Labor Roundup | April 2019

Bernie Sanders presidential campaign staff votes to unionize. The move marks the first time a major political party presidential campaign in U.S. history unionized. The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 will represent staffers.

Women’s groups and unions back new Paycheck Fairness Act. Backed by organized labor and women’s organizations, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., have reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act –– a measure to improve enforcement of the nation’s 56-year-old equal-pay law.

The Coalition of Labor Union Women helped ensure co-sponsors included every House Democrat and one Republican, Rep. Chris Smith, New Jersey’s only GOP Congressman.

Of course, the Senate is another matter since the GOP holds 53 of 100 Senate seats.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would reverse court and agency decisions that have weakened workers’ right to equal pay for equal work since the original law was enacted in 1963.

The new bill “would strengthen and close loopholes by holding employers accountable for discriminatory practices, ending the practice of pay secrecy, easing workers’ ability to individually or jointly challenge pay discrimination and strengthening the available remedies for wronged employees,” DeLauro said. “Women and men in the same job should have the same pay.”

U.S. Labor Against War denounces intervention in Venezuela, saying President Trump’s threats to intervene destabilize the region. USLAW also criticized Democratic leaders who support U.S. involvement.

“The U.S. has no legitimate claim to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries, to take sides in internal political disputes or to undermine governments elected by the people,” the group said.

“We have seen the disastrous consequences of U.S. interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen,” USLAW continued. “U.S. intervention in Venezuela can only bring further hardship and suffering,” as it did a decade ago in Honduras and in earlier Latin American interventions.

“The economic chaos the U.S. now points to in Venezuela as a justification for intervention is in large part a consequence of U.S. policy, which is designed to provoke popular unrest, sow divisions and precipitate an uprising against the government,” USLAW stated.

USLAW emerged before the 2005 AFL-CIO convention in Chicago where its lobbying and votes forced the federation for the first time to oppose U.S. foreign policy and military interventions, specifically in Iraq.

DNC’s Perez claims allegiance with labor but remains vague. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez this winter again pledged Democrats’ kinship with unions and pleaded for workers’ votes. But he offered few specifics.

The only goal Perez offered was saying the 84-year-old National Labor Relations Act “is ill-suited to the rules of 21st century America” and needs reform.

“The Democratic Party will always be a partner of the labor movement,” Perez said. “My former boss, Teddy Kennedy, once asked: ‘How do you spell success? U-N-I-O-N.’”

The AFL-CIO last month came out forcefully in support of a free press, saying that news-media industry treatment of its workers is an economic attack mirroring harassment by President Trump and those who parrot his “fake news” criticism of journalists.

U.S. newsrooms cut more than 15,000 jobs last year, a 281-percent increase from 2017 and the highest number since the Great Recession, the labor federation said. That’s continuing, with some 2,200 media employees losing their jobs this year at outlets ranging from BuzzFeed and HuffPost to regional and local newspapers.

“These conditions have only further highlighted the need for strong unions in the newsroom,” the AFL-CIO said. “For example, when unionized HuffPost employees were laid off, their contract included collectively bargained severance packages and fair layoff notifications. Meanwhile, the CEO of BuzzFeed, who long had argued that unions weren’t “right” for the company, tried to avoid paying out even unused paid time off to nonunionized, laid-off employees.”

Workers, House Dems pushing $15 minimum wage. The Democratic-run House Education and Labor Committee last month held its first hearing in about a decade on raising the minimum wage. Their bill, HR582, would raise the federal minimum, which has been $7.25/hour for 10 years.

“The post-World War II view of protecting the purchasing power of workers” through solid labor standards “and protecting unions, has been lost,” testified AFL-CIO Chief Economist Bill Spriggs, who’s also an economics professor at Howard University. It’s been replaced by “stagnant wages, a growing gap between wages and productivity and higher unemployment.”

The committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who’s questioned why unions should exist, denounced a minimum wage hike as “an extreme social policy” by the “far Left” and “too far out of the mainstream.”

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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