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It was a bad sign. On the day voting began at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the shift change suddenly turned blue.
Throngs of workers were passing through the factory turnstiles in both directions, as the day shift ended and the night shift began. On the preceding days, handfuls of union supporters in bright green shirts were there to hand out flyers and banter with their co-workers.
Last night I was a part of something so truly amazing I am still having a hard time putting it into words. And for those of you that know me, words are usually my thing. There is so much that I am grateful for and want to share. It was an incredible night and to me, it was more than 100 years in the making.
Last week, the Passaic County Central Labor Council paved the way financially for four high school seniors to enter into the trades through an apprenticeship program with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). These four students from Paterson and Passaic were honored and recognized for their choice to enter into the union workforce. They were given education awards to pay for the books for their apprenticeship program to become unionized auto mechanics. Where our world usually celebrates going to college and gives all sorts of college scholarships, our Labor Council wanted to help make a difference for the future of unions.
We have (unfortunately) seen college scholarships given at breakfasts where the recipients don’t even show up to receive their money. Thousands of dollars not even appreciated or understood. And we, the Passaic County CLC, were determined to make sure that our awards would go to not only those who need it, who it would greatly impact, but also those who would appreciate the opportunity and want to be a part of a union.
These four 2019 high school graduates and their families were part of something special. It was the first-ever award ceremony in our county (and maybe even New Jersey) of its kind. Seeing the smiles on their faces was truly priceless.
These students received an earful (and a heart full) of advice and wisdom from union leaders who were once in their shoes, embarking on a new career path. They were welcomed into a greater union family and provided with an understanding of what this opportunity is all about.
The event was hosted at the Botto House/American Labor Museum, which is not only a historical landmark but was also the home of an immigrant family, silk mill worker Pietro Botto, who held gatherings of more than 20,000 silk mill workers who were on strike for some of the basic working rights we have today—the eight-hour work day, child labor laws and workers' rights. Labor union organizers from the Industrial Workers of the World held rallies at this landmark and by the power of unions, and people coming together, their voices were eventually heard.
The Botto House is also a special place for me personally, as my great-grandparents, who were immigrant silk mill and factory workers in Paterson in the early 1900s, attended these rallies and strikes. My dad volunteered at the Botto House for more than 25 years and always made sure we understood that the roots of our family coming to America, that all we had, could have possibly started right here in the crowd.
There were things I knew about my dad when he passed away. Creating union opportunities within our community was something he was passionate about. Being able to hold your head high knowing that you gave your best was one of the only and most valuable things we have in life. It’s not about the cars you drive or how big your house is. It’s not about what college you went to. There are more important things in life that money will never buy. Or as he would say, “dirty hands make clean money.” He even had me write letters to the bishop of the Paterson diocese about his poor choices to support nonunion work when there were hundreds of union members/parishioners who were unemployed.
I can go on and on about my how proud my dad was to be a union member. He joined the Plumbers union after he served in the Marine Corps, not only to making a good living and provide for a family, but to be a part of something greater than himself. His path was not always easy. There were times when he was out of work and had a family to provide for, but to him, his chosen path was always worth it.
He often dragged us to events, to Labor Day parades and union rallies. He was a plumber, but one time we even hopped on a bus with IBEW Local 102 to head to a workers' rights rally in Philadelphia, because it mattered to him. He made sure our family knew why Labor Day isn’t just a Monday off, but it’s dedicated to the achievements of the backbone of America—the honorable working class. If a store or a restaurant were built nonunion, he did not approve of us going there.
When my dad passed away, I wrote to the Passaic County Central Labor Council and asked if they needed any volunteers. After all, I wrote so many letters for my dad over the years, that I felt like I was already a part of it in a way. It was also a way for me to share my understanding of unions, how appreciative I was of all that I ever had in my life…and most of all, I felt like it was a way for me to stay close with my dad. To do something in his spirit. Something that he truly cared about.
Over the last few years, I have been blessed to work with some truly remarkable leaders. We have brainstormed and debated, and have been able to put some of our ideas into action. We’ve cared about the community—brought Santa and hundreds of gifts to Martin De Porres village in Paterson. We’ve gathered hundreds of union members for labor walks and barbecues to help support politicians who care about union rights, workers’ rights and our communities. And now, we’ve provided a foundation and understanding for new union workers.
Last week, when I arrived at the ceremony for these students, my friends and colleagues on the Labor Council totally surprised me. They asked me to be a part of the ceremony. If I would hand the plaques to the students. Of course, I agreed. I was so excited. But, there’s more. When they uncovered the plaques, they unveiled to me that this would be “The Robert Ehrentraut Labor Education Award.”
I was shocked! I’m still crying, just thinking about it. What an honor!
I’m sure it’s something my dad wouldn’t believe if he was here today. To him, he simply did his job. It wasn’t about recognition, it was about doing your best, caring for your family and contributing to your community. The bar was set with expectations of integrity, hard work and care for others. Nothing less was even an option.
So, even almost five years after his passing, my dad is still teaching me to lead from the crowd. That it can be extraordinary to be ordinary. That there is honor in doing what you know in your heart is right.
More than 100 years ago my great-grandparents stood in the crowd for union rights. Last night, four students received an award in their grandson’s honor. Values come full circle in life and I couldn’t be more grateful to be my father’s daughter AND a member of the Passaic County Central Labor Council.
In large parts of the states examined by CWA, AT&T has not upgraded its copper network to fiber to better serve customers.
The latest from AT&T and Air Wisconsin.
CWA has been a leading opponent of the deal and has kept concerns about job loss and lower wages in the wireless industry at the center of the discussion.
The bill would ensure that taxpayer dollars are not rewarding companies that offshore their customer service work and would give consumers the power to decide where to have their calls handled.
CWA members have been going all out to fight to protect workers, making hundreds of phone calls to legislators asking them to stand with the governor.
The Universal Service Fund supports programs like Lifeline and the Connect America Fund to make broadband service more affordable and accessible to lower-income families.
Welcome to our regular feature, a look at what the various AFL-CIO unions and other working family organizations are doing across the country and beyond. The labor movement is big and active—here's a look at the broad range of activities we're engaged in this week.
Actors' Equity Association:
The National Equal Employment Opportunity Committee invites you to make a nomination for the 2019 LeNoire Award.— Actors' Equity (@ActorsEquity) June 13, 2019
Visit https://t.co/wY7Mw5oQ3X for complete details and access to the nomination form.
All submissions are due by June 30, 2019. pic.twitter.com/4j5qwt8L5P
Where can you find an AFSCME member? The answer is everywhere our communities need us. More than 1 million AFSCME members bring their passion for public service to the work they do every day. We’re the union that never quits. #1u #NeverQuit pic.twitter.com/Za160Y7aPg— AFSCME (@AFSCME) June 3, 2019
Public employees in Alaska are bracing themselves for a wave of pink slips, and the University of Alaska is beginning to plan for at least a $5 million cut in funding: This budget crisis is real #FundOurFuture https://t.co/rQBI4P1Jpz pic.twitter.com/WtVGKomxD5— AFT (@AFTunion) June 13, 2019
Air Line Pilots:
Alliance for Retired Americans:
Amalgamated Transit Union:
American Federation of Musicians:
American Postal Workers Union:
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance:
"This proposed #PublicCharge rule would bar law-abiding immigrants from accessing benefits we are all entitled to.— APALA (@APALAnational) June 12, 2019
In NYC - this rule could impact half a million immigrant families and their US citizen children." - @RepGraceMeng pic.twitter.com/K7jfel86tP
Association of Flight Attendants-CWA:
Many Air Wisconsin Flight Attendants have to choose between paying rent or paying for groceries. First year Flight Attendant salaries at Air Wisconsin can be as low as $15K a year and all Flight Attendants wages are working from 2007 wage rates. The message is clear: #ContractNow pic.twitter.com/YnH1Bsudr8— AFA-CWA (@afa_cwa) June 12, 2019
I stand with thousands of airline food workers organizing strike votes to show the airlines they'll be ready to strike when released by the Gov't. #1Job should be enough in the airline industry! #airportstrikealert #unitehere pic.twitter.com/8CwSPWQMWd https://t.co/qG8zHRYy6N— BCTGM International (@BCTGM) June 10, 2019
A true story about why #ApprenticeshipWorks. “This career and the relationships I’ve built have molded me into a man, taught me patience, and have impacted me so much. It’s a brotherhood.” - BAC Local 1 MN/ND #bricklayer Andre McHenry #SkilledTrade #1u #buildfortomorrow https://t.co/VJvf6ZgiP1— Bricklayers Union (@IUBAC) June 12, 2019
California School Employees Association:
Congratulations Anne Thatcher the CSEA 2019 RISE Award Winner. Thank you for all you have done to enrich the lives of your students and families. pic.twitter.com/TpuMo98vcs— CSEA (@CSEA_Now) June 12, 2019
Coalition of Labor Union Women:
Nationwide, there are more than 5,000 outdoor statues of people of all sorts. But estimates show fewer than 400 of them (or 8%) are of women. https://t.co/NJQRFyK0UM— CLUW National (@CLUWNational) May 26, 2019
Communications Workers of America:
Thank you @SenBobCasey, @RepMcKinley, and @RepMarkPocan for cosponsoring the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act and standing up to corporations who are shipping jobs overseas.https://t.co/FfejGLHlIv— CWA (@CWAUnion) June 12, 2019
Department for Professional Employees:
Farm Labor Organizing Committee:
What is social justice? We are going to be talking about that tonight with our @FLOCHomies. Staff members Chibuzo and Jacovy talk about their civil rights icons...Jesus and Malcolm X. Click to see the video: https://t.co/2SpnnnDtxp …— Farm Labor Organizing Committee (@SupportFLOC) June 11, 2019
Heat and Frost Insulators:
Interested in a career as a firestopping expert? Begin with a registered apprenticeship program to gain all of the skills and knowledge needed to take on any job. To learn more about the job and opportunities, visit here: https://t.co/w4fQgT2dxT— Insulators Union (@InsulatorsUnion) June 13, 2019
International Labor Communications Association:
Ironworker Paul Pursley spent 10 weeks at “Ground Zero” following attack. His major complaint in the years following concerned his inability to get affordable treatment. #september11 #911https://t.co/ZaOp9CFjVP— Ironworkers. (@TheIronworkers) June 13, 2019
Jobs with Justice:
#GigEconomy companies are so desperate to avoid paying benefits and treating rideshare drivers like employees, they *swear* they'll raise wages if California doesn't reclassify #Uber and #Lyft drivers as employees. https://t.co/cpJMJKI0n0— Jobs With Justice (@jwjnational) June 13, 2019
On this World Against Child Labor Day: There are an estimated 218 million kids, between the ages of 5 and 17 who go to work every day. Children are meant to dream, not work! #ChildLabourDay https://t.co/u37le5Uusi— LCLAA (@LCLAA) June 12, 2019
UNION-BUSTING BOEING: A year after voting to join the IAM, flight-line employees at @Boeing's S.C. campus describe a workplace filled with paranoia and punishment. #BeBetterBoeing https://t.co/epjeehUbQH— Machinists Union (@MachinistsUnion) June 8, 2019
The House Committee on Education and Labor just passed the Butch Lewis Act, which would secure the pensions of hundreds of thousands of workers and retirees. But this is just the first step. Call your member of Congress and tell them to get behind it. https://t.co/S8RoHB2g1Z— Metal Trades Dept. (@metaltradesafl) June 12, 2019
Today marks William Davis Miners' Memorial Day. This day of remembrance is observed every June 11 in coal mining communities in Canada to recognize all miners killed in the coal mines.— United Mine Workers (@MineWorkers) June 11, 2019
Int' Secretary-Treasurer @LeviAllenUMWA is shown here placing a wreath on the memorial site. pic.twitter.com/NV2aWw2l0g
National Air Traffic Controllers Association:
NATCA recently hosted a Advanced Legislative Activism Training (ALAT) class, which is taught in the nation’s capital so that participants can learn from legislative subject matter experts. Register for NATCA Academy training courses: https://t.co/aagVHUE7zh pic.twitter.com/hhGlOPj85b— NATCA (@NATCA) June 13, 2019
National Association of Letter Carriers:
National Day Laborer Organizing Network:
National Domestic Workers Alliance:
National Nurses United:
From coast to coast #nurses are fighting to protect patients and win #SafeStaffing.— NationalNursesUnited (@NationalNurses) June 12, 2019
NNU stands in strong solidarity with @nynurses RNs who rallied today for funding and quality patient care at New York City hospitals. Our struggle is one! 💪 #1u https://t.co/sEx6OJhO6I
National Taxi Workers Alliance:
As Uber sues over NYC vehicle cap, drivers say rule keeps them afloat https://t.co/57xDx9QwPC— NY Taxi Workers (@NYTWA) June 12, 2019
NFL Players Association:
Despite threats from management, Sam McCullum led a pregame handshake demonstration for the union, building solidarity for the 1982 strike & support for a proposal that ultimately gave players a bigger piece of the pie. #CountdownToKickoff #NFL100 pic.twitter.com/hIValjEd0U— NFLPA (@NFLPA) June 13, 2019
North America's Building Trades Unions:
Just a few reasons we CANNOT wait any longer for an infrastructure bill:— The Building Trades (@NABTU) June 10, 2019
➡ Creates jobs
➡ Keeps Americans safe
➡ Saves your money
➡ Reduces time wasted in traffic
Office and Professional Employees:
In a historic vote, delegates to the 28th #OPEIUconvention just voted to adopt a resolution affirming our union’s support for #MedicareForAll.— OPEIU (@opeiu) June 12, 2019
In the wealthiest nation on the face of the planet, healthcare can and should be a right — not a privilege. #1u #M4A pic.twitter.com/ENJtj7uJYZ
Painters and Allied Trades:
In passing The American Dream and Promise Act, the House recognized that law-abiding, tax-paying, hard-working immigrants deserve a shot at achieving the American Dream.— GoIUPAT✊🏽 (@GoIUPAT) June 5, 2019
We call on the Senate to get this bill to the president’s desk for his signature. https://t.co/eBzNvtR4kM pic.twitter.com/Gi87tMMIJX
Plasterers and Cement Masons:
“Research finds under-investment costs the U.S. 900,000 jobs, & every $1 billion invested in transportation infrastructure creates more than 21,000 jobs. Further, every single dollar invested in infrastructure more than triples itself in economic impact.” https://t.co/m7KET2tZwP— OPCMIA International (@opcmiaintl) June 12, 2019
Professional Aviation Safety Specialists:
Thank you @RepChrisPappas for meeting w PASS members Michael Yanis & Ken Barrett, both dedicated employees at Federal Aviation Admin. PASS appreciates your strong support on federal worker issues & adequate funding for FAA. @PASSRegion1 @passng3 #publicservice #aviationsafety pic.twitter.com/HJif4RQWrI— PASS (@PASSNational) June 12, 2019
Professional and Technical Engineers:
We know you that quality healthcare comes from #VA workers that have a voice on the job! We need to FUND the VA instead of attacking the people taking care of our veterans! #SaveOurVA #1u https://t.co/GLYpujWsMb— IFPTE (@IFPTE) June 6, 2019
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers:
Great to see the workers at a storied New York institution working together to form a union. https://t.co/LICarRIkpr— RWDSU (@RWDSU) June 13, 2019
Roofers and Waterproofers:
Does @MPAA @TheESA think it is ok for filmmakers to depict actors in #deepfake porn and digitized sex scenes without permission? They should support #5959A #5605A in the #MeToo era #ProtectMyImage Sex abuse is not free speech! https://t.co/DWjUj3jJRP— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) June 12, 2019
Parents: The biggest challenge is getting kids out the door on time. https://t.co/rtT0rJrSbp— AFSA Leadership (@AFSAUnion) June 11, 2019
Workers & their unions are at #ILC2019 to push for @ILO global standard to #StopGBVatWork! @IFJGlobal @AFLCIOGlobal @AFTIntlAffairs @CAREActionNow @LaborProject @equaltimes @ILOACTRAV @mcwalker64 @GLJhub @16DaysCampaign #ILOendGBV @ILRF @SolidarityCntr https://t.co/YjPAHFTHKF— Solidarity Center (@SolidarityCntr) June 13, 2019
Theatrical Stage Employees:
"If our jet mechanics raise a safety concern, it is because there is a safety concern with the plane and a safe ride for passengers." Maybe Parker and Isom want unsafe planes in the sky? @AmericanAir @TheChiefLeader https://t.co/CLuwpvDNLn— TWU (@transportworker) June 11, 2019
Transportation Trades Department:
We stand in solidarity with the airline food workers in 21 cities taking strike votes to show the airlines they’ll be ready to strike when released by the Government. Because #1job should be enough –– and airline food workers won't quit until it is. #AirportStrikeAlert pic.twitter.com/aR8OQJAnGy— Transp. Trades Dept. (@TTDAFLCIO) June 11, 2019
UAW, Mercy Health Reach Tentative Agreement https://t.co/JZ1gE0gXnM— UAW (@UAW) June 12, 2019
We're proud to support #PRIDEmonth every June -- and year round! ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜 Union contracts can provide stable protection for LGBT workers during uncertain times, and UFCW supports legislation that protects your rights at work: https://t.co/IHCHxwlz2Qhttps://t.co/cPCjcOuKsU pic.twitter.com/3xrkLvEjSX— UFCW (@UFCW) June 13, 2019
Union Label and Service Trades:
The POWER of Unions... https://t.co/X5DOMP6lQc— Union Label Dept. (@ULSTD_AFLCIO) June 4, 2019
Union Veterans Council:
All American workers have earned the freedom to Organize, especially if you are a veteran.— Union Veterans Council (@unionveterans) June 3, 2019
We stand side by side with the workers exercising their freedom to form a union at the Chattanooga VW plant. STAY STRONG, UNION YES! #1u #Freedom #UnionYes pic.twitter.com/gwfbi8asD9
The US airline industry is booming.— UNITE HERE (@unitehere) June 13, 2019
Revenue from fees & increased passenger numbers contribute to annual record profits.
As profits soar, 20k airline food workers refuse to con't to accept lousy wages & substandard healthcare.#1Job #AirportStrikeAlert 🐍
📸 @UniteHereLocal8 pic.twitter.com/nq3XQoAP46
Jon Stewart's powerful testimony before Congress yesterday speaks to the importance of renewing the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. This clip is worth a watch. https://t.co/GFKZLwrsUK #Renew911VCF @Renew911Health— UWUA National (@The_UWUA) June 12, 2019
"Medicaid expansion alone — opposed by the Trump administration and Republican state officials, leaving more than 1 million people in non-expansion states without coverage — might actually do a better job than a work requirement."https://t.co/pW3MYU0lL3— Working America (@WorkingAmerica) June 12, 2019
Writers Guild of America, East:
"The WGA East and various New York City agencies have unveiled the 10 writers selected to take part in the second “Made in NY Writers Room” program designed to open doors to writers from backgrounds that are underrepresented in mainstream entertainment." https://t.co/IWhkBhZiKu— Writers Guild of America, East (@WGAEast) June 13, 2019
The new federal bill builds on the momentum generated by states introducing and moving forward legislation addressing issues around call center offshoring during the 2019 legislative session in both Democratic and Republican-controlled state legislatures.
A top employee representative in Volkswagen’s Global Works Council was denied entry into the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory today as the union election began.
The plant’s 1,700 eligible hourly employees began voting this morning on whether to form a union with the United Auto Workers. The results will be announced Friday night.
According to a statement from the Global Works Council, Johan Järvklo arrived at the plant to be an election observer. Workers confirmed that he was booted.
On the latest episode of “State of the Unions,” Julie and Tim talked with Pride At Work Executive Director Jerame Davis as the AFL-CIO constituency group celebrates its 25th anniversary. They discussed the progress made by LGBTQ working people over the past quarter-century and the work still left to be done.
“State of the Unions” is a tool to help us bring you the issues and stories that matter to working people. It captures the stories of workers across the country and is co-hosted by two young and diverse members of the AFL-CIO team: Mobilization Director Julie Greene and Executive Speechwriter and Editorial Manager Tim Schlittner. A new episode drops every other Wednesday featuring interesting interviews with workers and our allies across the country, as well as compelling insights from the podcast’s hosts.
Listen to our previous episodes:
- Union organizer Andy Levin goes to Washington to make a difference for working people.
- Talking to National Nurses United (NNU) Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN, about the growing movement of registered nurses organizing for better jobs, a more just society and health care as a fundamental human right.
- Discussing why the new NAFTA is not good enough with former AFL-CIO Trade Policy Specialist Celeste Drake.
- A chat with Kristen Johnson, a deli manager and shop steward at the Stop & Shop in Somerville, Massachusetts, about why she went on strike.
- Talking about the #StampOutHunger food drive with Brian Renfroe, National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) executive vice president, and Christina Vela Davidson, NALC assistant to the president for community services.
- House Blue Collar Caucus co-chairs, Reps. Brendan Boyle and Marc Veasey, talk about how any plan to rebuild our economy must include working people.
Four new reports from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) show that AT&T is neglecting rural and suburban communities across the Midwest. Focusing on Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, the reports detail how AT&T is cutting its workforce and creating service problems for customers and public safety hazards.
Hundreds of hotel workers, union leaders and elected officials gathered at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City today to witness the signing of a bill requiring hotels to equip certain employees with “panic buttons” for their protection against inappropriate conduct by guests.
“We must protect the safety of workers in the hospitality industry,” Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said. “I am proud to sign panic button legislation that Bob [McDevitt] and the working men and women of UNITE HERE, Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato, Charlie [Wowkanech] and Laurel [Brennan], Senator Loretta Weinberg and so many others have fought for to give hotel workers greater security and the ability to immediately call for help should they need it on the job.”
The portable safety device, known as a panic button, will allow hotel workers to alert security personnel if they feel they are in danger or a compromising position while performing housekeeping duties. Today’s signing makes New Jersey the first in the nation to have a statewide law requiring hotels to provide their employees with such devices.
Hotels that do not comply can be fined up to $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for each additional violation, according to the legislation.
“The safety of women in the hospitality industry has been overlooked,” said Bob McDevitt, president of UNITE HERE Local 54. “I'm proud that my state is the first to pass and sign into law real protections for housekeepers in the hotel industry.”
The harassment of hotel workers, especially housekeepers, has been a longstanding issue the hotel industry has struggled to address. Unite Here Local 54, a union representing nearly one-third of casino and hospitality workers in Atlantic City, was a driving force behind this legislation, which will provide an additional measure of security for thousands of hotel workers across the state.
“Whenever I go into a room, I wonder what is going to happen,” said Miriam Ramos, a housekeeper at Bally’s in Atlantic City. “Most guests are nice and respectful, but every housekeeper has either been sexually assaulted or harassed doing her job, or knows someone who has.”
“I’m glad that the legislature and the governor are making it safer for us,” Ramos said.
Assemblyman John Armato (D-2) introduced the “panic button” bill in the General Assembly in September. Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-2) also sponsored the bill. Sens. Loretta Weinberg (D-37) and Linda Greenstein (D-14) proposed it in the Senate.
“The New Jersey State AFL-CIO thanks the sponsors of the panic button bill for recognizing that hotel workers deserve to feel safe while on the job,” said Charles Wowkanech, president of the state federation. “We are proud to have lobbied on behalf of this important legislation, which will no doubt help create a safer working environment for all of New Jersey’s hotel workers.”
“I’m only 33 and I can’t see myself working here for another 10 years,” said Ashley Murray. “I would be disabled by then. We need a union because they are a multibillion-dollar company and they treat us like shit.”
Murray is a production employee at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, one of 18 hourly employees there I interviewed for this story. Comments like hers were almost universal.
On-the-job injuries are rampant in auto factories, where many dangerous tasks are still done by hand and in a hurry. It’s one of the main reasons why workers are organizing a union at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The vote begins June 12. Here plant worker Kim Onofrey describes what happened to her. –Eds.
I was working on the metal finish line that repairs defects on the bodies of the vehicles before they go to the paint shop.
CWA Applauds Decisive Action by State Attorneys General to Prevent T-Mobile and Sprint from Gaining Anti-Competitive Power
We applaud these Attorneys General for taking decisive action to prevent T-Mobile and Sprint from gaining anti-competitive power at the expense of workers, customers, and communities.
For Pride Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various LGBTQ Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our first profile this year is Irene Soloway.
As a young adult in 1978, Irene Soloway moved from St. Louis to New York. She was working in a bar that had a significant clientele who were roofers. Soloway referred to the behavior of her boss at the bar as "appalling," so she quit. The roofers in the bar that she knew jokingly offered her a roofing hammer. She took it as a challenge, and it made her want to show them that she could do the job.
Soloway did some roofing work, but hated it. She moved through various jobs in the construction industry, but settled on carpentry, both because she liked the work and the Carpenters union opened its doors to women. She became a member in 1979, when she began the Women in Apprenticeship Program. Soloway and other women were made to feel that they belong, that the program was more than tokenism.
At the time, not only were there few women in the building trades, even fewer of them were feminist Jewish New York lesbians. Soloway said that she rarely faced any direct discrimination. Instead, the concerns of rank-and-file members, women or otherwise, were largely ignored in her local at the time. She said:
The union and the apprenticeship in the Carpenters Union was now what I would consider sexist...we were never discriminated against within the school—but the specific issues that were barriers to women were never addressed specifically. So it was a second hand...diffuse kind of way that sexism was expressed.
Even when concerns were raised, leaders in the local were told to keep their concerns quiet, as they were all "brothers" in the union. Soloway explained:
We tried to inform the Carpenters Union of what we thought they needed to do to make the union receptive to women and to be inclusive. And we...became aware...that the Carpenters Union was not interested in fresh, new ideas coming from rank and file. We came in with ideas about having sexual harassment for the men in construction. We came in with ideas about having a Women's Committee that would address the issues of women in construction. We actually came in with ideas about how the apprenticeship school could be more in touch with the apprentices around issues of ethnicity and race and issues....And what we were always told was: We're all one Union and we're all brothers, and there's no need...to point out these differences because we're all carpenters.
This was the first time she had been in a union and Soloway was very excited about it because she believed that it was a structure that was supposed to support her and provide a steady job. But her local at the time was very undemocratic and her concerns weren't taken seriously. Despite the fact that she was often the only woman in the meetings, she kept attending for the next five years, never backing down from the agenda that she pursued.
In 1979, Soloway had been a founding member of United Tradeswomen, a group of diverse women working in the building trades. The organization was originally formed to recruit women into apprenticeship programs but quickly grew to provide support and advocacy for women who were starting to enter the construction industry in New York. Much of Soloway's early activism took place outside the union hall.
Fear and intimidation weren't limited to the union hall, they were also present in the workplace. Rumors were rampant that members who spoke out against union leadership were met with violence or had their careers and lives destroyed. Soloway wasn't intimidated. By 1994, she noted in an interview that many of the things she and allies had pushed for at the time have come to pass:
Now almost fifteen years later—they actually are being addressed, so that in terms of, yes, there is actually a Women's Committee now that's...sanctioned to meet within the Carpenters school, and it's advertised in the Carpenters paper that there is such a committee, and who the contact people are—so there's, at least, an acknowledgement of this committee. And there is specific training—sexual harassment training—for men and being done by women who are Carpenters—graduates of our school—who are now teaching at the school—which is an important part of the program. And another one of our other ideas was about teaching labor history in the Carpenters school, which was then ignored, and now, you know, like history's being taught in the Carpenters school.
During the mid-1980s, she got a job with the city's Health and Hospitals Corporation. The shift from at-will work that was left to the whims of the local's power structure to a secure job with security was a major turning point in her life. When she started working for the city, she felt that her job was more secure and she could speak out more. In the civil service, they had elected stewards, not ones chosen by the power structure. She won the steward position after becoming outspoken about asbestos problems on her worksite. She started refusing to work in contaminated areas. Management wasn't prepared for the problem and had to deal with it because of her. Several men came and asked her to run for steward. She won.
Soloway also helped produce the newspaper "Hard Hat News" and had to use pseudonyms like Brick Shields, to disguise her identity. She worked on a long, but successful, campaign to expand representation for rank-and-file members within the district council. In 1990, she appeared with other carpenters before the New York City Commission on Human Rights to testify about gender and race relations in the industry. She shared widespread reports that women in the industry faced threats of rape and physical violence and were subjected to pornography and insulting personalized graffiti on the worksite.
While she was working as a carpenter at Lincoln Hospital, she began taking pre-med classes and completed the coursework to become a physician's assistant. She left carpentry and began work at a methadone clinic. She looked back on her activism and those of her fellow carpenters and what impact it had:
We still felt very much on the outside of the construction industry. It felt very kind of scary to us, but we kind of created cultural groups that supported ourselves and each other, that was able to move forward into that industry. Now I think that women are more into the industry, so I think we did do something. I think we did, like, move ourselves inside—from the outside to the inside—by creating an identity for ourselves, as well as educating ourselves and each other, and trying to educate the union about us....I think our presence and our strong continued presence for each other and ourselves was the main accomplishment of this group.
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.
The front page of the Daily News-Miner today: Dunleavy administration warns workers of possible #layoffs. Tell your legislators you oppose a #DunleavyShutdown. visit https://t.co/FYG467ufBT to write your legislator TODAY!#akgov #akleg— Alaska AFL-CIO (@AKAFLCIO) June 7, 2019
Full story: https://t.co/gwIW8GlWMy
America's Workplaces Aren't Often Safe for LGBTQ Employees https://t.co/zfPNPaEwfs via Teen Vogue— Arkansas AFL-CIO (@ArkansasAFLCIO) June 10, 2019
California Labor Federation:
Californians deserve protection from high-interest, predatory loans. Join the @Cali4EJ coalition and support #AB539 to guarantee access to safe and affordable credit. Take Action by visiting https://t.co/Za4wSPqGLV #StopTheDebtTrap #1u pic.twitter.com/Y7zBaKgXeV— California Labor Federation (@CaliforniaLabor) June 10, 2019
After hearing powerful testimony from SEIU Local 105 President @RonRuggiero105 the Colorado AFL-CIO unanimously voted for a resolution to fully support SEIU Local 105 and its members as they fight for a good contract with Kaiser Permanente. #@SEIU105 pic.twitter.com/J0uVIEkPTI— Colorado AFL-CIO (@AFLCIOCO) June 7, 2019
The Trump administration's plot to cripple the union contract between the VA and @AFGENational will make it harder for front-line workers to give veterans the care they deserve. We stand with AFGE and VA workers nationwide. #SaveOurVA #1u— Connecticut AFL-CIO (@ConnAFLCIO) June 5, 2019
Indiana State AFL-CIO:
Iowa Federation of Labor:
Kentucky State AFL-CIO:
Paducah Unions Observe Workers Memorial Day by Helping Feed the Hungry https://t.co/atiAFnfSfB— Kentucky AFL-CIO (@aflcioky) May 6, 2019
THANK YOU @chloemaxmin for engaging with labor early on in the process to create a great piece of legislation that will not only fight climate change, but provide good paying working class jobs with benefits! #mepolitics @AFLCIO #1U #ClimateAction #ClimateChange https://t.co/t3eopk0MK2— Maine AFL-CIO (@MEAFLCIO) June 10, 2019
"...the muscle-flexing by airport workers may reflect the return of a model in which aggrieved employees threaten the wheels of commerce." Workers across the country are changing the tides! #UnionPower #OneJobShouldBeEnough #1uhttps://t.co/gRCtv17fvX https://t.co/0xZALpwqeG— Massachusetts AFL-CIO (@massaflcio) June 10, 2019
Metro Washington (D.C.) Council AFL-CIO:
CBTU and CLUW among the constituency groups represented at the Metro Washington Council Constituency Group Open House pic.twitter.com/Z3kaI5L7pX— MetroDCLaborCouncil (@DCLabor) June 6, 2019
“Our state’s economy is driven by the labor of the working men and women of this state. It makes perfect sense that all agencies related to labor and economic development be placed under one coordinated effort." President Ron Bieber, Michigan AFL-CIOhttps://t.co/CRW9ZNoAlK— Michigan AFL-CIO (@MIAFLCIO) June 6, 2019
This is why I went on a two-day strike this past week https://t.co/qYTe3Gi1aN #Solidarity with the workers at Guardian Angels nursing home in Elk River who stood up for their residents last week. #1u @SEIUHCMN @seiumn— Minnesota AFL-CIO (@MNAFLCIO) June 10, 2019
Support Missoula's future, support apprenticeship utilization.https://t.co/2mo0K5s9no— Montana AFL-CIO (@MTaflcio) June 7, 2019
Nebraska State AFL-CIO:
Nevada State AFL-CIO:
Inspiring to hear how @Local4041 used organizing & communications to pass collective bargaining through #NVLeg for 20k state employees! Big win for NV working families #IAMComms19 pic.twitter.com/7UTZuyndlH— Nevada State AFL-CIO (@NVAFLCIO) June 6, 2019
New Hampshire AFL-CIO:
Great work to everyone who made the Public Workers Memorial possible. An important and long overdue tribute. https://t.co/Il4BInDykF— NewHampshire AFL-CIO (@NHAFLCIO) June 7, 2019
New Mexico Federation of Labor:
New York State AFL-CIO:
Can you describe your housing? “The landlord is, as I said, our boss because he's the owner of the house” How many rooms are there? “Only 2.” For how many people? “9 or 10 people.” - Boris— NYSAFLCIO (@NYSAFLCIO) June 6, 2019
Take action! Text Farmworkers to 877877 today!#Justice4Farmworkers #UnionStrong pic.twitter.com/4s6cGeG8Kx
North Carolina State AFL-CIO:
North Dakota AFL-CIO:
ND AFL-CIO 60th Annual Convention Delegates celebrate ND Mill and Elevator Day with @BCTGM President David Durkee, greetings from MN & SD AFL-CIO and Manitoba Labor Feds, & elect new President and Board: https://t.co/37EMYQaRZb #1u— North Dakota AFL-CIO (@NDAFLCIO) June 8, 2019
Always a beautiful sight when to many friends of @AFLCIO and working people join together. Thanks to @CincyAFLCIO and @UAW for hosting the annual COPE dinner and celebrating #DignityOfWork pic.twitter.com/9q1OnvdWFu— Ohio AFL-CIO (@ohioaflcio) June 7, 2019
Oklahoma State AFL-CIO:
Check out our June Newsletter with information about Companies who Falsely Labeled Products "Made in U.S.A", AFL-CIO State Convention, Union Made Fathers Day, Millennialization of American Labor and more!— Oklahoma AFL-CIO (@OK_AFL_CIO) June 3, 2019
Check it out at https://t.co/N1dYjUN2cS
“Oregon’s union movement will continue to fight to protect the compensation of all workers and against these types of harmful cuts.” https://t.co/vcO3Y4ZaQ1— Oregon AFL-CIO (@OregonAFLCIO) June 7, 2019
Rhode Island AFL-CIO:
What a ‘Living Wage’ Actually Means--If you ask a dozen lawmakers what constitutes a “living wage,” you’ll get a dozen answers. Where does the term come from? And is it even accurate? Read about it here: https://t.co/fFSSwKeVEE— Virginia AFL-CIO (@Virginia_AFLCIO) June 7, 2019
Washington State Labor Council:
Wisconsin State AFL-CIO:
Intertwined: The Labor Movement and LGBT Rights, https://t.co/YwOe5WYEqB— WI AFL-CIO (@wisaflcio) June 9, 2019
Throughout the year, we've been profiling each of our affiliates. Let's take a look back at the profiles we've already published.
Check back as the series moves along to read more affiliate profiles:
- Actors and Artistes
- Actors' Equity
- Air Line Pilots Association
- Amalgamated Transit Union
- American Federation of Musicians
- American Postal Workers Union
- Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers
- California School Employees Association
- Communications Workers of America
- Farm Labor Organizing Committee
- Fire Fighters
- Railroad Signalmen
- School Administrators
- Theatrical Stage Employees
- Train Dispatchers
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.
SEC Adopts New Broker Rules That Consumer Advocates Say Are Toothless: "The Securities and Exchange Commission voted on Wednesday to pass the so-called Regulation Best Interest. The commission said the changes would help Main Street investors by tightening the standards governing brokers who sell investment products and outlining a fresh interpretation of the duties of investment advisers who provide financial guidance. 'When working people seek out investment advice, they expect and deserve to be able to rely on the people providing that advice to prioritize their need for a secure financial future over the financial professional’s interest in getting rich,' said Heather Slavkin Corzo, a senior fellow at Americans for Financial Reform and director of capital markets policy at the AFL-CIO."
Trump’s North American Trade Deal Must Do More to Protect U.S. Jobs, Rep. Andy Levin Says: "Mexico didn’t foist NAFTA on the United States, despite President Donald Trump’s constant claims that the U.S. loses 'so much money' on the deal. We did it to ourselves, and we did it deliberately. Corporations wanted to create in Mexico a low-wage haven where they could shift production, expecting us to happily buy the imported goods built with cheap Mexican labor—while exporting our jobs."
House Votes to Give ‘Dreamers’ a Path to Citizenship: "The Democrat-led House passed legislation on Tuesday to grant a path to citizenship to about 2.5 million immigrants whose legal protections President Trump has moved to end, advancing a measure that highlights the bitter partisan differences over immigration. The bill, which passed 237 to 187, with seven Republicans voting yes, would create a new legal pathway for young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, known as Dreamers, and for those with Temporary Protected Status, granted to immigrants whose countries are ravaged by natural disaster or violence."
Trump’s War on Worker Rights: "President Trump ran for office as a champion of American workers and a friend of labor unions, but his administration has systematically favored employers at the expense of workers. In recent months, the administration has moved to tighten qualifications for who must be paid the minimum wage and who must be paid overtime. It is asking the Supreme Court to rule that companies can fire workers on the basis of sexual orientation. The number of workplace safety inspectors employed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fallen to the lowest level in the agency’s half-century of operation."
A Court Blocked Trump’s Bid to Weaken Unions. The White House Found Another Way: "President Donald Trump suffered a major legal setback last August in his effort to deconstruct the administrative state when a federal judge struck down key portions of three executive orders aimed at weakening federal unions and making it easier to fire government employees. But since then, the administration has been achieving the same goals through a different avenue―the bargaining table. And they’ve done it with an assist from presidential appointees whose job is to referee labor disputes within the federal government."
Delaware Governor Signs Bill Protecting Collective Bargaining Rights of 2,000 More State Employees: "Delaware Gov. John Carney signed a bill on Thursday that allows more public employees to collectively bargain for fair wages and good working conditions in the state. Previously, only select professions were afforded this protection and now more than 2,000 workers will have all the benefits that collective bargaining brings. Passage of the bill was possible through the direct and sustained involvement of a number of union members that have been elected to the state legislature."
Profiling Labor Leaders and Activists for Pride Month: "For Pride Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various LGBTQ Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. First, let's take a look back at LGBTQ Americans we've profiled in the past."
Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Ironworkers: "Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the Ironworkers."
Next up in our series, which takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates, is the Fire Fighters.
Name of Union: International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).
Mission: To be a strong representative for our members through collective bargaining; to maintain their health and safety; to provide them with education, training and resources to do their job; and to be politically active in campaigns and legislation in order to make a difference in who gets to have the power that drives the decisions that affect members and the work they do.
Current Leadership of Union: Harold A. Schaitberger serves as the ninth general president of the IAFF. He was a local president and state president before coming to the IAFF to create its political and legislative operation. He was first elected president in 2000. Schaitberger began his professional career as a firefighter in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Edward A. Kelly serves as the IAFF general secretary-treasurer, hails from Boston and was elected in 2016. The IAFF is also represented by 16 district vice presidents who together form the IAFF Executive Board. The union conducts its convention every two years.
Current Number of Members: 316,000.
Members Work As: Firefighters and paramedics.
Industries Represented: Fire and emergency services in the United States and Canada.
History: Founded on February 28, 1918, delegates representing 24 locals met in Washington, D.C., and held their first IAFF convention. In the following 100 years, the IAFF expanded the role it plays for its members in the political, health, safety, financial and technological arenas.
Throughout its first 100 years, the IAFF has been the leader in improving the health, safety and careers of its members. It has worked to pass legislation that takes care of the families of fallen members and has advanced the fire service forward through health and safety improvements.
The IAFF takes great pride in developing the services it offers its members. From opening its members-only behavioral health facility in 2017 to having a robust disaster relief program on the ground supporting members in the aftermath of our worst natural disasters, the IAFF strives to provide the best value possible for the investment its members make.
And as the IAFF enters its second century, the resources and value it provides to members continues to grow. With the creation of its very own Financial Corporation, the IAFF now provides opportunities for its members to not only improve their financial well-being, but to improve their union. A great example of this is E-18 Media, the IAFF’s multimedia production company. Founded in 2013, E-18 is part of the IAFF’s rapid response team tasked to repel attacks against members by creating and editing videos, making online ad buys and producing educational content from its state-of-the-art, in-house studio at IAFF headquarters.
Take a deeper dive into the history of the IAFF.
Current Campaigns: The IAFF’s Southern Strategic Organizing Initiative to increase membership has seen a 30% growth in membership across the states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
Member trainings include the Affiliate Leadership Training Summit, Communications Training Academy, Fire Ground Survival, FIRE OPS 101, HazMat, the Partnership Education Program, Peer Fitness Trainer Certification, Peer Support, the Political Training Academy (U.S.), Occupational Medicine Resident Program and an Online Learning Center.
Other activities driven by the IAFF include: FIREPAC, the IAFF App, the Media Awards Contest, Fire Fighter Quarterly Magazine, the IAFF Foundation, the IAFF Motorcycle Group and a series of scholarships to advance the education of our members and the children of members who have died in the line of duty.
Member Efforts: Health and safety resources for IAFF members include: the Behavioral Health Program, Burn Injury Assistance, Cancer Awareness and Prevention, the Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery, Line-of-Duty Death Resources, the Presumptive Health Initiative, Suicide Awareness, the Wellness Fitness Initiative and the World Trade Center Health Program.
The TWU organizing machine is in full swing.
Under this new leadership, the Transport Workers union has just won our 20th new worker organizing drive. We continue to grow and thrive across the entire transport sector. Since 2017, our membership has increased from 137,000 to 151,000.
The TWU is by far the fastest growing union in the country. Our most recent victory came on June 6, when Envoy Air pilot simulator instructors voted unanimously to join our union.
We’ve secured organizing wins with the following work groups:
- JetBlue Airway inflight crew members
- Spirit Airlines customer service agents
- PSA Airlines dispatcher coordinators
- Kalitta Air cargo dispatchers
- Envoy Air pilot ground simulator instructors
- San Francisco bike share workers
- Washington, D.C., Big Bus workers
- New York City Big Bus workers
- Miami Big Bus workers
- Las Vegas Big Bus workers
- Chicago Big Bus workers
- Los Angeles Big Bus workers
- San Francisco Big Bus workers
- Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe, Arizona, bike share workers
- Cleveland bike share workers
- SP Plus Corp. transportation ferry bus drivers
- SP Plus transportation shuttle bus drivers
- Bronx, N.Y., Quality Bus Service drivers
- New York City Mount Sinai Hospital Shuttle Drivers
- New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority Bus White Collar Unit
- New York City MTA staff analysts
Thank you to our organizing teams! Thank you to the workers who stepped up to fight back against the bosses and take action to improve the economic security of your families.
It is the goal of our leadership to demonstrate every day that we are America’s Fighting Democratic Union!
John Samuelsen is international president of TWU, which originally published this post.
The latest bargaining and mobilizing news for General Electric and AT&T.
An issue doesn’t need to violate contract language to spark a winning fight, as this story from my union demonstrates.
Just before Christmas last year, management told one of our members at Buffalo General Hospital that as of the first of the year, she would no longer receive a $1.50-an-hour pay bump as the department lead.
Evelyn is a file clerk in the imaging department, where patients go for X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs. She had been receiving this pay differential since the late 1990s in exchange for taking on extra duties as the lead.
You’re at a union meeting, brainstorming for a campaign, when a hand shoots up. “What we need is better messaging. Can we get a billboard? Maybe we could make a meme.”
We’ve all been there. Maybe you’ve said it yourself. It seems like common sense that if we can just find the right words and the correct medium, we’ll win over our fellow workers, or the community, or politicians.
I was frustrated daily by this logic when I was president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, leading the campaign against a ballot question that would allow for more charter schools.
What happens when new leaders run for office and beat an eight-term incumbent? In the Baltimore Teachers Union, it seems, the incumbent tries for a second bite at the apple.
A slate called “The Union We Deserve,” backed by two rank-and-file caucuses, ran for office this spring. Its platform was to open the union up to its own members and join with parents to fight for fully funded public schools.
The new head of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant led two all-plant captive-audience meetings on Tuesday, a day before the National Labor Relations Board announced it has scheduled a union election.
Labor Notes has obtained audio of the speeches by CEO Frank Fischer. Both times he insinuated that the United Auto Workers were to blame for the closure of Volkswagen’s plant in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, in 1988.
All 1,709 hourly employees at the plant will be eligible to participate in the election June 12, 13, and 14.
Rideshare drivers around the world rallied and struck May 8, the day Uber went public. Joined by unions in London and in Melbourne, Australia, drivers from at least 12 U.S. cities participated in the first globally coordinated protest against rideshare companies Uber and Lyft.
During the strike, Lyft’s stock dropped to its lowest value since going public. Uber’s stock market launch (known as an initial public offering, or IPO) lost more value in its first day than any other in U.S. history.
Thirty-one thousand workers at New England grocery giant Stop & Shop struck for 11 days in April, beating back concessions with a display of power that took management by surprise.
Members of five Food and Commercial Workers locals in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut walked out April 11 over company proposals to hike health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs, kick 1,000 spouses off the company’s health plan, get rid of time-and-a-half on Sundays, and gut workers’ pensions.