Labor Roundup | December 2020

The AFL-CIO and SEIU last month complained to the UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO), charging the Trump administration with violating numerous international labor laws during the coronavirus pandemic.

The complaint from the Service Employees International Union and the labor federation alleges the White House undermined the enforcement of labor laws and occupational health and safety measures, which puts the United States “in the realm of potential wrongdoing typically occupied by less-developed and less-democratic countries,” as Washington Post economics reporter Eli Rosenberg reported.

Nations investigated by the ILO last year included Burundi, Myanmar and Pakistan.

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka commented, “COVID has laid bare what we already knew. Not only is the U.S. violating workers’ rights, but those violations are resulting in people dying. It became so outrageous that we wanted to file a complaint.”

Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO, at least seven unions, the Labor Network for Sustainability and two other environmental groups are suing two GOP Trump agencies, demanding courts order firms to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers who suffer exposure to the coronavirus pandemic.

In their 77-page complaint, the unions said they had to go to court after, “in a stunning act of nonfeasance,” Health and Human Services and Homeland Security both ignored a petition from the coalition to invoke the Defense Production Act and force factories to make PPE.

Union PACs gave candidates $175 million, but business donated $4.6 billion. Big business, Democrats, and individual donors – large and small – won the political money race in 2020, according to the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). Labor’s contributions were dwarfted by large donors.

Corporate campaign contributors shelled out $4.6 billion, a record for them, in direct spending for or against candidates – up 35%. Union PACs gave $175 million – all in voluntary member donations.

Overall giving and spending this cycle: $14 billion.

The totals don’t include either independent PACs or “dark-money” committees, a type of dollars that doesn’t have to report donor names.

In its “Citizens United” ruling a decade ago, the U.S. Supreme Court’s five-man GOP majority opened the contribution gates to a flood of corporate cash, and a later ruling, by the same justices took the reins off individual big givers.

“When ‘Citizens United’ was decided, conservatives were the quickest to jump on the newly permissible outside groups as a way to facilitate huge donations,” said Sarah Bryner, CRP’s director of research and strategy. “Now, liberal groups have more than made up the difference and are taking advantage of every opportunity available to get their message out.”

Unions defending Affordable Care Act at high court. SEIU in November filed a friend-of-the-court brief before the U.S. Supreme Court, which is preparing to consider the future of the Affordable Care Act.

In other briefs, both teachers unions, AFSCME, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, Planned Parenthood, the National Partnership for Women and Families, the National Women’s Law Center, and the National Abortion Rights Action League also sought to protect the law, known as “Obamacare.”

“People will get sick and die if the ACA falls,” SEIU told the justices. “The ACA provided millions of Americans with affordable health insurance, implemented critical reforms to the individual insurance market, and improved the quality of healthcare in the United States.”

And the Obama-era law not only opened access to health care, it put a financial floor under health care providers while “saving countless lives.”

Between federal subsidies for some Americans and the expansion of Medicaid to others – except in several “red states” – the number of uninsured in the country fell from 48 million people before the law was passed to 28.6 million now.

If the Court’s new six-member, Right-wing Republican majority kills the 10-year-old Affordable Care Act, millions will lose health-care coverage.

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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