Bernie Sanders wins backing of South Carolina labor organization

This is a couple of days old, but I felt it was worth sharing.

After receiving the support of the South Carolina AFL-CIO’s executive board, Sen. Bernie Sanders issued a statement about the support he received.

Erin McKee, president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO, said the executive board member who recommended Sanders said “nobody in a very long time has stood up for working people and labor like Bernie Sanders has.”

South Carolina is among the first four states in the nation to hold primaries or caucuses to begin the process of selecting the Democratic Party presidential nominee. The action by the South Carolina executive board made it the second state, after Vermont, to back Sanders.

Sanders learned the news while campaigning in Iowa, home of the first-in-the nation caucuses.

“We are very pleased to have received the support of the executive board and their recommendation that the South Carolina and national AFL-CIO follow their lead,” Sanders said as he prepared to address an audience at United Auto Workers hall.

Workers file OSHA complaint about unsafe Scott Walker TV ad

Scott Walker's OSHA violation

In a recent TV ad, Gov. Scott Walker used a ladder to climb out of a hole in the ground (see the image above), and while some have used that ad against Gov. Walker to point out the hole he’s put our state in, some workers have
filed an OSHA complaint against Gov. Walker alleging the ad violated OSHA safety standards.

Jeff Kaminiski, President of the United Steelworkers Local 2006, representing workers at investor owned utilities in the state, made an official complaint with OSHA and called for the commercial to be pulled from the air.

“It’s clear Gov. Walker’s never worked a day of his life in this field,” says Kaminiski. “Gov. Walker should be fined by OSHA and this commercial should be immediately pulled for safety reasons.  This is someone in a leadership position setting an unsafe example for workers.” 

“Gov. Walker’s violations send the wrong message to anyone trying follow the rules and come home safe at the end of the day.  Safety is the backbone of the union movement. We want all workers to come home safe at end of the day, we can’t have an example like this playing statewide.”

Not only is Scott Walker not wearing any Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE as it is often referred to, such as a hard hat, safety gloves, work vest or safety glasses, but he is making errors that could end in serious injury.  

Kaminiski was shocked when he first saw Scott Walker’s ad on TV.  

“I immediately noticed that the hole appears to be more than five feet deep, the ladder is not positioned correctly and Gov. Walker is making a host of mistakes, putting his safety at risk.”

Kaminiski continued: “There is no shoring to hold up the side walls,” explaining that “holes with unstable ground or greater than five feet must be shored and the ladder must extend two feet above the hole. As somebody who spends my days pushing safety on the job, these are big offenses.”  

Whither MKE Cnty: AFL-CIO Response to Rep. Sanfelippo

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Statement on Proposed
Changes to Milwaukee County Board in Rep.
Sanfelippo’s LRB 1340/2

“The proposed changes to the Milwaukee County Board would infringe upon a
citizen’s right to meaningful representation, reduce participation in democracy and
silence the voices of Milwaukee County residents,” said Phil Neuenfeldt,
President of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO
. “Making Board Supervisors parttime
and decreasing funding would eliminate checks and balances in local
government and greatly hinder the Board’s ability to function. This move would
put all Wisconsin residents at risk. Milwaukee County is the branch of
government responsible for courts, prisons, mental health services, transit, parks
and other cultural and social services. The changes proposed to the Board in LRB
1340/2 will greatly reduce the County Supervisors’ ability to provide adequate
oversight of these crucial services.”

“One little sign on the freeway does not make it okay to dismantle democracy and
local control,” said Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer of the
Wisconsin State AFL-CIO
. “We cannot continue to decimate our democratic
institutions at the expense of the people just because some politicians want more
power. County Supervisors are closest to residents and provide a go-to pathway
for citizen questions, concerns and ideas. The voices of citizens will be
dramatically silenced if the Board is cut or reduced. Instead of overreaching into
local politics, our state legislators should focus on working with local Milwaukee
leaders who know the city best to create jobs and move our state forward.”

Organized labor holding its own convention instead of attend Democratic Convention

I’d rather go to this than to the Democratic National Convention in August.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Thursday that his union will not be at the Democratic convention, “do[es] not intend to put any money into the convention” and will be hosting its own convention — without Obama.

Speaking in Washington, D.C., Trumka said the labor group “will not be doing extravagant events” at this year’s convention like “we’ve done in the past.”

Instead of giving money to the Obama campaign and Democrats they are focusing on their own event that rivals the Democratic convention. The event, called “Workers Stand for America” will be held on August 11 in Philadelphia.

Considering how little Democrats in Washington, D.C. have done on behalf of their “allies” in organized labor (anyone remember what happened to the Employee Free Choice Act?) I think it’s time for organized labor to refocus on electing Democrats who’ll stand up for the middle class, instead of Democrats who do little more than pay lip service to the issues folks who are members of labor unions care about.

Unions as a Civil Right

In a recent Op-Ed by written by Richard D. Kahlenberg and Moshe Z. Marvit, who advocate for adding the right to organize a labor union, without employer discrimination, to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Here is an excerpt, I recommend the whole read:

Other skeptics suggest that because laws now exist providing for worker safety and overtime pay, American employees no longer feel the need to join unions. But polling has shown that a majority of nonunion workers would like to join a union if they could.

In fact, the greatest impediment to unions is weak and anachronistic labor laws. It’s time to add the right to organize a labor union, without employer discrimination, to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, because that right is as fundamental as freedom from discrimination in employment and education. This would enshrine what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observed in 1961 at an A.F.L.-C.I.O. convention: “The two most dynamic and cohesive liberal forces in the country are the labor movement and the Negro freedom movement. Together, we can be architects of democracy.”

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that “everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” The First Amendment has been read to protect freedom of association, and the 1935 National Labor Relations Act recognized the “right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations,” but in reality, the opportunity to organize is a right without a remedy.

Labor unions cut financial support to national Democrats

Saying they’re highly frustrated with the failure of national Democrats to put up stronger resistance to Republican proposals to weaken the organized labor movement, some of the country’s largest labor unions are scaling back their financial support to the Democratic Party.

Last month the 300,000-member International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) announced it would no longer be giving money to federal candidates, instead focusing its energy and resources into the fight over collective bargaining at the state level. At the time, Harold Schaitberger, the president of IAFF said, “I have not seen our friends in these incredible attacks against us across the country. Where are our friends in Congress? Where have they been to fight back on our behalf with the same voracity and the same discipline of our enemies?”

Off the heels of that announcement by the IAFF comes this statement from Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO:

“It doesn’t matter if candidates and parties are controlling the wrecking ball or simply standing aside,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, on Friday. “The outcome is the same either way. If leaders aren’t blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families’ interests, working people will not support them.”

While I certainly agree with organized labor putting more time, energy, and resources into state races, cutting off funding to the national Democratic Party certainly seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face, but I’m sure cutting down funding to Democrats nationally will certainly get their attention.

AFL-CIO sends Scott Walker cease and desist order

As first reported by The Atlantic last week, earlier this month Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s staff posted the photo below to his Facebook page, with the caption, “The Governor received this sticker from a union shop in Sheboygan.”

Image courtesy The Atlantic (click for full size)

Shortly after the photo was posted to Facebook, the AFL-CIO alleged copyright infringement and demanded that Gov. Walker remove the photo from his Facebook page. “We checked with all of our people and there is no one actually with the AFL-CIO who sent him that,” AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale said in a statement.

Here’s the text of the cease and desist letter the AFL-CIO sent to Gov. Walker, who immediately removed the above image from his Facebook page.

It has come to our attention that the Facebook page of “Governor Scott Walker, Public Figure” contains a photograph with both the name and logo of the AFL-CIO, which purports to be an endorsement by the AFL-CIO of Governor Scott Walker. A copy of the photograph is attached to this letter.

The AFL-CIO wants to make it very clear that it in no way endorses or supports Governor Walker. In addition, the AFL-CIO certainly does not endorse or support your unauthorized use of the AFL-CIO’s name or any of its marks. This letter is to demand that you, Governor Walker, and those acting on your behalf, must immediately cease and desist from any and all unauthorized uses of the AFL-CIO name and marks, or risk legal action.

TRUMKA – “It already has!”

I was recently given the opportunity to sit down with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Mr. Trumka was very cordial and positive and had plenty to say about the state of the union and what started in Madison and has blossomed throughout the country and the world.

Mr. Trumka gladly took all of our questions and answered everyone honestly(although he thought through one first- more on that later). We started out talking about the protests in Madison that had only been in the first few days at that point. Mr. Trumka said that he was not surprised what was happening in Madison and that it was invigorating to see the people take to the streets and say they have had enough. It is always good to see people coming together in support of a shared cause.

He then pointed out to successes that had sprung from the protests in Madison, which included the Governor of Michigan letting it be known that he would NOT pick a fight with labor(our meeting was before Indiana Gov. Daniels backed off his fight). Mr. Trumka stressed that we are THE last line of defense between the middle class and complete corporate control. “As long as we stick together, they can’t beat us.”

Some other thoughts and info from Mr. Trumka:

On if unions are outdated and no longer needed?:“The top 1% currently make $.58 out of every dollar and that is going up to $.65 of every dollar. From 1946 – 1973 production doubled and so did wages. At the time we had approximately 40% of Americans covered by collective bargaining. Right now we have approximately 11 1/2 % covered. Unions are needed now more than ever.”

on organizing the 99ers?” we started a great organization www.workingamerica.org that has been signing up people all across America.”

How often does he speak to the White House?: “Everyday he speaks to someone at the White House.”

On the coverage of the Wisconsin protests?: ” Thank God for the bloggers or else the people throughout the world would not be able to get the full story on the ground.”

What is the message to take from Wisconsin?: ” There are essentially two main points. 1. This has nothing to do with the deficit, we don’t have a money crisis we have a jobs crisis and we need jobs. 2. We are better when we work together.”

On Charlie Sykes: “Who?”

Who is a friend to labor in Washington?: (Without missing a beat) President Obama is a friend to labor, he might not do everything we want him to do, but he is definitely a friend to labor. He is 1000 times better than any of his predecessors. We won the ribber tires case where China was cheating and it increased exports by 15% and created thousands of jobs. There are lots of friends of Labor, Sherrod Brown, John Lewis, Betty Sutton and Nancy Pelosi is a good friend to labor.”

How about Ron Kind: “who?”

(Because I am a political junkie) Is the White House easier to work with before Rahm left or after?: (Loooooong Pause and Big smile) “Let’s just say that Bill Daley is better to work with”.

What is a progressive?: “A progressive who wants to create a society where all are involved. Instead of looking up and taking away something from others that you don’t have, you look down and say let’s help them get what we have.”

Finally, do you think these protests will spark a new progressive movement?: “It already has!”

Obama administration criticizes organized labor; organized labor hits back

As first reported by Politico.com, the Obama Administration clearly doesn’t think much of organized labor after labor came out in full support of Lt. Governor Bill Halter in his primary challenge to incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas. Halter, who last month forced a primary runoff with Sen. Lincoln, lost the Democratic U.S. Senate primary 52-48, and in response to Sen. Lincoln’s win over Halter, an unnamed White House official issued the following statement:

“Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet on a pointless exercise,” the official said. “If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November.”

In response to the statement by the unnamed White House official, AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale issued a statement taking the White House to task:

“If that’s their take on this, then they severely misread how the electorate feels and how we’re running our political program. When we say we’re only going to support elected officials who support our issues,” said AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale. “When they say we should have targeted our money among some key house races among Blue Dog Democrats — that ain’t happening.”

“Labor isn’t an arm of the Democratic Party,” Vale said. “It exists to support working families. And that’s what we said tonight, and that’s what we’re gong to keep saying.”

Driving home the point that the White House was cravenly hiding behind the cloak of anonymity in their attacks, Vale ended his statement by saying, “My name is Eddie Vale of the AFL-CIO and I’m proud to fight for working families and I don’t hide behind anonymous quotes.”