Celebrating the Life and Work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: "Many chapters in the story of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. are well-known to Americans. The I Have a Dream speech. The Nobel Peace Prize. The Mountaintop speech. His Letter from a Birmingham Jail. His commitment to nonviolence. All the incredible accomplishments of a visionary."

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 01/23/2018 - 09:15

Tips Are More Important Than You Think
Tips Are More Important Than You Think

Tipped workers
ROC & NELP

The Donald Trump Labor Department is proposing a rule change that would mean that restaurant servers and bartenders could lose a large portion of their earnings. The rule would overturn one put in place by the Barack Obama administration initiated, which prevents workers in tipped industries from having their tips taken by their employers. Under the new rule, business owners could pay their wait staff and bartenders as little as $7.25 per hour and keep all tips above that amount without having to tell customers what happened.

A new study from the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and the National Employment Law Project shows that waiters and bartenders earn more in tips than they do from their base hourly wage. The median share of hourly earnings they make from tips makes up nearly 59% of waitstaff earnings and 54% of bartenders' earnings. Allowing employers to take much or all of that tipped income would be a major blow to many working in the restaurant and bar industry.

Workers in these fields are already poorly compensated. A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute and the University of California, Berkeley, found that "median hourly earnings for waiters and bartenders are a meager $10.11 per hour, including tips. That is just $2.86 above the current federal wage floor and far below what workers throughout the country need to make ends meet."

While proponents of the change suggest that businesses might use the tips to give workers more hours or to subsidize non-tipped employees, but with no requirement for such use of the tipped wages, employers could use them in any way they see fit. EPI analysis found that the new rule would transfer $5.8 billion from workers to employers.

Read the full report.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:44

Women Take to the Streets One Year Later, Still Committed to Fighting Trump Agenda
Women Take to the Streets One Year Later, Still Committed to Fighting Trump Agenda

On the one-year anniversary of the Women's March, activists again took to the streets to demand equality and justice for all. 

Here are some of the key tweets from events around the country:

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 01/22/2018 - 00:03

Victory at Los Angeles Times Continues Digital and Newsroom Organizing Momentum
Victory at Los Angeles Times Continues Digital and Newsroom Organizing Momentum

Los Angeles Times newsroom employees made history by voting 24844 to be represented by the NewsGuildthe first newsroom union in the paper's 136-year history.

The vote at the Times is part of a larger trend that has been going on in recent years where folks in newsrooms that are digital or have a strong digital presence have been exercising their freedom to come together in union.

Approximately 400 employees at Vox Media recently voted to be represented by Writers Guild of America, East, and the company voluntarily recognized the union. The union organizing committee at Vox said: "Through voluntary recognition, Vox Media has joined the growing ranks of digital media companies that understand the necessity of unions to secure basic protections for those of us who work in an always-evolving industry. A union will give us the means to maintain what we love about working for this company, and to have a collective voice when we address anything that may change."

The wave of digital media companies unionizing gained momentum in 2015, when the now-defunct Gawker Media joined numerous other digital companies that recognized unions and ratified contracts, including Vice Media, ThinkProgress and HuffPost. More recently, writers and editors at a number of other digital publications have affiliated with WGAE and currently are in contract negotiations, among them The Intercept, Salon, Thrillist and MTV News.

Some of the owners of these organizations have fought unionization at their company. Joe Rickets, owner of New York-based sites Gothamist and DNAinfo, shut both websites down rather than recognize employees' right to organize. But those exceptions to the trend haven't slowed down working people who recognize the importance of organizing.

Kim Kelly, an editor at Vice Media, explained it: "People were fed up and broke and anxious about the future, and the union gave them a way to take control and force things to change."

Daniel Marans, a reporter at HuffPost, said that digital media publications need to grow with a changing digital workplace: "That comes to things like transparency on pay, having a decent pay scale that allows a ladder of sustainability where you can support yourself on such an income, and having due process and a guarantee of severance in the case of layoffs."

As the most recent votes at the Los Angeles Times and Vox show us, the trend of organizing at digital publications will continue to grow.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 01/19/2018 - 14:25

Union Organizer and Antiwar Activist Paul Booth Passes at 74
Union Organizer and Antiwar Activist Paul Booth Passes at 74

Paul Booth
AFSCME

Paul Booth, a longtime union organizer and leading antiwar activist, died this week from chronic lymphocytic leukemia at the age of 74.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement: 

I offer my deepest condolences to Heather and the entire Booth family. Everyone who had the privilege of knowing and working with Paul is grieving today. Paul was a good friend and a lifelong activist for working people. From college campuses to Chicago union halls to AFSCME headquarters, he gave every minute and ounce of sweat he had to the cause of social justice. Now, more than ever, we must continue that important work. As he recently urged, 'Let us all be missionaries—missionaries for solidarity, for organizing, for growing our unions and for the fights for justice.’

AFSCME President Lee Saunders also spoke about Booth: "Paul was an organizer’s organizer, a man of great generosity and integrity, a friend and mentor to so many people in AFSCME, the labor movement and the progressive community." AFSCME's website paid further tribute to Booth:

But résumé items don’t capture everything he brought and meant to AFSCME. His leadership helped the union grow and thrive, becoming more diverse and dynamic. He was a gifted organizer. He combined passionate idealism with strategic smarts. He spent every day fighting for the right of public service workers to have dignity, security and a better life....

Paul was also a man of generosity, decency and integrity, who believed in paying it forwardin grooming the next generation of activists. He has been a mentor and teacher to so many in AFSCME and beyond.

Paul is survived by his wife, Heather Booth, a powerhouse of her own in the progressive movement. They met at an anti-war sit-in more than 50 years ago, and Paul proposed just a few days later. Paul and Heather have two sons, Gene and Dan, and five grandchildren. 

Paul Booth leaves behind a loving family, legions of friends and admirers, and a towering, inspiring legacy.

Here is video of Booth speaking at the Democratic National Convention in 2016:

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 01/19/2018 - 11:25

In the Air: Renounce a Sexist Past
In the Air: Renounce a Sexist Past

Sara Nelson
AFA-CWA

Flight Attendants, about 80% women, are ongoing victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Not that long ago, the industry marketed the objectification of "stewardesses," a job only available to young, single, perfectly polished women who until 1993 were required to step on a weight scale. Our union was formed to give women a voice and to beat back discrimination and misogyny faced on the job.

We defined our careers at the bargaining table, in the courts and on Capitol Hill. We taught the country to leave the word "stewardess" in the history books. But the industry never disavowed the marketing schemes featuring short skirts, hot pants, and ads that had young women saying things like "I’m Cheryl, fly me."

Even today, we are called pet names, patted on the rear when a passenger wants our attention, cornered in the back galley and asked about our "hottest" layover, and subjected to incidents not fit for print. Like the rest of our society, flight attendants have never had reason to believe that reports of the sexual harassment we experience on the job would be taken seriously, rather than dismissed or retaliated against.

The most effective thing that could be done now is a series of public service announcements from airline chief executives. It would be powerful to hear these men clearly and forcefully denounce the past objectification of flight attendants, reinforce our safety role as aviation’s first responders and pledge zero tolerance of sexual harassment and sexual assault at the airlines. They need to back up their words with action: A survey of our members last year showed the majority of flight attendants have no knowledge of written guidance or training on this issue available through their airline. Increased staffing and clear policies are needed.

Credibility from the industry on this issue isn’t only about keeping only flight attendants safe. It is absurd to think that a group of people frequently harassed for decades can effectively become enforcers during emergencies without this level of clarity about the respect we deserve. Knowing that CEOs will back us up will also make it easier for flight attendants to intervene when passengers are sexually harassed or assaulted on planes. Flight attendants need to know the airlines will take this as seriously as any other safety duty we perform.

Sara Nelson is the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. This article originally appeared at the Washington Post.

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

Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf Expands Overtime Rules to Benefit Working People
Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf Expands Overtime Rules to Benefit Working People

The officers of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, President Rick Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder, issued the following joint statement on Gov. Tom Wolf’s overtime expansion announcement:

For the last four decades, too many working people have been denied fair compensation for their dedication and productivity. Governor Wolf’s actions are a crucial first step to correcting this imbalance and changing the rules of the economy to benefit Pennsylvania’s workers. Now more than ever, while the federal government is repealing workplace and wage protections for working people, the governor’s initiative on this matter is critically important.

Read the governor’s official announcement below:

Governor Wolf to Modernize Outdated Overtime Rules to Strengthen the Middle Class and Provide Fairness for Workers

Today, as part of his "Jobs That Pay" initiative, Governor Tom Wolf announced a proposal to strengthen the middle class by modernizing Pennsylvania’s outdated overtime rules to increase the pay of nearly half-a-million people to ensure they are compensated fairly for their hard work.

"Pennsylvania’s overtime rules haven’t changed in more than 40 years and workers are paying the price," Wolf said. "I am taking this action to ensure hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who work more than 40 hours a week for the same job receive the overtime pay they have earned.

"It’s simple, if you work overtime, then you should get paid fairly for it. This important step will put more money into the pockets of hardworking people and will help expand the middle class in Pennsylvania."

Governor Wolf made the announcement at The Fresh Grocer of Grays Ferry in Philadelphia, where he was joined by legislators, local elected officials, store management, staff, and local workers, who were quick to praise the governor’s announcement. 

"What the governor is proposing is common sense," said Denise Kennedy, an Upper Darby resident and secretary at Garrettford Elementary School. "Paying workers fairly on the lower end of the pay scale will put more money in our pockets so we can spend it at local businesses. All I can say is, what can I do to help get this done?"

The middle class is built on the idea of hard work and fair pay, but workers in Pennsylvania have not received a minimum wage increase in nearly a decade and overtime rules established in 1977 have not kept up with inflation. 

Many hardworking Pennsylvanians are not getting the overtime pay they deserve. Because the overtime rules have not been updated, employees are covered by an exemption to overtime that was intended for high-wage, white-collar employees more than 40 years ago. As a result, a salaried worker earning up to $24,000 a year, which is below the poverty line for a family of four, can work more than 40, 50, 60 or more hours a week and is not guaranteed overtime at time-and-a-half. 

"Four decades is far too long for Pennsylvania’s overtime regulations to remain stagnant," said Acting Labor & Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak. "Updating the overtime rules to keep pace with our 21st century economy is the right thing to do for the hardworking men and women of the commonwealth. It will also generate competitive salaries and reduce turnover, helping to create and keep ‘Jobs that Pay’ here in Pennsylvania."

At the direction of Governor Wolf, the Department of Labor & Industry is finalizing a plan to modernize rules and clarify requirements. The new rules will phase in over four years to increase the salary threshold that requires employers to pay overtime to most salaried workers.

The first step will raise the salary level to determine overtime eligibility for most workers from the federal minimum of $455 per week, $23,660 annually, to $610 per week, $31,720 annually, on Jan. 1, 2020. The threshold will increase to $39,832 on Jan. 1, 2021, followed by $47,892 in 2022, extending overtime eligibility to 370,000 workers and up to 460,000 in four years.

Starting in 2022, the salary threshold will update automatically every three years so workers are not left behind. Additionally, the duties for executive, administration and professional workers will be clarified to make it easier for employers to know if a worker qualifies for overtime. 

"This long-overdue moment for thousands of struggling, hard-working employees in the 8th senatorial district and across Pennsylvania is saying this really is a happy new year," said Sen. Anthony Williams.

When fully implemented, modernizing overtime rules will increase the wages of an estimated 460,000 workers in Pennsylvania. That will lead to a stronger middle class. When workers earn more, they spend it in their local communities, which helps grow the economy throughout the state.

"The governor’s proposal will give many working families in Pennsylvania an increase in their income and will make sure they are paid for the hard work they are doing," said Rep. Jordan Harris. "That additional revenue will help pay utility bills, buy groceries, take vacations, and just make life a little easier."

The Department of Labor & Industry anticipates releasing the proposed to update the regulations for public comments in March. 

This post originally appeared at Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 01/19/2018 - 10:47

Donald Trump: A Year of Making Workplaces More Dangerous
Donald Trump: A Year of Making Workplaces More Dangerous

Donald Trump
Wikimedia Commons

It has been a year since Donald Trump took office. Despite promising to be a friend of workers, Trump has spent much of his first year making our workplaces less safe. 

AFL-CIO Director of Safety and Health Peg Seminario described Trump's actions:

The Trump administration has teamed up with Republican leaders in Congress and corporate allies to launch a war on regulatory protections, putting workers and the public in danger. Workers’ safety and health, wages and financial security are threatened. These regulatory protections don’t kill jobs. But there is no doubt that rolling back these protections will hurt workers.

Here are some of the ways Trump's record on health and safety has failed working people in the United States:

  • Repealed an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule requiring employers to keep accurate injury records (PL-115-21).
  • Repealed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule to make sure federal contractors follow safety and labor laws (PL-115-11).
  • Repealed Department of Labor rules providing for state and local governments to establish voluntary retirement savings programs for private-sector workers. (PL-115-25, PL 115-35).
  • Executive Order 13771 required that for every new worker protection, two existing safeguards must be repealed.
  • Executive Order 13777 required agencies to identify regulations that are burdensome to industry that should be repealed or modified.
  • Withdrew an OSHA policy allowing workers to designate walkaround representatives to participate in OSHA inspections in nonunion workplaces.
  • Withdrew more than a dozen rules from the OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration regulatory agenda, including standards on combustible dust, styrene, 1-bromopropane, noise in construction, update of permissible exposure limits, and MSHA penalties and refuge alternatives in coal mines, which abandons protecting workers from major hazards.
  • Withdrew Wage and Hour Division guidance and interpretations on independent contractor and joint employer status, issued to ensure workers receive the benefits of labor protections and to prevent misclassification of workers.
  • Proposed a 2018 budget that would slash the Department of Labor's budget by 21%, eliminate worker safety and health training programs and the Chemical Safety Board, cut NIOSH’s job safety research by $100 million and cut NLRB funding by $17 million.
  • A U.S. District Court overturned DOL's 2016 rule to update and expand overtime protections for 4.2 million workers on Aug. 31, 2017. It is unclear whether DOL will appeal the ruling. Secretary Acosta has announced that he thinks the salary threshold in the rule is too high, and DOL is moving forward with rulemaking to consider lowering the salary threshold and other measures to weaken the Obama overtime pay protections.
  • In response to Executive Order 13772 directing review of financial regulations, the DOL delayed the compliance date for DOL's conflict of interest fiduciary rule for 60 days until June 9, 2017, and has proposed to delay certain provisions until July 1, 2019. DOL is currently reviewing the rule and has solicited comments on whether it should be revised.
  • A U.S. District Court issued an injunction against DOL's persuader rules. DOL proposed to repeal the rules and final repeal action is expected shortly. These rules were created to increase transparency in the union-busting industry.
  • Delayed OSHA’s new beryllium standard from March 10, 2017, until May 20, 2017. Industry groups have asked OSHA to stay the rule (general industry, construction and maritime) and reopen the record for consideration of the standard. He also proposed weakening the beryllium rule in construction and maritime by revoking the ancillary provisions on medical surveillance, exposure monitoring, housekeeping and other measures.
  • Delayed enforcement of the OSHA silica standard in construction for 90 days until Sept. 23, 2017, allowing continued high dust exposures that will result in the deaths of more than 160 workers. He later announced a further 30-day delay for full enforcement of the standard.
  • Delayed MSHA’s mine examination rule for metal and nonmetal mines from May 23, 2017, until Oct. 2, 2017, and further delayed it until March 2, 2018. He also proposed weakening changes to the rule, including delaying mine inspections until after work has begun, instead of before work commences, and eliminating recording of hazardous conditions that are immediately abated.
  • Delayed the compliance date for reporting summary injury data to OSHA under the injury tracking rule from July 1, 2017, until Dec. 1, 2017. OSHA also announced it intends to issue a separate proposal revising or revoking other provisions of the rule.
  • Delayed the effective date of EPA’s Risk Management Program rule to prevent chemical accidents from June 19, 2017, until Feb. 19, 2019, putting workers, the public and first responders in danger.
  • Removed from active development on the regulatory agenda critical OSHA standards on workplace violence, infectious diseases, process safety management and emergency preparedness, and MSHA standards on silica and proximity detection systems for mobile mining equipment.
  • Nominated Andrew Puzder, a fast food restaurant chain CEO, as secretary of labor. Puzder's nomination was withdrawn after allegations of labor violations and concerns about personal conduct.
  • Nominated David Zatezalo, a former coal mine CEO, as MSHA assistant secretary. Zatezalo's mining company had a history of serious mining violations.
  • Nominated Marvin Kaplan, a former Republican Hill staffer, and William Emanuel, a management side labor attorney who has a long record of opposing workers' right to organize, to the National Labor Relations Board. Both have been confirmed, giving Republicans a majority on the board.
Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 01/18/2018 - 13:49

Outgoing NLRB Chair Miscimarra Leads Attack on Working People's Rights
Outgoing NLRB Chair Miscimarra Leads Attack on Working People's Rights

On Dec. 16, 2017, National Labor Relations Board Chair Philip Miscimarra’s term came to an end. In the final days before the end of his term, a series of 3-2 decisions were handed down that were unprecedented in several respects, not the least among them was the extent that the decisions will harm working people.

What the board did during this time wasn’t normal. The decisions were all of great importance, they all reversed recent precedent, and they were issued without public notice or the ability for affected parties to weigh in with arguments or evidence. In several of the cases, the NLRB went far outside the facts of the case and  applied the law to other situations, including to both pending cases and other cases that may come before the board. In one case, the board addressed a question that neither party to the case raised. And, not least of all, two members of the NLRB, William Emanuel and Marvin Kaplan, only served on the board for a few months each before casting deciding votes in significant decisions without the benefit of briefing by all interested members of the labor-management community.

Here is a closer look at several of those key cases:

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