Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Obama's Budget Is Good News for Working Families

America’s workers applaud Congress for passing President Obama’s budget resolution that is a transformational blueprint for growing the middle class and making the economy work for everyone again.

Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we build an economy that works for working Americans. President Obama’s budget includes a huge down payment on national health care reform, investment in growing green jobs and addressing climate change and more funding for education. The budget also moves away from the failed economic policies of the past and includes tax cuts for middle-class working families, rather than for the wealthy and Big Business.

We commend Congress for passing President Obama’s budget resolution and look forward to continuing to work with the President and Congress to improve the lives of America’s workers and invest in the future of our people, our communities and our nation.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mayor Jordan Proclaims Worker Memorial Day

WHEREAS, Every year tens of thousands of American workers are killed by workplace injuries and occupational disease; and

WHEREAS, Tens of thousands more are permanently disabled annually; and

WHEREAS: Millions are injured or made ill; and

WHEREAS, Concerned Americans and the City of Fayetteville are determined to prevent

these tragedies by:

-- Observing Workers Memorial Day on April 28, as a day to remember these victims of workplace injuries and disease;

-- Renewing our efforts to seek stronger safety and health protections, better standards and enforcement, and fair and just compensation; and

-- Rededicating ourselves to improving safety and health in every American workplace.

NOW THEREFORE, I, Lioneld Jordan, Mayor of Fayetteville, Arkansas, do hereby

proclaim April 28 as Workers Memorial Day in recognition of workers killed, injured and disabled on the job.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect

The nation’s workplace safety laws and penalties are too weak to effectively protect workers, according to the new AFL-CIO annual report released today: Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect. There were a total of 5,657 fatal workplace injuries in 2007, a slight decrease from the year before, according to the AFL-CIO’s analysis of the newly available data.

In 2007, employers reported more than 4 million workers having a work-related injury or illness, more than 10,950 each day. Due to the impact of under reporting of injuries and illness, the true toll may be as high as 12 million workers experiencing an injury or illness in 2007.

On average, 15 workers were fatally injured each day in 2007. This statistic does not include deaths from occupational diseases, which claim the lives of an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 more workers each year.

This year’s report also examined job safety enforcement in cases of worker deaths, finding that the average national total penalty in fatality investigations was just $11,311. Utah had the lowest average penalty in fatality cases, with an average $1,106 penalty assessed, followed by South Carolina, with an average penalty of $1,383 per fatality case, and Louisiana with an average penalty of $1,453.

“After eight years of neglect from the Bush administration, workers are in dire need of a change in our nation’s workplace safety and health laws,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. “Our nation’s inadequate workplace safety net has left far too many workers in danger of death, injury or disease that could otherwise be prevented. Working people are looking to the new President to strengthen the OSHAct with tougher civil and criminal penalties, increase funding for OSHA to provide greater oversight, and fully implement the provisions of the MINER Act.”

Also in conjunction with Workers Memorial Day, on Tuesday, April 28, the House Committee on education and Labor will hold a hearing to investigate whether OSHA’s penalties are adequate to deter health and safety violations. The average nationwide penalty for a serious OSHA violation is currently only $921. Peg Seminario, Director of Safety and Health at the AFL-CIO, will testify before the committee, arguing that the OSHAct is too weak to protect workers and to deter employers from violating the law. The hearing will take place in Room 2175 at the Rayburn House Office Building at 10:00 a.m.

The Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Worker Safety will hold a hearing on “Introducing Meaningful Incentives for Safe Workplaces and Meaningful Roles for Victims and Their Families” at the same time in Room 430 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building on April 28.
Newly appointed Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, will attend the National Labor College’s Workers Memorial Day ceremony at 2:30pm on April 28 for a formal groundbreaking and bricklaying for a new Workers Memorial to be constructed at the center of the campus. She will be joined by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, NLC President William E. Scheuerman, elected officials, union leaders, workers and the general public. For more information, call 301-431-5406.

In 2007, more than four million workers were injured and 5,657 workers were killed due to job hazards. Another 50,000-60,000 died due to occupational diseases. On an average day, 15 workers lose their lives as a result of workplace injuries and disease, and another 10,959 are injured.

The report also shows that Latino and Hispanic workers continue to face much higher risks of death on the job. In 2007, 937 Hispanic or Latino workers were killed on the job. The fatality rate among these workers was 4.6 per 100,000 workers, 21 percent higher than the fatal injury rate for all U.S. workers. Since 1992, the number of fatalities among Latino workers has increased by 76 percent from 533 fatal injuries in 1992. Among foreign-born workers, job fatalities have increased by 59 percent, from 635 to 1,009 deaths in 2007.

The Death on the Job report also reveals problems with the “safety net” of regulatory and oversight bodies such as OSHA. There are only 2,043 OSHA inspectors (799 federal and 1,244 state inspectors) for the approximately 130 million workers in the United States today. At this rate, federal OSHA inspectors are only able to inspect workplaces, on average, once every 137 years, and state OSHA inspectors on average once every 66 years. OSHA’s capacity to oversee and inspect the nation’s workplaces is at the lowest level in the agency’s history.

For a copy of the AFL-CIO Death on the Job report, go to

Friday, April 24, 2009

The First 100 Days: Media Attacks on Employee Free Choice

The folks at the watchdog group [2] Media Matters have been taking a close look at media attacks on President Obama and his policy proposals in the opening months of his administration, and they’ve found many examples of media fear-mongering, disinformation and just plain weirdness in the first 100 days.

One of the worst is [3] this piece of rot from Rush Limbaugh, who attacks Obama for his support of the [4] Employee Free Choice Act. Apparently, Limbaugh gets his information about how union formation works not from [5] workers who’ve tried to form unions, but from fictional TV shows. He thinks that bus drivers like [6] Theresa Gares, nurses like [7] Kelly Beringer or casino dealers like [8] Aneil Patel are lead-pipe-toting cartoon mobsters. Limbaugh will say anything to keep workers from having a voice on the job.

The team at Media Matters has picked a dozen of the most outlandish moments of unfair attacks and unhinged rhetoric, and they’re holding a [9] contest to determine which is the “Worst Media Moment” of Obama’s first 100 days. Limbaugh’s attack on workers’ freedom to form unions is our choice for the worse.

Press Conference on Pay Equity

A press conference will be held observing Pay Equity Day Tuesday, April 28, 1PM at the Fayetteville Public Library Walker Room. Pay Equity Day is the day to which women must work the following year to make the same money as a man made in the 12 months of the year before. Women must work 16 months for what men earn in one year. The press conference is being sponsored by The American Association of University Women Fayetteville Branch, Business and Professional Women of NW Arkansas, Democratic Women of Washington County, League of Women Voters of Arkansas, and National Organization of Women of Arkansas. Information from the new AAUW State by State Earnings Comparsion and the last University of Arkansas Wage Study will be shared. Where women are wage wise and what needs to be done to address the disparity will be discussed.

The agenda is as follows:
What is Pay Equity? - Dr. Berta Seitz
How are Women Progressing?
AAUW Report Highlights - Robin Coggins
University of Arkansas Research Report - Heather Schneller
So....What do we need to do?
Churches Speak out for Fairness and Equity - Rev. Lowell Grisham
Lilly Ledbetter Bill and Business & Professional Stance - Edwina Hancock
Fair Paycheck Bill and NOW Stance - Wanda Stephens
Presidential Commission on Women and Democratic Women Stance - J.P. Peters
LWV Stance - Dr. Mary Alice Serafini
Equal Rights Amendment Needed Now - Rep. Lindsley Smith
Questions from media.

For questions or further information, contact Berta Seitz, 479-442-6256, or email at

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009: Green Jobs Can Be Good Jobs

On Earth Day 2009, there is a growing recognition that green jobs will play a key role in fighting global warming, creating energy self-sufficiency, helping the nation recover from the current recession and moving workers into stable middle-class jobs.

During a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing this morning, David Foster, executive director of the Blue Green Alliance, a partnership of four unions and two environmental organizations, said in this economic crisis, creating jobs is a priority, and by passing climate change legislation this year, we can start putting America’s workers back to work building the clean energy economy.

To protect the environment and increase our energy independence, climate change legislation must focus on creating and retaining good, family-sustaining green jobs across the United States.

The Blue Green Alliance recently announced its principles for comprehensive climate change legislation. You can read the policy statement here.

Foster’s comments come one day after Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told a Senate committee that “we don’t want [green] jobs that don’t go anywhere. We want jobs with a career path.”

These are jobs that will provide economic security for our middle-class families while reducing our nation’s dependence on imported energy. These are also jobs that traditionally cannot be outsourced.

To promote the growth of good green jobs, the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions have embraced projects ranging from making their own buildings more energy efficient to taking the lead on large-scale public policy issues.

Yesterday, the AFL-CIO, together with the leadership of its new Center for Green Jobs, announced a plan to reduce energy consumption, cut down waste and reduce the carbon footprint of its national headquarters.

In February we launched the Center for Green Jobs, with $1 million from the Working for America Institute, (WAI), the AFL-CIO’s workforce and economic development arm. The center will partner with affiliated unions to help pave the way to good union jobs in a variety of the country’s unionized and greening industries. The center also will spread the lessons of AFL-CIO affiliates who have successfully joined the green economy, especially in manufacturing.

We recently set up a Green Jobs website, which includes an interactive map that shows how much a state could receive for green jobs under President Obama’s economic recovery plan and how it would affect that state’s employment. Click here to check out the site.

Here are some other actions where the AFL-CIO unions are taking the lead to create a greener future:

  • To ensure the green jobs created under the Obama economic recovery bill are family-supporting jobs, the WAI and the Center for Green Jobs have created standards to help community-level unionists assess the quality of jobs created under the Recovery Act. They also are urging the forming of new partnerships among employers, government, labor, community groups, environmentalists and other stakeholders to make sure the standards are carried out. Click here to find out more about the standards.
  • The Mine Workers (UMWA), Boilermakers (IBB), Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council (IUC) are aggressively promoting the use of coal-generated electricity to provide jobs and help clean up the environment. Along with the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the unions earlier this month released a study showing that using advanced clean coal technologies that capture and safely store carbon dioxide will create millions of high-skilled, high-wage jobs for U.S. workers. You can read the study here.
  • UAW members, who have long pushed for more domestic production of fuel-efficient cars, last year produced environmentally friendly vehicles or components in plants in 30 cities in 14 states.
  • The Machinists (IAM) work in a number of industries that are critical to reducing energy consumption and pollution, from energy-efficient heating and air conditioning systems and appliances to components for modernizing energy distribution systems in buildings.
  • Members of the United Steelworkers (USW) manufacture wind turbines at several plants in Pennsylvania. Indeed, the proliferation of wind turbines is beginning to revive shuttered steel mills across the country. In Gary, Ind., two closed steel mills have been reopened to help meet the demand for steel plate to be used in wind turbines. The ore for these mills is mined by USW members and shipped on boats crewed also by members of the United Steelworkers.
  • BCTD members are building more green buildings that use renewable energy to run more efficiently. One example is the David Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, site of the AFL-CIO’s upcoming 2009 convention. Built with union labor, it is the only entirely green convention center in the country.
  • The Apollo Alliance, a coalition of business, labor, environmental and community leaders working to create a clean energy revolution in America, has developed Make It In America: the Apollo Green Manufacturing Action Plan (GreenMAP), a series of policy recommendations aimed at revitalizing America’s manufacturing sector by investing significant federal funding in the domestic manufacture of clean energy components.
  • Last year, the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA) unveiled its Green Training Trailer that is touring the country to introduce UA apprentices, journeyman-level workers and green building expo participants to renewable energy technologies and sustainable building concepts. Take a virtual tour of the trailer at the UA website and click on “The UA has Gone Green” icon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On Earth Day, AFL-CIO Launches Green Initiative

To celebrate Earth Day, the AFL-CIO, together with the leadership of its new Center for Green Jobs, announced a plan to reduce energy consumption, cut down waste and reduce the carbon footprint of its national headquarters.

With green jobs emerging as a top public policy priority, the AFL-CIO is pushing to ensure that the new green jobs created are also good jobs that provide a decent wage and benefits.

Says Jeff Rickert, director of the Working for America Institute’s Center for Green Jobs:

It’s like the old saying goes, the AFL-CIO is thinking globally and acting locally, but doing so in a way that demonstrates how to use strategic investments that help the environment while relying on high-skilled work.

The specific steps we at the AFL-CIO are taking to green up our building include:

  • Conducting a comprehensive energy audit to identify waste, lower overall energy usage and set the stage for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification of our building in downtown Washington, D.C.
  • Phasing out the use of Styrofoam and moving to union-made, 100 percent biodegradable containers.
  • Convening a committee of union building managers to share best practices in green and energy efficient building management.

All of these energy savings measures and environmentally friendly initiatives will be conducted by union workers and the initiatives will lead to financial savings for the federation over the long term.

Not only is the AFL-CIO taking steps toward energy efficiency and protecting the environment, our upcoming convention is set for Pittsburgh’s David Lawrence Convention Center, the only entirely green convention center in the country.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports green jobs are becoming more popular. Community colleges across the country are seeing a surge of unemployed workers enrolling in courses that offer training for green jobs and teach students how to install solar panels, repair wind turbines, produce biofuels and do other work related to renewable energy.

The AFL-CIO and the union movement are working to ensure these new green jobs are good jobs by fighting for the right of every worker to freely choose a union by supporting the Employee Free Choice Act.

Speaking to a meeting of Vice President Biden’s Middle Class Task Force in February, United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard said any new green jobs also must be good jobs.

To rebuild our middle class, we must also be sure that the jobs created in this new, green economy are good jobs with family-supporting wages and benefits, that we maximize the number of jobs created in this economy, and that these jobs truly contribute to the protection of our environment for future generations of Americans.

A recent report, “High Road or Low Road? Job Quality in the New Green Economy,” by the grassroots community organization Good Jobs First, outlines strategies to ensure that green jobs are good jobs. The report found examples of employers who manufacture efficient energy systems that pay their workers a decent wage and treat them with respect. Click here to read the report.

The Good Jobs First report is one of several recent studies that discuss the impact of green jobs on the economy. The Center for Green Jobs last month created standards to help community-level unionists assess the quality of jobs created under the recovery act. The Center for Green Jobs also is urging the forming of new partnerships among employers, government, labor, community groups, environmentalists and other stakeholders to make sure the standards are carried out.

To find out more about green jobs and how they can be a key part of restoring our economy, visit the green jobs section of the AFL-CIO website here.

--James Parks

Washington County Democrats Urge Lincoln and Pryor to Back EFCA

The Washington County Democratic Central Committee unanimously adopted a Resolution last night supporting the Employee Free Choice Act, a position embraced by the Party's 2008 Platform, after an informative presentation by Alan Hughes, President of the Arkansas AFL-CIO.

The Resolution stated:

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Washington County Democratic Central Committee supports the Employee Free Choice Act, which would amend the national Labor Relations Act to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, authorize the National Labor Relations Board to certify a union as the bargaining representation when a majority of employees voluntarily sign authorizations designating that union to represent them; provide for first contract mediation and arbitration; and establish meaningful penalties for violations of a worker’s freedom to choose a union; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Washington County Democratic Central Committee urges our Democratic United States Senators, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln, to support the position of the Democratic Party, become co-sponsors of S. 560, to vote for cloture, and work to pass the Employee Free Choice Act to protect and preserve for America’s workers their freedom to choose for themselves whether or not to form a union; and,

BE IT ORDERED that the Secretary of the Washington County Democratic Central Committee shall transmit copies of this Resolution to Senator Mark Pryor and Senator Blanche Lincoln.

Plumbers Focus on Green Technology for Their Future

As we get set to mark Earth Day this week, it’s a good time to note one of the many ways the union movement is taking up the challenge to clean up our environment and create good jobs. Many building and construction unions are hard at work educating their members on the best ways to use energy efficient materials and other skills they will need to fill the green jobs of the future.

The Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA) has identified green technologies as a prime focus for the future of the union and the plumbing industry. Such technologies use less energy and natural resources than traditional technologies, have minimal impact on the environment and use materials that can be reused or recycled.

UA members are using these innovative new technologies in construction and retrofitting in both commercial and residential projects. The union has developed numerous unique approaches directed toward helping members and contractors gain leadership in this area.

UA President William Hite says the green future includes:

Everything from energy efficient building practices, water conservation efforts in the plumbing industry and the usage of environmentally compatible building practices and materials…. I believe the opportunities for the UA in this relatively new field are enormous.

Last year, the UA unveiled its Green Training Trailer that is touring the country to introduce UA apprentices, journeyman-level workers and green building expo participants to renewable energy technologies and sustainable building concepts. The 40-foot-long mobile classroom provides an overview of a number of power-generating technologies, including fuel cells, wind power and solar systems. It also covers new water treatment processes.

Visitors to the trailer gain hands-on experience with these technologies and can take classes leading toward a green awareness certification. Take a virtual tour of the trailer at the UA website, and click on “The UA has Gone Green” icon.

UA also is a founding member of the Green Mechanical Council, an alliance of manufacturers, skilled professionals, universities and other organizations dedicated to promoting environmentally friendly equipment and processes that maximize energy efficiency, conserve water and use renewable and sustainable fuel sources. The council—called “GreenMech”—conducts education and training activities.

(In future postings, we will report on other actions union members are taking at every level to clean up the environment and create good jobs.)

The AFL-CIO strongly backs efforts to combat global warming, achieve energy independence and revitalize American manufacturing in the process. In 2007, the AFL-CIO Executive Council issued a statement that said, in part:

It makes sense to seek energy independence through investments in infrastructure, clean coal/carbon sequestration, advanced technology vehicles and their key components, alternative energy resources (solar, thermal, wind, biomass, etc.) and energy-efficient buildings and appliances. Each of these should be linked to domestic investment and production.

To help working Americans prepare for the next generation of jobs, the AFL-CIO created the Center for Green Jobs. The center will partner with affiliated unions to help pave the way to good union jobs in a variety of the country’s unionized and greening industries. The center also will spread the lessons of AFL-CIO affiliates who have successfully joined the green economy, especially in manufacturing.

--James Parks, AFL-CIO

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Honoring American Heroes

“We’re American seamen. We’re union members. We stuck together and did our jobs.”

Corporate leaders and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are on a multi-million dollar mission to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act, even as many of them, like Bank of America, take federal bailout money. The Wall Street crowd, with their private jets and huge bonuses, almost destroyed the American economy…

But, if you want to meet real union workers, the people who make the economy function and the people Lewis and his fellow CEOS wants to screw, meet the men from Maersk Alabama over at the AFL-CIO NOW blog:

“We didn’t have to retake the ship because we never surrendered it. We’re American seaman. We’re union members. We stuck together and did our jobs,” said John Cronan, third engineer and son of a merchant sailor

The AFL-CIO Maritime Trades Department (MTD) salutes the courageous efforts of the all-union crew aboard the Maersk Alabama for maintaining control of their vessel, as well as the heroic efforts of the U.S. Navy in rescuing Capt. Richard Phillips from his Somali captors.

Arkansas AFL-CIO President Alan Hughes to Speak in Fayetteville

Alan Hughes, President of the Arkansas AFL-CIO, will be in Fayetteville to share his views on the Employee Free Choice Act this week. He will be the featured speaker at the Washington County Democratic Central Committee meeting on Monday, April 20 at the Fayetteville Courtyard by Marriott (across from the Olive Garden). Social time begins at 6:00, and the Business Meeting begins at 6:30.