Labor Roundup | April 2020

Labor-law reform passes House, stalling in Senate. The Democratic-run U.S. House has approved the Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, the nation’s most comprehensive pro-worker reform in decades.

Pro-worker lawmakers and union representatives crafted the measure (HR2474), which would largely undo 72 years of anti-worker laws, court rulings and National Labor Relations Board decisions that impede organizing. Its reforms include repealing the section of 1947’s Taft-Hartley Act letting states enact “Right To Work” laws, which let workers use union benefits and protections without sharing the costs of representation. It also would outlaw “captive-audience” meetings where bosses can force workers to hear anti-union diatribes, and it would impose stiff fines on labor lawbreakers and mandate illegally fired workers to immediately get their jobs back. Current labor law enforcement has deteriorated to warnings, posted notices and token fines, and workers must wait years to get their jobs back.

HR2474 would also order employers to bargain with newly chosen unions within a set time of election wins, and the elections would be shorter. If bargaining failed, there would be mandatory arbitration for first contracts.

The White House told Defense Secretary Mark Esper he can deny Department of Defense workers the right to bargain collectively, which they’ve had for 58 years. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said, “We will fight this on every front and with every fiber of our being.”

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers on Feb. 2 endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden’s bid for the Democratic nomination, the second international union to back Biden, after the Fire Fighters. The move prompted more than 1,200 IBEW members to demand leaders retract the endorsement.

Medicare For All supporters have launched a petition drive to 1) push federal, state and local officials to back the law and swear off campaign contributions from its corporate foes, and 2) expose its foes and reduce their clout.

Led by National Nurses United, the drive will culminate April 6-10, when Congress, home for its Easter-Passover recess, will find campaigners armed with thousands of names on petitions, on their office doorsteps. NNU also launched a website for the drive,

Health care costs eat up one of every six dollars of U.S. national output, while insurers and drug companies make billions in profits and funnel the money into executives’ high pay, organizers said. Corporations also fund the “Partnership for America’s Health Care,” a front group including the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the Blue Cross-Blue Shield Association. and the American Hospital Association that plowed $568 million into congressional races in the 2017-18 election cycle.

Bernie Sanders and 16 Senate colleagues and most House Democrats co-sponsor Medicare For All, which also has support from the American College of Physicians.

Kickstarter workers have voted to unionize with Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU). Almost 100 of the crowd-funding company’s engineers, analysts, designers and customer-support specialists became one of the first unions for tech workers in U.S. history.

“Kickstarter employees felt their employer, a public benefit corporation, should live up to the foundational progressive values it espouses by ensuring trust and transparency from management, guaranteeing equal pay for equal work, implementing more inclusive hiring practices and giving employees a voice in the decision-making process,” OPEIU said.

It’s been more than four months since more than 1,000 copper workers in Texas and Arizona walked out on Asarco – after no wage increase for 10 years, 12-hour shifts in dangerous working conditions, and threats of freezing pensions and hiking insurance costs.

Rick Levy, president of the Texas AFL-CIO, said, “You’re looking at a very militant employer—an employer that doesn’t appear interested in reaching a deal.”

More than 800 Oberlin College students and members of the Oberlin, Ohio community last month protested the school’s announcement that it may lay off 52 dining and 56 custodial employees represented by the UAW to hire outside vendors.

“These are the people who cook our food, who clean our homes, who care for us when we’re sick,” said student Matt Kinsella-Walsh. “The 108 workers up for elimination are among those who make this place worth it, who embody our motto of ‘Learning and Labor’ and keep this school from falling down around our heads.”

Thousands of registered nurses in National Nurses United demonstrated on March 11 to protest a federal rollback of protections for health-care workers against the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Substituting plain surgical masks for respirators “will gravely endanger nurses, health-care workers, patients, and our communities,” the union said.

The AFL-CIO also launched a petition demanding Congress pass HR6139, forcing the Trump administration to declare an occupational and public-health emergency, thus letting OSHA require employers to protect workers.

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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