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NewsFeed - Labor
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In the past six months, over 50 workers, students, and labor activists in China have been arrested or disappeared by the government. Their crime? Supporting workers at the Jasic welding equipment factory in their legal efforts to form a union.
For Black History Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various African American leaders and activists who have worked at the intersection of civil and labor rights. On the latest edition of "State of the Unions" podcast, we talk with Kenneth Rigmaiden, the general president of the Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT).
He details his journey from a floor covering installer in San Jose, California, to the highest ranks of the labor movement. He reflects back on his experience with racism and discrimination while also uplifting the many opportunities he's been given. Above all, he stresses his commitment to opening the door for the next generation of union members, activists and leaders.
Listen to the full episode here.
Though I've lived in Detroit for 44 years, my heart is still in West Virginia, where I was born and raised. When West Virginia teachers and school workers went on a winning wildcat a year ago, and touched off a wave of teacher strikes across the country, I bragged about them all over, as if it had anything to do with me.
Last year, in communities all across the country, millions of Americans mobilized and called for an economy that works for all of us. From state houses and governors mansions to Capitol Hill, we elected advocates who committed themselves to advancing that cause. That election was defined by a movement of hard working people who stood together to reject the meager crumbs we are being handed and reclaim what is rightfully ours.
In electing more than 900 union members to office, we secured a great opportunity to right the structural wrongs of our economy. Our mission was not simply to rack up victories on election night last November. We changed the rulemakers. Now it is time for them to change the rules. As legislators move past the manufactured crisis that defined the first weeks of the 116th Congress, working people are ready to fight for that change.
Above all, that means affirming our ability to have a real voice on the job. A recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that half of all nonunion workers, or more than 60 million Americans, would choose to join a union if they were given the chance, yet aspiring union members continue to face countless obstacles. The power of working people must be unleashed. Whether we work for private companies or public employers, in an office or a mine or a factory, all of us have the right to freely negotiate higher wages and better working conditions.
Congress should modernize the badly outdated National Labor Relations Act to truly protect our freedom to organize and mobilize together. Top lawmakers have put forth promising proposals that would ensure workers can organize a union without facing scorched earth tactics and hostile campaigns from corporations. If workers sign up for a union, they deserve to know their decision is protected by law. It is not the job of executives, governors or right wing operatives to make those decisions for them.
However, our fight will not end with one piece of legislation. An agenda for working families means building a fairer economy and a more just society for everyone in our country, whether you are in a union or not. That means achieving full employment where every American is able to access a good job, passing a $15 federal minimum wage, and refusing to approve any trade agreement that lacks enforceable labor protections.
It means providing a secure and prosperous future for all our families by expanding Social Security, strengthening our pensions, and making a serious federal investment in our infrastructure. It means defending the health and lives of working people by shoring up the Affordable Care Act, removing onerous taxes on health insurance plans negotiated by workers, expanding Medicare coverage to more people, and lowering prescription drug costs. It means passing laws that ensure paid sick and family leave.
All of these guarantees are long overdue for working people, but there is arguably no task so vital as defending our right to safety and dignity on the job. Congress should also extend comprehensive federal protections, including the Equality Act, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status, to LGBTQ and immigrant workers, whose livelihoods and families too often rest on the whims of their employers.
As one of a handful of men in my family to survive the scourge of black lung in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, I cannot overstate the dire need for broadly strengthened safety regulations, including the expansion of Occupational Safety and Health Administration coverage to all workers, toughened federal enforcement, and ironclad whistleblower protections.
Corporations and right wing interests continue to try their best to deny working people our fair share of the enormous wealth that we produce every day. In November, we stood up to change that twisted status quo. We made our voices heard at the ballot box, and we intend to hold the people we elected accountable to an economic agenda that will raise wages, move our country forward, and lead to better lives for all of us.
The latest bargaining information about the University of California and the Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association.
Workers at the Hartford Courant, the oldest continuously run U.S. newspaper, have won voluntary recognition for their union from ownership company Tribune Publishing.
In order to get the Republican corporate tax cut bill passed, many big businesses made big promises to workers that their wages would go up.
Members from seven different Georgia campuses met with their state Senators and Representatives to gain additional sponsors on legislation to guarantee a fair pay raise for all Georgia higher education workers.
If an investor was searching for the country’s most explosively successful commodity, they might look to the ground for natural resources or to Wall Street for some new financial instrument. But the most meteoric success story can be found virtually all around us—in the booming video game industry. Growing by double digits, U.S. video game sales reached $43 billion in 2018, some 3.6 times greater than the film industry’s record-breaking box office.
It’s a stunning accomplishment—one built by legions of tireless game developers. There’s nothing more powerful than throwing yourself into your craft, putting in day after day of passionate, hard work.
Through the fog of sleepless nights that fade into morning, piles of crumpled Red Bull cans and incessant pressure from management, you have accomplished the unthinkable. You’ve built new worlds, designed new challenges and ushered in a new era of entertainment.
Now it’s time for industry bosses to start treating you with hard-earned dignity and respect.
Executives are always quick to brag about your work. It’s the talk of every industry corner office and boardroom. They pay tribute to the games that capture our imaginations and seem to defy economic gravity. They talk up the latest innovations in virtual reality and celebrate record-smashing releases, as your creations reach unparalleled new heights.
My question is this: What have you gotten in return? While you’re putting in crunch time, your bosses are ringing the opening bell on Wall Street. While you’re creating some of the most groundbreaking products of our time, they’re pocketing billions. While you’re fighting through exhaustion and putting your soul into a game, Bobby Kotick and Andrew Wilson are toasting to “their” success.
They get rich. They get notoriety. They get to be crowned visionaries and regarded as pioneers.
What do you get?
Outrageous hours and inadequate paychecks. Stressful, toxic work conditions that push you to your physical and mental limits. The fear that asking for better means risking your dream job.
We’ve heard the painful stories of those willing to come forward, including one developer who visited the emergency room three times before taking off from work. Developers at Rockstar Games recently shared stories of crunch time that lasted for months and even years in order to satisfy outrageous demands from management, delivering a game that banked their bosses $725 million in its first three days.
This is a moment for change. It won’t come from CEOs. It won’t come from corporate boards. And it won’t come from any one person.
Change will happen when you gain leverage by joining together in a strong union. And it will happen when you use your collective voice to bargain for a fair share of the wealth you create every day.
No matter where you work, bosses will only offer fair treatment when you stand together and demand it. Fortunately, the groundwork is already being laid as grassroots groups like Game Workers Unite embrace the power of solidarity and prove that you don’t have to accept a broken, twisted status quo.
You have the power to demand a stake in your industry and a say in your economic future. What’s more, you have millions of brothers and sisters across the country standing with you.
Your fight is our fight, and we look forward to welcoming you into our union family. Whether we’re mainlining caffeine in Santa Monica, clearing tables in Chicago or mining coal in West Virginia, we deserve to collect nothing less than the full value of our work.
Casual dockworkers in the Port of Valparaíso, one of the largest ports in Chile, in December ended a 36-day strike.
The majority of Chile’s fruit exports pass through this port. The strike came at the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere—the height of the season for fruit, one of the biggest export industries in the country.
Isaac Myers was born in Baltimore in 1835 to free parents. The city's schools excluded African American children, so Myers had to learn to read and write from his minister. At 16, Myers took an apprenticeship with Thomas Jackson, an African American ship caulker who was well-known in the city. Myers learned quickly, and by the time he was 20, he had been placed in charge of a crew that caulked large clipper ships. Myers stayed in the trade for nearly a decade before moving on to open a grocery business in the early 1860s.
The Baltimore shipyards of the time employed both free blacks and slaves leased to the shipyard owners, including Frederick Douglass, who worked as a caulker in the few years leading up to his escape to freedom. In 1838, African American workers formed the Caulkers Association, one of the first African American trade unions in the United States. By the 1850s, black caulkers were paid well—well enough, in fact, that white workers and immigrants who also worked in the shipyards began speaking out against the African American workers. In 1858, riots began. Some shipyard owners, wary of the conflict, stopped hiring black caulkers. In 1865, white workers engaged in a strike that forced shipyards to fire African American workers, leading to more than 1,000 dock workers being fired.
Myers had stayed in contact with his friends who worked in the shipyards during the conflict. He worked his way up to be a high-ranking clerk in a wholesale grocery business. In response to the strike by white workers who targeted black shipyard workers, Myers organized a group of both African American and white business owners to create a new shipyard that would function as a cooperative. The new Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company employed more than 300 African American workers and the pay was good. The new shipyard was successful until 1884, when they lost the lease. Myers served as a board member for the company and an unofficial spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Myers focused most of his time on helping expand the black trade unionist movement. By 1868, he was president of the Colored Caulkers' Trade Union Society of Baltimore. He used that position to reach out to African American union members in other trades and cities in an effort to bring organizations that allowed African Americans to join into the National Labor Union, a new national federation of local unions. At the NLU's 1869 national convention, Myers and a delegation of African American union leaders addressed the gathering, making the case for equal treatment and acceptance of black leaders by the white leaders of organized labor. Myers said:
I speak today for the colored men of the whole country...when I tell you that all they ask for themselves is a fair chance; that you shall be no worse off by giving them that chance....The white men of the country have nothing to fear....We desire to have the highest rate of wages that our labor is worth.
The NLU rejected Myers plea, but they offered him and others the opportunity for African American unionists to join an affiliated, but separate, organization. Myers and other leaders formed the Colored National Labor Union. Over the next several years, Douglass had become the most well-recognized leader in the CNLU, which was hit hard by the depression of 1873. Both the NLU and CNLU folded because of the depression.
That didn't slow down Myers' organizing efforts. He launched a new organization, the Colored Men's Progressive and Cooperative Union, which was open to members of all occupational backgrounds. The new union not only allowed both white and black members, it was one of the few unions of the day to also welcome women.
In the 1870s, Myers became pretty heavily involved in politics and worked as a Customs Service agent and postal inspector. He continued to help organize in the South before returning to Baltimore in 1880 to run a coal yard. He stayed active in African American community organizations and edited the Colored Citizen, a weekly newspaper up until his death in 1891 at 56.
Check out all of our Black History Month labor profiles.
“Don’t start those buses tomorrow,” said Joe White, executive director of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association.
He was announcing the second statewide education strike in West Virginia in a year, alongside the leaders of the state’s two teacher unions.
The next morning, February 19, buses throughout the state sat idle in garages.
And by the middle of the day, strikers declared victory with the defeat of an anti-union, pro-privatization education bill in the state House.
The teacher strike wave keeps gathering steam. After three days out, February 11-13, Denver teachers won a settlement that achieved their main goal—to dramatically reduce the effects of the district’s chaotic merit pay system.
Oakland teachers, meanwhile, have announced they will strike February 21.
The new contract in Denver will put more money into base pay and into steps and lanes, which reward teachers for their years of experience and level of higher education.
Name of Union: American Federation of Government Employees
Mission: The union exists for the purpose of promoting unity of action in all matters affecting the mutual interests of government civilian employees in general, all other persons providing their personal service indirectly to the United States Government and for the improvement of government service.
Current Leadership of Union: J. David Cox Sr. is currently serving his third term as AFGE's national president. Cox, who is from North Carolina, began working in health care in 1970 and became a registered nurse in 1983. That launched a public sector career with the Veterans' Administration that lasted until 2006, when he became AFGE's national secretary-treasurer. Everett Kelley serves as national secretary-treasurer and Jeremy Lannan serves as national vice president for women and fair practices.
Current Number of Members: 315,000.
Members Work As: Food inspectors, nurses, correctional officers, lawyers, police officers, census workers, scientists, doctors, park rangers, border patrol agents, transportation security officers, mechanics, computer programmers and more.
Industries Represented: Members work for the federal government or the government of the District of Columbia.
History: AFGE formed in 1932, during the depths of the Great Depression. Federal employees were refused most of the rights they have today. Politicians had crippled the civil service, and AFGE's founding members came together in opposition to these attacks. In the decades leading up to World War II, new chapters of the union began to form across the country. In the 1940s and 50s, AFGE fought for and won a pay raise of nearly 16%, the largest increase for the federal government workforce in the country's history. They also won within-grade pay increases, transportation allowances and payment for accrued annual leave, overtime, and night and holiday work. Finally, in 1962, federal workers secured the right to collectively bargain when President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10988. Since then, AFGE has continued to fight for government workers and has won real bargaining rights and extended the dignity of a union contract to hundreds of thousands of Americans. Check out AFGE's Labor History Timeline to learn more.
Current Campaigns: Stop the Shutdown seeks to end the unfair and unnecessary shutdown of the federal government. AFGE is also fighting to protect the rights for TSA workers; protect correctional officers; protect official time for federal employees and to fully fund and resource the Veterans Administration. AFGE's Use Your Voice empowers young workers to engage their fellow AFGE members, friends and family to register to vote and turn out to the polls on Election Day. Family First is a campaign to pass paid parental leave for all working families.
Community Efforts: Each One, Teach One is a mentorship program for AFGE members. AFGE is part of AFL-CIO's Union Veterans Council whose mission is to inform, organize and mobilize union veterans. AFGE Y.O.U.N.G. seeks to mobilize young union members to become leaders for social change. AFGE's Pride program supports the union's LGBTQ membership and allies. HISCO supports professional advancement, leadership development and education opportunity for AFGE members of Hispanic origin.
The simple yellow protest signs were stenciled “Green Jobs for All.” Speaker after speaker stepped into the middle of the office floor, marked with a U.S. House of Representatives seal. Representative-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, fresh off her election win, gave the protesters high fives.
That was the scene in November when the youth climate justice organization Sunrise Movement held a sit-in at the office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who was soon to be the Speaker of the House.
Most Americans had never heard of the “Green New Deal” at the time.
They did it to public workers. Next they want to do it to railroad and airline workers.
A right-wing policy think tank filed a Janus-style lawsuit against the Machinists on January 8, claiming that non-members shouldn’t be required to pay fees for union representation.
The plaintiffs are customer service agents at United Airlines. They’re covered by the Railway Labor Act, which governs unionization and collective bargaining for hundreds of thousands of union members who work for railways or airlines—from flight attendants to freight train engineers.
Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s the latest edition of the Working People Weekly List.
Number of Workers Striking Across the U.S. Jumped in 2018: "Almost 500,000 workers participated in work stoppages last year, driven primarily by protests in the education, health-care and social-assistance industries, the Labor Department said. Overall, there were more such disputes than in any year since 2007, and more people on strike or lockout than any year going back to 1987. 'If you think that neither the political system nor the economy is working for you, you turn to each other, knowing it’s the only way you can make change,' said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, which represents 12.5 million unionized workers."
Let’s Not Forget Unions and Collective Action When Discussing Victories on Workers’ Rights: "Too often in our public discourse about workplace issues, the crucial role of labor unions and the legal right of workers to join together in collective action to improve their working conditions is forgotten or ignored."
Trump Wrong to Scapegoat Immigrants, AFL-CIO President Says: "AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka discusses the trade war between the U.S. and China and the implications for the U.S. labor force with Bloomberg's Jason Kelly on "Bloomberg Markets: Balance of Power."
Was It Worth It? Many Suffered in Trump’s Wall Budget Loss: "Wall or no wall, that wasn’t the question during a silent demonstration in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building. For 35 minutes on Wednesday afternoon, members of the American Federation of Government Employees and others held their fists high to mark the number of days in the longest shutdown that ended three weeks ago. In solemn fashion, they declared not to tolerate such an assault on the government and its workforce. Arms were raised. At the sound of triangle chimes and a small bell rung on each minute, individuals lowered one arm and then raised the other. Each minute was displayed on a paper plate, so the demonstrators would know how much they had to endure."
Congress’s Spending Deal Doesn’t Include Back Pay for Federal Contractors: "Democratic lawmakers led by Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith wanted to attach a bill guaranteeing back pay for federal contractors to a final spending package in an effort to provide some financial relief for as many as 580,000 workers who may have missed out on wages during the recent shutdown. Contractors say they struggled with everything from covering medications to buying baby formula. The legislation, which would have been the first law of its kind to grant contractors back pay after a government shutdown, had been caught up in spending negotiations and faced Republican pushback, according to multiple Democratic sources. As Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) told reporters pointedly on Wednesday, 'I’ve been told the president won’t sign that....I guess federal contractors are different in his view than federal employees.'"
Working People Rally to Protect Dreamers and Workers with TPS: "More than 1,000 of our union brothers and sisters from across the country marched on Capitol Hill Tuesday to call on Congress to save the temporary protected status (TPS) program and allow the workers who depend on it to continue to pursue their dreams in America."
Painters Lend Helping Hand in the Construction Trades: "Work in the construction trades is very physically and mentally demanding. For some workers, those conditions, combined with other factors, can lead to the need for support from the community. The Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) union is stepping up to provide that support for workers who are dealing with depression or substance abuse with IUPAT Helping Hand, a new program designed to raise awareness and provide resources for working people who are struggling."
No More Shutdowns: In the States Roundup: "It's time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states. Click on any of the links to follow the state federations on Twitter."
U.S. Unions Bring Solidarity to Striking Mexican Workers: "A delegation of union leaders from the national AFL-CIO, the Texas AFL-CIO, the UAW and the United Steelworkers (USW) traveled to Matamoros, Mexico, last week to support tens of thousands of factory workers who have launched a wave of strikes to demand wage increases and democratic control of their unions."
Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Amalgamated Transit Union: "Next up in our new series of taking a deeper look at each of our affiliates is Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). The series will run weekly until we've covered all 55 of our affiliates."
The NABET-CWA Network Negotiating Committee reached a tentative agreement this week with NBC Universal on a new contract to replace the Master Agreement, which expired on March 31, 2018.
Organizing news from BuzzFeed News, the Hartford Courant, and Parking Production Assistants.
CWA President Chris Shelton testified in front of Congress on Wednesday at a U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing on the T-Mobile/Sprint merger.
USIC workers, members of CWA Local 1101, voted overwhelmingly to keep their union last week.
CWAers across the country are making major strides on passing legislation to protect call center jobs from offshoring!
At a press conference this week, CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens and AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson called on Congress and the White House to avoid another federal government shutdown in order to keep workers and the flying public safe.
More than 1,000 of our union brothers and sisters from across the country marched on Capitol Hill Tuesday to call on Congress to save the temporary protected status (TPS) program and allow the workers who depend on it to continue to pursue their dreams in America.
Despite the wind and rain, workers from UNITE HERE, the Laborers (LIUNA), the Bricklayers (BAC), the Ironworkers, the Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) rallied at the U.S. Capitol, demanding #TPSJustice.
TPS provides people from countries experiencing crises such as war, natural disaster or ongoing violence the opportunity to build a life in the United States. TPS holders are major contributors to our workplaces, economy and communities. They deserve a stable future, but the Trump administration has terminated the program for the 400,000 who have 275,000 U.S. citizen children.
Here is what people said on Twitter from the rally:
Our big day is here, join us starting at 9 am, at the White House, as we march for the Justice of the TPS Community 👊🏾✊🏽. #TPSMarch #TPSJustice #ResidencyNow #ProtectTPSFamilies #TpsPeoplesSummit pic.twitter.com/KIrsBiXBHP— Nat’l TPS Alliance (@TPS_Alliance) February 12, 2019
“Everything I do is for them. I can’t imagine what I would do if I lost them.” TPS recipient Doris talks about her 3 US citizen children and the nightmare she faces if Congress doesn’t act quickly to #ProtectTPS. Join us in fighting for #TPSjustice: https://t.co/YLAlU3HeBF pic.twitter.com/fqol6uXF9Q— iAmerica Action (@iAmericaAction) February 12, 2019
CALL IN DAY: Has your Representative committed to preventing the termination of TPS and providing permanent protections for people whose lives are in limbo? Call and find out: 202-335-9949 #TPSJustice #SaveTPS pic.twitter.com/4J18UQzZwA— Working Families United (@wfucoalition) February 12, 2019
It is cold and rainy at the White House today, but that won't stop us from fighting for #TPSJustice - we're out here to fight for our brothers and sisters who are TPS holders because they too deserve a pathway to become permanent residents. pic.twitter.com/cQWlcOdYGR— APALA (@APALAnational) February 12, 2019
“We are not standing in the rain because we like to stand in the rain. We are here for a cause. We are here because we don’t know what is coming next!” - Cristina Wilson #TPSjustice pic.twitter.com/7zGVr0i6Hx— Nat’l TPS Alliance (@TPS_Alliance) February 12, 2019
We're at the #TPSMarch march today in Washington, where thousands have shown up to defend this humanitarian program.— WOLA (@WOLA_org) February 12, 2019
Find out more about Trump’s attacks against the TPS community and what’s at stake: https://t.co/jcJ5REuPXY#TPSJustice #ResidencyNow #ProtectTPSFamilies pic.twitter.com/lT7mR8mGBh
I had the privilege of sponsoring “The Last Dream: Stories Created & Performed by the Children of TPS” by the #Boston Experimental Theatre to create space for these children, children of #TPS recipients, to tell their stories & demand #TPSJUSTICE. pic.twitter.com/ey4I3cLUOC— Rep Ayanna Pressley (@RepPressley) February 12, 2019
Rain or shine, we're proud to stand with our partners who are fighting for TPS recipients — immigrants who have built careers and made their lives here for decades now. #SaveTPS #TPSJustice pic.twitter.com/k8DcQRiXrU— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) February 12, 2019
Ana has lived & worked here for nearly two decades with #TPS. Today she is taking her mssg to Congress to advocate for a permanent solution for her & over 300,000 TPS holders who work hard for this country & deserve a pathway to citizenship. #SaveTPS #TPSjustice @WorkersUnitedWS pic.twitter.com/ysPfl4Dj6C— iAmerica Action (@iAmericaAction) February 12, 2019
America’s mothers call on Congress to enact legislation that affirms the dignity of immigrant women & children and of our nation. We stand with TPS holders and their fight to stay with their families and continue building their lives in the U.S. #SaveTPS #TPSJustice pic.twitter.com/YyZAqkm4oI— MomsRising (@MomsRising) February 12, 2019
“I came here in 1985 w/ dreams & am now a US citizen. I’m here to ask my sen @marcorubio to help us pass legislation to provide a permanent solution for #TPS recipients. If they’re forced to leave, there’s gonna be a big hole in this country.” -Javier, @WorkersUnited #tpsjustice pic.twitter.com/6n3XdDW5J6— iAmerica Action (@iAmericaAction) February 12, 2019
Ending TPS would put more than 400,000 TPS holders and their families at risk for deportation. Advocates took to the streets of D.C. today to demand permanent protection for these workers and families. #TPSJustice #SaveTPS #ResidencyNow pic.twitter.com/PeDcrBE7Ut— Advancing Justice | AAJC (@AAAJ_AAJC) February 12, 2019
In DC fighting for TPS and DACA. Fighting with Working Families United. A group of about 15 international Unions who are fighting for our people. Thank you Congressman Ro Khanna for meetings with us.#SaveTPS #TPSJustice @wfucoalition pic.twitter.com/pHkNzprrdg— IUPAT DC5 ORG (@IUPAT_DC5) February 12, 2019
Threatening #TPS families is just another form of family separation. Govt should lead with compassion, not cruelty and chaos. TY to everyone for sharing your story today. Together, we're going to #SaveTPS. #protectTPS #TPSJustice @fams2gether @MIRACoalition @TPS_Alliance pic.twitter.com/hlldi53DAj— Katherine Clark (@RepKClark) February 12, 2019
Last week, the Texas Young Active Labor Leaders (YALL) hosted its second biennial YALL Summit in Austin. Nearly 250 young labor leaders, union activists and community allies joined together to chart the course of the labor movement in Texas and beyond.
Attendees heard from other young labor and political leaders such as Josette Jaramillo, president of the Colorado AFL-CIO, and Greg Casar, Austin City Council member. Panels and workshops covered topics ranging from union organizing sweeping through "right to work" states like Texas and Oklahoma, advancing racial justice and immigrant rights in the labor movement, facilitating collaboration between unions and environmental justice groups, connecting fights for workers' rights with community activism, and more. The 2019 Texas YALL Summit offered a venue where young workers could connect with one another and strategize to address the issues that impact them at the workplace, in their unions and in their communities.
Two 2019 YALL Summit attendees have taken the time to share their experiences at the gathering in their own words. First up is Erica Scarlett, a 32-year-old office professional from Waco who also attended the first YALL Summit in 2017.
Erica Scarlett, OPEIU 277, Fort Worth, Texas
My name is Erica Scarlett, and I am a young active labor leader in my community. I work at American Income Life, one of the few unionized companies in my hometown of Waco. I am a union steward at my job, have been for the past three years. I am part of the Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) Local 277 based in Fort Worth.
My local was invited to the first YALL Summit in 2017, which was the start of a life-changing movement, as well as a breathtaking experience. This particular YALL conference was held in Houston during the weekend of the presidential inauguration. That experience was amazing as we all came together from all cultural backgrounds with one goal in mind: "Unity for the minority." You could only imagine my excitement when I was told our local was invited to the 2019 YALL Summit: "Ignite the fight." I was ecstatic and pumped to see what our young labor leaders were going to bring to the table this year.
I really enjoyed traveling to Austin, the capital of our great state, and being a part of the "solidarity movement." There was a great panel of speakers who spoke volumes and motivated us to do more in our communities, as well as promise to stand together in solidarity. There were a variety of workshops that we had the option to choose from. I chose to go to the racial injustice in the workplace and common sense social economics workshops. I must say, the speakers in each of the workshops did an outstanding job, not just providing expertise on the subject matter, but making it hands on, interactive and interesting.
There were moments where we had breaks and kickbacks; a fun way to engage and get to know each other, as well as networking opportunities. I believe that by coming to these summits, our young labor leaders understand they are not alone. They have support, and we are able to recharge, refuel and reunite. Every time I have attended a YALL Summit it gets better and better. I am stoked to see what it will be in 2021. I must say, coming together again this year has motivated me to try and bring YALL to Waco. I have received tremendous support and guidance.
The future is NOW, and I leave you with this chant: "I said YALL, baby! YALL, baby! YALL, baby! YALL!" (repeat after me)/"You have to be an active leader or you gots to go! #BeTheChangeYouWantToSee"
Angel Silvestre Avila, IBEW 583, El Paso, Texas
Angel Silvestre Avila, a 24-year-old electrical apprentice with Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 583 in El Paso, also shared his reflections on the YALL Summit:
Hello to everyone who will be reading this blog. This is my first time writing a blog, as well as my first time attending this type of seminar or conference. I was nominated by my union to represent IBEW Local 583 at the 2019 YALL Summit. The business manager of my union, Leticia Marcum, nominated me and my union members passed a motion in order for me to attend. I would like to thank my fellow union members—especially Letty, our business manager—for this wonderful opportunity and seeing me as a young union leader for my local.
Before attending the summit, I had different expectations. I thought it was going to be a formal event where everyone is there to learn but not necessarily to communicate with each other, where everyone is judging you on your appearance, how you speak, your ethnicity, the way you hold yourself and if you come from a blue- or white-collar background. What I got was a completely different experience; it was actually quite shocking to me. On the contrary, everyone there was very respectful, friendly and accepted you for who you were—not just the people who hosted the summit but also the ones attending: the LGBTQ community, teachers, building trades, social workers, local Democratic Socialists of America groups, government employees, the Sierra Club and the Progressive Workers Union, stagehands, transport workers, many different IBEW locals and much more. The reason I mention so many of these associations and people is because each one had an impact on my experience, whether it was union issues, different takes and perspectives on the things going on in our nation and how young active labor leaders can make a difference.
A big thing that I learned going to the workshops and listening to the guest speakers and featured panels is that it doesn't matter anymore if you are in the blue- or white-collar industry, or if you obtained your career through a university or trade school. I learned that everyone who attended the conference had a common interest; that interest being a livable wage for everyone in our communities. Some of the main issues that I came to be more aware of are immigration issues in the workplace, people in the LGBTQ community and the struggles they deal with on a daily basis in the workforce. I also learned about women's rights, issues affecting Hispanics and African Americans, and public school teachers. I will not get into detail of everything that was discussed, but what I would like to say is although there were many issues brought to the table, there were also many solutions that were given in order to better these issues.
One thing that really stuck with me was when one young man said something to the effect of, "I'm glad to see so many people here, and I would like to say many of us are fighting for these same issues. People don't see the struggles we face on a daily basis: trying to put food on the table, living paycheck to paycheck and staying out of poverty. We all came here not just for ourselves but to ensure that we can fight for our communities and our neighbors, to obtain a livable wage and be able to provide for our families comfortably. We are not just fighting for ourselves but for our community as well." (This is not verbatim, but how I interpreted his speech).
Once again, I would like to thank my local union members for this amazing opportunity and learning experience, especially the YALL team for hosting an amazing conference. I'd also like to thank my union brothers and sisters from different locals that made me feel very welcome and proud to be part of IBEW.
Finally, one last thing I would like to say and something I took from this experience is this:
These are my hands, I can build America from the ground up. These are my hands, but they do not just build America. I could also use them to fight, not with my fist, but simply with a pen and paper.
Estas son mis manos, puedo construir a los Estados Unidos desde lo mas bajo, estas son mis manos, no solamente para construir si no tambien para pelear, no con puños si no con papel y lapiz.
Work in the construction trades is very physically and mentally demanding. For some workers, those conditions, combined with other factors, can lead to the need for support from the community. The Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) union is stepping up to provide that support for workers who are dealing with depression or substance abuse with IUPAT Helping Hand, a new program designed to raise awareness and provide resources for working people who are struggling.
Construction workers have the highest rate of suicide and drug abuse of any job category in the United States. Many of these addictions begin as treatment for work-related pain or injury. Workers often return to the job before they are fully healed in order to start earning a full paycheck again. Others come back to work still using painkillers that may affect job performance and safety.
IUPAT Helping Hand is designed to help construction workers and their family and friends get access to resources that can identify warning signs and prevent or alleviate these problems before they get out of hand.
Watch the video above and visit the Helping Hand website to learn more.
It's time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states. Click on any of the links to follow the state federations on Twitter.
After learning OMB Director Donna Arduin and Governor Dunleavy's plan for the budget as well as this newly rolled out supplemental budget, all we can say is someone needs a dictionary.— Alaska AFL-CIO (@AKAFLCIO) January 30, 2019
trans·par·ent:(of an organization or its activities) open to public scrutiny. #akleg #akgov pic.twitter.com/JqgYph6Exw
Congratulations to former UFCW member Cardi B on making history at last nights Grammy’s! https://t.co/yIdRhdgr8Q— Arizona AFL-CIO (@ArizonaAFLCIO) February 11, 2019
California Labor Federation:
"Most gig economy workers are still classified as contract workers, meaning that they aren’t covered by federal minimum wage laws & other labor protections." We need to stop greedy corporations from cheating workers! #CaLeg must vote #YesOnAB5! https://t.co/Y3hoyx5iq8 @LorenaAD80— California Labor Federation (@CaliforniaLabor) February 8, 2019
Sotonye Otunba-Payne, court reporter & member of @AFSCMECT4: "We believe that outsourcing will lead to the destruction of middle-class jobs that are the backbone of our economy" #ThriveTogetherCT #1u pic.twitter.com/76CwOCoPrz— Connecticut AFL-CIO (@ConnAFLCIO) February 11, 2019
“There is a lot of uncertainty, and there is a high stress level in the people. It’s affecting the home life of people. Now they don’t know what their future is.” #NoMoreShutdowns https://t.co/rpipMtFYGI— Florida AFL-CIO (@FLAFLCIO) February 7, 2019
Indiana State AFL-CIO:
Iowa Federation of Labor:
Black Civil Rights Activists https://t.co/RyMY1W3IfC— Iowa AFL-CIO (@IowaAFLCIO) February 11, 2019
Kentucky State AFL-CIO:
“Janus hasn’t had any effect at all on us,” said the Kentucky AFL-CIO president, Bill Londrigan, whose state gained 5,000 new public union members after a series of dramatic teachers’... https://t.co/iFFpkxtN4g— Kentucky AFL-CIO (@aflcioky) February 8, 2019
Federal workers Bill and Rob speak to fellow area union members about the impact of the lockout, aka shutdown, had on their members and families. Never again! @AFGENational #mepolitics #1u pic.twitter.com/R7PYr4e0vr— Maine AFL-CIO (@MEAFLCIO) February 7, 2019
Metro Washington (D.C.) Council AFL-CIO:
DC's JW Marriott engineers join IUOE 99 https://t.co/mTbMguthIY— MetroDCLaborCouncil (@DCLabor) February 8, 2019
Nebraska State AFL-CIO:
Mark your calendars now to help Stamp Out Hunger. pic.twitter.com/YawTXOzhYq— NE State AFL-CIO (@NEAFLCIO) February 6, 2019
Nevada State AFL-CIO:
New Mexico Federation of Labor:
New York State AFL-CIO:
Labor leaders optimistic bill penalizing companies for outsourcing call-center jobs will pass in Dem-controlled Albany https://t.co/AJqcvdG2wE— NYSAFLCIO (@NYSAFLCIO) February 11, 2019
North Carolina State AFL-CIO:
North Dakota AFL-CIO:
Rep. Nelson stands with North Dakota Firefighters and Police and their right to join together and negotiate the terms of their employment. Thank him! email@example.com - 701-550-9731 #HB1463 #NDPOL #1u pic.twitter.com/ealExPZn1T— North Dakota AFL-CIO (@NDAFLCIO) February 5, 2019
Fear @wrightstate faculty, staff, students & @aaupwsu,— Ohio AFL-CIO (@ohioaflcio) February 11, 2019
Thank you for standing united in #solidarity for a better university. The lessons taught on the picket line will last a lifetime (and beyond).
Congratulations and in the best way possible, we say, “Now get o work.”
Oklahoma State AFL-CIO:
Check out IBEW 1141 member Joshua Matthews giving back to his community! https://t.co/NvNHGF7EKX— Oklahoma AFL-CIO (@OK_AFL_CIO) February 11, 2019
10s of thousands of Pennsylvanians are shut out of our workforce. If we want to address workforce development we NEED to address our criminal justice system! @GovernorTomWolf #BudgetAddress #CriminalJustice #CleanSlate pic.twitter.com/5lTNrXJlM2— PA AFL-CIO (@PaAFL_CIO) February 5, 2019
Rhode Island AFL-CIO:
RI labor movement suffered a great loss when Teamster Assistant Business Agent Dennis Lavallee passed away unexpectedly. A planned fundraiser has been set for Saturday, February 23 a trust has been established to assist the Lavallee family.@IBT251 #1U #Teamsters #IBT pic.twitter.com/LMNF6xt4YK— Rhode Island AFL-CIO (@riaflcio) February 11, 2019
South Carolina AFL-CIO:
Workers, AFL-CIO, Democrats open legislative push for $15 minimum wage https://t.co/h83fE8brTY— SC AFL-CIO (@SCAFLCIO) February 9, 2019
Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council:
Electrolux fired 658 employees, contract workers in Memphis the year before closure announcement https://t.co/V9ZzWtVCZo— Tennessee AFL-CIO (@tnaflcio) February 10, 2019
Write your Texas senator now: Vote NO on David Whitley https://t.co/Z4ZqoaPYLt— Texas AFL-CIO (@TexasAFLCIO) February 9, 2019
Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024 would lift pay for nearly 40 million workers | Economic Policy Institute https://t.co/y7yegm4gRw— Virginia AFL-CIO (@Virginia_AFLCIO) February 5, 2019
Washington State Labor Council:
Our time counts—at work and away from it (WSLC Legislative Update) https://t.co/CGHD5Ve2Bs re: Secure Scheduling, funding community colleges, honoring labor on the 100th anniversary of the Seattle General Strike #waleg #1u pic.twitter.com/gotmegIqN3— WA State AFL-CIO (@WAAFLCIO) February 8, 2019
West Virginia AFL-CIO:
Wisconsin State AFL-CIO:
Unions Join Together to Challenge Wisconsin’s Lame Duck Laws, https://t.co/77fTdYIdIo— WI AFL-CIO (@wisaflcio) February 9, 2019
Thirteen thousand nurses may be on strike in March at three of the largest employers in New York City.
For several months, hospitals in the Montefiore, Mount Sinai, and New York Presbyterian systems have been bargaining jointly with the New York State Nurses Association.
On February 6, 1919, Seattle’s workers struck—all of them. In doing so they took control of the city.
The strike was in support of 35,000 shipyard workers, then in conflict with the city’s shipyard owners and the federal government’s U.S. Shipping Board, which was still enforcing wartime wage agreements.